Dearly Beloved, I Have Libido Without Love

In this week’s Dearly Beloved, the advice column from author Michael Arceneaux, our dear reader is reeling after the end of a five year relationship. He wants to find a release, but he is noticing some things won’t pick up without a particular feeling first. Bless his heart and his parts.

If you want Michael’s advice, just email him at [email protected] with your question. Just be sure to include SPECIFICS, and don’t forget to start your letter with Dearly Beloved!

It’s a thing.

 

Dearly Beloved,

I broke up with my boyfriend after five years. I try and use Grindr to meet people, but I find it difficult to get an erection with a stranger.

I’m only 27 and attractive. But, I can’t open up and get that feeling that I had with my ex. Has my sex drive died along with my ex’s relationship?

K.

Dear K.,

I love that you wrote “I’m only 27 and attractive.” In my mind, you were laying across a couch with immaculate lighting — think Mariah Carey in the confessional reality show on E! that we like to pretend never happened, but for argument’s sake here, we’ll revisit. Please tell me that’s exactly how it went down; lie to me if you need to.

Anyhow, aww, aren’t you precious? Well, if Pimp C were writing this column, he’d call you a “simp.” However, you’re in luck because I am more like Bun B, and thus a wee bit more sympathetic to your plight.

Actually, my preferred scenario for a sexual eruption sounds a lot like what you have in mind. We’re basically the main theme of Ariana Grande’s catalog: do ho shit with heart. You want the lovey dovey to drive your sex drive. The connection matters most.

Here’s what I would suggest: if you truly need a release, I think you should try to step out of your comfort zone — but only at your own pace. I have worked to be better about not idealizing sex and it helped my dick become far less dusty. If that’s what you want, push it until you get it right (and then Google Tisha Campbell’s “Push” and honor your elders). You’re only used to getting an erection one way, but there are others, and don’t deprive yourself by trying to live up to some ideal.

That said, if you discover that ultimately you prefer sex with someone you are in love with, that is absolutely okay, but you have to adjust accordingly. I suggest you masturbate, meditate, and continue crying out to vintage Mariah Carey.

Signed,

Beloved!

Subtle Homophobia Is The New Blatant Homophobia

A few weeks ago, I went to the library to return a dreadfully boring book. That’s when I encountered a group of the biggest, most ignorant jackasses in the world. No matter how hard I try to forget about those losers, their willful ignorance topped with their heavy New York accents is seared into my cerebellum, just like that awkward Pokémon Go porno.

There were four guys and two girls. They were talking about homophobia, only none of them appeared to be members of the LGBTQ community based on how ignorantly they spoke about the LGBTQ community. They spoke about homophobia as though they were victims of it — as if they understood it better than LGBTQ people. I was absolutely stunned when one of them, with a hideous green shirt on, said, “Homophobia isn’t real. Faggots just want free sympathy and free shit.”

While fags like me are guilty of enjoying free things — not because of my queer identity, but because I enjoy free things, homophobia remains a dark cloud that looms over my head. I wish I could cancel homophobia just as I cancel great singers when they’re exposed for being blatantly homophobic, but I can’t. I experience homophobia every day. So, what gives a cis-heterosexual person a right to cancel homophobia and deny my experiences?

Treating homophobia like a Wookie or the Loch Ness Monster is not helping; it is, however, a clear demonstration of how easily cishet people erase the struggles of queer lives. Either that or cishet people have a very unclear definition of what homophobia is. Homophobia is not always obvious hate crimes, ugly slurs, and blatant discrimination — more often than not, homophobia is subtle, microaggressive and promotes ugly stereotypes about our community.

Just a few years ago, I barely understood what homophobia was. I believed that it was similar to my fear of spiders; I am deathly afraid of spiders. I once threw out an entire bag of clothing because a spider crawled into it. Homophobia is nothing like that.

No one is afraid of queer people, not even the 36-year-old woman who admitted to me that she is “afraid of the LGBT community” because lesbians “always call her beautiful” and “try to grab her butt.”

The term “homophobia” has evolved since it was coined by Dr. George Weinberg, a cis-heterosexual man, in the 1960s. Weinberg coined the term after observing his colleagues’ behavior after he invited his lesbian friend to a party. “I coined the word homophobia to mean it was a phobia about homosexuals,” he said. “It was a fear of homosexuals which seemed to be associated with a fear of contagion, a fear of reducing the things one fought for — home and family. It was a religious fear, and it had led to great brutality, as fear always does.”

However, decades later, the LGBTQ community’s fight for visibility ultimately shaped — and continues to shape — what “homophobia” means now.

Homophobia isn’t always being called well-known slurs like “sissy” or “faggot.” It isn’t always being chased out of neighborhoods when we’re holding hands with our lovers. Homophobia isn’t always direct. Homophobia can be as microaggressive as a small, cancerous lump on someone’s breast. If we leave the small lump untreated, it can develop into something altogether deadly. We should apply this analogy to homophobia — ignoring those microaggressive forms of homophobia can transform it into something deadly or traumatic.

Homophobia can be harmful implications about our sexual morality. For example, I observe how my family members watch me around my younger male cousins as if I’m going to sexually assault them because of my queer identity.

Homophobia can be a harmful implication that I want to have sex with every male that I encounter.

I’ve observed how quickly my father sexualizes my friendships with women (so that he can make me uncomfortable). This is a form of homophobia.

I’ve observed how my aunt’s demeanor changes when she speaks to me (bending her wrist and talking in an overly dramatic feminine voice when speaking to me). This is a form of homophobia.

Whenever I catch a cold, people say I could be HIV positive. This is a form of homophobia. There are too many ways for someone to be homophobic without bringing up my sexuality or dropping the F-bomb.

My ‘Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria’ Was Anything But

When I told my family and my oldest friends that I had recognized myself as a transgender woman and would be pursuing transition, I was 27. Every one of them told me it was far too sudden and that I needed to spend a lot longer thinking about my life before committing to it. Some of them accused people close to me of somehow coercing or corrupting me into my new gender. Most of them tried to convince me that I was actually a dyed-in-the-wool ultra-masculine man’s man, a bizarre and tragicomic idea given my small-framed bookish nerdiness and the facts of what was actually happening. They saw a “sudden” decision and an equally sudden dive into dresses, makeup, long hair, and pretty shoes, because they didn’t see who I had been and what I had been doing and thinking privately for the previous 27 years.

So when I heard that a “researcher” named Lisa Littman had published a widely-criticized “scientific study” proposing that some trans children aren’t “really” trans, and instead coerced by “social contagion” into imagining that they’re trans in a phenomena she deceitfully called “rapid-onset gender dysphoria,” I saw her angle immediately.

I lived a youth and adolescence where being trans wasn’t ever an option. I grew up autistic, like a noteworthy fraction of trans women, and that meant that I spent my youth learning aspects of how to live and maneuver in this world that came naturally to most people. I spent long stretches of my youth in dissociated and depersonalized hazes, disconnected from reality and feeling like a visitor to my own body. I frequently looked at myself in the mirror and saw a stranger, who moved like I did but could never be me. I absorbed much of what I was told about the world and about myself as simple data, necessary to make anything make sense. In that environment, “you’re a boy” and “these are boy clothes” and “those are girl toys” seemed like just more data, more facts to absorb. I had a deep fascination with all things feminine, but the rules let me engage with it only in specific ways, and I got used to it. I grew to find shame and fear in many feminine things, terrified of what it would mean and how I might suffer if I were seen to enjoy or accept them too much. A cissexist upbringing in a cissexist society had left me with no idea that there was any other option. And I was desperately unhappy.

As I grew older, I tried to surround myself with female friends and had strong opinions about their clothing that I kept to myself. I used to catch myself experiencing painful, wistful envy at women dressed in the ways that, I would eventually admit to myself, I wanted to dress. I privately obsessed over stories about people trading bodies, people taking on others’ likenesses, and otherwise changing their shapes. I kept small stashes of feminine clothing in my room, hidden in places that parents and partners wouldn’t look. In secret moments, I would put them on and just…live in them. I felt beautiful in them, beautiful enough that I convinced myself it was a sex thing, but it wasn’t. I kept these parts of myself secret because I knew they were weird. I knew that most “men” didn’t do these things. One of the lessons I had internalized before I entered middle school was that the only real safety I would ever know was in keeping the full depth of my weirdness hidden, and I learned it well.

Until I had supportive friends and partners in my life, I thought this psychic anguish was just what life was like. Secrets, hiding, dissociation, envying cis women their femininity…this world had concealed from me that things could be any better than that. I vacillated between thinking that everyone else must be this miserable, and imagining that my impossible weirdness was unique to me. I had to be out of my bigoted, abusive parents’ home and in another country for years before I could feel safe enough to try other thoughts. It was those supportive people, and the slow shedding of my denial that they enabled, that let me see. I wasn’t doomed; I was trans. I could finally see myself, and take the steps I needed to truly become myself.

My family, thousands of miles away, were the last people I told, and the people who saw the least of my journey. And they called it “sudden,” because they are the kind of people I wouldn’t have told at all if I could have avoided it. My father told me that he wished I’d told him and my mother sooner, “because then we could have tried to stop you.” My parents have since stopped speaking to me at all.

The stories that Littman and her ilk used to build their deception about “social contagion” look like mine. They are stories of trans children who couldn’t or wouldn’t tell their parents what they were feeling, who were punished for gender-nonconforming behavior, and who did their exploring in secret. They are children who only began to figure out their genders when they encountered people and spaces who showed them that the one their parents assigned them wasn’t the only option. They are children who feel safe and accepted and loved in queer spaces and spend most of their time there if they can, because the rest of the world is far less kind. They are people who, when they finally reach the point of being confident in how they must proceed, surprise the people they’d been hiding from, and delight the people who had been watching them grow.

What bigoted parents call “sudden,” I call “careful.”

And if you’re Littman and survey parents recruited from anti-trans hate sites in your study that is supposedly about trans youth, you get a lot of stories about “contagion” that are actually about insight, and stories about haste that are actually about patience. You get a lot of stories like mine.

Michelle Tea Gets The Tea From … Cristy C. Road

Cristy C. Road’s artwork is a visual soundtrack for the revolution, illustrating uprisings and protests, centering people of color, queers, messy punks, people with disabilities, every type of body, all of them roiling with passion and rage, big emotions and beauty. Her work is iconic, and often her gaze is turned on herself, as in her illustrated memoirs Indestructible: Growing Up Queer, Cuban and Punk in Miami; Bad Habits: A Love Story, and Spit and Passion.

Last year, Road produced a true masterpiece: The Next World Tarot, a groundbreaking tarot deck featuring the individuals who have long populated Road’s work: femmes and fags, old and young, fat girls and genderqueer punks, all of them rebuilding our world in the wake of an apocalypse. It is gorgeous and gritty and goes a long way to correct the skinny, white heterosexual bias of the traditional tarot. It’s an important work. Long obsessed with her visual art, today Road is prioritizing her band, Choked Up, while waiting for the deck to go into its next printing.

I loved spending time with her on the many Sister Spit tours we shared and was psyched she took the time to answer my same 15 questions!

What is the most uncanny thing that you have ever experienced?

Oh damn, there are so many that are kind of expected — random bullshit, the government, etc. But I want to reminisce about that time we were on Sister Spit tour and we got lost in a Swedish forest in the dead of night. Our driver wasn’t using GPS or familiar with the territory, so we ended up in a dark foggy forest where our car was the only source of light. That was cool except no trolls. I always retell that story!

What is in your bag right now?

Not very exciting today, but a great look into my soul: My computer, a pack of my band’s stickers just in case I see something to put them on, two bandanas for crying/boogers, a wallet filled with pennies, guitar picks, bobby pins, my headphones, my RFID blocking wallet, my weed bag which just happens to be a tiny leopard print clutch thank you very much.

Please share the 15th picture on your cell phone.

Holy crap, you’re a magical witch! It’s a picture of this unfinished painting from 2009.  It’s about healing from trauma. I really want to finish it! I’ve been thinking of posting this version to social media, but then that would involve this whole essay about healing and punk and the Me Too movement and the ’90s and accountability movements in punk and —  I don’t know right now, I need to think.

How are you like or not like your sun sign?

I’m a GEMINI. I love caps lock, talking, tangents, writing memoirs, being very organized but with LOTS of color coding + aesthetics before function [or grammatical rules]. I love all animals and talking and singing to them. The most grounding things are potlucks, family BBQ’s and performing to a crowd. I’m a visual artist because that is a gift I can wield into important work, but I’m a musician because that is what I LOVE to do. I’ve been writing songs since I was a kid, and punk songs since 1995.

My journey to now, where I’m prioritizing music, is where the Gemini stops. I’m a Cancer rising and moon. I’ll never forget the time you didn’t believe I was a Cancer rising because of my Aerosmith performance at karaoke in maybe Germany (I was drunk), so you double checked, but I mistakenly gave you the wrong birth time, and I spent almost 10 years thinking I was a GEMINI RISING, and therefore uncharacteristically anti-social and protective, and also depressed but in a creative way (like a Jawbreaker song). I validated I actually was a Cancer rising a few months ago — thanks, Mom. It’s what most people are going to get until we hang out at a BBQ and someone brings up flan or pop-punk and I can’t stop yelling for some reason. I’m also a Gemini Mercury. I’m just Greta Gremlin except constantly needing to feel at home.

What is the last book you read? Song you listened to? Show or movie you watched?

Book: Love Is In the Earth: A Kaleidoscope of Crystals; Song: Estoy Aqui by Shakira; Movie: Hereditary.

What was the last meal you cooked?

Chorizo with cornmeal pudding and roasted potatoes, and I had put out fruit so it’s healthy but I forgot to eat the fruit….  

Where would you like to go on vacation right now?

Space / the moon, but in a safe and comfortable way.

Tell me about getting to meet someone you idolize or admire.

I guess I’ll talk about my favorite songwriter — Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day — the first songwriter I ever actually related to as opposed to just enjoy their music. The first time I met Billie Joe Armstrong it was 2000 and I was “Press” at the Warped Tour (for my zine the green’zine,  which started as a Green Day fanzine four years earlier, but at this point included interviews and reviews of other bands + feelings). I met him watching this band, One Man Army, from the side of the stage, and I said hi — he said it was so cool to finally meet me — definitely felt the magic and died inside (obviously, I haven’t forgotten) but I don’t remember being very nice — apparently cause I’m a Cancer rising, that’s the place of power where I go to when I am nervous? I remember complaining about my camera being broken, I also remember being sad and not very upbeat.

I spent most of the day eating BBQ backstage, hooking up with a cute roadie who I never talked to again, and just straight up being sad doing sad author things. My band and my boyfriend had just broken up with me — but at least I had life and art and punk and a prospective future of maybe more feminist narratives from my actual experience that I only hear in a few songs by mostly men? I just wanted Green Day to go on so I could LIVE again. I saw Billie again before Green Day’s set and he got me and all my friends in, to watch from the stage! Obviously, the Green Day stage was restricted….. But Billie dedicated “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield” to me. They also played “Christie Road” in the same set. I don’t know if that was a mistake but I guess I don’t want to know because “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield” is about anxiety and coming of age…… That was WILD and magical– I definitely died and did not care one bit that my tape recorder had JUST been smashed by a stagehand! Anyway, he was super supportive of my work back in the ’90s when I started the green’zine, and still is of everything I’ve done since– so that’s an inspirational tale for everyone. If you admire or relate to any cultural creator, write a zine about them, and hopefully, they aren’t assholes!

What are you like when you’re sick?

I’m always coughing stuff up, burping a whole bunch, but trying really hard to stay human and get work done, except every now and then I just hack something. If I can’t stay human, I’m not very exciting — just grumpy yet self-sufficient to the point where you can’t tell if I’m sick until I burp or hack something.  

What are you obsessed with or inspired by right now?

I’m obsessed with the secret process of releasing The Next World Tarot’s second pressing, and also my band. I love working on that project with a publisher who works primarily with comics, and also through this process that is way more internal than self-publishing. I’m excited about my band in a new way—I guess playing music has always been this need and obsession, I’ve always been obsessed with my bands, but I think this one feels different because I can see myself before I see anyone else’s take on me for the first time ever. I’ve been integrating readings from the deck with shows and also seeing fans of my art being present at shows; but in a way I’ve never seen before, because these fans aren’t always into “punk,” but believe in the same things and enjoy the music. I’m obsessed with all the tables being turned in all of the punk sub-communities I’m a part of — so many women-fronting melodic punk bands, people of color fronting bands of all genres, discussions on race or gender being inherent to so many stages from basements to arenas in forms I’ve never seen before. I hate what the world has come to, but it’s important for me to appreciate when entire communities raise their consciousness.

What are you upset about right now?

The uprising of white supremacy is at the forefront of my rage and the walls I’ve built around myself lately. I think this way of thinking is adjacent to misogyny and homophobia, too, so I don’t think I even need to elaborate how this consciousness (that is so old, yet hip) is a bigot-end-all. I’m upset about folks who have the power and ability to alter the problem but would rather focus on neutrality instead of place themselves in the world.  

What is the most recent dream you remember?

I literally forget every dream these days. I just remember vague details from most recent years. I do remember some exceptionally wild ones from throughout life, though. The most recent is from 2012. I was in a group of good friends who were all gushing about how talented my ex is and how they all want to do projects with him. I was very uncomfortable and wanted to cry but eventually snapped and was like WHO CARES?!?!? And walked away. 

In real life, I was in a romantic friendship situation with said ex, and that instability would constantly make me feel horrible, since I was deeply not over this person. So I leave the party and go to the back patio which happens to be FULL of baby tigers and some mother tigers laying around the pool. I got on the couch and snuggled with one and started talking to it, asking when things will be easier. I noticed my mom walking out in the yard with trash bags, collecting the baby tigers—SO I TOLD HER TO STOP. I said they were my friend. THE END.

(Spoiler alert: I actually researched this dream and found out tigers represent personal power and dealing with insecurities; which makes this less funny.)

Who are your queer ancestors?

Frida Kahlo and Benny More.

What is your dream project?

I always get Gemini about this question because everything I pursue is my “dream”- my band, memoirs, tarot deck. So I’m going to stick to something I don’t have control over: Maybe a tour festival, like Warped Tour (we all get RVs) with Choked Up featuring, like, I don’t know … Green Day / Against Me / Downtown Boys / Alice Bag / Rancid / RVIVR / Los Crudos / Bad Cop Bad Cop / Bombpops / Propagandhi / and maybe a Spitboy Reunion? I don’t know, it’s just a thought.

What are you doing this weekend?

I don’t know, probably being anti-social in nature? Tuesday will be my actual weekend, because Choked Up is playing with ALICE BAG and NYC Latinx pokeras Ratas En Zelo in Brooklyn. It’s on a roof so I hope it doesn’t rain.

The Cis-Heterosexual Community’s Obsession with Queer Sex Has a Name: Sexual Harassment

Before I was old enough to dress myself, I became a victim of sexual harassment. I have many assailants — my father, aunts, uncles, cousins, cis-heterosexual friends, strangers, and past employers. This list becomes longer every day.

I’m not alone. Queer people are sexually harassed on a daily basis. We are sexually harassed at family dinners, at work, at doctor visits, even in our own homes. However, we seldom acknowledge our victimhood — partly because it is ingrained in our day-to-day lives, mostly because no one has placed that label on our experiences.

Before Lin Farley coined the term “sexual harassment” in August 1975, it was a nameless disease that spread widely, disproportionately impacting women in professional and social environments. But names are essential to pharmaceutical scientists when discovering cures for many diseases.

Farley first used the phrase in public during a hearing on women in the workplace by the New York City Human Rights Commission, where she testified as a professor at Cornell University. In an op-ed for the New York Times, she reflected on how giving a name to sexual harassment helped millions of working women come forward with their own experiences and demand change. “The enthusiasm with which women embraced the idea of sexual harassment indicated an intense desire to change conditions for themselves at work; our new vocabulary would help,” she wrote.

“Sexual harassment” means different things to everyone who experiences it. Sexual harassment constitutes unsolicited sexual advances, physical or verbal remarks of a sexual nature, and sexual coercion. For queer people, sexual harassment is also obscene remarks or uncomfortable questions about our sexual identities.

At eight-years-old, one of my aunts accused me of being “butt raped” because I wasn’t “manly” enough. Each time she got around me, she would exaggerate the dangers of anal sex and ask me if I still had my “butthole virginity.” This is a form of sexual harassment.

At 14, my father became obsessed with my sexuality. He wanted me to have sex with a prostitute to prove my interest in women. When I declined, he asked me if I was gay. Too afraid to tell him about my queer identity, I lied; lying gave him the opportunity to try and coerce me into having sex with a woman while he watched. This is sexual harassment.

At 19, another one of my aunts helped me get a job at an after-school program as a tutor. After two weeks of working with her, she made up detailed rumors about catching me and my cis-heterosexual male co-worker having anal sex in front of six and seven-year-old children. These lies continued until my coworker and I were separated into different groups. This is sexual harassment.

Being forced to explain one’s sexual identity or how they engage in queer sex is sexual harassment. Refusing to place a label on this behavior from our cis-heterosexual counterparts enables the furtherance of this behavior.

In an interview for Vice, queer people weighed in on the most uncomfortable questions cis-heterosexual people have asked them. Tayte Hanson, a photographer and adult film star, said, “Most gay men are hypersensitive to superficial questions, like sexual preferences, or if I feel feminine when I’m bottoming. I don’t have a problem with those—porn has hardened me.” While Hanson makes light of this question, he failed to acknowledge that he is often sexually harassed by cis-heterosexual people and that he is used to it.

In the same interview, Sarah Meyer, a multidisciplinary artist, said, “My therapist once asked how women have sex with one another. Like: What? Where is your imagination? Why should I help you use it?” While Meyer made light of the question, she, too, failed to acknowledge that she was sexually harassed during a session of therapy that she paid for.

This is not uncommon; we don’t acknowledge questions like this as sexual harassment because we are conditioned to believe that our identities are too complex for cis-hetero comprehension. This is the same thing as the general public defending the false sense of entitlement a man has over a woman’s body.

Queer people must hold the cis-heterosexual community and one another accountable for their weird and dangerous obsession with our identities. To do that, we have to give their obsession a name. That name is sexual harassment. While we continue to call people out for sexual misconduct in our own community, we must do the same to the cis-heterosexual community.

Image via Getty

George is Tired…Of Rappers Who Don’t Read

Kanye West doesn’t read. Neither does Kendrick, or Chance the Rapper, or [insert the name of most male rappers who make statements not knowing what the fuck they are talking about].

Mr. West was once known as a “genius” in our community (though not by all of us chile…). The man who notoriously went on TV and declared that “George Bush doesn’t care about Black People” (which was correct to be fair). The man who famously went on TV and grabbed the mic from Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs and said: “Imma let you finish but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time”(which he was also correct about). But like the old saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Since that time, Mr. West has become a MAGA hat-wearing, ignorant tweeting shell of what many thought he was—most recently stating that “Slavery was a choice” and asking for the abolishment of the 13th amendment. You know, the amendment that abolished Slavery, which is weird because if you know that slavery had to be ABOLISHED than how could it have also been a choice? Then again, WHEN YOU DON’T FUCKING READ you can end up in this contradictory state of foolishness.

Now I wouldn’t have so much of a problem if Koonye was making these statements and people were able to see past the hotep logic and pay it no mind. However, the legions of followers who have went on defense about how Slavery was actually a choice leaves me no choice but to actually write my thoughts out on the danger of placing leadership titles on rappers who clearly don’t have the range. Oh, and that minstrel show of a press conference he did yesterday with that Orange man was foolishness at its finest.

Rap music has always been a part of pushing the culture forward and informing the world about the many atrocities faced by particular segments of the Black community. Rappers have had the ability to make those less informed about what is happening in society become more aware in brilliant ways. People who may never tune in to the news, or even notice what is happening around them in the world are easily more informed by rappers and their music than community leaders and grassroots activists preaching many of the same themes and topics.

So, let’s make it abundantly clear. SLAVERY WAS NOT A FUCKING CHOICE. Not reading and knowing what the fuck you are talking about is, though. The education system is a set up for us in this community. Textbooks are written through a gaze that centers whiteness, removing many crucial elements including the facts about what actually happened. 

For Black folks, and Queer folks, and those of us who are both, there is a lot of unlearning that must happen outside the classroom to understand who we truly are and what we encompass. Rappers are often prone to being misogynistic and homophobic, a pattern that has had dangerous consequences for many of us. 

The old saying goes, “If you want to hide something from a Black person, put it in a book.” Unfortunately, this generation of rappers who claim to be speaking truth on a community they have clearly not read up on continue to make this quote pretty damn truthful. There is no way you can understand the plight of Black people in this country and think that any of our oppression was by choice. Furthermore, the continued attacks with the use of homophobia and misogyny is just late and tired.

These same rappers who wear queer brands, get their faces beat and styled by queer folks continue to participate in cognitive dissonance for a few snaps in agreement with their homophobic hotep bases. They constantly go on these rants about how pro-Black they are only to disrespect Black people they feel don’t meet their standard of acceptable Blackness. This must end.

There are too many ways to access Beyoncé’s internet for these men to not know of what they are speaking. There are too many search engines on Al Gore’s internet for them not to google some questions before spouting out dangerous rhetoric. We have lived in an era where rappers are heralded as social consciousness leaders. Any social consciousness that doesn’t have the requirement of reading is dead on sight. It’s just a projection of patriarchy, masculinity, and an undying desire to be like our white counterparts.

Levar Burton walked so that you could read. In all seriousness, times are too dangerous for us to play around with the enemy using alternative facts and ahistorical statements to prop up whiteness while disparaging parts of the Black community. So, take a look. It’s in a book. Read, y’all.

(special mention to M.B. Jordan who didn’t know we had Black folklore and mythology. READ, y’all. READDDDD!)

How I Learned To Love My Lesbian Identity

As cliche as it is, the first lesbian I ever saw was Ellen DeGeneres.

But as a kid in South Africa, I didn’t have the language for what she was — I only knew the word “gay.” I knew so little about what it meant that she dressed as she did, and she had short hair, and that those things had little to do with who she chose to love. I just understood that she wasn’t the norm.

I don’t remember learning the word lesbian, but because of how ugly I found it for so many years, I know it was probably in a bigoted context. There are so many layers as to why it took me a long time to make that word fit my body and why I jumped through so many loopholes to try to avoid it. I think a lot of lesbians do, because a world that intrinsically values male prowess over most things is bound to demonize an identity that by definition excludes men.

The word “lesbian” originated from the name of the Greek Island Lesbos, where poet Sappho lived amongst mostly women. It doesn’t take reading a lot of her work to know she’s writing about romantic and sexual relationships with women. Even when there are no clear pronouns to the lovers she writes for, the sheer drama of Sappho screams dyke.

Although our history goes all the way back to ancient Greece, records of lesbians existing in the world are almost nonexistent. Our relationships were never considered legitimate enough to be salvaged. Thousands of years worth of letters, art, even Sappho’s poetry, have been completely erased. Our identities are relegated to trends and undermined and fetishized. It still happens today with lesbian characters in film and television routinely dying. When they stay alive they are overly sexualized, ending up with men or suffering other unspeakable tragedies.

As a young lesbian, seeing all of this doesn’t make you readily accept that that’s who you are. You instead become the antagonist of your own life, vilified by every aspect of your own being. If the thing you are is the reason you hate yourself, you create a prison inside yourself that ultimately becomes a paradoxical nightmare of a labyrinth to escape.

The solution to this internal conundrum for my baby dyke self was to exist in ambiguity. While it is true that for some people sexuality is fluid, and identifying as queer is completely valid, I hid behind that word for a long time to prevent myself from falling down the lesbian spiral of self-hatred that the world sold to me as tolerance. I hid behind the ambiguity in the hopes that it would become true that I could potentially fall in love with a man. That way I wouldn’t even have to come out to my friends and my family and my queerness would be a secret I wouldn’t mind keeping to myself. And as I met more lesbians I started moving away from that thought process but not entirely.

Being outed wasn’t exactly helpful in all of this internal chaos. I felt completely robbed of my agency and defeated in my own journey to self-understanding and acceptance. When it happened I was still not completely okay with the word lesbian. It sounded so uncomfortable in my voice. It’s not the prettiest word. It’s not a word you get accustomed to easily.

But it grows on you. It wasn’t organic for me, and certainly not without relentless internal contention, but now when I call myself a lesbian, it sounds more than right. It sounds whole and all-encompassing. It sounds like I’ve had to shed so many preconceived notions of who I was and who a lesbian was. It sounds like I had to bridge a seemingly impossible gap between those two things. And that reconciliation was holy. I felt reborn into the version of myself I was so sure existed somewhere. I’m so thankful that I didn’t give up looking for that version of myself. I’m thankful that I didn’t settle for someone I wasn’t okay being.

Telling lesbians that they might end up with a man because sexuality is fluid is akin to homophobic parents hoping for the same outcome. It doesn’t really hear what it means to be a lesbian. It’s dismissive and it invalidates this journey. It robs us of our stories and how we go through this impossible feat of self-love.

Coming out is extremely hard no matter what the people closest to you think. The society we live in so consistently force feeds us this cis heteronormative version of happiness and family and forever, it’s impossible to escape. It’s impossible not to internalize that consistent homophobia. As a lesbian, that internalization is twofold because of the misogyny both in the world and the queer community.

The journey to lesbian to dyke to sapphic, the journey to wearing a concrete and unwavering identity, is hard. No one can help you through it or accurately warn you about how arduous it is, but once you reach the end it feels like a unique kind of liberation. The kind that rushes through every part of your body, that makes you leap out of bed in the morning and walk on air, with every dissent about your being just bouncing off your skin because you know something they don’t. You know who you are and the rest of the world has nothing to do with it.

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Coming Out Can Be Lonely

Queer people learn all the lessons our heterosexual counterparts learn and then some; not because we want to be burdened with extra work, but simply as a consequence of our identities. We learn to be a little more “manly” or “womanly” than we’re comfortable with. We learn to hide what we may never realize are the best parts of ourselves. We learn to be prepared for the worst, because we’ve been led to believe the worst is more than any of us deserve.

Preparedness is something queer people never take for granted. It’s something our survival is predicated on. We’ve long found comfort in our preparedness, even in the most uncomfortable situations.

Coming out is all about preparedness. It’s a process so many of us spend years getting ready for. And even when we’ve spent a lifetime in preparation, some of us never actually go through with it.

As we look at our representation in media and the stories we see most often about being queer, one of the most valuable themes you realize is that you must prepare yourself for anything. Especially when it comes to coming out. We only get one shot at this; the stakes are so high and so many queer people have lost their lives before, during and after the process.

No matter how many times you play out reaction scenarios in your head. No matter how many speeches you write down on note cards that you hide under your bed. No matter how many times you’ve seen the other queer kid in your school smiling and happy, you never truly feel prepared enough to come out.

Then it happens. You’ve done it. You come out. Not long after you do, you realize there’s something no TV show, book or movie ever prepared you for: the loneliness.

Coming out is one of the loneliest processes many of us experience. Because, well, no one knows you’re going to do it and you’ve never done it before. There is no rulebook for the process, but somehow many of us manage to make it through. However, very few of us do so unscathed.

The loneliness you feel before coming out is something many of us can reconcile with because it’s a state of loneliness we expect. The more crippling and surprising loneliness is the kind that occurs after we’ve come out and have to ask ourselves “So, what now?” There are so many new questions that you need answers to after you’ve come out, but there are few people to ask and what feels like even fewer people who care.

Even when you start to make gay friends — actually, especially when you start to make gay friends who are going through the same thing, you find yourself figuring out how to be gay on your own. After all, how can anyone teach you something that they’re still experimenting with themselves? They may teach you terminology, choreography, and how to use Grindr, but those things don’t define you. The presence of other queer people in your life doesn’t alleviate the feeling that your coming out has become a burden on every person around you. It can be so isolating, depressing and frankly terrifying to navigate the idea that your coming out has impacted the lives of everyone around you in a way you sometimes believe is not for the better.

There’s a level of guilt that comes with knowing your parents, other family and friends now will likely tell everyone else who are regular fixtures in your life that you are queer. It’s even more isolating to consider that they might do so apologetically as if it’s some new unfortunate circumstance everyone now has to live with. It can be lonely to feel like your mere existence is taking up so much space in the lives of those around you, yet you still feel completely ignored.  

It’s a hard pill to swallow when you feel guilty that because you’ve come out, people around you now have been burdened with choosing their words carefully so as not to offend you. It’s even more bitter when you realize people will seldom ask you how you feel, but instead feel they know more about what offends you, what you should be interested in and how you should feel than you do. It stings when you can’t tell them for sure that they are right or wrong about that. It hurts when they don’t even recognize that you wish you were as sure of yourself as they are sure of you.

The fact of the matter is, most of us don’t know don’t know what kind of person we are in our newly accepted sexuality. It’s hard to admit how lonely you are because people also believe that queers are extremely confident. That loneliness can be crippling, till one day it isn’t. For some of us, that day never comes.

There is hope, however. Not that one day you’ll wake up and feel completely surrounded by love and acceptance, but in the realization that, as queer people, some of the best magic we have is that we don’t need that constant love and acceptance to survive. To thrive, even. Loving ourselves can be fuel enough. Our resilience and utility need not be rooted in acceptance from others, because we have everything we need inside of us.

After all, we’ve made it this far feeling alone and that’s OK, because, throughout the course of your life, others will help you shoulder that burden. Sometimes for years, others for just a day and several times during a dance on a crowded dance floor.  Acknowledge it when it happens. Prepare yourself for the times it doesn’t. Recognize and act when you can do it for others. We’ve all got so far to go. We need each other to get there.

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The ‘A’ Doesn’t Stand For Ally

“There’s something I’ve been wanting to say my whole life: I’m an ally.” 

While it may seem evident to many of us that coming out as an ally isn’t actually a thing, apparently the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) didn’t get the memo. The largest LGBTQ civil rights organization in the United States recently announced October 11th as the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day (NCOD). In their announcement, the advocacy group claimed that “coming out — whether it is as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or allied — STILL MATTERS” before again emphasizing that “straight allies” deserved recognition for their bravery when coming out.

The decision to put allies in the spotlight multiple times in an announcement celebrating coming out was certainly a choice. Several variations of the LGBT acronym notably feature the letter ‘A,’ not for allies, as the HRC practically alludes to, but rather as representing asexual, aromantic, and agender people, all of which were omitted from the coming out narratives acknowledged here. Centering allies while omitting people who identify as part of the community should run contrary to the goals of a self-proclaimed advocacy group claiming to support us.

As an asexual person who dedicates a lot of their time advocating for a better understanding of the identity via The Asexual, a quarterly journal and platform publishing ace writers and artists, for the HRC to applaud straight allies, celebrating their alleged bravery in coming out, while being silent on asexuality felt as if our community, among others, were being erased. Not only was the largest LGBT activist organization conveying that our experiences with coming out were insignificant, but also that our place in the larger queer community was marginal at best, and nonexistent at worst.

Researchers Pádraig MacNeela and Aisling Murphy noted in a 2015 study that when asexual people come out we are often perceived as embodying a “disorder of desire” related to an assumed biomedical flaw with our bodies, transitional immaturity that characterizes us as “late bloomers” going through an adolescent phase, or as existing in an amendable state for simply not having “met the right person yet.” These invalidating reactions exist as the inaccurate yet prevailing assumptions by which asexual people must navigate when determining whether to come out to others.

This has played out reflectively in my own life. Whenever I have come out, my asexuality is nearly always met with doubt, meaning I have to either “plead my case” to a doubtful ear or smile and nod until the conversation dissipates, if I’m not in the mood. Being somewhat male-identified and non-sexually attracted to men, my gayness seems to make my asexuality even more burdensome. While my gay identity has been celebrated and accepted by queer people and allies with open arms, upon subsequently coming out as asexual, I’m disbelieved, painted as a “respectable queer” in my perceived celibacy, told not to “give up” because one day I’ll find the right guy who’ll want to fuck me.

The simultaneous acceptance and rejection of gay asexuality is almost expected in a world where asexual people are regularly gatekept from the LGBTQ community and labelled as not “queer enough.” While the HRC omitted asexual people from NCOD with the power and visibility of its platform, online discourse during Pride Month 2018 also illustrated this accordingly. Popular social media posts stating that asexuals were “on fucking thin ice” with the community were distributed to the tune of tens of thousands of retweets. Posts of this tone were certainly not outliers. Entire articles have since been written documenting how asexuality was “subject to more than its share of scrutiny” last Pride Month. 

Hostility against ace inclusion in the LGBTQ community remains an ongoing phenomenon. Brian Fink, a Professor of Public Health at the University of Toledo, asserts that “over the past decade, there have been numerous non-academic articles and online discussions where the inclusion of asexuals in the LGBTQ community has been debated.” However, despite the recurring invalidation, aces have continued to advocate for our space in the community to be recognized. In fact, a 2015 survey indicated that over 80% of asexual people support the inclusion of asexuality in the LGBTQ community.

Whether in Pride Month or for NCOD, asexual people continue to endure opposition. However, while the HRC prioritized allies in their announcement celebrating those who come out, other LGBT-focused advocacy organizations have been moving much quicker to accept asexual people openly. GLAAD and The Trevor Project now recognize ‘A’ for asexual people and not allies in their LGBTQ glossaries. GLAAD has even openly declared that “the ‘A’ in LGBTQIA represents millions of Asexual, Agender, and Aromantic people, who are far too often left out of the conversation about acceptance.

If the HRC could meet the rest of us in 2018 and openly acknowledge asexuality and the diversity of queer experiences via NCOD, it would help validate the struggles we must overcome while navigating a society that struggles to understand us. Including asexual people may also counter narratives that claim we are not “queer enough” to be under the rainbow umbrella, putting forth a message that all of us in the queer community who find a resonance with the ‘A’ shouldn’t be overshadowed by performative or self-concerning allyship (basically the only allies who would ever “come out” in the first place). 

It’s not that allies aren’t important to queer people. Of course, having supporters who will defend your personhood against bigotry and violence is important. But being an ally of a community doesn’t make you a part of it. An ally shouldn’t want their experiences to be prioritized by organizations that position themselves as existing for a community’s benefit. If the HRC can use its platform to commend “straight allies” for their “bravery” in “coming out,” an issue which, on its own, reads as objectionable, recognizing asexual, aromantic, and agender people is long overdue.

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Queer Abby: When You’ve Been Shunned

Dear Queer Abby, 

I need advice. I live in a small city and I don’t have many friends. Three years ago, I moved here to be with a partner but we broke up about a year ago when the relationship turned abusive. 

My ex has lived in this city for 20 years, is a musician and knows everyone. I definitely inappropriately outed him as abusive but no one believes me. I have/had a lot of mental health issues and wasn’t the best partner myself, and they’ve used this to turn people against me. 

I know I sound paranoid but people who were my friends (I thought) no longer respond to me at all. Somehow I did feel like adding their name to a local list of abusers was the right thing to do. Anonymously. 

The real trouble started when I reached out to a handful of people for support and was challenged, rebuffed, ignored and humiliated. One of their bandmates has been actively spreading around that I’m a liar. I’m not a liar. It did happen. But I feel crazy.

I don’t have enough money to move away and I’m afraid to go to shows, bars, even the comic book store, where I might run into judging people. 

As if the original abuse wasn’t enough! I don’t feel indignant though, I just feel depressed, anxious and defeated. I go to therapy and all that but I could really use your wisdom on what to do here.

Signed,

Shunned Here In Traumatized Terror & Embarrassed 

Dear SHITTE, 

I’m so, so sorry for what you’re going through in your town. It sounds rotten. 

The good news is, you existed before this relationship, and you will be able to exist and form your own reality after this relationship. 

I consulted with a Capricorn, and here’s what we think you should do: Make a plan to get the fuck out of there. 

Decide where you want to go. Do you want to move back to the place you moved from? Do you have good friends or an opportunity in a different town? Are you looking to join a community in a larger city?  See what seems easy, what place feels inviting, and write it down. 

Side question: If you needed help, would your family members help you out with money? If so, I recommend reaching out. Getting as far away from an abusive ex and his town of delegates is as legitimate a reason to ask for help as any.

Back to the plan. 

Reach out to your friends and people you know from your past. See if you can find a sublet or a room or a job somewhere else. Anywhere else. 

Consider the bare minimum you’ll financially need to get there. (I suggest Marie Kondo-ing your space. Moving is significantly easier and cheaper once you realize you can find another vintage couch in any city on Earth.) 

Figure out every single thing you can do in the meantime to work towards that goal. Babysitting, dog walking, house cleaning, Uber driving, phone sex operating, WHAT-EVER.

Have no young-person friends? Great. Fuck them. More time to work towards your dollar amount. 

People’s inability to show up for you when you were in a time of trouble just shows you who they are. We don’t have time to think about those bozos, because you have money to make and personal growth to attend to. 

In the meantime, I recommend you cultivate activities that are less reliant on crowds of this dude’s conspirators. Go to movies alone, volunteer to walk dogs at the Humane Society, get into a meditation practice, and start calling the people who know you well and knew you before this happened. Reach out. 

It feels upsettingly easy and natural to isolate after abuse. Picking up the phone (not the text) and calling anyone who is kind will help you. There are people who love you. They may not be the coolest people on earth, but they exist, be it your grandma or cousin or former roommate. 

It’s like deprogramming from a cult. Talk to people who can remind you who you are. 

The world is large and this person can enjoy his small kingdom of enablers, but you, my dear, do not have to stick around to see it. 

Why fight against this cold current?  Go where it’s warm. 

Good luck. 

Sincerely,

Queer Abby

P.S. When you do see these people in public (at the grocery store or the comic book shop) I recommend you channel Jinkx Monsoon saying  “Water off a duck’s back.” When she was on Drag Race, she was made to work in close quarters with queens who were actively bullying her. And YET! She had her mantra and she let her light shine, not necessarily on them (because they were undeserving assholes — I am looking at you, Roxxxy Andrews), but where it counted and needed to be.  

I would maintain a Dog Whisperer/Oprah stance of calm, assertive energy. You can be polite and friendly on a surface level and then walk away and pray/wish for them that they never have to be in the situation you were in, because that was a terrible place to be. Don’t spit when you hear their names, just let them go. 

I’m so glad you’re out of the relationship, and I believe you can get out of this city. You deserve a second act!

P.P.S. 

CONFIDENTIAL TO SHITTE: 

When I was a younger person, I broke up with an abusive artist whose work a lot of people loved. The breakup did the quick work of revealing who was willing to toss me in a ditch if it given the chance to be closer to low-level fame, but it also illuminated the people left standing. The people I knew from before, and the newer friends who were willing to listen and show up when I needed them. 

It’s important not to let the negative voices or strangers’ opinions take up all the space in your head. Turn up the volume on the people and animals who love you, feed those relationships by being a good reciprocal friend, and I wish you the very best. 

If you have a question for Queer Abby, send it in an email to [email protected].