Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Musical Love

A friend I met at Easton Mountain posted this on Facebook, and I think it's really beautiful in its own quirky way.

Also: This. Lyrics aside, the video and uplifting tone of this song make me so happy.

And finally, because I love trios, this.

Fabulous song. Fabulous movie. Oh, how I need to watch this again soon.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Rooster's Crow

Had a beer with a friend tonight, and our conversation is haunting me in many ways. I realize how drastically my coping mechanisms have changed in the last year, which I suppose is a form of self-preservation -- when one response doesn't work in reaction to trauma, develop a new response. At least, that's what I've found myself doing, whether I was conscious of it or not.

Two weeks ago, as I started conducting interviews and needs assessments for the transgender health project I'm working on, I realized I was internalizing a lot of my frustration and the pain felt by those I was interviewing. The more I asked questions, the more I realized how truly fucked up the system is. I knew that the healthcare system is fucked, and I knew that trans people face a wall of stigma, discrimination, ignorance, and abuse. But I started to grasp that every.one.has.a.horror.story and that the LGBT organizations which claim to help trans people are often the source of the worst damage. Bad information from good sources is detrimental -- it causes breeches of trust, puts trans people in compromising and unsafe situations where they expected to find knowledge and safety, and it further alienates them from finding good resources. Exclusion and discrimination by those who supposedly "belong in community with them" leaves them feeling further disconnected and unable to find support.

Sometimes I feel like I'm watching everyone in this community play politics and fight for funding, recognition, and personal prestige as those already on the fringes lose the most. It's so frustrating. It makes me angry and angry and angry and angry. I hate that I can't reform from within the community, and yet, I can't always reform from outside, either. It's an uphill battle, and I have such a love/hate relationship with the leaders, organizations, and donors in the NOLA LGBT/queer community -- and, for that matter, in the national gay rights movement.

And yet, I keep coming back. I come back because I feel drawn in, because there's a need, because I have experience and passion. I come back because it's personal. I come back because it's a paycheck, a thesis, a project. I come back because the people affected are those I love. I come back because I'm a masochist. Ugh.

As I try to decide what my next move in life is -- and whether to go to nursing school -- I worry about whether I have the strength to keep doing this kind of work. I worry that I will burn out, because the pressure, the politics, and the day-to-day frustration of working in non-profit, in low-income services, in direct services, is intense as hell. But on the other hand, I can't see myself doing anything else. I honestly cannot visualize myself as "happy" (or semi-content) and working in a job that doesn't involve working against social  norms, against discrimination and stigma, against the system, all with the goal of lending a hand to those who need help the most. I can't quit caring. I can't walk away. Every time I do, I come back. I worry that nursing will be opening the door to another life-long commitment of caring, of investing in people, of giving too much of myself. I worry that what I will see will hurt, because it will sometimes.

But I don't think I could fulfill my life with anything else, either, because there will always be a part of me that cares too fucking much to walk away.

I think sometimes that the nice part of taking breaks to work in the service industry is that I don't take my work home at night -- I leave it at work. I don't stress out every day or feel overwhelmingly frustrated by categorical grants, clients who can't put food on the table, clients who neglect their children, or clients who have to fight their OB/GYN to get him to respect their birthing choices. I just put pizza on the table, and I'm done. But really, I'm bored as hell if I'm not involved, so that's not a long term solution, either.

But my coping strategy to the overwhelming, crushing frustration of seeing how fucked up a system is and how many people are being hurt, over and over, by the system was.... to go get drunk. Yep. At 1pm in the afternoon. Massive fail.

That's (recent) coping failure #1.

I wonder if it's the system that needs to change, or if it's me. Probably both. My reaction definitely needs some tweaking if I want to stay in this field -- somehow I've got to learn to survive without internalizing, because that simply makes me anxious and angry. But I do know that part of the cure for this is to make positive inroads -- because the discrimination and stigma can be eliminated, which leads to less frustration and personal craziness.

(Recent) coping failure #2 is totally different. A friend, someone who I count as relatively close, though we've only known each other a few months, asked me whether I slept with someone. I denied it twice, then finally admitted to it, and she told me she was really hurt that I felt like I had to lie to her.

I don't think I really processed what it meant to lie to her either time I did it. Hell, I'm not sure I put any thought into it. Immediately after, I wanted to get defensive -- I wanted to tell her it wasn't really any of her business, which is what I should have said instead of lying. But I lied, and there's no justification.

After months of my ex accusing me of lying, over and over and over again until it became easier to just deny everything and tell her whatever the hell she wanted to hear than to keep crying myself stupid, I find that my relationship with lying has changed. Drastically. I always used lying as a method of self-protection, especially with family members. But now I am so quick to deny or lie about anything and everything that even remotely makes me feel uncomfortable, that I don't even know what the hell I'm lying about anymore. Usually, it's anything emotionally painful -- such as my amazing ability to sugarcoat the hell out of everything shitty that happened in 2010.  I don't even look at it as lying, really, but just self-protection. I don't talk to anyone about everything; I spread things around between a handful of close friends who each get parts and pieces of what's really going on. I don't talk about how hurt I am or how angry I am or how painful healing has been.

Massive (recent) coping failure #2 -- communication.

Oh lordy, I don't even know where to start on that one. I know roughly two people who communicate relatively well, and by that, I mean comparatively better than everyone else I know. I know this is one of those life-long growing pains. But damn, lying isn't a solution to discomfort, fear, or uncertainty. And really, the specific situation was pretty low-key, and the question didn't even bring up any emotional response -- simply me, wiggling out of the fact that I don't like direct questions about my interpersonal actions. But my problem is, when shit gets intense, I shut off or internalize it and keep moving until I don't feel the pain anymore. See also: not the most effective coping method. Ugh.

I am glad she called me on my shit. I do sincerely apologize to her for lying and for hurting her. No "buts." I really need to work on this stuff, and not in a cursory way. I need to make some serious changes, and I need to remember that when I face discomfort, running the other way isn't a valid response. If anything, writing about it helps, because it forces me to be introspective and get really personal. But it's also intense to put things like this out into the stratosphere and hope that the response is grounding, not terrifying.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


The ribbed texture of the concrete wall grates on my upper back. “Does it hurt?” you ask. I want to tell you that the resistance feels good. I want to tell you how much I love being pushed. But even if you’re trouble, you’re still new. There’s much to learn about me, and that side will come out in due time.

In my heels I almost look down to you. Almost, but not quite. I’d look down if I wasn’t rolling my eyes up, around, uncontrollably, because you’ve bit down into the muscle up the side of my neck. I want to resist, but I can’t. You bite down harder, harder, into the thin layers of my epidermis and then suck the heat off as you release me. A breath of air slips out between my lips; I had no idea I was holding it in. I hear the moan as it escapes, and my ribs expand to fill my corset.

I knew you were trouble when I met you. All right….all I had was a hunch. But my intuition is good, even if I don’t listen to the feelings often enough.

I looked down and there you were, climbing up the winding staircase, my fantasy reversed. In my head it’s me coming down, the train of my dress lingering on the previous step, hand on the rail for balance. That fantasy doesn’t belong to us – never will. But there you were, skinny tie in hand, climbing slowly toward me. I looked down on you. I swirled the wine in my glass and for a moment, I froze. Your smile caught me, the grin of the cheshire cat, curling up at the edges. That’s when I was sure that you were trouble.

“What do you want to do tonight, after we leave here?”

My answer came, simple and unassuming. “Whatever you’d like. We could get a drink or go dance. What are you thinking?”

Your eyes sparkled, but I heard the tease in your voice. “No. What do you really want to do?”

I looked directly into your eyes, unflinching. I wish I could say it was the five glasses of wine talking, but the truth is, even sober I’m direct.

“If I had my way, I’d take you home and fuck you right now.”

The warmth of the Quarter rushed at me as we walked down the cobblestone streets. Even in fall, the heat lingered, almost unfazed. You took my fingers in yours, and I realized the heat didn’t belong to New Orleans, but to us. You stepped ahead, and I stopped, pulled your hand taunt, twirling you into me. Your laugh bounced off eighteenth century windowpanes, across iron balconies. We were steps away from where twenty-seven men died in a gay bar arson. We stumbled on streets marked by duels, once filled with Spanish women heading to market and Creole aristocrats vying for the hands of ladies in parlors. Now this block was marked by tourist bars and purse-snatchings, backroom massage parlors and girls earning their tips dancing on the bar. Our past, our reality, for better or worse. The steps of thousands of couples tread here before ours. The driver of an SUV honked and whistled at us. I pulled you in closer, wrapped your arms around my waist. You pushed the falling hairs away from my face. I worried, I worried, I worried – would we get jumped? Harassed? You kissed me – and the cars, the drunken frat boy crowds, the tour buses and stumbling tourists –


I could feel only the parting of your lips.

We grabbed beers and put them in go cups. Sloshed them on the streets, though I was careful not to let my heels and newly painted toenails get wet. Music came from every open door, not the roar of big, live jazz, but the overplayed moans of top 40 and rap. We were on the wrong side of the Quarter. She is a goddess of many faces, but I strayed from these cisgender, homophobic, privileged, tourist traps and their drunken unpredictability. I pulled you through the streets, pausing to cross, to kiss, to spin, to laugh. Pausing to look into your eyes again and remember that you are Trouble. To remember to forget to remember.

We slinked into a back alley, shuttered by the hotels and office towers of the Business District, and I pulled you into me, you pushed me into the wall, I felt the defiance, physically, emotionally, sexually, but I found your mouth just the same. Open. Messy. A bare hint of hops. Eyes closed, I wrapped your tie around my wrist and pulled you in, closer. Your hands fell against my thighs and I resisted, slightly, as you pushed my hips back into the concrete. The breaths came fast and hard, now, harder when you bit, louder when you tugged my hair, pulling my head to once side to better sink your teeth deep into my neck. My moans came louder, faster. A single car sped by, lights flashing across us for a split second, glancing off the black silk of my dress.

I slid my fingers down, deep, into your back pockets, pulling you down into your center of gravity. I found your earlobe with my tongue, bit down, clawed my nails into the triangle of your shoulder blades. A lone man walked across the nearby intersection, and my eyes darted away from him. I clutched you tight, hoped he didn’t see our shadows wrestling. You buried into my chest, breathing the thin layer of sweat across my chest, and I felt your fingers dancing up the inside of my thigh, spreading my legs ever so gently. The man passed out of sight, and you pulled my lace thong to the side. Your two fingers slid in, deep, fast, sharp, and I sucked in a huge moan. My silk dress grated on the concrete. I felt my knees give in, weight falling in to my heels. Your fingers curled, lighting up each nerve ending, twirling in, out, the soft calluses on your thumb rubbing circles around my clit. When you bit down, hard, on my bottom lip, I started to beg, whimpering “more” as my hips shook, ribcage almost expanding out of the corset with each breath, moans sticking in my throat until the air leapt out. 

More. More. More.

Your fingers picked up a pulse and I felt the muscular wall of my cunt straining tighter. In. Out. Around. Deeper. Reaching in, hard, pushing my g-spot, twirling, in, slipping out, open, closed, around, in. In. My breaths came fast. I held the loudest moans in, but even the soft ones bounced off the concrete and steel. You bit down, once more, teeth catching on the thin line between pleasure and pain. My eyes rolled up, closed, cunt clenched, and electricity connected every nerve ending in my body.

The breath came out slow. Your eyes shined, almost too bright, caught in the glare of the streetlamp down the block. I slid my hands between your pants and your skin, dipping tentatively into your sides, and pulled your 
hips into mine hard. My gaze came thick, spread like fog across the streets. Yours came tentative, cocky, unassuming, unsure, wound up, all at once. 

“Why do you cause me so much trouble?” 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Carre Me Home

I don't often make it to the Vieux Carre on Saturday afternoons. I should make it a point to do so -- even with the masses of tourists, it's my favorite day to go downtown. I met with a friend today at Cafe Envie, an open-air coffee shop on a corner, and I'm so very thankful we chose to meet downtown. There was a small festival across the street at the old U.S. Mint, and the salsa and merengue music was infectious. I wanted to dance in the streets! It was a gorgeous, cool, breezy day, and after our meeting we wandered through a few thrift stores and down to Jackson Square to visit a friend who was selling his art. All the artists, street performers, and psychics were spread around the Square walkways, and I was grateful that I only had $3 in my wallet or else I would have purchased several pieces. I wish I could put the Quarter into words. It's old worlde and new, artistic and messy, all structured by the simplicity of a grid. It's a charming place. I love that I can't go two blocks there without experiencing live music, the smells of fresh seafood, and puppy kisses.

Once upon a time, I fell in love with this city. I fell in love with a girl, simultaneously, and for a long time I think I confused the two. I thought of this city as hers -- or ours -- in a lot of ways. When we broke up, I grieved that attachment. But part of the challenge (and the delight) of the last few months has been my own process of rediscovery. I'm finding that fried plantains are just as good without her. The streets shine just as much in the wake of an afternoon rainstorm. The Pontchartrain still calls to me when I'm feeling lost and lonely. I love a beer at three in the morning -- maybe even more so than I did before -- on the porch surrounded by friends.

I have a nasty tendency to nest and hole up at home when I'm in relationships. Partially, that's because I keep so busy -- always going with work and school and volunteer projects and queer events and... -- that when I get a free moment, I want to spend it with whomever I'm dating. When I'm single, my priorities change, and I redirect that energy toward a social life. I look outward, instead of inward. I've met so many amazing people in NOLA because I'm taking chances, spending time building relationships, and connecting into the people that have become a transient, local family to me. I've had several people ask if I'm "dating" -- but the truth is, I don't want to. I don't want a partner. I don't want to pour energy into looking for one. I want to wander, dance in the streets, and enjoy what it means to wake up alone. I want to touch on each museum, each festival. I want to try all the foods (!) and I want to paint in the park. I want to dance on the bar and drink in alleyways. As a friend (or her mother) says, "being alone doesn't mean being lonely." It just means... being.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Whirlwind.

So far I have tried my best to explain the erotic energy retreat to three people, and though I feel as if I am doing my experience no justice, all the responses have been really positive. I must be doing something right?

Easton is such a jewel in the mountains. It reminded me strongly of summer camp, but the cold breeze whipping through the mountains at all times provided a stark contrast. It was unreal how quiet it was there -- my first day, after setting down my bags, I wandered down to one of the ponds. Two Canadian geese flew over my head, and I could hear the sound of the wind rushing over their wings, simply because there was no other noise. It was surreal.

The workshop, CBE, pushed a lot of my boundaries -- emotional, physical, sexual -- in a place that was both safe and consent-focused. As I explained to a friend, the workshop begins with some basic consent skills and emotional trust exercises, then builds to help participants explore their comfort and knowledge of their physical bodies, leading ultimately to really intense connection with the sexual self. The workshop was structured very specifically to help participants learn their boundaries and connect with themselves and each other, though living in residence with the same group of people really helped me to get to know them in unique ways. I can see how it would be great to not be in residence -- just to go home, chill, and turn off each night. But one of my favorite parts of the weekend was the impromptu -- conversations about gender, sexuality, and identity over dinner, telling stories in the sauna, and late night discussions with the girls I stayed with.

I really enjoyed the chance to get to meet so many amazing women of different ages and backgrounds, each of whom had felt driven to Easton Mountain. How do you explain to friends, family, and others why you would choose to take a weekend and fly, train, or drive to a remote location to an erotic energy retreat? How do you explain that choice to yourself? And on the flip side, how do you go back into the world, having occupied an intensely spiritual, sexual, and emotional safe space, secluded in the mountains, and explain what you experienced? I don't have the answers for this. I know that, as the director of the workshop explained, the experience can leave you feeling expanded, though the world (and us) are constantly expanding and contracting. Pieces of the workshop, for me, will always exist at Easton. Other pieces have threaded so intricately into my life, into my thoughts and actions, my memory and future, that I see this work as a stepping stone at the beginning of a journey, not a door at the end.

CBE was a healing place for me. It was also a reminder that, as hard as it might be, we have the power to heal ourselves. I tend to turn to my friends for healing, which is important in its own right. But sometimes I must learn to turn inward, to listen and not run, to pay attention. CBE was at times, a scary place. Some of the exercises pushed me into emotional and physical places, outside of my boundaries. CBE also brought out a lot of things about myself, and my body, that I had forgotten -- how much dance has disciplined my movements, my own reservations about intimacy and receiving, the pleasure and pain of stretching my body and my mind, and the rawness of sex when it is unexpected and unpredictable.

I'm grateful for the experience. I'm grateful for the women who came to Easton, grateful to those who opened their lives and allowed me to explore in very personal ways. I'm grateful for the friendships and connections I made, and for the chance to walk away from my life for a bit and come back with a complimentary but new perspective. I'm grateful for the tools I learned, and I'm grateful that these places, these spaces, exist. Whether I get the chance again to go back to another workshop or not, I think this is important work. As Sinclair said, there is a connection between workshops like these and other types of sex-positivity, because they share the values and vision of creating a world where sex and sexuality are embraced as a positive force in our lives, a part of life and body to be explored and enjoyed, not a realm of shame, fear, denial, and pain.

The whole weekend, I was reminded of this quote, which is one of my most favorite:

“I am not arguing here for free sex or for more sexual expression, quantitatively speaking. I am arguing for living dangerously, for choosing to take responsibility for working through the possible consequences of sexual feelings rather than repressing sexual feeling and thus feeling more generally. I am arguing that our capacity to transform…the world is rooted in our capacity to be alive to the pain and anger that is caused by relationships of domination, and to the joy that awaits us on the other side [in a relationship of mutuality and equality]. I am arguing that to be alive is to be sexually alive, and that in suppressing one sort of vitality, we suppress the other.” -- Judith Plaskow

Thanks(Giving) for Sex Ed

In the early 1990’s, there was a massive legal battle over sex education in the school district where I grew up. A very conservative group of Christians had convinced the school board (hell, they probably were the school board) to adopt an abstinence-only program. Another group sued, claiming this curriculum forced religious beliefs on students and taught students incorrect information.

What came out of this massive brew-ha-ha was the mess I, a ninth grader, had the pleasure of experiencing. My school was the second best public school in the state, but yet, my teachers could be suspended or fired if they answered students’ questions about sex, bodies, and sexuality. Several of my fellow students went on to study at Ivy League schools, yet we were taught from books with lines blacked out about how condoms prevented only 22% of pregnancies if used correctly. My school offered over ten AP classes, but also taught us that “automobiles” were a leading cause of sex.

In other words, we were a very well-educated bunch, but we hadn’t a clue when it came to sex education.

My parents were even less helpful. My mom didn’t even explain sex; she thought letting me watch R-rated movies and giving me an American Girl book about “your body” was enough. She bought me some pads and told me to ask my friends how to use tampons. She said, “don’t get pregnant.” My dad left when I was 12, teaching me that the most valuable relationship skill I could cultivate is how to emotionally shut off when things get difficult.

I became sexually active young. Thankfully I stumbled through early sex experiences with few permanent scars. I didn’t use a condom the first time I had penis-vagina intercourse with a man. I didn’t know that oral sex could spread STI’s. When I started exploring my attractions for women, I had no idea what I was doing. None. I had no relationship communication skills, which quickly backfired as I learned the hard way with my first girlfriend. I thought jealousy was a requirement for relationships; I thought it was better to talk behind her back about how I felt than to talk to her.

I survived without an STI, without getting pregnant, and I still talk with my ex. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it out of high school without getting raped. I don’t know if sex education could have changed that, but I do think it could have changed my response. I was under the misconception that women are raped by strangers, not by their friends, their dates, their acquaintances. For years, I thought I had simply “hooked up” with a friend when I was blacked out. I wasn’t introduced to the idea of consent until I was 18 – three years after being raped. Three years after that healing process should have started. Three years too late for me to do anything to prevent the rape.

After years of stumbling in the dark, running into brick walls, and making up answers to questions, I started doing some serious research. I educated myself. I found factual, intelligent resources like Scarleteen, and I started passing the information on. My friends would email me, asking where to get STI tested and how to put on a condom, and I went looking for the best answers. I started a hotly contested sex column at my college, implemented a Safe Sex Week, and pushed the Resident Advisors to make condoms available in all the dorms – not simply across campus at the health center. I got HIV/AIDS tested, and I accompanied anyone who needed a friend to hold their hand at the clinic. I started a Safe Zone program on campus for queer and questioning students, and I challenged professors to think about how the exclusion of LGBT people from history, sex education, health curriculum, and other disciplines hurt students by denying them information. I started exploring my own sexuality in healthy ways – exploring consent and kink, experimenting with new sex positions and partners, examining my understanding of monogamy, jealousy, and communication in relationships.

At the root of what drove me to keep pushing boundaries, to keep educating myself and others was a need to not see my friends stumble in the dark. If you don’t know how to protect yourself, you won’t. If you don’t know how to get tested, you won’t. If you don’t know how to navigate consent and set your own boundaries, you won’t. Knowledge is powerful. It takes knowledge to plan to not get pregnant, to plan to prevent STI’s, to plan to get good healthcare. It takes knowledge (and practice!) have great sex and build strong relationships. Scarleteen is knowledge. Scarleteen is the best resource for fighting the bullshit and lies our schools (and sometimes, our parents) taught us.

We need more information, not less. We need to become empowered through knowledge, not denied the ability to make informed choices. We need love and real answers. We need all sex education to be like Scarleteen.

Scarleteen wouldn’t exist without the donations of people who care about helping young people. Please make a donation. Please give the gift of sex education. Give youth the help and information they need.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

as is

School. School. School. So much chaos. Came home from New York and jumped straight in – I’m so far behind! It’s crunch time, and I’m signing on for 16 hours next semester (!). Feels like I’m looking down the barrel of a whole lot more madness. But it’s time to set that aside for a moment and reminisce on the last week.

New York City was a whirlwind. So much fun to see friends from high school and college. I fell head over heels for Central Park. I love the contradictions of New York. I love that the city is full of nuance. There are a million cracks and crannies, hidden stories, pieces of art and ironwork, cafes, corners. I love the distinctions of the neighborhoods, and how even, in a city of 8 million people, a neighborhood can feel small.

I feel like we had a quick fuck, when it should have been a much longer affair. I’ll be back, I promise. It won’t be another seven years. I’m thinking two years, at the maximum, and honestly, I’d love to go back next year, while I still have friends I want to see and free places to crash. In my wildest dreams, I want to live there, for a minute really – a few months, a year or two tops.

Strangely, leaving town really cemented for me how much I belong to NOLA right now. I found myself constantly expounding on the beauty of the city, the diversity of people, and my experiences here. I found references to NOLA hiding everywhere, often in the most bizarre of places. I’m very drawn here, right now. Maybe that will change, or maybe I’ll wander away and find my way back. Who knows? Maybe I’ll forever be polyamorous – drawn across the country by my loves for New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans, along with many smaller destinations in between. I don’t think I could ever fully give my heart, soul, and mind to one city – instead, my heart is in San Fran, my mind in NYC, and my soul in NOLA. I don’t believe that I must only have one love, thankfully.

I want to talk about the erotic energy retreat, but I’m exhausted. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. I must make more time to blog tomorrow…