LGBTQ

Midterm Victories

Midterm Victories

For those of you feeling discouraged, or lamenting that it didn't look like a Blue Wave, pause a moment. Breathe. We didn't win (or haven't yet concluded) the "sexy" races. O'Rourke/Cruz, Kemp/Abrams, DeSantis/Gillum... but so many good things happened last night. Look at these victories. Let this be confirmation that your work mattered, and your vote mattered. Your vote still matters. Change is happening. Keep up the amazing work, y'all.

Mirror, Mirror: Representation In Media

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You guys said that instead of Flash Friday, you wanted to see an essay on something near and dear to my heart. So here ya go, loves. Let me know what you want to see in 2 weeks: flash or an essay?? Think about the last thing you watched on television. Was it a football game? A sitcom? News? Maybe you don't take commercial tv, but prefer Netflix or a similar streaming service. Did you check out the new hotness? Or catch up on an old favorite? Are you thinking about it? That last thing you watched? Now, I have another question for you: did you see yourself there? Were you represented in the show? How about the commercials? Were you there?

Unless you're a cisgendered (your biological sex and your gender match) white hetero able-bodied human with a very specific BMI and body shape, probably not.

Now, there's a very public discussion at the moment about racial diversity in film, what with the Academy Awards nominations coming out with nary a minority to be found. We've talked for years about ethnic roles in adaptations being given to white people, or transgender characters being played by cis (typically white) males. Even in female-centric films, men still have more speaking time.

There's more to diversity than race and gender, to be sure, but right now these are the issues at the fore of the societal conversation. Media--books, television, films, advertisements, toys--all have a problem. The majority of these things do not represent most people.

"Why is it important?" I hear you asking.

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Media is a mirror. It reflects our society's values, tells us what is "good", what is "bad". Media influences our thinking from what brand of cereal to buy this week at the story, to which political candidate we should vote for. Media tells us what is "normal", and what we should be in order to be a working cog in the societal machine.

When you don't see yourself reflected in that mirror, it can be damaging as fuck to a psyche. It makes you question your identity, can leave you feeling adrift and alone with no guidepost or role model. It can make you feel LESS THAN.

It's important to see a black super hero like Falcon, or a Muslim heroine like Kamala Khan, a wheel-chair bound Batgirl like Oracle, or a black Disney princess like Tiana. You want children to believe they can be more, be anything? They need to see that represented in print, on screen and in the toy aisle. They need to see themselves in positive places of power, roles with agency and control. You want a black woman to excel and become president? Show her that she can. You want oppressed people to rise up? Show them it's possible. Hell, Sesame Street understood that in the late '60s and still does!

I was excited as hell after watching one episode of Jessica Jones. Look, I'm 5'11'' and weigh over 250 pounds (thanks PCOS!). I watch an Avengers flick and I don't see myself there. I will never be the agile femme fatale like Black Widow. I'm not a soldier like Maria Hill. Though I adore her, I am too bohemian and coarse to be Peggy Carter. I have no interest in being a power CEO like Pepper Potts, nor can I personally identify with Scarlet Witch.

But Jessica Jones? While she is portrayed as skinnier and way more alcoholic than me, I see myself here. I see myself in her snark, her profanity, her "I don't give a shit if I wear the same pants for a week" mentality. I see myself in her struggle to survive the psychological abuse of Killgrave, her very real PTSD. I watch Jessica Jones and think for a moment, "yeah, I can be that heroine."

I cried when I saw The Force Awakens last month. My daughter and I were sitting beside one another while a woman took up a lightsaber in a franchise that is (historically) terrible for women. My daughter and I were there in that character. Finally. We could be Jedi. (Just for one day.)

Encouraging Stereotypes

Black roles are generally given to sidekicks. Largely they are a token role that could be played by someone white, as their race has little influence on their character. The exception being something that chooses a stereotypical portrayal of a black person, or a historical film that discusses slaves or Moors.

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Asian characters are typically martial arts gurus, fetishized, or both. If neither of the above, you're a computer expert or really good at math.

Indian? Smart character. Socially awkward. Butt of jokes. Or you work in a 7-11. If you're female, you're "exotic".

Latino/Latina? We will not differentiate between Columbian vs Honduran vs Mexican vs Puerto Rican etc and so forth, because that would mean we'd have to learn something. You're the silly friend, the drug lord or John Leguizamo who is both.

Native/Indigenous people? If we mention your race at all (without mistaking you as Latino/Latina), you're sagelike and wise. Or drunk. Or in a historical film and will likely die of cholera, small pox, or an arrow wound.

Fat? You're the plucky, funny best friend with a heart of gold. You are probably Amy Schumer or Melissa McCarthy since Janeane Garafalo go out of the game. But, on the plus side, Mattel has released a series of new Barbies with different body types. Only took 57 years.

In a wheelchair, or otherwise disabled? Yeah, the movie isn't going to be about you, but instead about how brave you are to overcome all obstacles. You can't just be a person, we have to fetishize your disability. LEGO has decided to release mini-figs with wheelchairs, though. 

Gay? You get characters now, but you're going to either share exposure with an ensemble cast, or be a supporting character. We won't focus on you, and if we do we will make it all about your gayness rather than your humanity. You will always be the snarky friend in a rom-com. Sorry.

Then there's erasure to deal with. So many parts of real people are swept under the rug or dismissed, assuming they make it on the screen or page at all.

Bisexuals? Sorry! We're either portrayed as capricious children who can't make up our minds, confused kids jumping on a bandwagon, greedy, or liars. And we'll never be the lead in a rom-com unless the plot is about how we are "forced to choose". We will only ever be object lessons.

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Transgender? You're probably going to be a male-to-female character (because we can understand a woman wanting to become a man, but can't fathom a dude turning in his privilege of his own accord to be female). You may be degenerate, a villain or a laughable parody. Or you're a blatant Oscar grab for a cis male who will be seen as "so brave" for taking such a role.

Non-binary? Good luck. If you exist at all outside of niche media, you will only be background, or you'll be in an indie film starring Tilda Swinton (the goddess of androgyny) and featuring an all Bowie soundtrack.

Mental illness? No, we just need to pop a pill or try harder. Society doesn't talk about mental illness. (I was happy about Silver Linings Playbook being a bit new on this front, but we can do better.) The mentally ill characters in media are deviants, villains or object lessons.

Similarly, the Autistic Spectrum doesn't get much love. You're likely to find someone like Benedict Cumberbatch playing it off ambiguously as part of the ridiculously smart character. However, there is a character on the popular tween cartoon Monster High. Ghoulia Yelps is a "zombie", but she is a positive depiction of a girl on the Spectrum who is still valued by her friends and treated no differently than others.

Polyamory? HA! No. We get "Sister Wives" and "Big Love" bullshit on TLC that is all but mocking plural relationships. Or articles with pictures of people holding hands behind someone else's back, implying that polyamory is adultery by any other name.

 I hate this picture. Never use it again, media. Ever.

I hate this picture. Never use it again, media. Ever.

Not only is the representation in film/books flawed, it also doesn't give an accurate depiction of the world. There are more minorities than the typical blockbuster would have you believe. The reality posited by even television and print media is flawed. Your common news anchors are less racially diverse than the communities they cover. That magazine was photoshopped and otherwise manipulated to the point that we aren't seeing any truth. Reality television isn't. Print ads are distorted.

Make It Your Own.

I know I've got it easier than some by sheer dint of being white and cisgendered. There are certainly more of us in the media than, say, a trans dude, or a black non-binary amputee. But frankly, I've come to a point in my life where I'm fucking exhausted by media telling me I'm not good enough. I'm not the "right" body type. I don't have the "right" kind of job. I'm the "wrong" sexuality. My gender is "less than". I'm tired of trying to find myself in a media that refuses to acknowledge my existence.

 Me. Right now. No filters, make-up. No distortion.

Me. Right now. No filters, make-up. No distortion.

I'm a curvy, bisexual, polyamorous artist who  uses the word "fuck" like it's punctuation. I'm not between sizes or trying to lose weight. I'm not lazy, nor am I unaware of my size and the potential repercussions on my health. (I have a disorder that causes problems with my reproductive and metabolic systems among other things.) I'm "fat", and that doesn't make me less beautiful.

I have one child and lack the desire (and now the ability) to have more. And I'm okay with this. That doesn't make me less of a woman.

I am bisexual and polyamorous. I am attracted to people. I am not capriciously sexual. I find a good, deep conversation more orgasmic than sex. I am not a liar, adulteress or in any way less than ethical.

I am an artist. I don't have a traditional day job. That doesn't mean I can't contribute to society, my family or the world. My joy in being an artist does not make me less worthy.

I'm tired of trying to find myself in the mirror of the media. So I've done a few things about this.

For starters, I write the media I want to see. I write diverse characters who are more than just a race or label. I write them with those things in mind, but the character is more than skin tone or sexual orientation.

Another part of that is being more authentic. Since I stared posting blogs in 2000, I made it a point to be myself. What you see is what you get. While things in my life have changed and I do keep many aspects of my life private, I prefer to be open about who I am. We need authenticity in the world. People need to see reflections of themselves, and know that there are places where their freak flags already fly. I want to be a safe place. I want to be an ally. I want to be real. To that end, I post things like this where you see me. (I mean seriously, how could I post an article about representation in media and not represent myself honestly in my own public space?)

And recently, I've started actively seeking me-friendly media. I know it's out there. I've found poly-friendly webcomics like Kimchi Cuddles, and Twitter accounts that promote bisexual inclusion. I've started collecting images on my Pinterest boards (non-binary thinking/bisexuality/polyamory here, and plus-size here - WARNING, both boards may be NSFW) that represent me, so that on days when I need a mirror, I can find one. On days when I feel "less than" I can remember that I am enough.

You are enough, too.

When popular media includes things like Donald Trump spewing rhetoric against Muslims, Mexicans, blacks, women and more; when echo chambers turn into houses of mirrors that stretch and twist reality, we need diverse media. We need representation. We all need to know that we are enough.

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Erasure

So, once upon a time--about 10 years ago--I was in a room with three other people we'll call Sunshine, 3PO and Booger. (Why do I call him "booger"? Because I picked him! HA! *rimshot*) All of us come from upper/middle class white upbringings. Essentially, we were a coffee house sofa and two cans of hairspray short of an episode of FRIENDS. Anyway, the four of us were talking about all things mundane. The weather. Music. Work. Plans for the future. I'd just told them how I was planning to move to Arizona soon and got an earful from Sunshine about how my wayward tendencies to let the wind carry me would end in me never getting married (as if this was the single worst fate imaginable).

But I digress...

...I hadn't been out as bisexual for very long at that point. As it was, I think Booger knew, but I wasn't so close to Sunshine or 3PO (who were dating at the time) that I would have made that blatantly clear. So, somehow the discussion turned to the growing political movement to legalize same-sex marriage. When Sunshine rather aggressively commented that same-sex relations are an abomination. She decried that those who do such things make baby Jesus sad and God wrinkle up his nose, and that all of these things made gays, lesbians and those damned greedy bisexuals a sinful blight on society.

She had no problem saying this in front of a man who was an out-and-practicing, self-proclaimed fag and a quietly-out bisexual woman. I remember that Booger kindly disagreed with her, but didn't outright engage. I remember 3PO being mostly silent. And, being me, I got loud and told Sunshine that she had just insulted 50% of the room. I outed myself to her right then and there and told her that everything she'd just said about gays and bi-people was an outright insult to me personally. That she wasn't just saying these things about a demographic but about the people right in front of her.

Sunshine excused this by saying, "Well, you're bisexual, you're not really part of the argument anyway. You can still marry a man. Besides, I know you and who you've dated in the past. You'll end up with a man anyway."

And then she carried on unabashedly taking the "moral high ground" to defend the sanctity of marriage against the queers, never once thinking to apologize to her friends she'd just belittled and dehumanized.*

Life went on. I moved to Arizona not long after that. Have my own husband and daughter. (I'm sure that Sunshine sees this as some miracle or triumph.) I'm friends with Sunshine and Booger on Facebook, but otherwise, haven't seen them since. I'm surrounded by people who--if they aren't bisexual themselves--understand that though I'm in a monogamous relationship with my husband, I still identify as one who is sexually/spiritually attracted to both men and women. I am blessed to be accepted as I am and never made to feel like LESS.

And then I read articles like this, and that conversation with Sunshine comes back. A decade later--when leaps and bounds have been made in the fight for LGBTQ rights--and yet, the "B" in that equation is still catching a shit ton of the same old song.

For those who can't read the above link for whatever reason, the popular Slate.Com advice column "Dear Prudence" recently suggested that a woman keep her bisexuality in the closet.

The bisexual woman wrote in asking for advice on if she should come out to her friends and family about her sexuality. (She's already told her husband.) The woman also asserted that even though she is attracted to women, she will not pursue this as she is in a committed, monogamous marriage with a man.

So basically, she's just asking, should I tell people that I'm bi even if I'm not going to "practice"... and Prudie's dissertation on the matter was rather disgusting.

She says:

"Let’s say you discovered a late breaking interest in plushophilia, or you now realized you were turned on by being a dominatrix. This would not be news you’d be required to announce...you are confusing your personal sexual exploration with a social imperative. It would be one thing if you left your marriage because you were pursuing relationships with women. That would be worth talking about—if you wanted to—as a way of explaining the dissolution of your marriage."

I have so many problems with that paragraph.

1) First of all, even though she remains conservative in her word choice, our Dear Prudence, she somehow manages to perpetuate the stereotype that bisexuals are somehow salacious ass-grabbers with a constant desire to fuck anything we see. (We're not all Captain Jack Harkness, people!) As the GLAAD author points out, the columnist fetishizes bisexuality rather than treating it as an identity like homo/heterosexuality, asexuality, or transexuality.

2) Along the same lines, Prudie's comments not only fetishize but trivialize the woman's self-discovery of coming out as bisexual. More often when a woman--(I can't speak for men, here)--comes out as bi, it is either greeted with leering jests because she is clearly of loose moral fiber, or she is patted on the head because this was likely "part of a phase". Her "personal sexual exploration" is treated like a decision to take up yoga or try the latest fad diet.

3) "Now THAT would be worth talking about". Yes, the emphasis is mine, but holy shit it's implied. So let me get this straight...(heh, straight)... this woman has just come to a pretty big realization about herself and asked for advice on if/how to broach the subject with her friends and family. And you've not only likened her identity to something naughty and fringe (dominatrix), and told her that it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things (bullshit), you're now telling her that the only way her sexuality IS noteworthy, is if it destroys her marriage. Wow. That's not just insensitive, it's blind. Furthermore, it plays into the whole "if it bleeds it leads/sex sells" mindset. Clearly, she can't come to such a big understanding of herself (oh, but it's not big, my mistake), unless it rocks her world to its very foundations and destroys everything and rips apart her happy, pristine marriage. The horror! /sarcasm

Seriously, what the everloving fuck is this about?

Look, it goes like this: I'm bi. My husband knows. My parents know. My friends know. I've never had a sit down meeting with everyone and said, "So, you know how Cousin Jared is a respiratory therapist? Yeah, I'm half-queer." NO, it doesn't work like that for most people. I didn't stand up at Thanksgiving and make some big announcement. I chose to live outwardly and not deny, not hide and not mince words. I'm out about it on social media (as evidenced by this blog) and make no attempts to cloak my sexuality for the comfort of others. *waves* Hi there!

Being Bi and in a committed hetero relationship does not mean that my attraction to women vanished. It doesn't mean you get to ignore that part of me or put an asterisk by "straight" when you're classifying me in your head. It doesn't have the same seedy clickbait news vibe to say I'm bi and happy with my man, but sorry, it's true.

Bi erasure is a thing. Capricious, greedy, confused: this is how we're described. Our collective sexual identity is seen as transient, no more stationary than the phases of the moon. Surely it's a phase that will pass. More than that, though, we blur the lines of what sexuality entails. Love for both? Sexual attraction that includes multiple options? We're not black-or-white enough for a headline, so often our sexuality is defined (by others) by who we're with. This is no more true about me than it is about you. *I* am not my relationship status. *I* am not a demographic check mark. *I* am not given worth or value solely by the company I keep. I am no more my husband's wife than I am my father's daughter or my brother's keeper. These things add to the grand total, but I am greater than the sum of my parts.

Gay, straight, bi, trans, queer, deciding, other or whatever... be who you are and be proud. You are amazing. You are stardust. You are worthy. Be out and proud. Shine.

Sorry, Prudence, but in this particular case, silence is not golden.

*-Funny thing. Sunshine and 3PO broke up after a while...she married someone else and has had many babies to fulfill her ultimate feminine destiny and he is now in a happy relationship....with another man. So, 75% of the room during this conversation did not identify as 100% hetero.

 

I've Got Your Back

992856_588564477849817_946136430_nCon season is upon us, and unfortunately, that means an uptick in horrific stories of people being harassed. People are made to feel unsafe at an event they paid to attend because they have a passion. That, frankly, sucks. Being that I'm trying to decrease some of the suck output of the world, I would like to tell you about the Backup Ribbon Project.

So, I heard about this from Karina Cooper last year. (Oddly enough, I met Tina, the woman who started the Backup Ribbon Project, at a New Year's party. Small world.) The Backup Ribbon is a purple ribbon you add to your Con badge to let people know that you are willing to help. If you see someone being harassed, you will step in. You will listen. You won't judge or say, "Well look what you're wearing. What did you expect?" I think this is amazing.

Anywho, I'd been talking with Emma Lysyk about it and we were going to do this, but in light of the recent tragedy at UCSB, it seems this is even more important. Next week, at Phoenix Comic Con, I am teaming up with Emma Lysyk to offer Backup badge ribbons.

The Backup Ribbon Project site (link above) says it like this:

If you take a Backup ribbon or you wear a Backup t-shirt, you are promising one very simple thing: You WILL help out anybody being harassed. Gender, orientation, presentation is irrelevant. You WILL find a way to help, whether by directly intervening, getting help from elsewhere, or simply listening the person being harassed. You WILL be there for them. You WILL accept that they believe they have been harassed. You WILL NOT question them or doubt them, You WILL give them whatever help they wish.

No judgement. No exceptions. We got your back.

And that's what we mean. Emma's booth (#1838) will not only have her awesome swag for sale, but it is also a Safe Place. If you need help, she or a likewise helpful person will be there. If you are being harassed or do not feel safe, if you need a ride or escort because you had too much to drink, if you are in danger... we want to be your backup. And if we can't help you, we will make sure you get to the people who can and we will back you up.

1170745_621996504506614_689080441_nSo yeah... Emma will be at her booth. I'll be at my table (#2432) when I'm not at panels, or gaming at night.  I am a safe place. I'm an ear if you need it. And I've got enough friends on the PHX CC staff that I can get you to Security or whatever you need. We'll have ribbons on us for $1 each (to cover the printing/shipping costs). If you choose to donate extra it will go directly to the Backup Ribbon Project. Supplies are limited to 250 ribbons. (I will have 125, Emma will have the other half.)

Also, this is not gender specific. Men, women, gay, straight, bi, cis, trans or Siamese... doesn't matter. We'll back you up if you need help. Everyone has the right to enjoy their con without being harassed or made to feel afraid.

EDITED TO ADD: When you get your ribbon, selfie that and post it to Twitter with the hashtag #PHXBackup!

Random Observations

558150_111384162340268_1352703363_nSo I'm watching the Olympics and there's a speed skater who used to compete for Korea, but has since become a Russian citizen. He changed his name and his flag, but still competes at the highest level of skill. He's awesome and the commentators sing his praises. Sure, they explain, "Hey, he's changed his name and stuff," but then they let it go and just keep on gushing about him. At no time does anyone insist on using his previous name or saying, "Well, he's really Korean." Nope. They've accepted his choice and change and let his skating speak for itself. Too bad that some can't offer that same courtesy to the transgender community.

 

I've never been one to mince words on my own blog, and that includes talking about potentially uncomfortable things from my "real life". If it's funny, I'll share it. That being said, what follows is going to talk about an ultrasound I had on my lady parts. While I don't go into detail, if this topic is offensive or awkward for you, scroll on to the next picture and continue. No worries. (It's not like I'm going to quiz you later.) You might want to do that now.

So yeah, anyway...I've been having problems for about 18 months now. I won't bore you with the specifics, but last May I went to my doctor and her response to my concern was, "Maybe it's just your new normal." Blood tests all came back perfectly normal (particularly good for someone in my weight class, too), and things looked like they might have been evening out. Not so much. Things are actually worse in that department and growing steadily more so. So, I went to see my doc this week about it again. She ordered multiple ultrasounds (two vaginal and one of my thyroid as it seems enlarged). I had those tests this morning.

It's not my first time having a pelvic ultrasound or a transvaginal exam. I have a history of ovarian cysts, so yeah. But sometimes I forget how cold that shit can be. Anyway, so I'm laying there with the Mitsubishi 5000 Super Webcam edition wand up my hoo-ha. The ultrasound tech is snapping pictures and suddenly I hear this sound.

"CUCKOO!"

It's the classic cartoon cuckoo clock noise with a bong! kinda noise thrown in there. I blinked and asked the tech, "Um, what was that?"

"Oh, it's just my computer telling me my next patient has checked in." "Really? That's a relief. That's not exactly the sound one wants to hear when she's in this position." "Wow...I hadn't thought of that."

Though I couldn't suppress the image of a little bird flying out (CUCKOO!), I was relieved that little German couples didn't come spinning and dancing out of my uterus.

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And we're back... So I got a CD of the images taken during my ultrasound and looking at them I can't help but think of finding shapes in the clouds. I'm not a radiologist, but I think Satan might be living in my left ovary.

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I hate car salesmen. Went and test drove a really awesome car that I want, but in the end it is out of my price range. The guys at the dealership were all trying to get me to sign right then and there or up my offer. Nope, sorry, dude.

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There may be nothing more depressing than doing a credit check and listing your occupation as "Author", then being forced to give a monthly breakdown of your earnings.

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I hate that our world seems to insist that money is the only currency. And no, that's not just me saying it because I'm currently car shopping. It's more along the lines of trying to validate my job to people. I don't make much money off of writing (yet) and people look at money as it correlates to success. Therefore, by not making much money at writing (yet), I must not be very good at it. Ergo, I'm a failure.

It's hard not to feel that way, too. I've been working as a professional writer since 2008...but have only been paid for it in the last year. Does that negate all the work I did 2008-2012? No. I was still working, networking, building a platform, writing, etc etc etc. Having an artistic occupation is odd in that regard. You can be working as a professional but not get paid. It's like a very long internship.

Anyway, It's hard not to feel like I've failed as an adult because I don't have the traditional job and income that look good on a credit report. (For the record, my credit is spectacular. Apparently, though, I don't have enough of it to be considered seriously. Our system is bullshit.) Gah! Sometimes I hate being an adult.

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It's odd... these days you can't just be one thing. I noticed it during the Olympics especially... you can't just be an athlete. These 15 year old kids with a meteoric rise onto the world stage (not just in their sport but literally the WORLD stage!) have to go from being an athlete (and student/normal kid) to doing interviews and endorsements and commentary... Professional adult athletes have the same thing. Artists and entrepreneurs wear many hats.

 

Random Ballet by Jordan Matter

I'm going to be on local tv tomorrow morning! I'm helping out my "Dragon Trainer" by doing a tv spot about fire on a morning news show. If you're in the Phoenix area, check out Fox 10 around 8-9am tomorrow. If I have video later, I'll post it. And tomorrow night I'm going to another fire eating/breathing workshop. Woot!