The Invisible Queer

Someone I know recently looked at me in surprise when I mentioned that I have decided to start using the word queer to describe my identity.  “But you aren’t a lesbian,” she said, “why would you want to identify as one?”  I can certainly understand her confusion.  After all, my partner is a man, and my pronouns are she/her; to the world I look like a cis-gender, straight, white, 42-year-old.  I am an invisible queer person.

I was 20 years old when I acknowledged that I was attracted to women, and I came out as bisexual.  Anyone who knows me is aware that I am a person who isn’t afraid to share her beliefs in loud and boisterous ways; some people even call me (gasp) confrontational.  I immediately came out to my friends and family, without really thinking about any of the consequences that could come with this revelation.  Surprisingly, (at the time) most people ignored it.  I thought I was being accepted for my bisexuality.  It took me a long time to realize that it was something completely different.

Bi-erasure has been a part of my life for the last twenty-two years.  And it isn’t just from straight people, even those in the LGBT community have looked at me and told me that I can’t be bisexual.  This is super confusing to me, since the B stands for BI-SEXUAL!  For some reason, the idea that I am attracted to people on any part of the spectrum seems to be scary to just about everyone.

In twenty-two years, I have heard every stereotypical response to bisexuality, and they always make me feel angry and hurt.  When I discovered the LGBT community in Minneapolis, I thought that I was finding the community that I belonged to, and instead there were many times when I didn’t feel as though I belonged in any community.  I’m in no way saying that every experience I’ve had with LGBT folks has yielded this pain, but there have been enough of them that it’s made an impression on me.

In 2014, even the LGBT Task Force made a mistake when the leadership program director wrote about saying “bye-bye to the word bisexuality.”   And, she made the statement on Bisexual Awareness Day.  The organization later apologized, but that statement shows that there is a real problem when it comes to the idea of bisexuality within the context of the LGBT community.

what-contributes-to-bi-erasure-bham

It’s as though, because I can “appear” to be straight I really don’t exist as a queer person.  But my queerness shouldn’t be tied to outward appearance.  I read a great blog once that talked about Queer Theory which said queerness is freedom from norms.  It used to be that “normal” was described as heterosexual.  Through the years homonormativity has become a way for the LGBT community to move into some of the laws that have given rights to an entire community, and I am definitely thankful for that.  But it doesn’t mean that it isn’t problematic and we shouldn’t look at it.

I definitely have some privilege that I have to take a hard look at because of this invisibility.  I don’t have to currently worry that someone is going to be negative towards me if I hold hands with, or kiss, my partner in public.  I don’t try to be, but I can be someone who can walk around with all of the privilege of heterosexual people.  But on the other hand, I have experienced all of the negative effects of heterosexism in my life.  That is the reason that I chose to identify as queer; I felt the need to step away from both heterosexuality and even homosexuality. After all, I am neither of those things, and I’m both of them.

 

Photos:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/bi-erasure-hurts/   

http://www.glaad.org/blog/dear-prudence-telling-bi-people-stay-closet-bad-advice 

 

 

melissa-anne-frankMelissa Anne Frank is majoring in both Women’s Studies and English Rhetoric at St Cloud State University.  She plans on continuing her education with a Master’s degree and then a Doctorate.  Melissa is a white, cisgender, pansexual who is proud to be part of the Social Media team at the St. Cloud State Women’s Center.  Melissa also writes a personal blog called Musing with Melly on WordPress. Melissa loves reading, writing, video games, spending time with her partner and two children, and crushing the patriarchy! 

Self-Love

Self-love is hopefully a word you hear a lot about these days. It’s a word that should connote positive affirmation and appreciation of one’s self in every form- mind, body, and soul. I firmly believe that as human beings, we are born with the innate and essential knowledge that we are whole- and we are enough. But growing up in a highly Westernized culture systematically teaches you to hate yourself- mind, body, and soul- through interlocking internalized oppressions that wiggle their way into our unsuspecting minds and take hold and distort our self-image, and more generally, our sense of self. That is why learning to love yourself takes us down a long and winding road filled with menacing obstacles that keep us from feeling whole and centered. It requires just as much unlearning as it does learning: unlearning all of the lies in which we have come to hold self-evident, that we are not worthy, not beautiful, not enough. But these are lies. And in order to successfully untangle these destructive thoughts, we must take care of ourselves.

Self-love and self-care go hand in hand, because in order for us to love ourselves, we must practice what that love looks like on a continuous basis. And self-care can look different from person to person. Some acts of self-care include, but are not limited to: dancing, singing, biking, yoga, good hygiene, healthy eating (for what’s within your means), meditation, reaching out to others, being emotionally honest, sexuality, etc. In this post, I’m going to share my ongoing journey to self-love and fulfillment, and what self-care tools are working for me in the hopes of bringing about radical vulnerability- meaning that I’m going to be vulnerable with you in the hopes that readers can relate to my experiences and feel less alone; to feel a sense of belonging. Now, all aboard the love train!

When beginning to think about my own relationship with self-love and self-care, I feel that it is important to be honest with all of you and share that I am a person who lives with mental illnesses. My mental illnesses take shape as depression, a social anxiety disorder, and the scars of an eating disorder that still haunt me to this day. My mental illnesses have brought me almost unfathomable pain and misery, driving me to the brink of suicide when I was only a teenager. This lived experience provided me with an acute sense of my own mortality, and through healing has left me a heightened awareness of just how precious and valuable life is. Having brushed lips with the angel of death galvanized me to start rebuilding my self-love and sense of self from the ground up, and I’m continuing to learn a lot about what it means to really love yourself along the way of this restoration project.

For starters, I have learned that mental health and physical wellness are deeply interconnected. Having dealt with deep seated body dysmorphia and negative self-image, I first took to yoga to get my body positivity back on track. And wow, I can hardly believe what a profound impact yoga and mindfulness has had on my life. Beginning my continuous yoga journey has helped forge a relationship between my mind, body, and soul. It livens and opens energy channels of my body that I hadn’t realized I had! It reminds me that my body is a good place to be because of how great it can feel when mind and body are aligned, or in sync with each other. I’ve learned how to send loving thoughts to those parts of myself that I haven’t always known to love. It fosters a deep sense of calmness that reverberates throughout my whole being, helping me finally feel at home in my own skin. The thing about bodies is that you don’t get to control which one you’re born into, and you can’t just wrinkle your nose and do a switcharoo if you feel dissatisfied. I’m going to be in this body for the rest of my life, so I want to nourish and sustain it in ways that make me feel good and energized. This newfound connection to my body and yoga practice inspired me to quit abusing substances and become totally sober (besides the occasional boost of caffeine). I feel happier and much more lively because it of it, by guiding myself to establish good sleeping and eating habits that help me sustain energy and feel engaged.

And speaking of cool things bodies can do, let’s talk about sex. Sex, whether you’re flying solo (masturbation), or with other(s), is a great form of self-care that is important to most sexually mature people, though there are plenty of asexual people with varying expressions (or non-expressions) of sexuality. I, however, am not asexual. My sexuality has been a formidable and irreplaceable force in my self-care routine. Don’t worry though- I’ll spare you the details. Sex and sexuality helps me feel loveable and desirable, both for myself and for others. It’s a way of enacting the belief that I deserve to feel good and loved, and my sexuality is a crucial component of that. In public discourse, sexuality is viewed as dirty or shameful, but sexuality can be such a healthy, pure, spiritual, and sensual experience that I hate to see it reduced to such vulgar and degrading terms. Let’s break down sexual taboos and start enacting sex positivity! Also, where are my bisexuals and pansexuals at?! MAKE SOME NOISE!!

Moving on- another integral part of my self-care and self-love is my gender expression. Being able to express my gender through what I wear and how I style myself is one of the most liberating experiences I could hope for. Every day, I wake up and am (more or less) excited to greet the day because one of the first things I get to do is choose my outfit. Adorning my body with different sorts of garments (of which I love to mix and match), jewelry, and some cosmetics give me the feeling that I am in control of who I am- self-determined, creative, and way too queerly punk to conform to society’s standards. It’s a daily declaration to the world that I get to define and decorate my body on my own terms. The empowerment I feel by resisting transmisogyny every single day is both rewarding and exhausting- sometimes the threat of danger can feel crushing and demoralizing. In face of this everyday form of trauma, I equip myself with as much love and compassion as I can muster- giving myself time every day to look into the mirror and appreciate the beauty I see gazing back at me. And you know what?! I LOVE the femme that I am. Knowing that no matter how much others tear me down, I’m more resilient than they are cruel. To really love ourselves, we must also recognize the humanity and dignity in everyone else, or else we are acting in opposition to our own humanity.

One other form of self-care that I practice most days is making time for me to be totally immersed and swept away by music. As a lot of people with mental illness will attest, music brings me so much joy and solace and can put me in a very happy and blissful state of mind. Listening to music and dancing can heal and provide nourishment for the soul- I love to get lost within the sounds and give myself over to the feelings and sensations it brings forth. I have an incredibly emotional connection to the music I listen to, and it assists me in feeling deeply without hesitation. Listening to and appreciating music helps me stay open and not close myself off from feelings (a symptom of depression). It helps me stay present and live in the moment.

Loving and caring for oneself is essential in our well-being and survival. In fact, as inspired by Laverne Cox, it is revolutionary. I show myself love through self-care in many different ways, from doing yoga to flossing my teeth. It is in no way selfish, and in every way self-fulfilling. To quote the great Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Caring for and loving yourself in a world that dehumanizes people around every corner is absolutely beautiful and necessary. That’s not to say that it’s easy, but is worth it. As cheesy as it may sound, you really are your own best friend, and you need to treat yourself accordingly. And though I have my own adversity, I really do love myself, and that’s powerful. I’m powerful, and so are you.

 

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/demibrooke/4168508990/

Artist credit: Demi-Brooke on Flickr

 

andy-blog-photoRuth Sybil May is a junior undergraduate student at SCSU, studying Gender and Women’s Studies, Human Relations, and Film studies. Ruth is a transfeminine, non-binary person from a poor, working class background with a passion for feminism, fashion, film, and rad tunes.

A Shift in Gaming

While we enjoy sharing the wonderfully insightful posts you submit to us, we also want to share the love with you! If you have a personal blog, please let us know so we can spread the word and get into even more enlightening conversations on multiple platforms!

With that being said, do you know Jo Benson? She is a member of our blog team, majoring in both Women’s Studies and Rhetoric and Writing, and has a new blog. She’s given us permission to share it with you!

She recently shared a truly great gamer post, talking about the shift in the lore of Magic: the Gathering in regards to women and queer folks.

Here’s an excerpt from her first post…

So, why is it important that these stories exist?

As a queer woman who thoroughly enjoys video games, books, TCG games, and other aspects of “nerd culture” that are thought to be enjoyed mostly by men, “refreshing” barely scratches the surface of what these stories mean to and for me.

When we interact with games and other media, putting on the skin of certain characters or otherwise taking part in fantastical narratives is where most of the fun comes from. We want to see ourselves reflected in these stories. However, the effects of the stories portrayed in games (and media of all kinds) seem shallow when we assume, “It’s just a television show/movie/book, not real life.” That kind of statement ignores the impact of media on culture and people. There’s a reason we don’t want kids to see violent or sexual movies, right? It affects them. Movies, books, and T.V. shows affect everyone on some level – they scare us, inspire us, and often carry messages that translate to our everyday lives.

And here’s the link!

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Jo Benson is a fourth-year undergraduate at St. Cloud State, double majoring in Women’s Studies and Rhetoric. She is a white, cis-gender lesbian passionate about feminism, cats, writing, and Magic: the Gathering.

 

p.s. October is our LGBTQ+ Celebration Month, so begin thinking about posts you’d like to submit and stay tuned for a riveting month celebrating the LGBTQ+ community! All submissions can be emailed to collectivefeminism@stcloudstate.edu

Best,

The Blog Team

 

 

Reflection from the Post-Production of That Takes Ovaries

By Ruth Sybil May

A few weeks ago, I participated in the feminist play titled, That Takes Ovaries: Bold Women, Brazen Acts by Rivka Solomon and Bobbi Ausubel; of which I was a cast member. The play is an adaptation of the book similarly titled, That Takes Ovaries: Bold Females and Their Brazen Acts, edited by Rivka Solomon. The framework of the book/play is a collection of true stories submitted by ordinary people recounting an experience in which they acted of courageously and bravely, told through first-person narratives. The play was organized by recruiting a cast of diverse community members to enact these true stories on stage in front of an audience, mixing activism with performance art in a way that is humorous, yet serious and inspiring at the same time.

Within the play, I played the part of Drake, a young, transgender man on a path of self-discovery and emotional bravery. During his scene, Drake works up the courage to come out to his mother as transgender despite knowing his mother would not react well. After sharing his truth, his parents are apprehensive at first, but soon do their research so they can better support and love their son no matter what, bringing their family even closer together than before.

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Interacting Respectfully with Other Human Beings – A Guide

By Jo Benson

You might laugh when I describe my fashion/style/the way I dress as “lesbian.” I do! Of course it is, I mean, I am one, right? But it’s a thing. Flannel, short hair, and wearing no makeup sound eerily like a mashup of stereotypes, but to me, it’s scraping the surface of a meticulously constructed wardrobe. Which, now that I think about it, a little like dressing like a 14 year old boy, only 20 and a woman. A little. But let me tell you, I look fucking fresh. I am hot shit.

Unfortunately, this way of presenting myself – my sexuality, my woman-ness, things I deign “worthy” of adorning my body – is usually completely misinterpreted by the non-queer world. Usually this doesn’t matter to me: people in stores don’t usually walk up to me and comment on my clothes, and I’m used to my family and their friends shaking their heads when they see what I’m wearing. But in professional and work spaces, it matters. And I hear about it.

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Web Series as a New Form of Media

By Mariam Bagadion

The LGBTQ+ community started garnering attention and momentum in television beginning in 2004 with The L Word. Glee drew a larger audience and initiated a sort of normalization of queer characters in the media, (even though their portrayal of some of the queer characters perpetuated a few stereotypes and could be seen as just a little problematic, but that’s another can of worms) and newer shows like The Fosters and How to Get Away with Murder have queer characters as part of their main ensembles.

But there’s another form of media that has become the unsung hero for queer representation: the web series.

A web series is a scripted show, much like mainstream television that appears online in episodes that are only a few minutes long. Web series have all of the components of a mainstream television show by utilizing writers, directors, producers and actors with all of the creative freedom of a YouTube channel. Media censorship can limit what viewers see on television screens (which is a problem in itself, but again, different can of worms). These hoops are virtually non-existent for web series creators and many take advantage of it, promoting the visibility of all sorts of sexualities and gender identities. While definitely not complete, following is a list of web series that I’ve personally watched and thoroughly enjoyed for you to devour with hosts of queer characters and identities.

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On Queering Valentine’s Day

Our staff found this Feministing.com article today.  It is critically important to think about how holidays affect people who are marginalized within society.

Tell us what you think about Katie Barnes’ idea that Valentines Day is “super heteronormative and kinda sexist.”

What other kinds of holidays do you see following these same patterns?

 

Whose American Dream Is It? Falsehood of the American Dream

By Ruth Sybil May

The United States is proudly touted as the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Anyone living here who has a strong work ethic and a great deal of determination is sure to become successful, achieving the American Dream.  That dream includes: being free, having one’s own nuclear family, and especially acquiring financial stability. At least, that’s what American nationalism and patriotic culture tells us.

But frankly, this supposed pathway to personal and financial success, rooted in a person’s work ethic and goal orientation, is a fabrication of deceit from our highly capitalistic and individualistic Western culture. The ideology of the American Dream is designed to give the oppressed underclass false hope about their own personal power to dig themselves out of poverty. It simultaneously gives class privileged people the false notion that they somehow have earned or deserve everything they possess (despite the fact most class privileged people were ascribed this status at birth). This way, the American middle to upper class’ disproportionate hoarding of wealth is justified by assuming that they must have just worked harder than everyone else to gain all of that money and power.

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Growing Up Queer With an Eating Disorder: Part Two

I can’t remember exactly when my eating disorder first emerged, but it happened some time during the fall of 2011.  My eating disorder, which I only recently had diagnosed as atypical anorexia nervosa (See description here), was characterized by calorie restriction and purging through the form of exercise. I would meticulously count every single calorie that went into my body, and my goal was to never exceed consuming between 800-1,000 calories per day. And on top of that, I would frequently exercise on our treadmill so that I could track the amount of calories that I burned, and once I burned more calories than I had consumed for the day, I felt accomplished and would stop. I continued this routine throughout the greater part of my junior year in high school.

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