I sat stunned watching the election last night with Twig and close friends. It was devastating to see how many folks signed on to Trump's view of America. An America that doesn't value me, my family, or my work.
I sat stunned watching the election last night with Twig and close friends. It was devastating to see how many folks signed on to Trump's view of America. An America that doesn't value me, my family, or my work.
This week was both World Mental Health Day and National Coming Out Day. It is surely not a surprise to anyone reading this that I am a lesbian. I'm out, and continue to come out (over and over and over again). I love my queer family and community. BUT! I do not want anyone to feel like they are required to come out. I am lucky to feel safe and supported, and being out is important to me. Everyone has to come out (or not) on their own terms and in their own time.
I'm less outspoken about my struggles with mental health. So here goes: I struggle with anxiety and depression, and I have ADHD. My brain chemistry can really fuck with my life, but with self-care and therapy and meds I'm doing pretty fucking well. Still, it sometimes feels that anxiety and/or depression are lurking in the corners, just waiting for me to let my guard down. There are days that it is hard/impossible to get out of bed. I have days that the best I can do is to stare at the wall and not cry. I have days that I can't sit still because I am overcome with fear and must "do" something.
There is still real stigma around mental health problems, and that is not OK. My parents still tell me that taking antidepressants is a (and I quote) "stupid waste" and that I should just "face my problems instead of hiding". That hurts. And it made me wait to actually get help, which totally fucking sucks. Then my (now ex) wife tried to use the fact that I was on meds to argue that I shouldn't have equal custody of Twig during the divorce. That really fucking hurt. This kind of bullshit has to end. I hope that being straightforward about my own struggles helps.
I believe in being out as a lesbian because it feels authentic and honest to me. I want to be honest about mental health, too. Because it is part of me. Sometimes a struggles, but more often a gift. I'm creative and smart and hilarious. I wouldn't be me without all the parts of me.
Getting help does not make you weak. Taking care of yourself takes courage and strength. Depression lies. Let your friends love you. Because you are awesome and important. And you are not alone.
Of course I get the occasional (very frequent) email addressed to "dear sir". But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about when the cashier asks me, "what can I get you today, sir?". It can be a server at a restaurant asking, "sir, can I bring you another drink?". It happens to me quite a bit - at least once a week, I would estimate. In other words, I get "misgendered" - I identify as female, but someone else assumes I am male. I misgendered someone once (that I know of). It was awkward and horrible and I apologized So Much. I didn't know them well, but I should have known better. Or to at least asked. Ugh. I'm still embarrassed thinking about it.
Being misgendered used to bother me. I don't present as super feminine, and I have short hair, but ... I don't know, it just bothered me. I have other secondary sex characteristics* that identify me as female, so being misgendered made me feel unseen. But I kinda also like it. I remember once, in 4th or 5th grade there was a substitute teacher that misgendered me (I have a gender-neutral first name). So I spend they day pretending to be a boy: I lined up with the boys for lunch and recess, etc. My classmates thought this was hilarious. I was ... ambivalent? Looking to be accepted? I don't even know. I went along with it, though. Until another teacher set things straight ad then I was just embarrassed. After that I let my hair grown out so I was more clearly a "girl". Because being a kid is hard and you do what you can to survive.
I think that maybe this is the problem - I've never been really comfortable with gender presentation. I don't feel comfortable lining up with "normal" female standards, but I don't consider myself male. I am coming to actually love that I'm a little androgynous, and I have started to actually play that up. I guess some would characterize me as "butch", but for some reason that doesn't really feel right either.
ANYWAY. Here is the point I was aiming at - this is not an easy place to inhabit as a jr faculty. It's pretty well accepted that women (especially younger women) get worse student teaching evals than men. I can't help but think that my evals were also negatively influenced by the fact that I am clearly gender-nonconforming GLBTQIA*. And also, I am relying on a (mostly old-white-dude) senior faculty to vote to give me tenure. But I KNOW I make some of these guys uncomfortable. I try to tone things down and just be generic, because I don't want to make this an issue.
I don't know what the best way to handle this is. I am just trying to stay honest to myself, but I can't pretend that the awkwardness of having to correct folks - at the coffee shop or in faculty meeting - don't wear on me. Chalk it up as another hurdle that non-cis-hetero folks have to deal with, I guess.
This weekend, an asshole walked into Pulse, a gay bar in Orlando. It was Latinx night. It's Pride. The club was packed with dancing queers. Pulse was a safe place, maybe the only safe place for some of them. Until this asshole decided to start shooting. He shot over 100 people, and 49 have died.
My heart is broken. I can't stop thinking of all the folks whose lives have been shattered. The folks who lost loved ones. Those that were injured and will carry this with them for the rest of their lives. For all the queer folks in Orlando that had their safe place turned to carnage, and won't feel safe again for a while. For the folks that were outed by because they were at the club that night and now have to worried that they could get fired or lose their homes - because it is 100% legal to fire and discriminate against someone for being gay in Florida.
I'm grieving for all my queer friends and my chosen family.
I'm so lucky that I can live openly. I am honored that I can be a role model, mentor, and safe place for others. One of the most gratifying parts of my jobs is cheering on the young queer scientists that are totally rocking it. But I'm scared. I know how it feels to have to consider where you are before you hold your girlfriend's hand. I have a habit of always scanning faces as I walk down the street so I know if I've caught someone's attention. I have had men (always men) leer at me if they saw me kiss my girlfriend. I have felt the anxiety of walking at night and coming across a group of guys and hoping they weren't a bunch of homophobes that might want to "convert" me to heterosexuality (aka rape). I've had strangers yell at me on the sidewalk and tell me that I'm going to burn in hell. I've walked down a street with a gay friend and been concerned that he was going to get beat up. These things have all happened in what would be considered "safe" places. And I'm one of the lucky ones. I've not been beaten up for being gay, or fired, or evicted, or had my daughter taken away from me.
There is homophobia all around us. People that can't bake a fucking cake if gay people will eat it. Politicians that argue that same-sex marriage should be outlawed, and that pass "religious freedom" laws that make it legal to discriminate against LGBTQI* people (and the people that vote for them). Every news organization that didn't mention that the shooter targeted queers, and erased the victims of this horrible crime. Religions that teach it is sinful to be gay. People concerned about the gay agenda. Mix in easy access to fucking assault rifles and people die.
I am grieving. I am angry. And I am scared. So I'm going go grab a beer at my local gay bar. I will take comfort in my queer community, and we will start to heal together.
Because in the end, love WILL win.
A gathering of queers and allies outside Stonewall, in support of our friends in Orlando. source
Ran across the BEST ever reporting piece about how Alabama is dealing with newly-legalized "gay" marriage. This dude is Da Bom.
Sadly, I can't figure out how to embed the video. So click here. I promise it is totally worth clicking!
OMG you guys. O M F G. I thought that I couldn't be surprised by stupid, homophobic things said out loud anymore. BUT...BUT...THIS IS JUST SO FUCKED UP THAT IT IS BLOWING MY MIND.
You may remember that in Minnesota there is an on-going debate about marriage equality. The voters actually became the first to reject a constitutional amendment against marriage equality (YAY, MN!). And now the Minnesota State Legislatures have even advanced a bill legalizing marriage equality! Holy progress, Batman!
And that is where shit gets fucked up. In a public hearing on the marriage equality bill, a "concerned father" decided to "enlighten" the lawmakers on what actually happens when TEH GEYS get married. And guys...I hope you are sitting down. Because, well...THIS dude is out of his fucking mind. Seriously. See for yourself, if you are
drunk brave enough to watch.
I...just...but...OH FOR FUCK SAKE. You can read a transcript of this dude's fucked-up-beyond-belief testimony here.
There is too much stupid here to unpack it all. But holy fuck. The dude seems to think it is a big shock to the legislatures that gays have sex. FOR REAL. And he is really freaked out about this idea of "ejaculation inside the colon". Not to mention the fact that he clearly doesn't have the faintest idea of what an enzymes are, not to mention how they are different from viruses (like HIV, which causes AIDS) and bacteria (which you treat with antibiotics). Way to take stupidity + homophobia to a whole 'nother level, dude.
My IRL life has been pretty...unsettled recently. I hope to blog about this a little more in the future. But one thing that has fallen out is that I've been thinking more about the immediate reaction to Jodie Foster's Golden Globes "coming out" speech. As I process these IRL events, I can't avoid thinking more about my own coming out process. And there is a lot of stuff that keeps running around in my head...so I'm gonna try to get them out on by writing them here. BE WARNED: this is going to be a little personal and navel-gazing. If that sort of things bothers you, now is the time to click away. But, if you would like to see what else I have to say about being queer as a tt-asst. prof, look here.
IME, when you are openly queer, someone will inevitably ask "when you knew". I've struggled with this question. On some level I always knew...but at the same time I really didn't know. It took me a Really Long time to admit to myself that I was gay. Being lesbian wan't an option that I was aware of growing up. Maybe because I grew up in a big-red-flyover environment. Not to mention that I didn't even know any queer folks (that I was aware of). Whatever the reason, the whole idea was off my radar. I felt a lot of pressure to act straight - to BE straight. And honestly, I BELIEVED I was straight. But...then folks I knew started having sex , and I didn't know how to react. I felt weird and isolated. Like I was failing somehow. So I tried to be straight the only way I knew how. I slept with guys - as many as I could. Not because I really wanted to, but because I felt like it was expected of me. That if I did that, then I would be "normal" and everyone would accept me. I went off to college and kept up with the whole dating (and sleeping with) dudes thing. I wanted to fit in. But still, something wasn't right. I didn't feel good about myself. At some point, I started to meet real, live queers - classmates, teammates, co-workers. They were my friends. They were great people, and I loved them. I asked a bunch of questions that are, honestly, embarrassing when I think back on them*. "How did you know...?", "But...how does it work?" etc. My friends were awesome: patient, kind, and so open.
I wasn't ready to answer those questions for myself. It was too hard. It was half-way through grad school that I was able to admit that I was queer. To realize that sleeping with guys to "pass" made me feel cheap and fake. That it was self-destructive. When I finally admitted to myself that I was gay it felt like a huge burden lifted. I felt...more comfortable with myself. It wasn't "easy" - I could have kept on pretending to fit in. That would have been easier on many levels. Hell, I was terrified coming out to my family and friends. Every time I had the "coming out" conversation I had to prepare myself for the possibility that the person I was talking to might decide to cut all ties with me. It was (is) always possible. And that is really fucking terrifying. It still is.
Sometimes, I look back and wish that I had done things differently. That I had been strong enough to stand up for myself earlier. I think that us LGBTQ* folks are good at telling our coming out stories. These are awesome, empowering stories. And I love to hear them. But it is harder (at least for me) to talk about how destructive it was for me during that period when I tried so hard to fit in. When I actively denied my own truth. I am still working to understand the effects of that period of my life. I wish I could be as patient and understanding with my younger self as my fantastic queer friends were with me. I'm working on it, because this is my history. It's what makes me who I am today. I would never judge anyone else for behaving the same way in the same situation. I would cheer that they survived. I would give them a hug and tell them that IT GETS BETTER. It totally sucks that I have internalized so many negative judgements about what I did when I was younger. I know that I did the best I could back then. And the younger me deserves a lot of love and respect for making it through really hard circumstances.
Sure, I was goofy and somewhat misdirected as a youngster. THAT'S WHAT YOUNG FOLKS DO. And honestly, my life is pretty fucking amazing right now. I have a fantastic daughter. Being a mom is teaching me so much about patience and acceptance - and the process of growing up. I have a job that I love, where I don't have to hide who I am. I don't let anyone assume that I have a husband, or that Mini-G has a "Daddy".
And that is why I make an effort every day to be as out as I can. I want anyone else that may be going through their own struggle to know that they are not alone. To see that others have made it through. That it can be fantastic, even. And that is why I encourage anyone that CAN come out does, following the Rachel Maddow model and the slightly more..colorful.. version by Dan Savage. Being visible in the community not only helps younger folks that may be struggling, but can help gain support of straight allies. But no one can tell another person when they are ready to come out, or how they should do it. I don't care if you are Anderson Cooper, Jodie Foster, or a stick figure on the interweb. Everyone has their own journey to get to the place they feel safe and comfortable enough to make their statement. The journey is important, too. And every single person that does come out is fucking courageous as hell.
*I'm embarrassed now, but at the time these questions were very important to me. And really, they are not embarrassing questions. I would (and do) answer these kinds of questions pretty regularly.
I know I'm a couple of days late, but I just read this article by Melissa Harris-Perry (who is freaking badass!) and it reminded me of how awesome I thought Obama's Inauguration Speech was. So much great stuff. I especially liked the "from Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall" bit. It is a big deal to have the president literally link the fight for gay rights with other major Civil Rights movements. As Melissa Harris-Perry writes:
"When the president name-checked the watershed moments of the women’s rights, civil rights and LGBT equality movements, he offered a powerful moment of official recognition. ... ... ... Previous presidents have asked marginalized Americans to read themselves into the national story, but President Obama actively wrote these groups into our history. Obama positioned Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall as the fulfillment of a nascent promise in Jefferson’s declaration, and thereby recognizes the deeply American narrative embedded in these moments."
Fucking awesome. I hope the policy follows the rhetoric, but even so it is pretty amazing to get that kind of recognition from POTUS.
If you didn't watch it yet, it is totally worth 20 min of your time:
Hello again, bloggy friends! I've had an unexpected hiatus from the blogging. Real life kinda leveled me. I am hoping to be able to blog some of...but not now. Because last night something pretty awesome happened.
Jodie Foster "officially" came out.
I think this is fucking fantastic. Not that I didn't know Jodie Foster was a lesbian. It wasn't really a secret. She has acknowledged it in the past when she talked about her breakup with her partner and co-parent. But last night, she said it in front of 10 MILLION PEOPLE. Holy crap.
I've written before about how it can be tough to come out over and over again. I can't imagine how much harder it must be to have to do this when you have been in the public spotlight since you were 3. I think Andrew Sullivan is off-base critisizing her timing or what words she used. Coming out can be hard and emotional. Give her a fucking break. I like the perspective of Dorothy Snarker much better. I think it is great that she felt like she could do this. I could see the nervousness, and I totally related to it.
So YAY JODIE FOSTER.
That is all.
A while back on twitter, I got in a conversation with Joe (@josephlsimonis) from charismatics are dangerous about what folks in academia can do to be allies for the queer* students in their midst, especially trans* folks**. As we were chatting about things that profs/teachers/faculty can do to help queer students feel welcome and comfortable in academia I realized that I really had no idea. I don't know what will help other queer folks feel comfortable in any given lab group environment. And yet, I am in a position where there may be queer students in the classes that I teach. And if there is anything I can do to foster their interests in science, I want to know what it is, so that I can do it. In short, I want to be an active ally. But how? What specific steps can I take to make the academic environment better for queer students? We talked about allies in the DiS Blog Carnival earlier this year, and came up with some good ideas when Labroides asked what a new prof could do to create an environment that fostered diversity, so that ze could recruit and retain folks from different backgrounds into hir group. And now is a great time for all of us to up our game. This leads us to the announcement:
Queer students often have widely different classroom experiences that can vary based on their specific queer identity/expression, as well as and any other identities which might intersect with their queerness in the classroom. Many young adults are coming out/identifying as queer while in college, and so the classroom and other academic settings are important places to make as welcoming and affirming as possible.
We are hosting a blog Q&A to discuss the issues that queer students have in academia, and to try to figure out what those of us in a role of professor/teacher can do to foster an environment that allows our queer students to thrive. Since every student and environment is different, we hope that we can get a diverse group of folks both asking questions and contributing answers. So here's the plan: over the next couple of weeks, we are going to be asking for you to submit questions for the Q&A carnival. If you are a teacher/prof, what questions do you have about how to be a super ally? If you are a queer student, what do you wish the teacher/prof would take into consideration? Submit your answers in the comments section here or on Joe's blog, or email your responses to me (gmail at primaryinvestigator) or her (gmail at josephlsimonis). If you would like to remain anonymous we will strip your emails from any identifying information before posting questions on the blog. And if you are on twitter, join in with the hashtag #AlliesFTW.
We will collect question/comments until Oct 19 or so. Then Joe and I will put together the list of questions and post them on our respective blogs so that you can all chime in to give us a sense of which are the best ones to answer first. Then we will try to address each question/comment on the blog. We can only speak from our personal experiences, so the hope is that we will spark a good discussion that includes and reflects the spectrum of experiences. We will try to keep the series going as long as progress is being made. In the end we can all be better allies!
*by queer, we mean anyone who falls under the broad lgbtqgqia+ or "gender and sexual minority" banners
**the trans* notation, with asterisk, is a way to note that gender is not binary, and there are not just "boys" and "girls". I learned about it from Joe, and it is pretty awesome.