Tag Archives: transgender

Intersections of Inclusion

So, you might be looking at the title and thinking, “Huh?”

But those two words are HUGE buzz words in my communities right now.

Intersectionality – the realization that my cause is your cause and that all causes feed into each other if we are talking of social justice, economic justice, legal justice…

Inclusivity – making sure that when we speak, organize and act, we are including as many people as we can in our process. (Whether they join is up to them, but we want to try to not deliberately exclude them from the conversation or action.)

But buzz words are just buzz words – until they aren’t. Until you actually see them in action.

This past weekend I attended Catalyst Con West.

It’s a pretty big conference centered around sparking conversations about sex.

It catered to a diverse crowd of sex positive speakers, educators, writers and advocates from Tenured PhD. professors to sex workers to dabblers and everyone in between.

It was a hugely diverse crowd both in natural-born characteristics and in lifestyle choices. And all were implicitly welcomed on equal terms and equal footing.

For three amazing days, we were all just… people.

hugging shakers

Hugs all around.

It was one of the rare times that I felt like I was really participating in the mythical melting pot of America.

There were people of all races and ethnicities.

People of diverse ability levels from people with severe physical disabilities, mental disabilities, almost imperceptible disabilities.

There were people of all genders. And I say all rather than both because as I’ve stated before, gender is NOT a binary. There are many shades of gender.

There were people of all sexes. (see above, sex is also NOT a binary.)

There were people of many different sexualities, asexual, bisexual, heterosexual, homosexual, and other shades that don’t come with easy labels.

There were people of all different body types from skeletal to extra voluptuous.

There were people from all different levels of socio-economic background.

People with all different levels of education from PhD to nothing beyond elementary school.

I heard at least 6 different languages being spoken.

I met people from at least 5 different faiths.

I spoke with people from every political party in the USA, and Canada.

This was the America that I envision in my dreams.

equality for all

No freedom ’till we’re equal.

This is the America I want to work toward, fight for and see delivered.

An America where people from diverse backgrounds, lives and belief systems can come together and get along.

Did we all agree on everything – ABSOLUTELY NOT.

But were we able to be civil, respectful and kind?

YES.

We were able to talk, to laugh, to joke, to look for and find the commonalities and connect as people, as individuals and as pieces of a larger group – a human group. We were able to find common ground and move forward from there.

And because of that, we were truly able to reach across whatever aisles society had put between us. We were able to open our hearts and minds and listen to the other sides. We were able to learn, to bend, to come together.

In the end, we were able to walk away with the understanding that at our core – we all want the same things.

We all want to love and be loved. We all want to live in fearless freedom – freedom to be ourselves without hurting others and without being harmed in return. We all want to be accepted as we are.

love and be loved

Love is all we need.

I had begun to think this was a utopian pipe dream. I had begun to fall victim to the idea that in attempting to raise everyone up, we are really just sinking to the level of the “lowest common denominator.” As if there is such a thing. As if there are really people with no worth or value.

But this past weekend, I saw the truth. I lived it.

When we make everyone equal, when we accept everyone as human with the same rights, responsibilities and privileges as ourselves – we all rise together and create something that is so much stronger, better and more powerful than we could ever be alone.

Intersectionality.

Inclusion.

These are just fancy words for equality.

For justice.

For the freedom to be ourselves.

Loud and proud.

goodbye closet

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could ALL come out of our closets!?!

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Filed under Naive idealism, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant, Things that work

Your Banned Book Week Reading List

It’s been ages since I talked books in this space, but since it’s banned books week – and I just got home from a writer’s conference where I spent most of the weekend talking books, I realized it was time. Past time, really.

I am a firm believer that teens need access to books with responsible, respectful and truthful information about sex. If you can weave that into a fictional novel without getting on your moral high horse or going preachy – you win!

Teens are struggling with these issues, of sex, sexuality, sexualization – and they don’t have the words and the language to talk about it, because the adults in their life, by and large, are not giving it to them. They find substitute sources of information. Some of them are wonderful and reliable like Scarleteen, Planned Parenthood, and local teen health clinics. Others, less so. They turn to older friends or cousins, they learn through online porn. Some of it hits the mark, and some of it is dangerously off base.

They have questions – and they need answers.

Books can be an amazing, wonderful source of information. Building great characters that teens can identify with can give them more than information – it can give them a role model, it can offer them real life examples of ways to handle tricky situations, it can remind them of the most important thing I think teens need to hear – That they are not alone. They are not the only ones struggling with these issues, grappling with these choices, trying to find a clear path through the mess of hormones, pressures and desires.

Most of the books I talk about in my Sex in YA workshop have been challenged or banned because they “promote teen sex.”

What I have learned in handing these books out to the teens in my life is that they do just the opposite. They have given these teens new ways to think and to talk about the choices before them. New language to deal with the pressures they feel all around them. New options when it comes to juggling their desires.

When I gave a close teenager a copy of Judy Blume’s Forever… I wasn’t sure what she would take from it. I took her out to dinner when she finished the book and asked her what she thought.

“I was really shocked!” She said.

My first thought was, “Oh, no. I messed up.” But I bit my tongue and asked what had shocked her.

“I was surprised by how many times the girl said no. And her boyfriend didn’t leave her. I thought if you wanted to keep your boyfriend, you had to say yes.”

And then I relaxed. This girl had just learned the lesson I think we want all teens to learn – that sex doesn’t equal love, and love doesn’t mean you have to have sex. That a person who won’t take no for an answer, doesn’t deserve your yes.

So, for those of you with teens in your life – or those of you struggling to find your own sexual voice and power – here are a few books to help light the way.

sex curious

Just a few books for the curious teen

Sex positive books that emphasize respect, responsibility and consent.

Forever… by Judy Blume (Judy wrote this book for her daughter who asked for a book where two nice kids have sex without either of them having to die. No lives ruined, responsible sex.)

Another book along these lines is Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky. This one also explores the orgasm gap and the weird myths we have created about the female orgasm being difficult, messy, and not a requirement of sex.

Before I die by Jenny Downham is a sweet, touching, wonderful sex positive book about a girl who is dying, and her bucket list. It covers both sex and love – and the consequences of both! (But not in a shame and fear based way.)

Books that explore homosexuality –

Rainbow Boysby Alex Sanchez This one book explores a jock boy with a girlfriend, who can’t stop thinking about guys when he’s having sex with her. A shy, quiet boy who is gay, but not out. And one boy who is out – and fabulous. It explores homophobia, fear of rejection, taking risks because of that fear, the need for support, responsible sex, fear of HIV/AIDS, etc. Very sweet book. There are more in the series, but I have not read them yet.

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg – Only half way through this book, but I still can’t recommend it enough. I love the premise, and the delivery so far.

An out gay boy in Boulder gets tired of being the gay boy, he gets tired of that being the thing everyone knows about him first. So he sets off to a private school in another state to try to love label free. Not exactly back in the closet, more just standing in the doorway. Or so he thinks. This book explores the desire to live label free, to be more than the box the world puts you in. It feels like it is also about to explore what happens when you deny your label, and the piece of yourself that it reflects.

She Loves You, She Loves You Not by Julie Anne Peters – A young lesbian is dumped by her girlfriend and then thrown out of the house by her homophobic father. She is forced to live with her stripper/prostitute mother. Explores sexuality, acceptance and other issues around female sexuality in general and lesbian sexuality in particular.

Books that opened new doors of understanding for me.

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger – This book follows a person transitioning from girl to boy and explores the issues around being a transgendered youth.

(This book really helped me, as a ciwoman, understand and sympathize with trans* people. Prior to this, I didn’t care if someone transitioned, but I didn’t understand the desire or need to do so. I also didn’t really understand what a big deal it was and how much support people needed. I believe a lot of cispeople don’t get it – this book helped me, a lot. Perhaps it can help others too.)

Luna by Julie Anne Peters is another book about trans youth. In this book a person born male transitions to female. It delves into the differences between homosexuality and being transgender. It talks about transphobia, homophobia and the risks of being yourself, when you don’t fit neatly into a preformed box.

I cover lots of other books in my course, but many of the others go into the darker sides of sex – rape, slut shaming, consequences. For this post, I wanted to challenge everyone to look at teenagers having consensual sex and not freak out. Think about them being safe, responsible, communicative. Think of them exploring, learning, trusting and growing. Think about the pressure they feel – both internally and externally to walk these weird lines of being sexy and attractive but not sexually active. To be smart, get good grades, be active in extracurriculars, be popular. The media tells them being sexy, and sexual, will get them popularity, power, love. But we dangle that carrot and tell them it’s off-limits.

It’s confusing at best, tortuous at worst.

And why? Because WE, the adults, are afraid. Of what, I’m not sure – yes there can be negative consequences to sex – but if we talk about, if we teach them about it, if we give them safe spaces to explore and learn and guidance along the way to encourage healthy communication, boundaries, respect – we can mitigate most of those. We can help them build a safety net and make smarter choices.

And – we can give them access to books – books that let them know they’re not alone. Books that assure them, that it gets better. Books that gave them tools to start making it better, for themselves and their friends, one day at a time.

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Filed under Books, Of Course I'm a Feminist