Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Glee: From Hollywood to Columbus to Lexington

I love the show Glee.

I know that a lot of people do. They love that they perform popular songs and it is like a musical every week. My love for Glee goes deeper than that.

Probably the reason that I love Glee the most is for the connection that Sue Sylvester has with her Sister. Sue's sister has Down Syndrome. My brother has Down Syndrome. While Sue seems to be the biggest b, she is a complex character and that is why I love her. I can attest personally that having a sibling with a disability is difficult. It is one of the biggest parts of my life, but sometimes I feel like I never got to really have a childhood. This doesn't make me a victim, just tired. I can understand Sue's rashness because I too have been defensive, angry, sad, happy and overwhelmed with my relationship with my brother. I value the exposure that this show is giving to all identities, especially to the one that I have held (hidden) close to my heart for my whole life.

I also love that there are a lot of identities present in the series. Yes the main dude is a white guy. Yes the "other" actors are people of color and gay and people with disabilities. I love that there is a lot of variety on the show. I love that someone on the series regularly is playing a part of a student in a wheelchair. I love that someone with Down Syndrome has shown up in 3 episodes. Since the show "Life Goes On" from 1989-1993-

I haven't seen a show on primetime with an actor that has Down Syndrome. That may not mean a lot to you, but it does to me. I yearn for that kind of recognition, especially for a show that shows the sibling relationship that Sue has.

Glee makes fun of itself. It deals with heavy subjects (Gender, class, race, sexuality, teenagedom, education, etc.) while still making it fun. It isn't perfect, but it is the most right on show I have seen in a long time.

I student taught this past semester. I can tell you that teenagers are dealing with those issues as you read. They deal with teen pregnancy, popularity, discrimination, disability, invisibility and pop music. No other show that I have seen has addressed a more realistic view of High School currently, while still making the show enjoyable. I know that not everyone agrees with me, but that is what blogging and comments are for.

Thank you Glee.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

looking for submissions for a project about how we feel about Kentucky

I started the Kentucky Experience Project about a year ago and due to varying things (technical difficulties and a busy life) I had to put it down for a bit. I've got some of those kinks worked out now and I'm ready to start aggressively looking for submissions once again.

I got the idea for the project after I'd been living in the state for about four years and come to understand the diversity of its residents and landscapes. It seems like depending on where you live, how you personally identify, your race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or who you associate with, your perception of Kentucky will be radically different from someone elses. I've met folks who live here who think it is the friendliest and most beautiful place on earth (no joke!) and I've met people who for various reasons can't stand it here.

I thought it would be interesting to gather up people's stories and perceptions and compile them all together in the same place. In this case, as a website. I'm hoping that by doing so we can create a more intimate and honest dialogue about the wonderful resources that we have here, and where a lot of work needs to be done.

I'm currently looking for submissions. You can submit anything you'd like. Short stories, photographs, drawings, songs, poems, whatever. I am looking for original work. You can view the submission guidelines here. You don't have to a great artists or writer to submit either. I'm more interest in diversity of opinion rather than the quality of the work.

De Las

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Beyond Beats and Rhymes meets Drake in Lexington

Watch this documentary. After talking with a friend last night about the Drake concert recently (where a bunch of people were arrested and fights broke out) I thought about this documentary. While I don't blame Drake or the people at the concert for what occurred completely, I do think we are part of a larger system that oppresses people through all of the isms and phobias. I love that this documentary asks really good gendered, sexual and race questions that come from a loving place. I love hip hop too, but I believe that if you aren't willing to make something better you better get out of the way.

Byron Hurt (the filmmaker) is a Q, played football and loves Hip Hop. This is a well done documentary that asks the right questions.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Distro to watch our for.

I just learned about Copy That! a great Kentucky based "one-grrrl show run by Cheyborg Neckmonster."

Taken from the site:

Most of the zines here have to do with sexuality, gender, self-acceptance, consent, and things of that ilk, but there are also a few random things thrown in for fun.
Check the other pages for more info, zine listings, etc.

Get in touch: neckmonster at gmail dot commmm

Check it out!

De Las.

Friday, May 14, 2010

One Transman's visit to the Vagina Doctor

Hey everyone,

I know it has been 2 months since my last post, but I like to wait for inspiration. So far coming out as transgendered and furthermore beginning testosterone, I have encountered many social barriers, ie public restrooms, pronouns in the workplace, the search for a doctor - the list goes on - and as I encounter these things, I will do my best to update the stories on this blog.

The latest issue I would like to discuss today is about me and my vagina. My vagina and I go way back and I intend to keep my vagina for the duration of my life. I know that depending on how far you would like for your transition to go, some transmen do not feel this way about what is naturally between their legs. Some transmen even refuse to refer to it as a "vagina". Words like "manhole" begin to seep into their vocabulary and that is perfectly all right and maybe that's a topic for a future blog
What I'm trying to get at is that no matter how you feel about your vagina before, after and during transition, it is absolutely imperative that you continue getting regular pap exams and other vagina related check ups ESPECIALLY if you are sexually active.

So, it had been two years since my last exam and in that time I had legally changed my name, had been going by male pronouns for quite sometime and had been far enough along on T that I had the first showings of chin air (and not the I'm-a-fifth generation-Italian-female-therefore-some-chin-hair-chin hair but like....scruffy)

So, me and my chin hair get worried because now I need to find a gynaecologist who won't only make me feel okay with a stranger poking around down there, but be okay with that fact that I am transgendered. Now, due to the fact that I live under the poverty level and have NO health insurance, I turn my attention to Planned Parenthood. If you have never been there, they are an excellent resource especially for women and trans people who need access to sex education and affordable health care. There is some light paperwork in order to get on the sliding scale for payment, but low and behold there is a PLACE ON THE FORM under "Gender" for trans persons. Holla!

In no time at all, they had me scheduled to come in the following week and were able to get me in at 40% of the full cost of a visit based on my gross income.

So, I go to PP the next week and once I get in the room, get out of my binder, put on the paper dress and all that jazz, the doctor comes in to ask some questions before the examination. During this discussion she realizes that I have never been sexually active with a man. To my horror, she explains to me that I DON'T NEED AN EXAM.

As an aside - when I was 17 this same thing happened to me and my mom was absolutely livid. This is false information. It doesn't matter what your sex-life is or what your gender happens to be. Just like any other part of your body - if you have one, get it checked out. Cancer doesn't discriminate.

Knowing this situation and having a sister who developed polyps as a teenager I asked "Well, what about toys?"

She says, "Are you monogomous?"

I said "yes."

She says, "Is your partner clean?"

I say "yes."

Then she tells me I have nothing to worry about. Floored, I go on to mention my sister and she tells me that in order to get Cancer I first need HPV which can ONLY be transmitted through sex with a MAN.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Regardless we proceed with the exam. When she is checking out my breasts she asks me if they have lessened in mass since I started testosterone. I tell her they hadn't since I had only been on it for 6 weeks. She then says flippantly, "Yea, I don't know anything about transgendered people." When all is said and done she tells me everything looks normal and she'll put through the tests "even though everything will most likely come back negative."


So, a few days later I run into a friend who works for PP and I tell her what happened. She was pissed. A day later I get a call from the manager there who was so pissed off about what happened, that it warmed my heart. Evidently the doctor I landed was much older (I could see that) and new nothing about trans people and had some old fashioned ideas about what it takes to get HPV.

I mentioned that I found it strange that I had noted to them upon filling out the form that I was trans and wanted to make sure I was in an accepting environment and somehow landed the one doctor who would make me feel embarrassed about coming there.

I am happy to say that the Lexington Planned Parenthood branch manager had apparently reached the state level of their organization about this issue and they have implemented a training specifically geared around education on trans people for current and future staff.

I suppose the point of this post is to make sure you all know where to go to get yourself looked at. Many trans people get all their physicals done through their endocrinologists, but for me and many others, we need to seek other avenues.



Sunday, May 9, 2010

allied media conference

Mervin, Jackson and I will be presenting a workshop on queer organizing at the upcoming 2010 allied media conference. We're really excited about it! For those of you who aren't familiar with the AMC, here's some info from their website:

The Allied Media Conference is the central project of the Allied Media Projects (AMP) network, which emerges out of ten years of organic relationship-building. Since the first conference (then the Midwest Zine Conference) in 1999, people have been compelled by the concept of do-it-yourself media. Later, as the Underground Publishing Conference, the emphasis was on building a movement of alternative media makers. With the shift towards Allied Media, the AMC has attracted more and more people who are interested in using participatory media as a strategy for social justice organizing.

During our workshop we'll be sharing out experiences with organizing the queer community in Lexington. We'll definitely be talking about some of the music events we've organized, UK's OUTsource center, and this blog. If you're free on the weekend on June17th-20th, you should totally come up and maybe even stick around for the U.S. social forum.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Powerful Images Edition 1.3

Voices Against Violence

Voices Against Violence is an amazing zine put together by Noemi Martinez from Hermana Resist. 

This is her third installment of the zine and I have the honor of having a piece featured within its pages. Check it out, as well as her other work.

You can read it online here, or download the PDF.


De Las.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

University of Kentucky Feminist Alliance in the house!!

This is an interview with Virginia Conn, member of the UK Feminist Alliance. Enjoy!!

1. What is the mission of the UK Feminist alliance?

First, I want to identify and thank some of the people who have been instrumental in working with the Feminist Alliance throughout the last year: Jaime Lazich, Jason Grant, David King, Brittany Moore, and Megan Moore. They have been the heart and soul of our organization, and don’t get nearly enough credit for their hard work both on and off campus.

That said, our official mission statement is: “The UK Feminist Alliance seeks to promote issues of equality across a broad range of social arenas. Focused on—but not limited to—concerns related to women and minorities, we work at the grassroots level to make UK a better place for everyone.” I think the most important aspect of our organization, however, is to show that feminism is an issue that affects each and every individual, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc. There’s a place within feminism for everyone!

2. How long has the alliance been on UK’s campus?

I’ve been personally involved with the Fem Alliance since 2005, but it’s been around for far longer than I have, and hopefully will continue on long after I leave.

3. What does feminism mean to you?

Why am I a feminist? I'm almost tempted to say that the answer should be obvious, but I hear so often—in my classes, in the media, from the mouths of my friends and family—that we live in a post-feminist society, that feminism has accomplished its goals and should now, like any good movement which has finished what it set out to do, lay down and die. And that's true, in some sense. Feminism has gained women the right to vote. Feminism has allowed women to work outside the home. Feminism has opened up venues to women that would have been unthinkable even in our mothers' time, let alone our grandmothers' or great-grandmothers'. But how can any movement rest when there's still so much left to do? How can feminism be swept into the dustbin of 'post'-feminism when women still make only ¾ of a man's salary; when shows like The Swan or America's Next Top Model exist to tell us, men and women, that women are only to be valued for their looks; when we have yet to own control of our own bodies in the form of fully-accessible birth control or the hpv vaccine or abortion; when America has yet to elect a woman to the most powerful position in the world? There's no post-feminism when feminism still has attainable goals, and to achieve true equality, there must be feminists who are willing to work for a day when their movement can finally, truly, become obsolete. That day is not today, but I hope it comes soon.

4. What are some of the challenges that feminists face at the university of Kentucky? What about in Kentucky in general?

Most of the challenges we face at UK are the same that any feminist faces in Kentucky or the nation in general: indifference. It’s so easy to think that because we’ve come so far, we’ve come all the way. We get comments on our FB wall pretty frequently calling us anachronistic (not exactly in those terms) for insisting on equality when “women and men are already equal, stupid!” And, of course, there’s always the name-calling and insults whenever we host events, but really, foul language is only secondary. Our biggest challenge by far is the feeling that no one is willing to act for the kind of world they want to live in, they just want it to be here already.

5. Some have critiqued feminism as being a movement that only serves the interests of white middle class women. How does the UK feminist alliance work to include both people of color and people from different class backgrounds?

Honestly, we’re at somewhat of a disadvantage in this area, just by virtue of being an organization centered at a university in Kentucky. The vast majority of our potential members are white and have the means (even if only through loans) to attend college in the first place. Our main method of recruitment is being out in the public eye and drawing attention to issues we care about, which we try to do in conjunction with other multicultural groups. If people in the community see us as a representation of feminism, however, and we’re all uniformly one color and class, then unfortunately we give the same impression as you mentioned in your question. It’s an issue we would like to overcome.

6. In your opinion, are young people eager to embrace feminism?

I don’t think young people are eager to embrace the word itself, because it has (unfortunately) acquired so many negative connotations: man-hater, extremist, etc. I also don’t believe that young people are eager to act to revolutionize ideas about gender. That said, I do think more and more young people are being raised to expect certain ideas about equality that are relatively new in the public consciousness, such as women in positions of power, males taking on stereotypically “feminine” attributes and jobs (I can think of three guys right off the top of my head who aim to be stay-at-home dads), equal partnerships, genderqueer identities, and so on. These individuals may not think of their way of life as a feminist one, but any action that puts men and women on equal footing is exactly that.

7. What would be a feminist perspective on gender? (there is no right or wrong answer of course!)

What a loaded question! This varies so much across the whole “feminist movement” that it’s impossible to say definitively what a “feminist perspective” would be without offensively simplifying the issue for some. I can tell you my own perspective, as a feminist, on the issue, and hope that that’ll be good enough. For me, since feminism itself is all about choice and equality (two nebulous words in and of themselves), gender necessarily both follows and informs those same choices. Unlike sex, with which (most) people are born as either one or the other, some people can consider themselves women, some people can consider themselves men, some are both, some are neither, and some change depending on the day and their mood and the weather. I don’t mean to make light of the topic by saying that; I feel that gender is an identity that is as much a performance of internal and external expectations as it is an integral part of the way you were born, and because your own and others’ expectations are always changing, it stands to reason that the way to enact your gender would do so, too.

8. Feminist movements are often described as being part of “waves.” Currently we are experiencing third wave feminism. What does that mean?

Third-wave feminism is the recognition that there are no all-encompassing feminist ideals that everyone can agree with. It’s a movement founded on diversity and dialogue, not strict rules, but is only possible because earlier waves were united in a push towards common goals that are now foundational. For example, the first wave fought for very basic issues, such as the right for women to vote, while the second wave worked for the right for women to have access/equal opportunity in the workforce, as well as ending of legal sex discrimination. Some of the most prominent issues of this wave are reproductive rights and media representation, but as I said, there is no single issue to unite all feminists contained within the movement.

9. What projects is the feminist alliance working on?

Since the Feminist Alliance is a student organization, we usually take the summer as an opportunity to stop and catch our breath before starting up again in the fall. We have an ongoing project of putting together a Gender Resource Center in the Center for Student Involvement, however, for which we are always accepting donations, and we just finished up curating an exhibit for Boxes & Walls, an interactive diversity museum. Some proposed activities for the fall are a feminist-themed art show as part of the gallery hop, a pay-equity bake sale (which we have done in the past with great success), and our always-ongoing work with the Gender Resource Center.

10. Do you ever work with other campus or community organizations?

We try to collaborate on projects as often as possible. I mentioned previously that we recently finished working with an interactive diversity museum, which was sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and with which we were paired with the VIP Center. In the past, we held a forum about the female orgasm that featured speakers from the UK Medical Center and a representative from Planned Parenthood, and one of our current members is also a member of the Bluegrass NOW, so we expect some overlap there. We have also worked with OUTsource, VOX, and the producers of the Vagina Monologues, and are generally excited to collaborate any time there’s some kind of intersection of interest between groups (which happens all the time!).

11. How can someone get involved with the UK feminist alliance? Do they need to be a student?

We’re always looking for new members! To hold an office or act in an official capacity, someone would need to be a student, but we have currently and have had in the past many people who unofficially belong to the organization. If you have an interest in working with supportive equal-rights activists, don’t hesitate to contact us in any number of ways: our FB fan page (UK Feminist Alliance), our FB group (Girl Club), by e-mail (ukfeministalliance@gmail.com) or on our Twitter account (UKFemAlliance). We’d love to hear from you!

De Las.