Sunday, June 26, 2011

I'm on the Right Track

This post will be super short because I'm exhausted, but so it goes.

I spent my Pride weekend not in the streets or in a parade, not getting arrested in Russia, not having lots of sex or dancing to Lady Gaga or writing political advocacy letters, though all of those things are well and good.

I spent my pride weekend surrounded by queer family. I spent it being honest with someone I care about. I took a queer friend to the hospital. I caught up with a queer friend I haven't seen in months. 

I've been in and seen Pride parades, festivals, and marches. I've written letters and worked on political campaigns. I've done queer public health advocacy and gotten trained in conducting HIV testing and counseling. I've attended gay and lesbian weddings and raised hell in doctor's offices. I've responded with open arms and an ear to strangers who sent me emails and facebook messages, looking for someone to talk to as they came out. I've created a Safe Zone program and put on programs on safe sex and safe bondage. I've conducted three research studies on LGBT issues, and I've spoken on panels and at queer conferences and to rooms full of people I've never met about some of the most intimate details of my personal life. I've danced in queer clubs and drank in queer bars around the world and visited Stonewall and the Castro. I've gone to PFLAG meetings and gotten queer scholarships and read queer theory and become a trans advocate. I have immersed myself completely and totally in queer culture throughout my life.

But the power and the pride and the love I have for this community comes not from most of those things, but from my queer family. Some of them are very close friends; others are acquaintances that I've taken a particular affinity to. I disagree with most all of them on one subject or another. Some I see only sporadically -- at a wedding or on a fluke. Some of them I haven't seen in years (much like many of my blood relatives), but I still think of them as family all the same. A handful of them would do anything for me, and probably every one of them would, at the least, buy me a beer. 

I'm blessed, so completely and utterly blessed, to have these people as a part of my life. If I could have them all in one place, at one moment, I'd have my own damn Pride party. But they're spread across the country (and possibly the world), celebrating Pride in their own ways and raising hell and being awesome.

I don't often get the chance to pay tribute and honor to the things they've done for me. The people who've been there when I was in the hospital, struggling through a breakup, morning the loss of a friend, or fighting with my family. The people who make weekends fun, who make sex fantastic, who know how to make me smile. I love ya'll. Happy Pride. I'm proud of the community we've built, the one we're a part of. I'm proud that I can be there for you, some more than others. I'm proud to share my life with you. I'm proud of the person you've helped me become. 

So maybe I didn't do anything big and crazy this weekend. Maybe I wasn't surrounded by thousands of my lgbt friends. But I did find love and support, I did give love and support, to my queer family, and for that, I think this weekend was definitely a wonderful Pride. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I've Had Just Enough Time

I can tell getting off birth control is fucking with me emotionally. I never realized how large of a role my hormones play in my emotional and mental health until I got on birth control at 18; it was a massive difference. It's not as bad as it was then, thankfully, but still a mess. In the last three weeks, I can cry at the drop of a hat. There's this song that comes on the radio every once in awhile (as if I need more reasons to hate the radio) about dying young, and every time I hear it, I think of Will and turn into a messy puddle. I second guess myself, constantly, and find that I'm struggling to talk about my feelings even more than usual, which means I don't. At all. I'm spending way, way too much time in my head lately, and not in a good way.

I find I spiral out often, letting conversations that made me upset or hurt or angry come back up, having the same debates in my head, even though I know I need to let it go. I find myself asking philosophical questions that put me nowhere but in a hole with a shovel, looking for answers I can't find. I held a focus group last week, that along with a culmination of other factors, left me in such an upset and angry state that I couldn't talk about it for two days. I find I still have some of that anger balled up. I realize some of it is very justified -- the anger isn't just me, it's a response to a lot of bullshit from my old job, frustration with the situation we're working with and my own concerns about the people involved -- but any time my anger becomes this powerful, I have to walk away. I have to step away and shut down and realize that my response is not productive, and at the end of the day, it's not hurting anyone but me. I find myself doing this a lot lately. Mentally checking out of conversations, putting up a wall around myself, censoring a lot of what I want to say. It must be a form of hell to be around. I hate how short-sighted and insular I can become. It's not a fun experience for anyone.

I'm taking a lot of this as a sign that I need to walk away from some of the LGBT work I've been doing in the past two years in NOLA. I do this. I wander away, let go and disappear underground for awhile, then when I feel called back, I return. Lately it's become overwhelming to realize I'm dating and playing and working in the same circles. Everyone's got an opinion on what queer activism and society and social responses should look like, because we're all personally invested. I get it. I find myself getting wedged often between my beliefs and convictions, the convictions of my closest friends, powerful institutions and organizations, and the often biting opinions of people I work with -- all at the expense of either a) myself and my mental health or b) the very people we're all working to help, who are often the most disenfranchised in the community. Eh. It's exhausting. I get tired of having to constantly justify who I work for, what I believe, what I'm doing to make things better, how I'm walking a thin line between opposing viewpoints... and realizing that, when I come home and go out with friends and just want to turn off, I can't. Because those issues are still very present for them, and it comes up often. I find I can't leave my frustrations and anger at work, because my work is my life. I find that I'm having to constantly justify my personal queer identity to strangers as a way of making my work legitimate to people who take one look at me and assume I'm not queer. It's a lot of fighting, at the end of the day, and it comes home with me. I need a break from it.

I'll come back. Queer advocacy and sexual health is my heart and soul, always will be, and I'm like a moth to the flame.

I don't know if it's right to blame my frustration and my sadness all on the birth control. Some of it is probably burn out from my last job. My new job is going fantastic, by the way, and I really believe it was the leap of faith I needed. It's unreal to step off a sinking ship, and turn around, only to find out it was sinking a lot faster than I realized. I didn't understand how much stress I felt from that job until I changed jobs and found that -- wow -- it's such a drastic difference. I actually enjoy going to work, the people I work with, and what I'm doing. I've been busier than ever, working 40 hour weeks and finishing this research contract and going to school and trying to fit a social life in there, too. It's not bad, but I'm guessing the stress of thirteen hour days -- I had four in a row last week, not counting going out on Tuesday and thursday night until 1am -- isn't really aiding anything. Eh. Self-care never was my specialty. It's no wonder I have high blood pressure.

I can blame it on the weather or on my birth control. I can blame it on stress or missing friends. I can blame it on a lack of sleep or living alone or the back pain that makes everything a little more difficult lately. I can say it's the pendulum effect of being so up and on from the last few months or maybe I have inherited bipolarity, though that one I'm doubtful of. But the truth is, I don't really know what it is. I just know I feel haunted, in a way I can't seem to wake up from, and I'm ready for it to end. I'd compare it to going through life under a veil, but that's just a little too close to the bell jar metaphor for me to really feel comfortable about saying that. It's probably the truth. But I'm scared to admit it. I keep telling myself that this will pass, that maybe after a month things will flatten out. I kind of hope so, because this kind of emotional intensity is absolutely exhausting. I imagine sensory integration sensitivity feels like this. My emotions are a little too raw, a little too exposed and easily overstimulated, always on. All the time.

I'll get back to writing about sex soon, I hope. I want to. I've got stories in my head that I need to let out, but unfortunately, they keep getting pushed to the back of the burner lately. I don't want this blog to feel like work, when so much of everything else in my life does. So I'll come back to it. I always do.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Oh, When the Saints

In August 2009, after months  years of planning to move, I left north Louisiana. I quit a job I loved (even if my boss was fucking insane, I really loved my job), I packed up our huge apartment, I kissed my last salary check goodbye, and I got in a car and moved everything I owned to New Orleans.

I wasn't really sure I wanted to live here; I wanted to move to San Francisco, and New Orleans was a second-best, much more affordable, option. I had deep-seated regrets about leaving my job; I knew I'd miss my clients. The possibility of evacuating scared me shitless. I feared what leaving a great job only seven months in would do; would I find another job I actually liked again, much less one that paid me well? I had never lived anywhere else as an adult. Hell, I'd been in the same town in north Louisiana for eight years. I wasn't sure if I knew how to adjust to a new culture, make new friends, and create new life. I thought I'd lost all my marbles, but damn it, I was dead set on moving.

It took me two months to find a job. I went back into the restaurant industry, which I always knew was a possibility, but without knowing anyone here, I couldn't find work in a higher-end restaurant. (It truly is all about making connections in this town.) I took a massive pay cut -- around 50% -- and my rent and utilities almost doubled over night. I made enough to pay rent and utilities and to buy food and gas, but only barely. I ate through a lot of what I had saved at my last job, just trying to survive. Tensions ran very high in my house, and the severe lack of income was a huge part of it.

I went back to asking my mother for help, which did much more than dent my pride -- it put me in a personal debt to her which made me feel disparagingly guilty. My family, myself included, has plenty of issues about control and money. It's enough to send me over the edge on any good day. I jumped around jobs, grabbing at anything on the side that would make me some extra money to travel, to go out, to have a life beyond my house. I applied for everything under the sun, hoping someday I would pull the right straw. I took contract work that paid well, but left me back at the same questions every few months -- what now? where will my next pay check come from?

And the whole time, the same nagging possibility sat at the back of my brain -- here I am creating a life in NOLA, a life I'm really enjoying, new friends and new connections and a history and a future here, but what if  I'm forced to choose between finding a job I actually enjoy and that can sustain me and staying in New Orleans? Do I love this city enough to put aside the work I've done in school, my interests, and work in the restaurant industry for the rest of my life? Do I love this city enough to give up other jobs, better possibilities in other cities, to stay here?

I kept coming back to a resounding, "no." Why? Well, life is about compromises, yes. But I'm super, insanely, driven. So much so. And I've put aside a lot of dreams, a lot of possibilities, for relationships, for women, for family, for fear. I've been reserved. I haven't chased what I really wanted -- the only huge risk I've taken was to move here. So I didn't want to follow that path again. I knew I would come back. Hell, I knew I never wanted to leave in the first place. But if it came down to it, I would do it.

Anyway. That was all crazy back story.

You know that job I left in north Louisiana, the one I loved? Yeah, that one. Well, out of the blue, the same position opened up in New Orleans about two weeks ago. And at the urging of a close friend, I applied. I really, really feared what it would feel like not to get it -- to face that rejection again. But I applied anyway.

And wow. I got it.

While money isn't everything, it's necessary for my peace of mind -- it's necessary for my sustainability, to stay here, to thrive here.

While loving a job isn't necessary, and neither is school, it's why I went to school -- to be able to qualify for a job I actually enjoyed.

And while having benefits isn't a requirement of life, I must say, not having to face the prospect and fear of ending up in the hospital on a fluke ever again without health insurance... yeah, that sounds fantastic.

All of these are blessings. I wish everyone had them, and God knows, if I had the ability, I'd provide that for everyone. (I believe in a society that does support and assist in providing those opportunities for everyone.) I am insanely blessed to live in a city I love, to have stumbled (fallen?) into this job, to not have to worry if my salary will sustain me.

Point is, I can stay in NOLA.

I can create a career here, and I truly hope that I end up in this job for at least the next 5-6 years, if not more.

I don't have to fear leaving anymore.

I don't have to half-ass my existence here out of that fear.

I feel like a huge weight has lifted off my shoulders.

So, New Orleans, if you'll have me, I'd really like to stay. Please. I'd like to create some roots, because this feels like home.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sex Toy Review: Black Magic Bullet from Doc Johnson

This is my first review for Edenfantasys sex toys, so go easy on me ya'll -- It might be a bit before I get the hang of this. :)

If there was a luxury line for bullets, it would include the Black Magic Bullet from Doc Johnson. It's sleek and gorgeous, solid black with silver trim, and it's made of a texture I've never seen in a vibrator -- a velvet type of plastic that borders on luscious. If you haven't played with a bullet lately (they're not something I usually include in my sex play, either), most of them are made of tacky silver plastic or the clear, colored plastic that reminds me of an Easter egg. I appreciate the Easter bunny, but I'd rather not stick an Easter egg on my clit, thank-you-very-much.
Sexier than an Easter egg.

The Black Magic Bullet is also phthalate-free, latex-free, and hypo-allergenic, which means it's much safer than jelly vibrators and some of the other vibrators that you can find on the market. It cleans easily with antibacterial soap and warm water. It claims to be "waterproof," but I didn't drop it in my bathtub to see if that claim held up. I had better plans for it, of course.

I wanted to try out this bullet for only one reason. I have a few favorite positions, but getting fucked from behind is damn near the top of that list. I'm a total sucker for it. But I also need clit stimulation as hard as the day is long, and that's a difficult request for that position. It's the wrong angle for a Rabbit vibe or a Hitachi, or anything larger than a few inches. The little bullets which take watch batteries get lost too easily -- I'd spend more time looking for them in my toy box and buying expensive tiny batteries than actually using the bullet.

I know you must be wondering if the Black Magic Bullet passed the "does it work if I'm bottoming?" test, and the answer is: yes. I came quickly. Almost too quickly. But that's my own damn fault.

The Black Magic Bullet has four settings, and the most I can handle is the third. It's incredibly powerful for a very small, battery-powered vibrator. There is a disadvantage to this -- it's so powerful that holding it in my hand (or against my clit) can be difficult. Of course, this makes it all the more interesting for kinky play -- that's why controls are on wires, right? It's fantastically fun to watch someone else writhe as you turn up the volume and force them to take it.

I wouldn't want the vibrations to be any weaker -- it wouldn't serve it's purpose. Though the bullet did like to vibrate right out of my hand. I still don't have an answers for this dilemma.

A bullet will never be my go-to vibrator. I need something big and powerful that isn't going to need new batteries constantly, like the Hitachi. (I also like the idea of using my vibrator to club possible intruders, since I live in the Crime Capital of the U.S.) But the Black Magic Bullet is slim and discreet, making it great for traveling. I would definitely recommend it as a first-time vibrator or for those "situations" when you really need something small or a controller on a two-foot-long cord.

Check out EdenFantasys for more information and to pick up one of your own!