Updates and Awesomeness

Hello faithful readers!

Housekeeping

I’ve been at camp the past week, so that explains my absence. Look for a future post on  queerness and summer camp. It’s brewing in my head.

Also, some awesome news! I wrote a post for Autostraddle! They’re a hilarious tongue-in-cheek all things lesbian blog. The post is all about the effects of abstinence only education on queer kids. Check it out here in all its “guest contributor” glory. Feel free to throw some comments in about your agonizing high school sex ed days (or lack there of). There may be future posts with Autostraddle. I will keep you all updated!

Something else to look forward to – another post from Robbie.

One more little bit of housekeeping. My blog might look a little bit different. WordPress deleted the theme I was using, so I’ll have to make do with this new one. The widgets on the sidebar will be making a reappearance soon. Hope it’s not an inconvenience!

Hooray! Thanks for all the support everyone!

Lessons and Failures from a Haircut

Below is a post from guest blogger Robson Govine about his experience getting a haircut and having to find a new hairdresser after moving away from his hometown.

“So what are we doing today?  The usual?”   I sat down in the chair and looked at Kristen, my hairdresser, through the mirror.

Who didn't think about getting "The Shane" at one point?

“Actually, no, I thought we’d try something different,” I said, somewhat fearful, as I handed her a picture of the new haircut I had been inching towards for years.  It was stereotypical – beyond that even – the epitome of gay.  Shane, from the L Word, Season Two (I know, I’m judging me too).  “I was thinking this only less strung-out-coke-head-chopped-my-hair-with-a-weed-whacker look.”

“This is different, I think I can manage.” Kristen went to work on chopping off about six inches of hair.  She tweaked the cut, of course, making it my own, and every visit it seemed to get shorter and shorter till we had it down to an unspoken science for the next four years.

One of the first "let's go shorter" cuts.

Kristen had made the task of getting a hair cut easy.  I didn’t have to worry about walking into a barber shop surrounded by men, or going to a random shop with a different person each time trying to explain how to cut my hair. I never thought that getting my haircut would be difficult – until three weeks ago when I moved away from my hometown and relocated to Boston.

My hair was shaggy and I was dying for a clean, fresh, cut – but where to go? I had already clogged the sink of my friend’s bathroom when I stubbornly decided I was just going to trim it myself.  “You’re screwing it up!  Don’t cut your hair in my bathroom, Robbie!  Just wait and go to my friend!  The back isn’t even!”

She wasn’t wrong.  I snipped more generously in some areas as opposed to others and for the next week sported a spotty trim. My roommate had suggested Supercuts because it was cheap. I was tight on cash, I figured it would be fine, it’s just hair right?

After walking in the wrong direction down Mass Ave. for five minutes, I walked into Supercuts, somewhat sweaty, in a pair of baggy shorts and a t-shirt, looking like a twelve year-old boy who had just tried chasing down an ice cream truck and miserably failed.

I checked in, having to use my first name (which sounds like I should have my own line of Southern bake goods) because I had to use a card to pay.  Evaluating my surroundings, I pinpointed the hairdresser with purple hair and decided she should be the one to cut my hair.  Unfortunately, right as I decided this, another woman walked up to the counter and called my name.

She introduced herself as I sat down in the chair.  “So how would you like it cut?”

“So, usually, I have the back taken in, along with the sides, but leave the top a little long.  No layering.  And the bangs just trimmed up, not too short, and chipped into so they’re shaggy and not straight across.”

She seemed confused.  I didn’t blame her.  I just gave her instructions that were as simple as a Rubik’s Cube with some of the colors missing.  “So do you use clippers for the back and sides?”

“Just on the back.”  Kristen had always used scissors for the sides.

“Do you know what number on the clippers?”

“Um…” crap, “no, sorry.”

Lesson number one: clippers have numbers.
Fail number one: I didn’t know clippers had numbers.

Not-Kristen took the clippers and started at a modest number saying we could go shorter if needed.  She began to clip the back, clearly the easy part, since it took her no longer than a minute.   Next she took a spray bottle, wetted down the rest of my hair and began to comb it.  And comb it.  And comb it.  I realized she had no idea what to do.  Any other person would have offered some direction, but I had no direction to give her.  I tried to think about possible terms someone like me could use that she, too, would understand.  Think Ellen meets Justin Beiber?  No, that would confuse her; I don’t think she would have understood what a forty old lesbian would have in common with a fifteen year-old pop singer.  Dani Cambell?  Who?  Gender-queer without the hipster?  Gender-what?   I realized there were no terms that could easily overlap.

Lesson number two: Language and communication is important.
Fail number two: I’m an English major. (I should be good at this, right?)

Continue reading

The Value of Bodies

This is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: the value assigned to us, especially to us as queer people. As queer people, we are instantly considered less valuable – since we don’t fit the ideal of heterosexuality. A few things in the interwebs recently backed this up in an interesting way.

First, did you see Rachel Maddow‘s high school year book picture that’s been circulating?

I saw it about a week ago, had the reaction of, “Oh wow! That’s weird, she looked totally different,” and moved on. Apparently, the rest of the world has had a different reaction, with people saying they’d “tap that” and how “hot and sexy” she was while openly wondering why she would “give all that up”. Autostraddle had a really great analysis of mainstream media’s reaction and how Maddow’s gender presentation bothers some people, and how she is called a “man” or “manly”. I would really, really recommend reading it. It’s really well done.

I don’t know about you, but I think Maddow is incredibly attractive, both for her appearance and her amazing brain. She can analyze politics like no other.

The next thing pop culture threw my way that got me thinking about value is RuPaul’s Drag U.

I was a huge fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 1 & 2, especially since a friend of a friend’s was on Season 2 and is now on Drag U. However, I was a little disappointed with the underlying message of this series. The premise of the show is that drag queens from seasons 1 and 2 make over more masculine looking women into drag queens to get them in touch with their “feminine” and “fierce” side. Fierceness, fine, but the show often calls the women “boys” and puts down their style. It really sends the message that women are not allowed to be anything but girly, and if they’re not, there is something very wrong with them.

Only one episode has aired so far (which you can watch at logo.com) so I hope it improves, but it really looks like this is what the show will be – constantly telling women that they need to change.

The last thing I came across recently was this amazing, wonderfully done commentary by Ivan Coyote. It’s kind of long, but it’s worth sticking out to the end. Ivan discusses his love of full bodied femmes and his own experiences of feeling valued.

I, too, am sick of people saying that I’m not valuable or that the people I’m attracted to are not valuable and that I am inherently wrong for finding them attractive. I know there’s a little bit of hippy in me, but there’s beauty in everyone. I see it. Don’t you?

Queerness in the Doctor’s Office

From the good old Google Images search

I’m looking to do a more in depth post on queer people’s experiences with doctors. I was wondering if some of you feel comfortable writing something down about experiences – good and bad – that you’ve had with a doctor or nurse and being queer.

I’ll give you a quick example. I was once told when I was getting a pap smear that, since I was only (at the time) sexually active with girls, that I only had to get a pap once every 5 years.

Have you ever been told something like that? Or – have you not seen a doctor because you thought they might not treat you in a comfortable way because of your identity? Have doctors or nurses assumed you were heterosexual or cisgendered? I’d love to hear any and all of your experiences! I’d like to put together a post with experiences from readers and recommendations for doctors and nurses. Feel free to add recommendations for things that would make you more comfortable.

Send your thoughts and experiences to comehitherblog@gmail.com. I promise to keep everything confidential.

Masturbation is Healthy!

Do you have a favorite Surgeon General? I do. She was probably the one with the shortest term, too. Joycelyn Elders.

From Wikipedia

She was Surgeon General under President Clinton and was only in office for a short year and three months. She caused quite a stir from the beginning of her term, advocating for things like looking into the benefits of drug legalization and distribution of contraceptives in schools.

Her most controversial stand, though, was on promoting masturbation. She felt that it should be taught in schools and could help prevent people from other riskier sexual activity. She made this public stand at a conference on AIDS hosted by the UN in 1994 and was let go afterwards.

She’s right though! Masturbation is a super important part of human sexuality. It helps us learn about our bodies, what we like and don’t like, what kind of fantasies we are interested in, and helps prepare you for better sex when you are older. Also, can you imagine what it would be like to be open about masturbation during sexual education instead of just being terrified of the topic? We could let kids know that it is normal, healthy, and that (most) everyone does it.

I also agree with Ms. Elders on the prevention aspect of masturbation. Imagine kids that tried mutual masturbation instead of, say, oral sex? Or, if kids felt more comfortable with masturbation, they may get a better hold on all those raging hormones.

It’s not just important for youth, though. Masturbation is also important for adults. I wish the topic didn’t make so many people squeamish (including me, sometimes!) but it’s something we should be open about to our partners. Partners should understand that to have separate sexual lives that include masturbation is healthy and normal. And, masturbating in front of each other can open your eyes to new things about your partner’s body that you weren’t aware of.

Holding the opposite view on masturbation, though, is John Harvey Kellogg. Yes, the same Kellogg as the guy who invented Corn Flakes. Kellogg was vehemently against any kind of sexual activity that was not intended for making babies, even in marriage. He called it unnatural and even performed circumcision on boys without anesthesia to discourage them from masturbating. To girls, he applied carbolic acid on their clitorises. Oy. Wait, what’s normal? Putting acid on someone or allowing them to follow their urges?

Anyways, back to the cereal. Kellogg invented Corn Flakes as a part of what he felt was a healthy regimen that would discourage masturbation. Because masturbation is unnatural.

So, world, fight past the awkwardness that is talking about masturbation. It’s normal. It’s good for you. It’s healthy.

Kids these days…

I sat down with Evan Hubbard, a friend of mine who graduated with me in May from Wheelock College’s MSW program. Evan identifies as a transman on the surface, but a genderqueer transmasculine boi on a deeper level. His concentration is on gender identity and dysphoria and GLBT relationships. He interned for the past year with PFLAG Greater Boston.

Evan and I chatted about today’s queer youth and how they are seeing gender identity and gender expression. We both agreed that kids are more and more embracing non-binary forms of gender. Evan remarked that he’s seen kids walking around in a football jersey, khaki shorts, and heels all at once. We’re both veterans of the awesome True Colors Queer Youth Conference run by True Colors Inc. in Connecticut, where Evan has been noticing that expressing yourself as more gender variant has gone from the handful of trans youth to being more common among queer youth in general. These kids are redefining gender norms and making it their own.

So why exactly is this shift happening? Evan sees it as a generational thing. With more and more trans people coming out of the wood works in both the queer communities and the general public, kids are feeling more comfortable exploring gender expressions in their own way too. Especially among those of us in our 20s and younger, not conforming to the masculine/feminine, butch/femme binaries is much more common. And, messing around with these boundaries does not necessarily mean that you are transitioning, but that you are doing what feels comfortable.

Hipsters are a great example of the trend of stretching the outside of the strictly queer culture. Straight hipsters guys are wearing clothes that would traditionally be considered more feminine and straight hipster girls are wearing things that could be considered masculine. Often, even, the clothes can be interchangeable and shared between genders. Oh, you cute hipsters.

Another thing that is changing is the description and understanding of “transgender”. I’ve noticed the description of what being transgender is in the media is often described as, “being born in the wrong body.” However, more and more trans people are saying that they were not a mistake and that they enjoy being trans. Hopefully the media will catch up on this and recognize that its not necessarily that transgender people hate their bodies. What’s difficult is that to describe a complex idea, such as transgender folks, you sometimes have to start with a not entirely true statement. Hopefully from there you can help them deconstruct the gender binary, though.

So, way to go kids! Stretch all our minds and make us throw our assumptions out the window!

An Extension of Self

If you’re a die hard Dan Savage fan like me, you heard the latest Savage Lovecast episode (episode 191, 19:00) in which a lesbian caller described an experience she had with a strap on toy during sex. She said she felt the sudden urge to have her partner go down on the strap on, that it was super hot, but then afterwards she got a little eeked out. Am I normal? Does this mean I’m trans? she asked Dan.

She definitely asked the right person. Dan’s usually pretty great at what he does. The first follow up question he had for her was whether she and her partner enjoyed it. If so, then totally. The trans thing, he left for her to figure out. What mattered, he said, was for sex to be consensual, fun and healthy.

The other day, though, a reader of Slog (the blog for the Seattle newspaper, The Stranger,  that Dan is a part of), added an interesting bit to the fire. The call made her think of an article on how humans often experience tools as an extension of their body.

It makes her sudden instincts for oral sex make a lot of sense. At that moment, the dildo was a part of her. This could happen with any toy in bed, really, and you have probably experienced this yourself if you’ve used toys in bed. To an outsider, this could look totally silly. I mean, she’s not actually physicially feeling what’s happening to the silicone, but she is in her mind.While the sensation is probably not the same as penis-in-vagina sex, a mental orgasm is totally possible.

And it’s hot.