A Cynical Queer Killjoy’s Mixed Feelings on the Rainbow Machine

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It’s June, which means that cynical, nerdy, political queer killjoys are spending the month rolling their eyes at the shiny whitewashed respectability spectacle of corporate-sponsored pride celebrations. I would know—I’m one of them.

But sometimes I fall off my high horse and remember: I didn’t start out thinking like this. Not even close.

When I sigh at the rainbow-themed sneakers and laptop ads popping up around the city, unimpressed with corporations’ willingness to co-opt symbols of a successful liberation movement now that it has been deemed more profitable than not.

But I also remember living in a time and place when public support of LGBT rights was more of a business liability than a strategy, and think of how much tweenage angst I could have avoided had I seen rainbow-plastered shoe stores then.

Read the rest on HuffPost

True Hero: Jeff Doesn’t Have a Problem With People Being Gay or Whatever

As pride month parades and parties roll around, it is only fitting that we take time to focus on the true heroes working to make it possible to freely celebrate LGBTQ identities. Meet Jeff, the straight guy who doesn’t have a problem with people being gay or whatever.

A proud and vocal straight ally, Jeff is almost as eager to talk about his approach to allyship as he is to talk about the fact that he is straight. “I mean I’m not gay or anything,” he clarified, “but I don’t have an issue with letting other people be like that.” This bold statement came as a relief to the many individuals anxiously awaiting Jeff’s personal approval of their sexual orientation.

Jeff’s support for the LGBTQ community is not just pollitical, but personal as well. Jeff has a self-reported “lots of gay friends,” though the only one who could be referenced by name was Patrick From College. Speaking on Jeff’s memorable place in his educational journey, Patrick recalled, “Yeah, I remember him. We lived on the same floor sophomore year I think.”

Asked to speak about the personal impact of Jeff’s allyship, Patrick explained, “Having come from an environment people were openly hostile towards my existence, I guess it was nice to be around people like that who were pretty indifferent to it.”
“Yeah, that must be nice,” murmured Cara From Work, Patrick’s token trans friend.

Nearly unlimited in compassion, Jeff’s message of acceptance spreads to all except those who are making a big deal about it and shoving it in his face. “I mean you can be gay or whatever, but some people get all weird and make their whole personality about that,” Jeff explained before noting for the fifth time today that he is a heterosexual.

The community is lucky to have Jeff as role model to show what it means to be so open and proud of one’s sexuality. Nonetheless, as he is always willing to see beyond the labels and categories that divide us, Jeff doesn’t even let his heterosexuality stop him from making appearances at a local local lesbian bar.

For his modest-but-not-unnoticed efforts, Jeff can certainly expect to be a top ally award candidate with major advocacy organizations, as soon as his music career takes off.


Note: since the initial release of this article, Jeff has contacted the publication asking us to clarify that he is heterosexual.

 satire label

Gym Dialogues

Girl: *loading weights*
Guy: You know, men are turned off by muscles.
Girl: Oh, don’t worry about that! Your muscles really aren’t that big at all!
Guy: I meant—
Girl: Maybe it’s something about your personality that’s turning them off…
Guy: Never mind I—
Girl: But don’t give up! I’m sure there’s somebody out there for everyone—even you!

The Early Days: Will You Be My Valentine?

Valentines Day 2001, at the Lego station in Ms. Cornelius’ Kindergarten class:

Me: Will you be my Valentine?

(Also on my list of “Valentines” that day: my mom, my neighbor, the class guinea pig.)

Hannah: No. If you’re a girl your Valentine has to be a boy and if you’re a boy it has to be a girl.

Me: Oh. Why?

Hannah: I don’t know, it’s just the rule. That’s what my dad told me.

Me: Oh. Okay.

(Mentally) That’s a weird and confusing rule. Who came up with this stuff? When do we get chocolate?

Coincidentally, I still have those three thoughts pretty frequently now.

good-bye-candy

 

“STRAIGHT WOMEN DON’T EXIST!!!” and Other Terrible Science Reporting

Recently, the internet erupted a bit over the scientific “discovery” that women are “bisexual or gay, but never straight.” The statement is based on a study at the University of Essex which measured pupil dilation and genital arousal of women looking at porn. (Yeah, sometimes academics take ideas like “sexual experimentation” very literally.)

Straight women protested. Straight men got a little too excited. Queer women wondered why they were still single. Bisexual men found it mildly refreshing that heterosexuality was being questioned for a change.

But did anyone actually read the study?

Some people have rightly expressed skepticism about the conflation of arousal patterns and sexual orientation. Obviously, there is a lot more to sexuality than pupils and genitals. Arousal non-concordance–a discrepancy between genital response and the subjective state of arousal–is known to be particularly common in women. Besides, many people would attest that what you like to look at is not necessarily what you like to do.

But, beyond that, the actual study never even suggested that physical arousal in response to men and women indicates bisexuality. In fact, the hypothesis of the study wasn’t about that at all.

Let’s take a look:

The study merely mentioned that arousal in response men and women had been previously established as the “female-typical” pattern (yup, this is old news), and the new results fit this trend. The main hypothesis was that arousal patterns are related to measures of masculinity/femininity–which, by the way, was not supported by the results at all.

But I guess “STRAIGHT WOMEN DON’T EXIST!!!” makes for a flashier headline than “Researchers Fail to Relate Gender Expression and Arousal.”

Sure, there is plenty reason to be skeptical of the research itself (after all, these are some of the same people who published that much-publicized–and discredited--study denying male bisexuality).

  • I question the assumption that porn viewing somehow reveals the fundamental essence of human sexual nature.
  • I wonder the whether the people who sign up for sexual arousal studies are representative of the general population.
  • I look with suspicion toward a line of research which too-often assumes that people–especially women–“don’t know what they really want” sexually.
  • I take issue with the values of a field which invests more resources in questions like “Why does [X orientation] exist?” than “Why do [people of X orientation] suffer disproportionately from mental health problems?”
  • I reject the recurring mindset which places the existence of fluid sexualities in opposition to the existence of other orientations.

But bad journalism takes questionable science and bumps it up to dangerously exaggerated pop-pseudoscience. This is particularly true in cases in which the terrible media representation of science overlaps with terrible media representations of gender and sexuality. (All it takes is a serious-looking fMRI image to convince people that men are “hard-wired” to cheat.)

This time, the “bisexual or gay” line first appeared in a press release from the university itself, then circulated (and inflated–“rarely” straight became “almost never” and “never”) through sources ranging from the Daily Mail to respected science blogs.

In this case, I don’t think that the social acceptance of female heterosexuality is in serious danger. But it is evident that a reporter’s words can have a much bigger impact than a researcher’s words, regardless of how much expertise or truth is behind them. And I believe that this great power needs to come with some greater responsibility, particularly when making claims about people’s identities and desires.

Why This “Girl in Tights” is Over the “No Homo” Defense of Ballet Boys

Being a boy in ballet can be rough. Like a lot boys with interests counter to expected gender roles, they can get targeted for being “girly” or “gay” (whether or not these things are true).

But let’s also pay attention to how we’re responding to this type of bullying.

The Real Man thing again? Eh, I know plenty of men who lift nothing and are still pretty real.

One of my least favorite defenses of boys in ballet is the “no homo” defense (with a side of misogyny). Growing up, I heard a lot adults tell boys who do ballet to respond to “that’s gay” comments by replying that they spend their days surrounded by hot girls in tights that they get to touch.

Now I can hardly blame a kid for saying what he has to say to get through middle school–though the adults encouraging it might be a different story–and I get that it sucks to have people make assumptions about your sexual orientation, but it always bothered me that:

  1. People care more about disassociating ballet from “gay” than disassociating “gay” from “bad.” (And what if that kid is gay?)
  2. As one of the “girls in tights,” these statements always made me feel uncomfortable and objectified.
  3. I also like girls, but I certainly never came to ballet class to check people out. I would be pretty offended if someone suggested otherwise—so why should it be different for boys, who are also probably coming to class for the purpose of actually learning ballet?

Because let’s be real, ballet is hard, and regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, you’re not gonna stick around long or get very far if you’re only there for the purpose of staring at butts.

What does it say about our cultural values that staring at butts (as long as it’s hetero) is considered a more acceptable motivation for boys in ballet than practicing a challenging art form?

Look, I want to erase the stigma associated with boys in ballet at least as much as anyone else–but we can’t do that simply by erasing gay boys in ballet and waving around flag of aggressive heterosexual masculinity. That only trivializes the commitment of male dancers, demeans female dancers, and devalues ballet itself.

If really we want to end a stigma based in homophobia and gender-policing, we’re gonna have to actually fight homophobia and and gender-policing. 

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Credit to Asher for inspiring this post!

It’s Not You, It’s Society: “It’s Just a Phase”

“It’s not you, it’s society” is a series of rants about socially acceptable and polite comments that bother me. Read more here.

“It’s just a phase.”

I’m sure you’ve heard it before. It’s a common way to dismiss some aspect of a person’s identity or life that you don’t want to acknowledge, while claiming to know that person better than they know themself. It can refer to sexuality, gender identity, interests, career aspirations, political/religious beliefs, and basically anything else. Younger people tend get it a lot.

Usually, people defend themselves by trying to prove that the aforementioned quality is not a temporary phase and is instead a permanent part of who they are. This is completely valid and I have done it in more than one context, BUT I also believe that no one should ever even have to make that argument because the entire idea behind “it’s just a phase” is really an awful and illogical reason to trivialize someone’s identity, experiences, or desires.

Like this guy.

The assumption is that whatever someone is right now is more of an transient experience on the way to becoming the fully-fledged, real, predestined, unchanging “true” self. They’re more of a pre-person than an actual current human being.

But when exactly do people turn into their “real” self instead of some less-real self-in-transition. When they’re 30? 40? When they completely stop changing? For how long? 5 years? 20 years? Forever?

If we’re going to take those standards to their logical extension, pretty much nothing is real. Imagine these conversations:

  • Yeah, he retired from his hospital job. He always told me he was a doctor, but I guess he was just going through a 40-year “practicing medicine” phase.
  • At 90, he doesn’t seem to be into women in the same way he used to be. I guess he was just going through a 80-year heterosexual phase.
It's okay, we all go through hetero phases.

It’s okay, we all go through hetero phases.

  • Turns out she’s dead now. I knew she was just going through a little “alive” phase.
This guy knows.

This guy knows it.

Sorry, was that last one too morbid? But lets be real, the only permanent state in human existence is death (maybe–even that one is arguable). If we’re going to use permanence as the golden standard of legitimacy and “realness,” we’re left with a very narrow and pretty depressing view of reality.

Of course, no one claiming “it’s just a phase” actually comes to this conclusion because they don’t actually apply that permanence standard universally. It’s not exactly a coincidence that people only declare qualities that they dislike or don’t understand to be “phases” while automatically assuming qualities they like or identify with to be legitimate. Since we’ve established that permanence isn’t an actual thing, can we agree that “it’s a phase” is just a method of dismissing a present reality that you don’t like/understand by assigning more legitimacy to an imagined future which you like better?

So, yes it may be very likely that “it” (what ever it may be) is actually not a phase (relative to a person’s life span, anyway). But so what if it was? Even then, it still wouldn’t be “just” a phase. People have every right to go through phases, because humans are living, breathing, dynamic beings who are don’t have to be the same people today as we will be tomorrow to prove that we exist.

If phases aren’t real and important . . . what is?

So go along with your little “living” phase and make it as real and fabulous as you want to, without challenging the existence of anyone else’s. Have fun!