Tuesday, November 29, 2011

All of the Lights

I can feel her tensing up. It's incredibly subtle, but my complete focus is on her body. Her legs are spread wide across my bed, lower back arched, shoulders and braids burying into the pillows. My tongue is wrapped around her clit, and I'm caught mid stroke, trying to interpret what I need to change. She's so difficult to read. It doesn't help that I've barely heard a sound from her.

I pull my fingers back, slightly, releasing my grip on her g-spot. I want to play this very carefully. I pull my tongue away, but it's not a complete disconnect. I move slowly, climbing over her, kissing my way across her body. Leaning in, toward her neck, I catch the lobe of her ear between my teeth. I whisper, between biting her neck, "Don't be afraid to tell me what you want."

She shifts a bit, stiffening but moving her hands onto my thighs, and I swear I can hear the wheels turning. I don't know how she will respond, but I can tell, clear as day, that she knows exact what she wants. I just want to coax it out of her. I move back down her body, scratching my nails down the outside of her thighs, and pulling her legs roughly apart so I can tease her. She breaks her silence, as I'm leaning down to find her clit. Her voice comes out rough, unsure, "More head. Less penetration."

I crack a smile. "I think I can handle that." I push my shoulders up against the insides of her thighs, locking my lower arms around her hips, and run my tongue deep inside her. "How's that?" I get so fucking cocky sometimes. But damn. I just want to feel her melt. I get a soft moan in response, and she cups my head in her hands and pulls me back into her. I don't stop again  until she comes, bold and unforgiving.


I'm sitting up on one end of the bed in a position that can only be described as awkward. I wish I could see her in the dark, and I curse myself for a second for turning off the lights. She's still spread across the bed (how does that usually end up happening?), and I've got her clit between my right thumb and forefinger. I'm not used to anyone who can take this kind of direct stimulation, and I'm enjoying the hell out of the opportunity while I have it. I can feel her swelling under my fingers.

"That feels really good." I'm grateful for her praise, simply because it means I'm doing the right thing.

"Is there anything else you'd like?" I lean down to punctuate the question with a bite to her thigh.

She cocks her head to the side. I can see the motion faintly in the reflection of the street light outside the window. "I like you. In bed, I mean."

I can't follow her train of thought. I don't know her well enough. "What do you mean?"

"I like that you tell me to say what I want. I like that you ask me." I don't know what to say. It's a deeply flattering comment, simply because it's taken me so long to get here, too. But I always feel like I've got so much left to learn, to experience. I want so badly to ask about her history. I want to know where she comes from, what she thinks about her body, what she secretly desires. I want to know what she fears. But I'm already significantly pushing her boundaries. Any more could be overkill.

"I'll tell you a secret." I'm still rolling her clit between my fingers, tracing her labia, dipping around her vagina. There's nothing quite as sweet as the feeling of someone get wet in my hands. "I had the same reaction the first time someone asked me that question. I remember clearly I had to stop and think -- what was it that I wanted? Really? And where could I get the courage to say that out loud? It's why I ask. I can't give you what you want, what you deserve, if I don't know." She falls silent as she focuses into her body and comes again, her clit pulsing.

I pull her up after she finishes, reaching to bring her into my lap. But she stops me, telling me no, and pushing me gently toward the other side of the bed. "Lie down," she tells me, and for once, I don't put up any resistance. "Now tell me, what is it that you like?"

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pleasurists #157

The lovers are crazy by tasteofomi

Welcome to Pleasurists, a round-up of the adult product and sex toy reviews that came out in the last seven days.  If you like what you see and want more of it be sure to follow the RSS Feed and Twitter for updates.

Did you miss Pleasurists 156?  Read it all here.  Do you have a review for Pleasurists 158? Be sure to read the submission guidelines and then use the submission form to submit before Sunday November 27th @ 11:59pm Pacific.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Trans Day of Remembrance

Some of my closest friends are trans and/or genderqueer. A handful of my lovers have been trans and/or genderqueer. I can't imagine what I would do if one of them was violently attacked, or worse, killed. My heart hurts, just thinking about it.

It happens all the time, though. I can't imagine the fear many of them feel when trying to navigate the simplest of tasks -- putting down a credit card for a meal (which is a nightmare when your name doesn't match your gender); using a public restroom; even walking through the French Quarter alone. Their fear is justified. Whether the persecution, criticism, or harassment comes from strangers, the police, the media, family members, or partners... it's equally damaging and unnecessary. 

My heart goes out to all those we've lost, whether by murder or suicide. My heart goes out to the families, friends, and partners of those we've lost. 

I want to live in a society where no one is harassed, persecuted, or killed for their gender expression and gender identity. I want to live in a society where no one feels like suicide is a better option than life. 

A commenter on Autostraddle made a really great point that I want to emphasize here:

"A few years ago at a Trans Day of Remembrance event I attended, someone I knew gave a short speech about what it means to be safe–not just physically but also in your own relationships, bodies, communities, etc.–and about how queer people have to look out for each other. We have to stand up for each other and protect each other, because clearly it can be a dangerous world for some folks, especially trans women of color. We have to fight for laws that respect and protect ALL of us.

What does safety mean on a personal level? If your trans* friend is heading home from a bar or party or somewhere, you could offer to drive or walk them home. If someone discloses that they’re trans, honor and use their preferred names, pronouns, identities–but also ask which words to use in which contexts, so you don’t accidentally out them or put them in difficult situations. If you’re dating someone new, respect their boundaries and identities and find out what’s okay with them. If someone uses transphobic language–even a queer person–call them out on it.

Those actions may not make up for the sad losses of any trans* people being remembered today, but they might help protect someone else from facing the same fate."

I would add a few -- offer to go with a trans friend to a doctor's appointment, if they are feeling nervous. Offer to escort them to the bathroom, and stand protection outside the door if you're in a public place. If you know someone who is coming out, offer to introduce them to other queer and trans people in the community who can provide support and community. Connect them to resources or people who can provide resources. Model appropriate language. I find that many people want to be respectful, but don't know how to ask what pronoun someone would prefer, or don't know that "transgender" is an adjective, not a noun.

See also: This Advocate piece.

As a friend posted on FB, "In the words of Mother Jones, 'Pray for the dead, but fight like hell for the living.'"

A Note on Sex Toy Reviews and Language

When I came home from San Francisco and finished writing the most recent sex toy review for Eden, I had a bit of a conundrum. I've been writing sex toy reviews intermittently for at least six months, but I feel like I have a lot to learn and improve on in my writing. I write about what works for me, because I know my body. It's tough to make recommendations. I'm not passing toys around to a large group of people for multiple opinions-- and everyone's body, expectations, and needs are a little different. I hesitate, because a toy that works beautifully for me might not for someone else. 

I'm also hung up on language. When I write a review or make a recommendation, I want it to be clear that it shouldn't just apply to cisgender women. I usually describe my own anatomy using words I feel comfortable with. But those words fluxuate and change depending on how I feel -- for example, I can have a clitoris or a cock. I also realize the words I use are not the words everyone uses, and the anatomy I have isn't the anatomy everyone has. 

Many sex toy stores divide their websites into "men's toys" and "women's toys." But the truth is, you don't need a clit to enjoy a vibrator, and anyone can wear a strap on. The beauty of brick-and-mortar stores is that you don't need these artificial divides; you can go and pick up any toy without someone putting the idea in your brain that this toy is "only for women." The flip side, of course, is that the privacy of the internet offers a space where anyone can buy a toy without fearing harassment, embarrassment, strange looks, or dealing with insensitive or uneducated staff. If you live in a place like rural Louisiana, the internet offers a world of access to toys when brick-and-mortar stores might be hard to come by -- or, worse, exist only as sleazy highway pit-stops filled with cheap, poorly made toys for marked up prices. Eh. Both have benefits and detriments, I suppose. 

For me, it comes down to this: how can I make reviews more accessible for people of all genders? I play with people of all gender identities and expressions. I play with my own gender during sex, and it's often changing and unrestricted. I play with toys of all types, and all meanings. As I was discussing with a friend the other night, sometimes a strap-on is just a toy, and sometimes, it's an extension of the body in very personal and intimate ways. I don't know if all of these realities affect my reviews, or even if they should.

But I do think part of sex-positivity is looking at toys as just that -- a piece that can be used by anyone in many possible ways. It's about recognizing and affirming all forms of gender expression and sexuality.

How can I make reviews more accessible for people of all genders?

Sex Toy Review: Jenna's Velvet Jewels

Jenna's Velvet Jewels Royal is a plastic traditional vibrator with some extra bling. It's sleek and simple, made of black velvet-like plastic, and shaped like a dildo. It measures a respectable 6 1/2 inches long, with a diameter of 1 1/4 inches. The packaging is a cheap plastic case with a fade-out photo of Jenna Jameson and the kind of flashy design you would expect from a toy bought in a backroom shop on the side of the highway.
The standout qualities of this vibrator are the safety and the jewels. Many lower-end vibrators are made of jelly plastics which can contain unsafe materials like phlalates. These jelly plastics, and most any plastics beside medical-grade silicone, can also trap bacteria in the porous surfaces. Jenna's Jewels ranks fairly high on safety as it is phlalate-free with an 8/10 according to Eden Fantasys' scale. I would recommend using a condom on it (or any toy) for shared play, just to be safe.

The vibrator is bejeweled with two rows jewels in clear, blue, and pink, adding a little pizazz. The vibrator comes in four color options: sky blue, violet/purple, a soft pink, and black. I requested the black. While the jewels are pretty, I rank quality and performance over appearance every time. Unfortunately, like many lower-end toys, Jenna's Jewels has a lovely aesthetic but it doesn't perform up to par.

To be fair, I need a strong vibrator for clitoral stimulation. (My standard vibrator is a Hitachi Magic Wand.) Bullets don't usually cut it for me, and few battery-powered vibes are worth my time. Jenna's Jewels just doesn't pack the power of a good vibrator. I had a tough time coming to orgasm using it. I do appreciate the turn-dial which adjusts the strength of the vibrations; many vibrators only have an on/off or two speeds. The dial is preferable, and I wish all vibrators came with it. Do take the batteries out when you store this vibrator, though; I found the dial would turn on easily in a drawer or even if I set it in the bed.

Jenna's Jewels is also quite loud. The vibrator hum is quite high-pitched, more so than many vibrators I've used. Even under the sheets, with my door closed, you could probably hear it faintly outside the bedroom. I have trouble with the design, too, though that's not an issues specific to this vibrator. I, like many women, tend to need some clitoral stimulation to orgasm. But these simple, dildo-shaped vibrators, are built for either penetration or clitoral stimulation; you can't do both at once. In terms of penetration, this toy isn't shaped for G-spot stimulation. The more creatively-designed toys can do one or the other well, whereas, I feel like this toy doesn't really do either very well. But this is also part of the price you choose to pay -- for $16.99 (or the currently discounted $12.74), you can buy something simple and pretty. Throw in another $50 or so, and you can get something truly high performing.

If your body is sensitive and you need something less jarring, this vibe might be worth a try. I wouldn't recommend it for beginners -- if you don't know what your body needs and responds to, you could be investing in a toy that doesn't fit your body. Don't let the sparkle and shine distract you from buying less attractive sex toys that pack a bigger punch.

(In full disclosure as required by the FTC, I was given this toy for free to review for EdenFantasys. I do not receive any payment from EdenFantasys for reviewing toys.)

Sex Toy Review: Queer Porn

In the last few weeks, I've had a lot of conversations about porn, specifically with queer friends who find the dearth of quality porn to be a bit heartbreaking. I've never had a huge interest in porn, but I am fascinated by the quality of queer-produced porn designed for a queer audience. I love the idea of taking an industry that has been dominated by the male gaze, scripted and overproduced, and queering the HELL out of it.

If you've never checked out queer porn, there's two websites I would recommend to start with: Crash Pad Series and QueerPorn.tv. The concepts are similar for both sites: the performers are given leeway to choose their partners, a room to play in, and little direction or scripting. Essentially, you put two (or more) queer people in a room, let them negotiate out what they want, and then film them fucking. There's no airbrushed vaginas, no elaborate sets and few story lines. So what will you find? Fisting, strap-ons, bondage, squirting, spanking, you name it. You'll see people orgasm on screen, and it's not fake. You'll see trans, genderqueer, femme, butch, and cis performers, performers of color -- diverse people who bring their identities and bodies, their sexual attractions and desires, to the camera. You'll see people having safe sex and enjoying it immensely.

These ideas shouldn't be radical, but when most "queer" porn you see on the mainstream market is two thin, white, blonde "lesbians" touching each other in the shower, marketed at straight men... well, you get the idea. Gay male porn opened the door for us, because it's often gay men fucking gay men produced by gay men. But for many of us, the people we fuck, the way we fuck, involves intersections of gender and sexuality and kink in really unique and beautiful ways. Why not have porn that reflects the reality of our lives?

Crash Pad offers a monthly subscription, $22 a month, which you can keep for as long as you choose. There's no year-long requirement or sign-up fees. There are 112 episodes, and over a hundred performers involved in the series. Pink and White Productions have also released a few DVDs of the Crash Pad videos, if you'd prefer that format over the online access. QueerPorn.tv offers a $29.99 monthly VIP membership, or anyone can pay-per-video-download.

If you haven't yet, go check these sites out. Have your mind blown.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Life Lessons I Learned From Kink

1)      If you don’t ask for what you want, you’ll never get it. No one else can read your mind, understand your desires, or negotiate your salary unless you fucking speak up. I’ve learned this the hard way. I didn’t know how to tell my potential supervisor what my expectations are for a job in an interview. I didn’t know how to tell my partner that I really want Mexican food, even though I knew she had her heart set on Thai. But I’ve been reminded, time and time again, that if I want a spanking, I have to ask for it. Bouncing my ass in the air is not a clear enough signal. I think if we were all taught to express our needs and desires in bed – and outside of bed – the world would run smoother.  You might not get what you ask for, but if you don’t ask, you’re definitely not going to get it.

2)     Negotiation is a vital part of any relationship. I remember, clearly, the first time someone actually sat me down before we had sex and asked me what I liked, what I was up for, what I wasn’t interested in. It was a groundbreaking moment for me. Now I’ve come to expect this kind of negotiation before sex. Negotiation in bed requires the same skill set as negotiation in a board room, in a marriage, or in any other sort of relationship. If you aren’t having these conversations, you should be. If you’re too scared to initiate these conversations, then it’s time to take a good, hard look at how that is negatively affecting your life. I’ve been notorious for much of my life for waxing and waning when someone asks me what I want. Kink has drastically helped me navigate these conversations. I’ve learned to categorize what I absolutely will do, what I’m flexible about, and what I absolutely won’t do. Ask someone from the State Department what they do, and they’ll tell you the same thing – communicate and negotiate. Life skills, baby.

3)      Get and give consent. I cannot stress this enough. Consent is a pervasive act in my life; it does not end or begin with my bedroom door. I ask for consent when releasing medical information, consent when asking highly personal questions, consent when engaging in any sex act. I think agency is incredibly powerful, and yet, we often take it for granted. We run through other people’s boundaries – social, emotional, physical, sexual – either without regard or without recognizing our recklessness. We tell children “because I said so.” We enforce social rules and expectations on each other. We don’t actively teach people in our culture how to ask for consent, nor how to give it. I find my relationships with clients, with friends, and with lovers are deeper and more heartfelt when I ask for consent, verbally or nonverbally. For example, I’ll ask a client, “Are you comfortable discussing this (very personal traumatic) event with me?” instead of assuming I can jump right in. I’ll run my hands over a lover’s body in the morning, waiting for them to make a move to signal that they do want to get it on before breakfast. If the answer is no or the response is clearly not inviting, then I walk away. It’s really that simple.

4)     Know your boundaries. In the kink world, we have a brilliant, simple signal for tapping out – safewords. Unfortunately, there isn’t always an easy exit button in real life. When my boss is pushing me to take a task I can’t handle, when I’m crying in a corner because  my mother is insane, or when I’m so overwhelmed I can’t even function… well, there’s no safeword to save me. What I’m finding is, in kink, I use my safeword when I’m absolutely pushed to the point of not being able to take any more. In real life, that’s almost too late. What I can do, though, is set some boundaries. I know my mother upsets me, so I set a limit on how much time I will spend with her on the phone. I know I overcommit myself to advocacy work, so I set a clear “no” when I know I have exactly enough on my plate. Before you find a lover (or anything and anyone else) is pushing you too close to the edge, let them know what the edge is. Let yourself know what the edge is.

5)      Be able to say no, and don’t play with someone who can’t do the same. I’m horrible at saying no. I am such a “yes” person. Yes, I’ll make cupcakes for the class. Yes, I’ll take a meeting an hour after I’m supposed to get off work. Yes, I’ll show up at your event, help you plan your advocacy project, help you write your thesis, and pick you up from the middle of nowhere at 2am. Except…. I find myself wanting to say no. Dreaming about saying no. Saying “yes” and meaning “no” is not acceptable. It negates the whole point of consent and agency. A few months ago, I was playing with someone who had probably never used a safeword. I wasn’t sure, but she has a hardass attitude, and I had a feeling she felt she had a lot to prove to me – and to herself. So, I put her in a situation – with her consent – and then I pushed her to use her safeword, to break that unspoken expectation that she wouldn’t need it. Safewords are useless if you aren’t comfortable with using them. I don’t want to wait to cross your boundaries – or seriously hurt you – simply because you don’t feel comfortable using a safeword. Learning to say “no” is empowering. It ties in almost everything in this list – negotiation, knowing your boundaries, etc. Just like with asking for what you want, if you don’t say what you don’t want, well, you’ll get a heaping pile of it. I practice this skill often lately. “No, I can’t be at every single event this week. No, I can’t babysit your kid for free. No, I can’t want to use bacon-flavored lube.” See, try it.

6)      Don’t make assumptions. I had a friend and lover once who was built like a linebacker. He was roughly 5’11 and a very muscular 200+ pounds. His gaze could pierce a brick wall. He looked like he could dominate anything and anyone who came his way. But he was the most sweet, gentle, playful slave. I also had a boss once, a skinny toothpick of a gay man, who worked for a non-profit serving people with disabilities. He was the most homophobic, sexist, disablist asshole I’ve ever met. If you aren’t rolling your eyes yet, you should be. Appearance is definitely not an indicator of identity, beliefs, or desires, and yet, we make these assumptions every day. I do it, you do it, we all fail miserably at this lesson. Tops and bottoms, doms and subs, slaves and masters don’t have defining physical characteristics. (Neither do sexists and disablists. Assholes come in all shapes and sizes, and, apparently, all professions.) As an ex of mine used to say, “When you assume, you make an ass of you and me.” Heh. Smartass she was.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Reality Check

Can I just say I have no fucking frame of reference for how kinky I am? I overestimate other people's kinkiness all the damn time, and I underestimate my own. I guess I never repressed my own desires, so I assumed they were pretty par-for-the-course. I'm sure there are plenty of other people who feel the same way, and who wouldn't get why some things simply don't turn me on.

I'm perpetually surprised by how tame and vanilla I consider some acts, like being videotaped or tied with handcuffs, when for others, those actions really push the edge. I've been struggling to adjust my very skewed frame of reference, so if I come off otherwise, please forgive me. I can't seem to grasp this line between kinky and vanilla that most (?) people have.

Sex on Fire

I have a total weakness for flow charts, if you hadn't noticed. I think it's because I'm a visual learner, and pictures make things easier to understand and remember. Or simply because I find them hilarious. 

Anyway, on the topic of lube, this flow chart is pretty brilliant. Also, has anyone else heard that a company dropped a bacon-flavored lube on the market this week? No kidding. Personally, it's not one of my kinks. But if it's yours, then more power to you. 

(This is the incredible aerial view of the city I got as I flew out of SFO to Denver)

I'm back from San Francisco, which I swear is one of the sexiest cities on this planet. I don't say that because I spent most of the weekend at the Center for Sex and Culture or because pretty much everything I did there over the weekend somehow related to sex and sexuality. San Francisco has a unique energy that pulses through the city. I'm not sure what to compare it to. I'd say NOLA's energy is the equivalent of a second line brass band. But damn. Just walking the streets there, it's a bit magical. I've never seen so much public art in my life. San Francisco has the energy of a thousand paintbrushes, of rock bands in underground bars, of streetcars flying down hills, of radical creation and destruction. 

I ate massive amounts of Thai food and soaked in a hot tub and walked the pier in the pouring rain. I slept with the windows open. I witnessed some really transformative conversations, rituals, and actions. I got fucked in a lot of really interesting ways, and I don't just mean in the physical sense. I met some amazing people. I rediscovered the power of building community.

Also, can I just say, I love how people in California, and especially in kinky/queer/poly communities, use safe sex as a default. What a world of difference from Louisiana, where the culture is so anti-safe sex. There's no question there. Everyone just carries (or buys) lube, gloves, condoms and uses them. End of story. 

I expected to come back feeling different. I expected to have my mind and senses exploded. I expected to breathe and to listen and to think differently. But the tricky part of these workshops is, there's no way of knowing what "different" is until you experience it. Even as I'm going through it, I don't realize how incredibly intense and radical everything is. It's an incredible offering, to just let go and act... think later.

I cried saying goodbye to San Francisco. I'll be back, I promised the city and myself. But I have work and a life here in NOLA, a home and friends and two cats whom I missed terribly. A part of me hurts realizing that I probably won't see most of those people again. To have such intense contact for three days, to let people touch you, emotionally and physically, in ways I sometimes won't let friends and lovers touch me... and then to just let go.  I am immensely grateful and thankful for everyone I met, for everything I learned and felt. I still have so much work to do. I realize how closed off I am at times, how much I don't acknowledge my own feelings -- hell, I don't even let myself feel them. Someone asked me, "Where do you feel that in your body?" And I truly couldn't fathom that other people feel emotions physically. I've just shut that possibility out for too long. 

I am in this crazy, energetic, expanded state. I get overstimulated easily, but I'm so fucking happy. I'm like over-the-moon happy. I wish I could bottle this energy and breathe it in whenever I most need it. Instead, I'm just going to ride it. I'm still processing, slowly, but that feels healthy. 

How do I feel? Strong. Beautiful, though very much not in a physical way, but in an energy-glowing-kind-of-way. I feel calm. Scared of the paper I have due. Blessed. Unsure of what comes next. Open to the possibilities. Driven to let myself explore. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The River is Wide

In class tonight, my group did a presentation on the organization I work for. It's an awesome place; we provide federal/state-funded services for people with disabilities. After the presentation, my professor walked down to the front of the class. Now, mind you, I revile him a bit -- he's incredibly sexist, homophobic, and racist, an older guy who loves to say tremendously offensive things to get a rise out of students. But tonight, he told us a story he's never shared with a class. His first daughter, born in 1953 when he was only twenty years old, was deprived of oxygen during a traumatic labor and assumed to be, as he stated, mentally retarded. (Which is, by the way, a word I hate). As he told the story, the doctors decided when she was seven or eight months that she would be intellectually disabled for the rest of her life -- not "normal." So, because they had connections and money as he said, they sent her to a private institution in central Louisiana.

Couched in the language of a man whose understanding of disability is little changed from the 1950s and 1960s, I heard a young father describe the pain of letting go of a child. I teared up, thinking about his young daughter not knowing a life outside of the walls and grounds of an institution. I can't imagine. I hear that same pain in parents who have lost a child, in mothers who gave up their children for adoption, in parents who have made unimaginable -- but still incredibly strong and powerful -- choices that affected the rest of their lives.

I work with infants and toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities. My kids come from every walk of life. Their needs and concerns range from minor concerns, speech delays they will outgrow with a bit of therapy, to neurodegenerative diseases and feeding tubes and breathing machines. I can't imagine if my kids were institutionalized. I can't imagine the pain that would cause for them, for their families -- the loneliness and isolation, the opportunities and lives they would miss out on. I know that in the 1950's, institutionalization was considered humane, even kind. I know that we have made leaps and bounds in society toward decreasing the stigma against people with disabilities, and I know this fight was led by the parents of children, by people with disabilities, by anyone and everyone who realized institutionalization is not humane.

But I still hear this stigma every day. I hear it when my mother tells me approvingly of her friend, who institutionalized her young daughter with Down syndrome in the 1990's. I hear it when someone says, "That's retarded." I hear it when people say things like, "I couldn't do what you do. How do you do it?" What do you mean, I want to ask. My children and their parents aren't pity cases. I don't catalogue the things they can't do, the milestones they haven't reached yet, the ways they are "disabled." We celebrate their strengths. We set goals for them. We work with them, not for them, not at them. With them. We cry with them when they hurt. We offer what we can, and we urge them to go farther and do more and dream bigger than they are told that they can. We give them the resources and the knowledge to advocate for themselves. We listen, We agree, when a grandmother tells me that a doctor said her three-month-old grandchild will never walk... and she tells me that she will never, ever stop believing that he can.

My kids, my parents, are amazing. I have so much respect for them. They have taught me strength in ways I can't even explain. They have more abilities than most anyone I know. They may have specific needs, but who doesn't? They may need help, but so do we all. I don't do my job based on pity. I don't do my job with the idea that I'm offering a service to be passively received, even if that is the way the system is set up. My parents, my kids, are active participants -- they work harder than I do. They have the dreams and goals, and we just help meet them. That's how I do my job.

I cut my teeth on queer advocacy. I became an advocate because I saw a need -- because I couldn't keep my mouth shut when someone discriminated against those I cared about. It's not about identifying as an advocate or an activist for me, and it never will be. It's about seeing injustice and disparity and the pain borne of discrimination, harassment, and violence and not being able to stand by quietly. It's about recognizing that I can use my privilege, my knowledge, my strength, to stand with the people around me who need an ally. It's about holding up a microphone when someone else needs to share their struggle.


I don't claim to know everything -- or anything -- about what it means to be differently abled in our society. I don't know what is best for a community I don't belong to. But I do know that I would fight to the death for my kids to have the same opportunities, to be treated with respect, not pity, to have their needs acknowledged and met, not ignored. Even if advocacy wasn't part of my job description, I will always do it. Social justice and equality isn't just about queers. It's about racism. It's about sexism. It's about poverty and disparities and violence, it's about my kids, it's about adults with disabilities, it's about creating a society where needs and differences can be respected and recognized without being unequal. It's about creating a world where families can raise children with the support they need from the community, instead of institutionalizing them.

Oh, my kids. They are a part of my family, a part of my heart, a part of my pain, a part of my dreams. I worry about them, sometimes, when I wake up in the middle of the night. I wonder who they will become, what lives they will lead years from now. I wonder what their parents would think of me, of my blog and my queerness. I struggle to balance my own life with the drive to want to put all my needs to the side, just to focus on theirs. I closed the case files of three children this week, and I opened two more, and I found that 'hello' and 'goodbye' are equally fraught with complexity. I hear stories, like my professor's, and I am reminded again and again that children and adults with special needs and disabilites are everywhere -- but we don't tell these stories enough, we don't talk about (or against) stigma enough. So I'm making a commitment to do so -- to speak up every time someone expresses pity, every time someone says "retarded" or "crippled" or something equally offensive. I'm making a commitment to remember that social justice isn't just about my community, but about every member of every community.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Young Girls, They Do Get Weary

I'm hopping on a plane in seven days for San Francisco, and there's nothing that makes my little heart pound more than a weekend of intense, sex-positive emotional bonding with a bunch of queers in a city like San Francisco. I mean. Talk about a dream weekend. 

Of course, I'm nervous as hell. I build up social anxiety when I think about meeting new people (versus when it's just spontaneous and informal, which helps cull my anxiety). It's also a bit intense to realize that within the span of two and a half days, these people will know me in truly intimate ways. I have a hard time opening up to close friends and partners. There's something different about strangers -- I don't have to see them again, I don't have to let them in on a regular basis -- but I also know that workshops like this are about pushing my boundaries. That, in itself, makes me fucking nervous. And excited. Trepidatious. 

The organizers always ask that we sit and reflect before the workshop. The first day at Easton, we talked about what drove us there -- why we felt called, what made us choose that path, and what drove us to overcome the hurdles to get there. I know that question will arise again. I'm in a much different place than I was a year ago. At that point, I was still very immersed in the pain of my last breakup. I was feeling really lost, and I wanted to reclaim myself, my sexuality, and purge some of the emotional baggage that made getting out of bed on a daily basis very difficult. 

Now, I find I have totally different desires. 

The first day of one of my classes this semester, the professor had us pair off and answer three questions. I don't remember them exactly. But it was something like this... What are your ultimate career goals, Why did you choose this grad program, and What drives you in terms of your career. It's funny, after seventeen years of school, I'm not sure anyone has asked me that outside of an entrance essay. I'm not sure anyone has asked me it outside of school, either. But I found I couldn't even vaguely answer the question. What the fuck do I want? What are my priorities, past finishing school and paying my bills and cooking dinner? Hell, I'm not sure if I cared enough to answer the question, which made me feel even worse.

While I have some strong ideas -- I really want to open a sex shop in NOLA, and I really want to create a queer/trans health clinic -- I also want to make some changes to my life so that there is room for long-term goals and plans. Right now, I can't see past next semester. I don't want to be that short-sighted, and I want to invest in the things that matter to me. School will be ending soon (after I pick out a thesis topic and, you know, write the damn thing). What do I want after that? Why did I put myself through three years and $15K for a grad degree -- what do I want to do with it, with my time, my money, my energy? I don't expect to find an answer next week. But I do want to create space for finding those answers in my life.

I also realize that I need to let go of some of my need and desire for control -- control over my body, over work, over my environment, over what people know and think about me. A lot of the time, that control is an illusion. The rest of the time, it's a way to shield and protect myself or someone else. Either way, it's unhealthy. I don't like to close myself off from people so tightly. I realize that I put off people because I don't give them a chance to get to know me. I short myself by not letting people in, not letting them get close. And when I do invest, I let myself get frustrated or saddened by someone else's actions too easily.   

I remember distinctly the expansive, fragile, and powerful way I felt after the workshop. I remember radiating energy. I remember feeling overstimulated, but if I plugged myself into headphones with a song that I found comforting, then everything was ok. I remember learning to breathe, working toward opening up without getting defensive or scared. I hope to find those feelings, those experiences, again. I hope to find love and life in the city. It's been a long three years since I've been back. A part of me wants to see the Golden Gate bridge since I missed it due to the fog last time. I definitely want to see the bay; I am drawn to water in a peculiar fashion. I want to wander the city at night, stop in small restaurants, blow a kiss to a trolley. I want to connect with queers, I want to talk identity, I want to push the boundaries of how I understand myself. I want to feel the rush of exhilaration that comes from getting on a plane by myself and shooting off to a part of the country that I barely know. I want to take a few days to clear my head, to forget everything I know about my life in NOLA, and to see what sifts out as important after doing so. 

And right now, I want to fall asleep, dreaming of flying over the Sierra Nevada mountains, dreaming of the sun setting over the bay, dreaming of laying hands onto someone else's body in healing, and dreaming of that high, that incredible fucking high, of just really, truly, intensely letting go. 

Goodnight, loves.