Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gender specific restrooms

I recently read an article about a group of activists at a California school who were taking on bathrooms. That's right, bathrooms. They're goal was to create awareness around the fact that gender specific bathrooms often become places of anxiety and fear and unfortunately sometimes violence for trans and gender queer individuals. They've also banded together with students with disabilities to address accessibility issues in public restrooms.

As someone who is woman identified and rarely mistaken for the opposite sex, I don't find myself hesitating before I go into the bathroom, wondering if I'm going to get shit from the people inside. But I know that a lot of folks do and that just fucking sucks.

In order to help people feel safer a group of people have created a website called safe2pee where people can list gender neutral bathroom locations across North America. I took this description from the site:

The goal of the project is to create a resource where people who do not feel comfortable with traditional public restrooms can find safe alternatives, and to support advocacy and research to further the cause of gender free, inclusive bathrooms.

I looked up Lexington KY and the only listing for non-gender specific bathrooms was at the good foods co op on Southland Dr. I KNOW there are more of them around town, so I would like to challenge all of you to add them. The instructions for adding a bathroom are super simple and on the first page of the website.

de las ondas

Friday, July 24, 2009

OMG you're not a lesbian?!?!

Before I begin, I want to thank Mervin Sue for opening up the posting to multiple authors. I think this blog presents a real opportunity to create a meaningful discussion about gender and sexuality in Lexington and I'm eager to hear what other folks think. If you're interested in sharing you experiences/stories/reflections, whatever - say something so that you can be added to the author list.

Moving on.

I was a pretty lucky kid in that my parents were always very socially and politically aware. They encouraged us to read a great deal and to think for ourselves. We spent many family dinners discussing the importance of healthcare, what is class and why it's important to think about, or world history. Now don't get me wrong, my life wasn't all a bunch of roses - far from it, but this is something I am particularly grateful for.

However, I think because of this experience I developed a blanket notion of "progressive people" and I thought that everyone who is oppressed should, could, and would understand and, empathize with other oppressed people. Then, as I started to explore my sexuality, I naively thought that all queer people must be socially liberal and think about the world the same way that I do.

Can anyone hear that buzzer that goes off in a game show when you get the question wrong?

Now I can see how incredibly freakin' naive that was. And while I get that more and more all of the time, I still have moments where I'm like, wtf? How could you think that??

So fast forward to the last year in Lexington, and my partner coming out as transgendered. Prior to that he was pretty well known around town as a lesbian folk musician. When news started to travel down the pipeline about his new identification I had several lesbian friends pull me aside and ask me if I was ok. I also heard that a couple of them, behind our backs, refused to use male pronouns unless he specifically asked them to.

I know it shouldn't shock me, but it kind of did. And more than just shock me, it pissed me off. I know that people care about me and want to be sure that I'm alright but I also feel like they were making a ton of assumptions about my own sexuality and I felt a little bit like we might get kicked out of an exclusive social club.

It was around that time that I realized first of all that people thought I was a lesbian. I guess I'd never talked with my friends about how I identify as queer. I suppose I got lumped into the lesbian category because that's who my friends were. Since then I've been more vocal and assertive about my sexual identity and I feel good about that. But I'm also finding that it's confusing for a lot of people. I don't always feel like getting in depth either about the way I define queer and what that means for me, and frankly I can tell most people don't want to hear all that anyway. I guess I need some sort of succinct and quippy way to define my sexuality to them. One that won't waste anyones time.

I don't beleive that lesbians being shocked when one of their "own" "bites the dust," or that people getting screw faced over the word queer is unique to Lexington, but this is where I live so I have to think about it.

Does anyone else have a story like this?

De Las Ondas

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Be True to Yourself

Hey all. I love this clip of Ellen's Commencement speech. Check it out:

"Live your life with integrity... follow your passion, stay true to yourself, never follow someone's path unless you are lost in the woods and by all means take the path.."

I guess I am posting this because I am having a hard time this summer with figuring out what staying true to myself looks like. I feel a little bit lost, a little bit emotional, at times very alone and others horribly confused. I realize that I have a lot of great things in my life, but it is hard to see out of all of the emotion that comes and goes with the days. I used to get over things by staying busy and ignoring them. It doesn't seem like that is working anymore. I don't want to bother my friends with talking about it because I am not sure what to say, it is more than words it is a feeling.

This summer I have had family members fall seriously ill and it has made me come face to face with potential responsibility. I have had friends with problems bigger than those I have ever faced and it has made me question my own sense of right and wrong. I realize that I am not in the best financial state and it weighs on me daily. I have also seen that I look for acceptance by the people around me while lacking the inner acceptance that helps keep one going in the day to day. I spend too much time running away from things that are hard than facing them and dealing with them. I do too much for other people so that I can avoid some more. I don't know how to function any other way.

I'm really glad that I got my Genderqueer book back the other day because I am hoping that I will find some solace in it. Lately I have mentioned to people that I get mistaken for a boy, without ever really stopping to reflect how it affects me. In some settings I like my queerness, in others it makes me feel isolated and identity-less. I feel like I very rarely fit my haircut. I don't want to be all girly, but I'm tired of being looked at with a feel of interrogation. There are days when I want my chest to disappear and others when I love wearing makeup and showing some cleavage.

I feel like I am whining and I shouldn't be. I am really a very lucky person and I get to go to my favorite place in a few days. I'll leave it at that.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Contributing to my Blog

So I have heard from people that they eagerly await for me to update this. Yay. I'm excited that people are also interested in this subject. I will try and update more in depth today.

In other news, I think that I have figured out how I can add additional "authors" to my blog. You will need a google account, let me know the email addy and I can make you an "author". Then you can post to the blog at will. Using your own passwords and such. Neat, huh?

Let me know if you are interested. I also reserve the right to take off blogs that are hateful to other people/identities/classes/races/genders etc. Not that I have to tell this to anyone, but just in case. I refuse to sit idly by and let hate continue.

In parting thoughts, sometimes when I put on a dress I feel kinda like a linebacker in a tutu. A little out of sorts. Does anyone else ever feel this way when they put on specifically "gendered clothing"? I also don't use a purse. I know that I have mentioned these before, but what is it about certain types of clothing that con notate gender to us all?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Teaching and Lexington and Gender and Me #1

I started my first class today to become a High School teacher. While I am sure that this will create many posts on my experiences, I was interested in a few things that were brought up today.

I appreciated many tips that the professor offered for helping with keeping control in your classroom, but one stuck with me. She told us that Men were never to meet alone with students in the classroom. Why only men? Are only Men perceived to be sexual predators? Is it a sexual thing or a power thing? How does gender factor into this? As someone that is often perceived as a man, I listened to the statement with a sense that I should heed her warning too. I believe that all teachers need to be careful with meeting with students alone. It bothers me that the idea exists that teachers cannot be trusted to meet with their students alone, but it is good to have an open door policy for your own protection. We do live in a sue-happy society that encourages people to seek out others perceived to have harmed children and punish them. I think that women can be just as harmful as men when dealing with children. We should be monitoring all teachers and children to see how they are affecting each other.

Also, we talked about professional dress. I realize that I will need to dress professionally, but I keep getting the feeling that I will need to wear more "womanly gendered" attire. Sometimes I hate wearing feminine things and feel like a football player in a dress when I put one on. I hate wearing purses and only put on a little makeup. I don't want to grow out my hair and will have to figure out many ingenious ways of hiding my tattoo. My mom shakes her head whenever we talk about it as a family. This is one of the reasons that I want to be sensitive to how long I want to be a teacher. I think all of this bureaucracy will get to me after awhile.

Teaching is dominated by White, middle class, women. If Men perceive that they need to be watched while working in the field, aren't we as a profession sending them a message that they shouldn't enter the field?