Monday, October 31, 2011

"The Euphemism"

I'm standing outside of the bathrooms on the fourth floor in a distant corner of the Utah State University library. My girlfriend has patiently waited with me for the last ten minutes holding my hand, as I muster the courage to use the men's restroom. This is the moment that I've been losing sleep over. Technically, I know a few things.

  1. I am barely passing as male

  2. There is probably not a soul in this bathroom, much less one who is going to attack or harass me

  3. I can't keep using the women's restroom for reasons I am unable to explain

But, like I said, I lost a lot of sleep and had three or four nightmares over bathrooms. “Would I be harassed/attacked? Would I be humiliated? What if someone walks in on me? What will someone do if they notice I'm peeing sitting down? What if only urinals are available?” I hadn't been harassed, but I already felt humiliated by my vulnerability. I actually considered finding a way not to use public restrooms ever again

After that first time, it was admittedly a little frightening for a while. I don't remember ever getting any serious sideways glances. (One thing I figured out quickly is that the more I looked like I thought I belonged there, the more people expected me to belong there... which, of course, I do.) It got easier as I went along, and even more so when I had been on hormones for a bit. Today, I usually use a public restroom without worrying about potential harm and/or confrontation.

It is important to note, that I have an important added privilege here, because I “pass” as male pretty well. Transgender people who do not pass or do not pass well are at more risk. I have been safe, and honestly, even though I may never master the art of the stand-to-pee device and I may spend a few extra hours of my life waiting for the guy in the next stall to leave before I pee, I will probably continue to be safe in the future. I look male enough to never get more than a rare second glance and a couple “ma'ame's” a year

A couple caveats: I don't want to discount our fears, and our legitimate concerns of violence. I am not saying that trans people don't have it bad. For more details, check out the National Center for Transgender Equality's recently released study of 6,500 transgender Americans.

What I am saying is that sometimes it is ok to take a deep breath and recognize that you may not be in as much danger as it feels like. If you feel you are in danger, keep a look out and do what you need to to keep safe. The buddy system works wonders, if you can do it. But also know that if you're waiting for the person in the other stall to leave and they aren't... it usually has nothing to do with them recognizing that you're trans. They're probably just waiting for you too.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Potty Talk

Hello wonderful readers!

I know, I know. Didn't I talk about pee enough last week? Sorry, but this week the theme is potty talk (okay, actually it's just "bathrooms," but I think the word "potty" sounds funny and it makes me giggle)...hehehe.

I have dreams about bathrooms almost every night. Usually I'm wandering around looking for a bathroom with a toilet and can never seem to find one that is open or functioning. Most of the time I think it's because in my dream I really need to pee...but for some reason I'm never successful (but, I should never say "never" because there was that one time in my dream when I peed in a microwave, or that other time when I peed in several cups that I found in someone's kitchen...). Wow. I'm weird. At least I have a good excuse--I can't control what my unconscious comes up with as entertainment for sleepy times.

Anyway, last night I had a dream about...well, it was actually about catching some bad guys or something, but on the way I really needed a bathroom--several times. During each of these little tangents, oh by the way, my little brother was my accomplice/partner/sidekick--unless I was HIS sidekick..... Anyway, during the tangents on our bad-guy-catching adventure my brother and I usually had to use the bathroom at the same time, but every time we found bathrooms I always chose the men's. He was so uncomfortable with this that he would wait outside until I had finished so he could use the bathroom (but of course I never actually "finished" so I don't think he ever got to use it...). I don't know why I kept using the men's. It's not like there wasn't a women's side available. And I did it with some sort of unconscious awareness because I recognized how it bothered my brother and I had a sort of sense that I was changing the world.

So, I went camping this weekend. Stayed in a campground where there were pit toilets. At each pit toilet station there were two separate pits. One was labeled "women" and the other "men." There is absolutely NO difference between this pit in the ground full of shit and urine, and this other pit in the ground also full of shit and urine.

It got me to thinking about the idea of unisex bathrooms. I know that we have these around in a lot of small places, but even in gas stations when the restrooms are only a single toilet and a sink in a closet they're often separated into men's and women's. They're meant for one person at a time! Usually the women's restroom is occupied when I'm in a gas station and in need of a potty break. I have no qualms with using the "men's" restroom. But, I wonder why we feel the need to separate them. Why can't they just be unisex bathrooms? I know that in a lot of men's restrooms there are urinals..., but is it going to kill a woman to see a urinal? Or is it really that hard for men to pee into a toilet? They do it all the time, right?

Here's the thing: I've heard a few horror stories about girls-who-look-like-"boys" or transgender persons who get attacked or bullied in restrooms because they're not in the "right" place. Would it freak me out to see a guy walking into a public restroom where I was washing my hands? Hell YES. But why is that? It seems to just be a cultural thing, right? Because we have been taught to separate things, like bathrooms, according to gender. hmmm.

The easy solution, in my opinion, is to just allow for bathrooms to be unisex if they're already of the single-person occupancy persuasion. As for others with lots of stalls and such, I'm not sure. Are those kinds easier to put in? probably, huh? I can see that there might be problems with men taking advantage of women or something...but really, I think if it weren't already this social problem for people to be in the same bathroom...The thing is there are stalls. I know that men's restrooms don't really have stalls for urinals, but that doesn't mean they couldn't. Or, maybe they just don't need urinals? Seems like they'd be more expensive anyway... the money spent on urinals could instead be used to buy a few of those really awesome hand blowers (very environmentally friendly, especially as opposed to paper towels).

I don't know what I'm saying anymore. Let's not separate over stupid things. People are just people; they shouldn't make you nervous.

~live your own truth~

Friday, October 28, 2011

On Coming Out

It is healthy to come out. I am thinking colloquially of "coming out" as a homosexual, but it can be used for any situation where a person reveals a significant aspect of their lives. I am now reading some psychology about how bad it is to avoid situations because you are afraid of something you associate with that situation.

For example, while avoiding scary movies and haunted houses might seem to be an okay solution to someone with phasmophobia (fear of ghosts) or demonophobia (fear of demons), repressing those fears through avoidance, in fact, strengthens them. This is a little counter-intuitive. I'm not sure that going to Blockbuster, renting every scary movie in stock, and watching them alone on a stormy night on your laptop in some secluded shack in the woods is the best idea, either--even then, your fears have some control over how you have chosen to act. In order to live a values-based life, one must learn to accept his or her fears, anxieties, and dilemmas as they are, and learn to experience situations that involve those fears with mindfulness. As I wish to do this better myself, I will practice. Indeed, I write this because I struggle with these problems.

Everyone has fears. Fears cause anxiety. Perhaps all of us, to some degree, cause ourselves to experience anxiety about our anxiety, or depression about our depression. But we can avoid this compounding effect by practicing mindfulness. This means taking note how what you think ("I can't believe I still struggle with this." "I will never succeed."), what you feel ("I am so tired." "I feel afraid."), and how you feel (sweating, increased pulse, dizziness, nausea, etc.).*

I was 18 when I came out to my family. (I am 23 now.) I came on Christmas Day, at night, after all of the festivities were over. I was between semesters at BYU. I was afraid. But I had also spent the months, and perhaps even years, leading up to the event, falling into habits of self-destructive behavior that I thought would ease the pain of feeling so different and fundamentally unaccepted.

I was afraid I wouldn't be able to say what I wanted to, "I am gay," when the time came, so I typed a letter which I read to and left with the members of my family. I was so scared of how they would react, of where my life was going, of how I could ever face them after they knew. But I said it, and handed each member of the family a copy of the letter. It said,

"I don’t even know how to begin. I am gay. However sordid that may sound to you, I am so pleased with myself for finally being able to say it. I want you to understand how amazing it is for me. Simply typing it right now, a week and a half before you will read this, seems to release, ever so slightly, some valve from a vacuum that has been sucking in and collecting so much self-hatred, guilt, and shame over the years. I want you to realize how at peace I feel right now, knowing that with the release of this terrible secret also comes the release of some of those terrible feelings. Do you now see why I must tell you? I simply cannot keep holding this secret inside of me...

"I hope you understand that by telling you, however you react to what I am saying, I sense that it will be a positive thing for me..."

Needless to say, it seemed a monumental, awkward, and disconcerting Christmas. But now I look back upon it, and it feels strong, brave, beautiful, and good.** No person who intends to live a joyful life can be apologetic for the truths of their lives. Easier said than done.

*I wish to learn more about this process--so please share if you have ideas or book recommendations.

**This is a variation of the Latter-days quote about the Sunday comics: "Sometimes it all still feels like a mass of dots. But more and more these days, I feel like we're all connected. And it's beautiful... and funny... and good." The comics look like a mass of dots when you hold it too close to your eyes.

Photo credits, top to bottom:

Note:  This blog is a repost of the original from my personal blog.  Hope you'll forgive me for reposting. Justin here, by the way.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

In and Out

Coming out.
I’ve been thinking a lot about those words lately, trying to define them and what they mean for me personally.  Since accepting myself as lesbian I have come out to many people including friends, coworkers and family members.  Some of those conversations have been easier than others.  From many friends I felt total and complete love and acceptance.  Not an eye was blinked nor an ounce of love diminished.  Others didn’t quite know what to do with the information (and still don’t) and it may be some time before there is any amount of understanding, if ever, but I understand that they need time for their process just as I do for mine.
Now that I’m “out” it’s not nearly as hard to tell people that I’m gay, it’s simply a part of who I am and I feel no shame in letting people know.  Yet as I’ve thought about coming out I’ve realized it has been a very small part of my journey.  I understand why there is so much focus on coming OUT – this is the visual part.  It’s the part that other people can see, and we live in a world that likes to see things.  We like proof.  We like having something to show.  But “coming out” says little about the oh-so-important internal process of coming IN. 
“Coming in” is a phrase I adopted about a year ago when I began learning to accept all parts of myself, sexual orientation being just one small part.  By “coming in” I refer to the process of learning self-love, of accepting oneself totally and completely.  It means being who you are regardless of the expectations from society or family or culture or… or… or….  It means living true to your own soul, your own heart and following your own voice, whatever that means for you (and it will be different for everyone).
My major “coming in” happened before I felt the need to come out to anyone.  I was able to learn to accept myself before I had to worry about acceptance from others.  (There is a HUGE paradox here but that would require way too much time and I know I only have your attention for about 47 seconds, so I’ll save it.  My own story will reveal itself more in future posts, no doubt).  Coming in is a constant process though.  It’s something I must do over and over, getting to know myself each new day as I allow myself to change and grow.  In regards to sexual orientation, I found that because I was able to come in first I had a lot less fear about coming out.  Once I was no longer hiding from myself I didn’t feel as much trepidation in letting myself just be who I was…even in public. (I’m still a little hesitant about dancing around in my undies in public, which is one of my favorite solo activities, particularly in the kitchen, but perhaps that’s for the best.)
Coming in isn’t all lollipops and butterflies though.  In my experience, I was the hardest person to gain acceptance from.  There were a lot of voices telling me who I should be and what I should do and believe, and it wasn’t easy to find my own voice.  It took a lot of hard years and experiences before I woke up and realized that I am actually worth loving JUST the way I am, moles, gayness, undie-dancing and all.  And it’s something that I continue to work at, a continuous process that will last a lifetime.  But oh, the payoff.  As Oscar Wilde so wonderfully put it, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”
And so it is.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Coming In, Out, Up, Down, Near, Beyond

"East of the sun, west of the moon, above the stars, below the earth, beyond the furthest pinpoint of divine understanding, but nestled in your very soul."

It's a phrase that will be used in a particular series that I've been working on for some time. It has to do with the story of two friends turning on each other after having become something of gods, and then going through the process of life in the world that they have both created. Both science fiction and heavy, gritty medieval fantasy is present in it, but enough self-promotion.

What I refer to is the ever-present changing nature of the human soul--that while you can put a name and a finger to many things about yourself, how much of it is based in your genes? Your psychology? Your habits? Your culture? Your community, society, nation, environment, geography, your very planet? Can a person ever know who they are without a context? Can we know the meaning of a sentence or phrase without it?

Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. It's all about communication and the fact of whether or not the audience can emotionally connect with what you are talking about. It's true for whatever you're coming out about to others. It doesn't matter if you want to reveal if you're of a different sexual orientation, religious belief, mental condition, political reasoning, or if you highly prefer the fighting style of capoeira over Krav Maga. Personally, I prefer the standing techniques of the kung fu martial art, the mental aspects of aikido, and the ground techniques of Japanese Jujitsu.

How many people who read this blog will have the foggiest notion of what I'm talking about? Likely none, and thus I have nothing in the way of emotion to give you, which is what people want in conversation with each other. They want something that they can recognize on an emotional level, something that can be illustrated into the feelings we crave all so much. Sure, people can take something logical, something based in fact, but even then, we have emotions linked with our logic. Social rules and boundaries have logic to them, but hellfire if it's syllogistic. It took me a very long time to figure that out.

I could hand you the label that I'm an amateur martial artist, which would be fair and appropriate. However, how far away is that label from the reality of the situation? You don't know because I haven't explained the experience. I don't know if you'll listen to me for that long. If I don't have a mastery of what that label means to you, then we're at an impasse as to what I mean.

Before you say

I'll make my point.

There's no reason to put a name to yourself and stop growing. There's no reason to find constants for yourself that you've outgrown. Just because your shell has a beautiful spiraling red and gold pattern to it doesn't mean that it's not a cocoon. Wings are meant to fly, and if you find that you're flightless, you can likely outrun whatever's coming at you.

Seriously, these guys can move!

That cloud of cultural understanding, built from labels and propagated ideas and terms, it's a language all on its own. It's for understanding. However, for coming out, it all really depends on what you want, free of everything else. I mean everything, all assumptions, all of them. People don't have to understand you as long as you understand yourself, and that's a really, really difficult thing to do. 

On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with understanding the context of who you are, now, in that environment and society and culture and psychology and genetics that I listed above. It's the only context you have, and if you need to rely on it to find yourself, that's also okay. We do it for literary analysis all the time, why not for individual reflection? I personally wouldn't rely on it heavily, but it's a worthwhile examination nonetheless. Analyze all of the factors and everything that comes with them--cultures of churches, psychological effects of your particular career study, nutrition, organization of your very living spaces, everything. Changing the context will change you, and the greatest spark that people have within themselves is the ability to always grow, to keep on moving, to master the blistering and icy winds that fates send them.

You can come out to whoever you want about whatever you want. Once you have, can you move past the fact? Can you keep learning about yourself and not stop at that great discovery? Don't stop growing. Don't give into fear when it will hurt you more than protect you. Hundreds of worshiped people, human or demigods or otherwise faced ridicule and showed love. It was because they knew themselves better than anyone else ever could, and from their own examination, they knew others. 

"Blaze with the sunset. Watch the dawn. Sing with the stars. Breathe with the earth. Find the little truths, for the biggest ones are found within yourself while searching for others." 

Be yourself, and let you be yourself.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Words are like urine: coming out helped me come in

When I was young I was sexually abused by three different men.
I still don't think I want to talk about it. But this blog is about breaking the silence.
It's about speaking up even when we want to hide and keep quiet.
Even when we feel scared or unsure or uncomfortable with our past.
I will talk about something, if not THAT.
Perhaps THAT will be for another day, but I think it's important to know THAT in order to understand the rest of my story for today.

Two and a half years ago while on a plane to England I wrote my autobiography as a class assignment for my study abroad program. It was supposed to be a way for the professors and assistants to get to know us, as well as a way for us to explore different aspects of our lives that we could write about for our creative non-fiction part of the program. Somehow, for me, it became the beginning of a very painful process.

I surprised myself by writing about specific instances with the three men who tainted my childhood and consequently my young-adulthood. All this shit that I'd held in for so many years just spewed out as black ink onto the pages of my journal. I couldn't even read it afterwards, so I ripped out the pages and turned it in to my professor. He asked to speak to me privately one evening after reading my biography. He seemed concerned, yet he had such a kind and loving look on his face. He asked if I was comfortable with letting the rest of the staff read my bio, and said he would understand if I didn't want them to. I knew I had let myself leak out onto those pages. That there was a lot of honesty there--a lot of what I thought was the "deep dark" part of me, but I couldn't bear to read it myself and so I said it was okay with me if the rest of them wanted to read it.

There were two professors and their wives, and then there were two student assistants. All six of them read my biography. All six of them read about how one of the men held me in his lap, trying to coax me to take my wet clothes off in the attic of an old shed. Not letting me go. The first five readers came to me one by one to tell me: how sorry they were, how strong I am, how much they love me. They each hugged me, and I felt scared about letting these sorts of things eeek out of me, but I also felt like maybe it wasn't so bad. I had my bio conference with the sixth reader. He didn't say anything about how sorry he was or how strong I am or how he loves me. He talked only about my writing and some of my options for future essays and techniques, and what did I want to write about most? I think it was the way he treated my bio that made me feel like it was okay to write about what I wrote. Because it wasn't a big deal. But maybe it was the silence creeping in again, maybe he just didn't want to talk about it like I didn't want to talk about it even though I DID want to talk about it which is why I wrote it...uh....Yes, sometimes things don't make sense.

Anyway, I should be doing homework right now. Because I have a big midterm to study for, but I will tell you about coming out. How writing about the scary moments of being a kid allowed me to face the emotions and the "dark" stuff not in the past, but in the present. My freshman year of college I knew I was attracted to a girl. ONE girl. Just ONE. That was it, and that was all it would be and there would be no more. A year and a half later at the end of my sophomore year while I hiked through the England green fields littered with sheep and shit, I had to face the facts. I'm attracted to women. Not ALL women, of course. But, this being attracted to women thing is not going away. I think that once I allowed myself to let out all my pent up past problems (ie the sexual abuse stuff) I was then able to (and really had no other choice but to) acknowledge this scary idea of being attracted to women, which was really the thing that I needed to get out--or rather, needed to let in.

I can't hold things in without exploding. One time in the second grade we were playing Bingo on Halloween. I really really needed to pee, but I didn't want to leave to go to the bathroom because what if I missed getting Bingo and didn't win a prize? I thought I could just hold it. That I could keep that pee inside me. But, of course I couldn't. And it came out of me without my permission. Caused me all sorts of discomfort and embarrassment. Words are like urine. I can't hold them in. If I try to keep them inside then they burst out, leak through my undies and pants, trickle down my legs, like hot, smelly urine. And when that happens I can't ignore it anymore. I can't try to hide the fact that I'm wet and smelly and standing in a puddle of pee because people can see it. They can smell it. And if others can sense my explosion, I can't hide from myself either.

Allowing others to see a glimpse of my past self allowed me to--forced me to--see a glimpse of my present self. It was tough. I hated the self that I saw. Hated how I thought everyone knew I had wet myself--but of course we know what has happened long before anyone actually notices.
I hurt myself. Cut myself with pocket knives and box-cutter razor blades. Trying to get rid of the nothingness that I had let seep in to replace the nasty cold, wet feeling. Trying to prove that I had control. Trying to show someone that I needed help, needed acceptance, needed to TALK.

Finally, my friend, Debbie, confronted me. Asked me why. Told me I wasn't alone. Other people hurt themselves too. But we don't have to do that. Later she commented on how I'd wet myself--and by that I mean she confronted me about being attracted to women. It was true. I couldn't hide it. She said it was okay. She still loved me. She would still be my friend. And slowly, but surely I came out to others, or rather, they confronted me about how I'd wet myself.

The most important conversation I ever had was with my mom. She asked me if I had feelings for women. Because she could tell, of course. Urine has an unmistakable smell. (forgive me for using such an awful metaphor, but really, everyone's wet themselves at some point in their lives. it's so natural and fitting--at least in my mind). She let me see that I had options. That I didn't have to just settle for conforming to the social expectations directly surrounding me. I could explore, ruminate, discover. I could choose for myself. And she would love me the same no matter what. That was when I began to allow myself to accept my feelings. I began to see that they could be beautiful and not vile or horrid. That while they were very potent, it didn't have to be a bad thing. I could embrace and love every part of me.

I'm still learning to accept myself. I'm still learning about and discovering myself every day. But, I've learned one thing for sure: I can't try to hide or hold my feelings. Even if it means missing out on a Bingo (or perhaps getting the Bingo and instead experiencing wet pants and social embarrassment) I have to express myself. I have to let my words form and land on a page, on a set of ears, on some virtual page for a pair of eyes to discover. So, even though I didn't really talk about my first line this time, I think it's important to let out all the past sludge and get it out of the way in order to tackle the more important, present urine and thereby "come in" and accept our current selves.

~live your own truth~

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why I Write

Because when I was a kid I learned that being gay is a sin.  That masturbation can lead to homosexuality.

Because as early as middle school I would pray intensely to be forgiven of my sins—promising God that I wouldn’t be gay if he would just forgive me.

Because some people love me but not “that part” of me, or what I choose to do with “that part” of me.

Because I always felt so alone, even though I had many friends.  Because my loneliness was intensified by things like the pamphlet “To the One.”  Because so many people are misinformed, and misinform.  Because so much of our psyches are the product of this misinformation.

Because no matter how hard I tried it never seemed enough.

Because my undergraduate university locked away some books about homosexuality, because it used to be affiliated with electro-shock therapy, and because a professor asked me not to raise the issue of homosexuality in class.

Because people in the Church could not, would not accept my gay cousin, and he died.  Because he was (and indeed is) such a wonderful, kind, genuine, and loving young man.

Because this mess of dots* we see now will make sense someday.

Because God loves us, everyone.

Because I am still trying really hard to be good, and sometimes it still feels like it’s not enough.

Because what I am doing is enough, and it is good.

With love, from Justin

*From Latter Days, the movie, via IMDB: “Sometimes it all still feels like a mass of dots.  But more and more these days, I feel like we’re all connected.  And it’s beautiful… and funny… and good.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Vision of A Bright Future

I want you to close your eyes and imagine me. Who am I in your mind's eye? What traits of mine shine out? Which lash out? What are my strong points and my faults to you? What is that person that you see--is she even human?

For years, and even now to a small extent, I didn't consider myself human. At times I was just something different, and at others, I was sub-human at best. If there is anything that I have learned in my life, I have learned loneliness in so many ways. I know that we all have in some forms, and that none of us will ever know every single form of loneliness (thankfully.) Being autistic has driven me to express myself in every way possible due to the issues with communication that I had as a kid, and because there are some things that cannot be communicated easily, neurotypical (aka "normal") or autistic. Being bisexual has made me wonder why people will put aside others, why people will not love back based on what they're packing in their pants. Gender does not make a difference to me.

There is one major aspect to both my bisexuality and my autistic inclinations that direct me to keep writing on this blog. They both are not the whole of what I am. They are parts of me, and there's a lot more to me than being bisexual, autistic, nerdy, a strawberry blonde, 11 in men's shoe size, and so on. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. However, they both pervade and affect everything else that I do and am interested in, both to a significant effect.  

They are both things that distance me from other people. They are both things that affect the other. Bisexuality does help me understand others more because I can gain a better idea of what motivates straight lovers of both sexes because I like to imagine that what I feel for women is what straight men feel for women. Autism affects my bisexuality because I do not care enough about getting laid or romantically involved to align to a culture or stereotype. It does make me more of a loner in some ways, but it does not make me more cold. It does make me more of an objectivist in some terms.

I dream of a day where I can be known for the entire essence of what I am, and know the equivalent of others through understanding and love.

I hope for a day where no one feels distant from another due to unsure feelings on both sides, ignorance, or apathy.
"Does he not like me?"
"Maybe I shouldn't go talk to him..."
"Does she think I'm too weird?"
"I haven't talked to her for a while. Huh. Whatever."

I hate that. I positively hate it, but people do that for various reasons. They're exhausted from too much social interaction, they don't care enough about the person to go talk to them, they're nervous of how that person might react, perceived positions of status, etc.

That connection probably won't come in my lifetime, and probably would only come through the aid of extremely heightened technology. Human nature doesn't change much despite all of the technology you throw at them for augmentation in various ways. I can only see it happening in a society that has eradicated all insecurity about basic needs like food, water, shelter, physical safety, etc. That perfect connection would further up on the Maslow scale, and the thoughts of the starving children in India that I saw will not disappear from my mind any time soon.

However, taking that insecurity away from the world will need more than a few half-funded NGOs to do so. Thus, I am putting my efforts where I can give my all in the specialty in which I can most effectively give my time. At the same time, I wish to live my own life as effectively as possible. Most of us reading this blog live in the US, and that's a pretty damn big blessing. It's not perfect, but it's amazing what rights we hold. Even better, we fight for more rights in ways that don't end with people getting burned alive in cars.

I write here because I wish to keep advocating for LGBT people, and to give an understanding for those of us that find our LGBT nature while in less stereotypical backgrounds. I also write in order to somehow contribute to that crazy intrapersonal connection.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, October 17, 2011

Just One

On Friday I spoke at a candle-light vigil held at UVU's courtyard. It was a really good experience. Up to the moment I took the microphone I had no idea what I was gonna say. As I began to introduce myself and USGA I had a thought pop into my head that had been floating around there for a while. Gandhi once said we need to be the change we want to see in the world. I used to think that was a stupid expression, because I thought it meant that first we had to change ourselves the way we wanted others to change. But the thing is, I already understood. I'm the one who was at an anti-hate vigil speaking about loving each other. We had actually talked about that very issue the day before in USGA. The people that come to these things, meetings and vigils, are the ones who already get it. So shouldn't we be saying that others should change, not us? But looking around that courtyard at those people I knew that these weren't just the people that already got it. They were the ones who wanted to do something about it. We need to be the change we want to see. If I want to see people loving each other and standing up for one another then I have to do so first. We have to be willing to stand for what we know is right, even if we stand alone sometimes.

I sometimes feel as if I'm only one person and I can't do very much at all. Many times my friends have to remind me that I'm not Superwoman, only Lois Lane. I will try and take on too much thinking I need to do more to be heard or make a difference, and then only wind up feeling sad when I can't do it all. But if you asked me if I really think that one person could make a difference, let alone change the world, I would tell you yes. Because if you think about it, everything that exists, before it existed, was just an idea that a person had.

That's why I write here. That's why I keep talking to people about this, and run USGA, and reach out. That's why, despite the bad experiences I've had, I have faith in people. I know that slowly, we can all make a difference.

~Bridey J

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Who even reads this stuff? + Breaking the Silence #3

Okay, so this week we're all writing about why we write on this blog.
As some of you may know, I did NOT create this blog. Weird notion eh?

This is what happened: I took a sociology class during Fall 2010 at BYU. We had a MAJOR assignment to do some sort of project dealing with gender issues (it was sociology of gender roles). A large group of us decided to tackle LGBT issues. We all decided to split up into smaller groups and work on more directed projects. I worked with another fellow and our project was to organize a discussion panel. We called it Understanding Same-Gender Attraction and held it in a city hall in Alpine, Utah. Another group made little fliers about not using phrases like "That's So Gay" or "You're such a Girl!". Someone made pamphlets and handed them out off-campus. And another group made a blog. It was originally called Understanding Same-Gender Attraction, but I changed it...I can't remember why. Because I didn't like the sound of it. But, I took over the blog because I wanted to keep it going and the people who started it didn't care about it beyond the class assignment.

Why do I write on the blog? I don't know. Because I hope that someone will read it and understand first, I'm a regular person trying to share my life with everyone just like all those other weird bloggers out there. Second, being lesbian can be HARD, however, it can also be really AWESOME. Third, I want people to find some sense of connection here if not comfort or knowledge. I recognize that it's a hard thing to feel attracted to members of the same sex in this society. We have all kinds of expectations for ourselves and others and it's really hard when we don't fit those expectations. My target audience was originally the straight folks who just don't get it. I'm not sure if there are even any straight folks who read this blog. I'm not sure who reads the blog at all....if anyone does. (HEY MAYBE YOU SHOULD COMMENT SOMETIMES IF YOU READ THE BLOG!) But that doesn't matter, because the point in me blogging is to, if nothing else, feel like I'm doing some sort of good in the world. I'm trying to cultivate understanding. I'm trying to raise awareness.

Now, as for the other things that I do with my spare time.... I told you about my class project. Well, I organized a second discussion panel and called it Breaking the Silence: Understanding Same Gender Attraction. And, now I'm finally getting around to holding ANOTHER panel.

Breaking the Silence: Understanding Same-Gender Attraction
Thursday October 27th 2011
6:30 pm.
Provo Library Rm 201
550 North University Ave
Provo, Utah

~live your own truth~

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

She may never speak to me again.

Right now, I'm listening to a mixed CD called Ryu No Hikari (Dragon's Light.) It was the first CD I ever had, and memories of a much sweeter time. My best friend gave it to me when I was eleven years old. I'm now twenty-two. It's peppered with soundtracks and J-pop from various animes, from a time where anime was much less known and much less popular than it is now.

I just told my best friend of eleven years that I was once in love with her through an email. This is one of the hardest things that I've ever done in my life. She's beautiful, smart, creative beyond all reason, and has some of the funniest mannerisms. She has a hundred guys after her and she doesn't want any of them. I suspected that she was lesbian, but her own words say otherwise--and that's okay.

Good lord, I'm scared. I wish I could kiss her on the forehead and hold her against the panic attack that she may have just from reading that message. I wish I could take her from the mental issues she deals with, but I sincerely doubt that there will be anything left of a friendship after that message. Seth will be with me and I will have friends to support me even if she takes off from my life for good, but what a departure that will be.

We've done so much together. We've worked on several projects and written so many stories together. Ryu No Hikari, Trampoline Gate, Tales of the Chronicles, Leaves and Snowflakes, Unbroken...

The other things going on in my life are having just left a toxic job, living with one roommate in a six-roommate apartment, and attempting to remove toxic relationships from my life. It's not easy, and some days, all I want to do is cry. I'm putting myself through a period of growth that I need to have before the next phase of my life begins. I'm trying to be more honest with myself and others, and trying to give myself the attention I need before I go throwing myself at getting another degree.

It's also National Coming Out Day. I'm bisexual, an anthropological researcher, and hoping for acceptance.

Good luck to all of you who are doing the same, coming out to those you love,

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Everyone Is Gay

Have you heard of these lesbians?
They answer questions.
Sing and dance crazily.
And they're super attractive.

Right now they're on a tour visiting schools and talking about LGBT issues. They're changing the world. They're informing people about things that we don't always get to talk about.

Take a look at their website:
And, watch some of their YouTube videos because they're super hilarious!

Friday, October 7, 2011

14 Questions about Privilege

Hey friends, Justin here.

Are you privileged?  In thinking about your response, you may wish to consider the following list of questions:

  1. Have you ever worried that you or your partner will be harmed if you express affection in public?
  2. Is it legal for you and your partner to adopt children in your home state or country?
  3. Do schools in your state or country teach children about families like yours?
  4. Have you ever been denied entrance to your partner’s hospital visiting hours because your state or country will not allow you and your partner to marry?
  5. Do you hide your sexuality from potential employers for fear of discrimination?
  6. Do people assume your gender or sexual identity are different than what they are?
  7. Do your family and friends ever tell you that they love you, but not the lifestyle you have chosen—of pursing relationships where you are actually attracted to the other person?  Do they tell you this often?
  8. Have you ever been singled out in class and asked not to disclose or discuss your gender or sexual identity?
  9. Have you ever read letters to the editor of your college newspaper by fellow students expressing disapproval of who you choose to date?
  10. Have you ever been afraid that you might be kicked out of an apartment or harassed if your sexual or gender identity is discovered?  Or has this ever actually happened to you?  Have you ever been kicked out of your home for similar reasons?
  11. Have you ever been instructed by your school to avoid contact with homosexual members of the same sex “even for non-sexual purposes”?  (Or, if you are straight, have you even been instructed by your school to avoid contact with heterosexual members of the opposite sex “even for non-sexual purposes”?
  12. Have your parents or friends ever donated money or time to political campaigns seeking to prevent you from marrying an appropriate person you’re attracted to?
  13. Have you ever been encouraged, either explicitly or implicitly, to pursue relationships and even marriage with a gender to whom you are not attracted for religious, social, or other purposes?
  14. If you have had sex, can you donate blood in your state or country?
 Image source:

Can you add any of your own questions to the list?

This list was inspired by a training run by Robin Parry of Qmunity, BC’s Queer Resource Center in Vancouver.  The original idea seems to have stemmed from writing by Peggy McIntosh, including this article: .

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Under, Yet Over, Privileged

I was raised by a white, single woman.
My class status was always under the "poverty" category.

I was taught to believe and live in the Mormon religion.

I live in Utah.

I am white.

I am female.

I am lesbian.

My shoe size is women's 7-8.

Each of these things has some sort of privilege or disprivilege attached to it.

According to Mormons (and perhaps many other religions and persons who make up society) a child is entitled to be reared by a mother and a father.

My family lived off the government all my life. I still live off of the government because with the disprivilege of being in poverty (stigma, pointed comments, judgments and opinions) I get the privilege of qualifying for certain programs, grants, and scholarships. (Perhaps the fact that I work for the Department of the Interior, which is part of the government, also contributes to the fact that I still live off the government, but I'm not sure what to say about that one...).

As a Mormon, one who can fit in and play the part within Mormon culture, I get the privilege of people who believe in me and compliment me, saying "you're so strong," which in turn has led me to become quite successful in many ways. It has also left me with a lot of things I need to figure out how to reject, release, and move away from (such as shame or mask-wearing).

I'm accepted by a large number of people who also live in Utah just because I am Mormon.

People assume a lot of things about me because I'm from Utah (for instance that I'm Mormon).

I'm white. I don't know what that means anymore. It means I'm not qualified for a lot of things because I'm not part of the "minority", but it also means that I dont' have to feel like "second class" (apparently "colored" people do) in terms of race, and I don't feel conflicted over my heritage or my skin color or whatever else.

I am second class, because this society is largely patriarchal. Men are "number one" and I still make less money than the average man of my same age and education. However, as a "minority" I am given a certain priority in work opportunities because of this attempt to create diverse work environments.

Being lesbian has little impact on my position in society from my experiences thus far. The only thing that has disprivileged me in some way is that when people (particulary Mormons) hear the word "lesbian" they think it means sexually active with women, which takes time to explain. I've been told many times that I shouldn't use that term for myself. Maybe I shouldn't. Another thing that I think about how there's a greater chance of getting egged or something were I to walk down the street holding hands with another woman. I already have the fear of someone doing stupid things like that to me just for being lesbian--and that's without holding another woman's hand.

Certain shoes seem to always be "out of stock" because my feet are average and lots of people apparently want the shoes I want. Consequently, used shoes are very easy to find in my size :)

I can also wear little boy shoes.

What are your privileges or disprivileges?

~live your own truth~