The story of Zeus, in the guise of a swan, seducing the young and beautiful Aetolian princess, Leda, is a relatively familiar story for any classicist buff. The myth sets the stage for some of the most earth-shattering and epic events in the Greek mythos. The union of Leda and Swan Zeus birthed two important female characters: Helen (of Troy) and Clytemnestra (wife of Agamemnon; both key movers in the famous epic tale immortalized in Homer's Illiad.

This myth in a similar way, served as the genesis to the play Caitlin and the Swan which is in its final week at UNDER St. Marks in New York City. The play attempts to wrestle with and reconcile the rape of Leda, and contextualize for our contemporary notions of feminism, sexuality, and gender.

Nestled in a subterranean performance space, I felt excited as I dipped into this cavern of mystery that was Caitlin and the Swan, written by Dorothy Fortenberry and directed by Joshua Conkel. I was prepared for a theatrical mindfuck, which is the only thing one can reasonably expect from a play about a woman having sex with a swan. But, instead, I found a surprisingly intimate and touching play.

Our protagonist Caitlin is a woman I am very familiar with, she is a woman in her 20s, white and privileged. She went to a liberal arts college and took women's studies courses and got all "with it" and "empowered." Filled with feminist ideals about not taking no for an answer, work-life balance, and having it all in spite of the hurdles of living in a patriarchal world, she embarked into the real world ready to change it. However, once in that very real and very patriarchal world, she finds that she cannot single-handedly alter the course of the status quo. Armed with no real marketable skills, she finds herself drifting anchored only by her increasingly gender conformist heterosexual relationship. The tension between the expectations of female empowerment and the actuality of womanhood in patriarchy spill over into poetic metaphor with the recurring motif of bestiality.

The play opens with three women, Caitlin (Marguerite French) and her two college girlfriends, Priya (Shetal Shah) and Rachel (Teresa Stephenson), chatting over drinks in Rachel's yuppie styled abode of domestic bliss. The threesome gossip about former classmates, their jobs, and critique structural sexism in a work-life balance survey disseminated by their alma mater. This opening scene closely resembling a women's studies professor's wet dream of successful empowered womanliness, comes off as a shade pedagogical; as if watching an edu-tainment film in my Intro to Women's Studies course. However the veneer of comfortable feminism is quickly disrupted by the revelation that Rachel, the successful interior designer with the perfect husband and the perfect house, has been having an affair with a pig named Peter. No, not "That man's a PIG!" kind of pig. Swine flu kind of pig. Pink snout, curly tail and all.

Caitlin is plagued by erotic dreams of Rachel and her swine lover. Rachel's wanton descent into the illicit and taboo with her entrance into bestiality deeply shakes Caitlin and her increasingly vanilla and not particularly female-empowered relationship with Doug. Caitlin feels trapped by her domesticity, despite Doug encouraging to seek more challenging work than her SAT tutoring. It is clear that Caitlin is driven by a need to explore the sexually unknown and improper by entertaining herself with the flirtatious affections of her tutee, Bastian (Jake Aron)... and the beautiful Swan (Elliott T. Reiland) which resides in the lake behind Bastian's home. Caitlin struggles between satisfying her hidden sexual urges and her life in status-quo-land.

I understand the metaphorical significance of Fortenberry's use of bestiality in the play, but it comes off as gimmicky and affected. Especially since everyone and her sister seems to be fucking pigs, cats, swans, etc. While the metaphor is powerful, it is overused. With bestiality seemingly commonplace, it undercuts the taboo of the practice; making Caitlin's turmoil all the more puzzling. I applaud Fortenberry's effort in tackling a challenging topic; but frankly, I've seen this play before... and Edward Albee did it better.

On top of that I severely question the ethics of Caitlin's eventual resolution of her bestial itch. I won't ruin the end of the play for you, but suffice it to say that it reminded me a little too much of feminist revenge porn. I don't see how the defilement and subjugation of man is any more livable or ethically palpable than Leda's rape by Swan Zeus.

The set designer, Timothy McCown Reynolds should be commended for making the small space feel much larger than it actually was. However, someone please tell director Joshua Conkel to get rid of that abysmal excuse for a tree that lives in the downstage right corner of the space. It's pulled out ever so often to signify the outdoors. But it's shoddy craftsmanship and the fact that we can still see the 'tree' during interior scenes, no matter how much you shove it into the corner undercuts its effectiveness. As a professor of mine once told me, "if you can't do it well, let the audience fill in the blanks. The human imagination is far more effective that your propsmaster can ever be." Additionally, not to be nit-picky, but no one in real life cheats out to the front. I understand the need for theatrical blocking, but it is, indeed, okay for actors to face each other occasionally... or even *gasp!* turn around.

The acting was largely acceptable. Ms. French does a quite adequate job handling the role of Caitlin. Her emotional arc really carries the show in spite of what shortfalls it might have. While she does not shine, she does glimmer occasionally. The most successful performance I felt came from Ms. Stephenson as the swine-loving Rachel. Finally, Mr. Reiland, who played both the Swan and Peter the Pig is well cast. While he does not speak his physicality and presence are well suited to his role in evoking feelings of illicit attraction. I was relieved to see the role of the animal lovers played by an actor. I had nightmares of watching women humping plush stuffed animals. By anthropomorphizing the animals our sensibilities are able to more readily identify with Caitlin's plight of being attracted to the Swan, when the Swan is in human form. A clever turning of the tables, indeed.

In all, I felt Caitlin and the Swan was a worthwhile romp. While it needs some tweaking and could benefit from a larger space and better directing, the play was nonetheless thought-provoking and stimulating.

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Reuters reports: The New Hampshire legislature in a surprise move passed a same-sex marriage bill. The House of Delegates had passed the marriage bill earlier in the week, but it was assumed that the bill would fail in the Senate which had strong opposition to the measure. However, votes were gained from opposing senators when additional amendments were added last minute, which permitted clergy to decline to perform same-sex marriages, allowed couples to choose between marriage certificates with "bride" and "groom" or "spouse," and explicitly forbade polygamy and group marriage, among other things. It is unknown if the Governor will veto this bill. While he is a Democrat, he has voiced opposition to the bill. The bill still needs to go back to the lower House in order for the differences between the house and senate versions to be reconciled. We will likely hear more developments on this story in the days to come.

This marks the second time in a new trend for state legislatures to enact same-sex marriage laws, instead of these rights become achieved through Court rulings, as were accomplished in Massachusetts, California, and Iowa.
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4.27.2009

You Just Know

A few months ago. Me, in a lounge with two married colleagues. One of them is pregnant with her second child. We take a break from the day-to-day and talk, of course, of love.

Me: “How did you guys know that you had found the one, that this—this man—was it?”

They look at each other for a moment, and then they look at me. The non-pregnant one says what both want to say:

“You just know.”

Future mommy of two nods her head. Their smiles tell me that they know something that I don’t, that—somehow—they hold a secret that only time and circumstance can share. I can sense in their calm that they live in a different world, one collapsing past, present, and future at once; they seem fueled by nostalgia, contentedness, and an assured hope, all in the same breath. In that unspoken moment, they reveal as much as they can about this thing I did not have: That with it, the beginning is good, life only gets better, and tomorrow holds so much more. That look in their faces: that’s what it meant to “just know.”

+++

Early April. The other side of knowledge.

I know. Maybe I think I know but don’t really know, or maybe I only know part of something bigger and don’t have a complete grasp of the whole project of knowing quite yet. But I do feel like I know, and therefore, for all intents and purposes, I know. I know. I know.

And I could describe for you how I know, but perhaps that ruins the project of knowing for you. You could misguidedly take my knowing and have it prescribe your own search for knowing, but perhaps knowing for you will be different from knowing for me. I could describe for you how I know, but perhaps it only applies to how a gay college-educated Filipino Californian knows that he is head over heels for a gay college-educated Czech/Welsh/Native American Oklahoman. Perhaps it only applies to a dynamic that travels from hot tub, strip club, and bachelor party to email after email, text message after text message, phone call after phone call. Our knowing is a consequence of being 1647.88 miles away from each other—23 hours and 51 minutes if we wanted to make the drive—but feeling as if we are with each other at every step.

I understand the “you just know” moment now, not as a monolithic, universally-applicable signal that the rest of your life has potentially arrived. It is not a secret withheld from you by your friends, who you theorize use “you just know” as code for “I’m gonna fuck with you” or “I don’t really care to describe it.” The truth of “you just know” predicates itself upon its very first syllable: you. I can tell you the story of how Parker and I came to be, but it’s something that will only ever apply to Parker and me. The soaring, anything-is-possible feeling floating between us is something that will only ever exist with us. Romantic comedies, love songs, romance novels: they only provide models for what the effect of love is, but the causes will always be different. To insist that you will feel the same when you find yours is to pretend that we are the same, that we need the same way, that love will provide us with the same gifts. You will know. Only you will know.

And so, I very purposefully leave out the weeks and events that transpired between Parker and me, from that very first fifteen-word email I received at home, to where we are now, seeing no end in sight, planning to see each other very, very soon. Because with love, I’ve discovered, the process of falling may be fun: it can be interesting and illuminating, and it is—as it was with Parker and me—a roller coaster of does-he-or-doesn’t-he. But unlike a roller coaster, falling is not the best part. It’s nowhere near as spectacular as being in love itself. It’s different from flirting; it’s different from dating; it’s a completely other world, and in that way, perhaps it is a secret. But it’s a secret that only Parker and I know, a place—as Keane might suggest—that only we go. The absurdity of love is not that it’s a possession that we must take turns finding; we cannot, unlike many other “goals” in the world, work to make it happen for ourselves (as much as we workaholics detest depending upon fate). The true craziness of love is that we all must wait until it becomes our own, at the wandering intersection of time, context, and another. Someday, when your road matches those roads, you will be well on your way. You will know what I mean just as surely as I know for myself now.

What now, then? What now that I know? Well, past knowing: I don’t really know. I’ve never known before. And so this dating column heads to where it has never gone before: beyond the happiness of knowing, to begin demystifying—or, if I’m lucky, reinforcing—the truths of happily ever after. After all, things with Parker have only just begun. And despite knowing, I am sure there is much more to learn.

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I just read this brief article from USA Today about gender/sexuality and identity among youth. There are a couple of problems.

First, the article is a little misleading. Although titled "Young adults 'don't want to be defined by gender, orientation'", the content of the story seems to suggest that this is only true among those who would have identified as LGBT. Second, the write-up suggests that the gender/sexuality rules are more liberating for girls than they are for boys:

"Today, girls are free to do sports and be competitive. No one thought they had to play dumb to get a boyfriend. The women's movement has done great things for middle school girls," she says.

"It's another story with boys. I feel like we're in a time warp. We have not dealt with men and masculinity in a serious enough way," she says.

"Boys police each other. There's no room not to do anything not traditionally masculine."

I agree with most of these points but only in specific contexts. Women's genders/bodies are policed more than ever. Further, as far as romance and wanting to be attractive to boys, I can't even begin to start listing the "rules" girls follow with regard to their identity and presentation of self to be seen as a dating commodity.

THIRD, and finally, one person is quoted saying that:
"we're living in a "post-gay world" where gay celebrities can hawk products that traditionally have been marketed as attractive to the opposite sex. He suggests that society has advanced to the point that companies don't worry about anti-gay bias when seeking spokespeople for products. As examples, he mentioned openly gay actor Neil Patrick Harris as a spokesman for the traditionally male Old Spice deodorant and lesbian talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who is a spokeswoman for Cover Girl cosmetics."

Is this really true? When I think of The Market and issues of identity, I think of how the market uses gay identities as vibrantly defined categories in order to market to certain audiences. Ellen and NPH (particularly Ellen) have wide appeal, but I still think they have gay appeal. What do y'all think?

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A karaoke bar that operates in a space that was formerly a gay bar feels the need to to proclaim that "we are not a gay bar."



Read the story on chicagotribune.com.

If only the owner had a basic understanding of PR, they could have avoided the protests and backlash and terrible coverage of them in a widely read newspaper. Like, when you open a bar on the site of a gay bar, and you are trying to operate a business that is different, perhaps you should give the bar a new name. Just a thought. Also, it's a bad idea to offend people that frequent your bar, and I'm no lawyer, but it's probably a bad idea to display a message that can and should be taken as discriminatory.

I'd like to give the owner the benefit of the doubt and say that while he is an idiot, I'm hoping that his goal was to inform patrons that in fact the style of the bar had changed. This could have been handled with far more tact, perhaps proclaiming "This is a karaoke bar. Everyone welcome." Or maybe changing the name of the bar to indicate that things have changed.

But unfortunately, I had to click on the "comments" left to the article. I don't know why I do this. I've read enough comments left on articles on the Trib's web site to know how ignorant and illogical most of the commenters are, protected by their anonymity.

Ridiculous things that stood out to me:

1. There is a difference between freedom of speech and discrimination. Also, a bar is in fact a public establishment and therefore cannot discriminate. Now, they didn't post "Gays Not Allowed" but "We Are Not a Gay Bar" comes across as pretty hostile and anyone with any amount of common sense should realize there is a better way to communicate that the style of your bar has changed since the last owners.

2. Just because you think something is immoral doesn't automatically mean everyone will agree with you. Last time I checked this country was founded on freedom of religion, including absence of religion.

3. Just because a gay bar in Chicago posted a sign that says "Bachelorette Parties not allowed" doesn't mean they are discriminating against straight women.

4. If you can choose to be gay, when did all the heteros choose to be straight? I don't remember ever making the conscious decision that I would like to date men instead of women. Yes, technically I could date women if I wanted to, but I don't remember ever choosing not to be romantically/sexually attracted to them.

5. NOT EVERYONE BELIEVES IN THE SAME RELIGIOUS DEITY AS YOU DO. Get over it. I can't stress that enough because apparently enough people don't get it.

6. If someone posted "This is not a Black bar" or "This is not a Women's Bar", would that be OK?

7. "Protected groups" is not like "endangered species." Seriously, what is the average IQ of people that comment on articles on chicagotribune.com? Protected groups is an actual term! And yes, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. How is it possible to not know that?? These people read news sites, you would think they have a basic understanding of basic laws.


In the end, the commenters remind me that while I may live in my own little liberal bubble, there are crazies out there with crazy views that I just can't wrap my mind around, and they are scary. At this point, it doesn't even matter if the Tribune article didn't state all the facts the way they happened, it brought out the crazy religious homophobes and straight guys who assume all gay men secretly want to sleep with them, and gave my liberal self a scary conservative reality check.

Meanwhile, my friend who has lived in Peoria shared with me that this bar is a pretty divey bar and probably wouldn't stay in business very long anyway. At this point, who knows if anyone, gay or straight, would go there. Maybe the conservative "gays are bad" commenters will go there, just once, to make a point.

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In much the same way that a child brings an over ambitious story to a close by telling us ‘and then I woke up and it was all a dream’, an Irish roman catholic once spent hours building me up to his big virginity loss moment only to cap it off by telling me ‘and then I woke up the next morning and I was no longer a virgin’.

Today’s storyteller will do no such thing.

It's not that I personally really need to know the gory details, although if pressed, yes, I am quite nosy and I am not averse to listening to the juicy bits but even I acknowledge that the moment itself can be a bit of a let down. Getting under someone’s skin is far more interesting.

Getting to know what truly motivates a person to lose virginity is almost always the most fascinating part of getting a new story. Is it lust? Fear? Passion? Insecurity? Or all of the above?

Whatever it is, it is never as straightforward as it seems. And neither am I. Because I am digressing from the point I wish to make which is this: Today’s storyteller is going to focus every little bit of his attention on the moment itself and he’s not going to miss out a single detail. This story is not for the faint hearted I might warn you but it is also, I believe, one of the most significant stories I have ever been sent.

In a world where men and women are frequently jostling for the same piece of territory, it is very interesting to hear a house husband describe the moment when he lost his anal cherry to his high flying wife for the very first time.

‘I can’t believe you published that story on your Blog last week’, my sister said after she had read it. ‘It is practically pornography’.

She’s got a point. Our storyteller doesn’t exactly pull any punches but she followed this up by telling me exactly what I wanted to hear. ‘I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It never left me all week’.

If you are contemplating a similar act, you could do a lot worse than to use this story as your instruction manual but the gory details are really not the point for me. Many people will read this story and see the very obvious parallels between this couple’s gender swapping lifestyle and their nighttime antics but what really blows my mind is listening to the story of a man get as close as he ever will to really feeling what it is like to be a woman.

Being female and losing virginity invariably involves allowing another human being into your body for the very first time. This requires an immense amount of trust. And strange feelings, and possibly even pleasure if you are either a. very lucky or b. doing it with someone who knows what they are doing. But however this experience pans out, you are unlikely to forget what it feels like to relinquish 100% control over your own body for the first time to a person of the opposite sex. It’s a pretty major event whichever way you look at it.

I shall say no more and let the words do the talking instead of me. And of course, if you have any words of your own to add, I would be very pleased to hear them.

Brad from Arizona.

‘I am not exactly sure what qualifies as losing one's virginity.  I suppose that it's commonly thought to be when one engages in sexual intercourse.  By that definition I lost mine when I was eighteen.  But that's not what I am writing about here. 
 
I have been married for more than fifteen years and was dating my wife for three years before then.  I took her virginity (if that is the right way to put it) two years before we were married, when we were each in our mid-twenties.  But that's not what I am writing about here either.
 
I am instead writing about an experience that, even as recently as five years ago, I'd never thought I'd have had, and until very recently I'd never thought I'd ever mention to another person, let alone write about.  It was the time, three years back, when my wife and I engaged in anal sex, with me as the receiver.
 
I grew up as a sheltered Catholic and my wife was even more so.  I had, what in hindsight were awkward, even comical, sexual experiences, in my teens.  By the time I met my future wife, Lynette, I was a bit more experienced but still barely more than a rookie, although I didn't realize it at the time.  Lynette, however, WAS a rookie.   So by comparison, I fancied myself a real Don Juan.  And I was in love with her.  Still am.   So I pursued her, relentlessly.  She finally gave in and we made love. 

I will never forget the look on her face - a mixture of love, fear, helplessness and shame - when I penetrated her for the first time.  She was a bit traumatized and confused but in the end very proud and pleased.
 
We were married two years later and our relationship was very satisfying.  Lynette began to overcome all the inhibitions that had been drilled into her all those years.  On other fronts, her career as a lawyer was flourishing while mine was just going OK.  We decided it was time to start a family, and were very lucky.  Within four months she was pregnant.  She had planned to take time off work for a while but shortly before she realized she was pregnant she got an incredible promotion at work. 

The baby arrived - a happy and healthy boy - and she took her maternity leave.  Then came crunch time.  Her job was paying too well to turn away from it.  So she went back and after a series of false starts I started to work part-time.
 
That set into motion a series of events that led us to where we are now.  We have four kids, Lynette works, and I stay home full time.  It's been a hard adjustment for both of us, although I complain louder and longer.  Even today, when the world has become so much more progressive and accepting of alternative lifestyles, being a househusband has, let us say, it’s down moments.  These changes have carried out into other areas too.  Lynette became much more confident and assertive, especially at work.  Her world expanded as mine contracted. 

Physically, we have not changed (except for getting older - drat).  But on the inside, and how we relate, especially to each other, we have changed.  To take one illustration, I've gone from thinking myself as a fulltime worker who happens to be in a part-time job, to a part-time worker with primary duties at home, to full-time dad with plans to return to the labor force, to househusband and corporate spouse with no plans to work again.
 
Things changed in bed too.  Lynette became more assertive, not in an S&M way or anything, but rather more willing to experiment and, quite frankly, more willing to have a good time. 

Part of that I chalk up to her maturing and shedding past bad lessons and part of it to her outward-directed life.  Years ago she would giggle or cringe at an attempt to give her oral sex.  Now she loves it and is quite appreciative of a good effort.   
 
So, three years ago, while we were in bed, she first brought up the idea of anal. I was, to put it mildly, petrified.  Visions of ‘being gay’ ran through my head.  She assured me I wasn't but I tried to let the topic die.  She wouldn't.  She brought it up the next morning and eventually we made a date to meet for lunch and go to a sex-toy store, just to look.
 
We went, we looked, and I was astounded as to how many toys and videos there were about woman-on-man anal.  Lynette was amazed too.  We both laughed and I found myself going along with things, retreating from a ‘no way’ attitude to one in which I was saying, ‘but that's way too big.’  Eventually we settled for a harness with a dildo on the small side but still long and wide enough to do its damage.  The salesman nonchalantly rang up the sale. I went home and she went back to work.
 
That night I was about as nervous as I'd ever been.  She came home and suggested that we do the deed the next day, a Saturday.  I agreed.  We arranged to have the kids watched by a babysitter, saying we'd be out real late.  Instead, of course, we stayed home. 

Lynette had made over the bedroom.  Lots of candles, burning incense, everything.  We took our clothes off, kissed, and took an erotic shower.  Very hot and very clean.  There was no turning back.  She looked at me. 

‘Ready?’  

‘Yeah.  I can't believe we're doing this.’

I went over to the bed and lay down.  She went over to a closet, out of my view, and finally reappeared, fully harnessed.  I must have gasped.  The sight of that missile protruding from her, and meant for me, brought everything home.  This was real.  I was about to get fucked. 

She smiled, sensing my apprehension.  ‘Don't worry,’ she said, ‘there's' nothing to be afraid of.’  She lay on top of me, pushed the tip of the dildo to my face and asked me to lube it up.  I did, thoroughly.  Then she got up, walked over to the stereo, cranked it up to full blast, and came back to bed. 
 
We'd talked about this moment and I remembered the rules.  Be calm.  Resist the urge to tighten up.  It will fit fine.  

‘OK, babe,’ she said, ‘all ready.’ 

On my back, I spread my legs as wide apart as I could and lifted my bottom up.  She looked at me and the next thing I felt was a plastic, sticky object rubbing up against my inner thigh and balls.  In hindsight, this was funny:  Lynette was a total amateur with the harness and dildo.  But at the time I tensed up.  ‘It's never gonna work if you're so uptight,’ she said, ‘just relax.’ 

I tried to.  She guided the head with her hand and the next thing I felt was the tip touching my anus.  Then, slowly, it began to enter.  I tensed up and felt horrible.  She withdrew, quietly applied a bit more lube, and returned it to just outside my anus. 

‘Try again,’ she said, ‘trust me.’ 

I did.  I put my arms back and got lost in the music, which was pounding and loud.  The pushing returned but this time I did not resist.  Slowly, slowly, the dildo pressed in and then all of a sudden it just slid forward.  

I moaned and gasped, ‘Ohmygod.’   

‘Mmmm,’ she said, ‘Here's some more.’ 

With that, she pushed in even further.  Another ‘Ohmygod’ from me.  Then the thrusting began.  ‘Keep with me,’ she said.  I did, mimicking what she'd done for me hundreds of times before - bucking my hips in rhythm to meet her thrusts.  I couldn't believe it.
 
Then she slowed down, stopped bucking and began to maneuver the dildo deeper inside me.  She hit the spot after a while and then I rolled my eyes.  Ecstasy.  Ready to come.  But she moved away. 

‘Now,’ I said, ‘do that again. 

She did, but moved again, and repeated this several times.  I got the picture.  No demands from now on.  Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she hit the magic spot and stayed there. 

‘Blast off,’ she yelled, and that's exactly what I did. 

It was a mind-blowing orgasm, the likes of which I'd never experienced before.  I was joyful and ashamed at the same time.  But she wasn't done yet.  Back to bucking.  This time with greater force.  Then slowing down.  Then back to the magic spot, but this time she didn't tease.  I came again.  Then she starting bucking again.  I was totally drained, and yet I did my best to keep up with her.  Her moves were smooth and not too fast.  I met them again.  What an odd sensation.  It was so impersonal.  It was as though my private parts were just there to be used by her.  She lay atop me, eyes half glazed, staring into space or at the wall or something, but not at me.  After some time, she again stopped, looked down, kissed me, and put her head on my shoulder.  Unbelievably, I felt the shaft probe for my spot again.  It hit it and just like that I came, though not nearly as much as before.  Lynette lifted her head up and looked at me. 

‘You're quite the stud, old man.’ 
 
In truth I felt like anything but a stud.  I was lying on my back in a daze, with semen all over me, dripping onto the sheets, lubricant dribbling out of my anus, and feeling battered.  Both reflexively and with a sense of self-preservation, I proceeded to give her oral sex.  It was a relief to be back in a more typical situation, one that probably lasted longer than the screwing I had just received.  I was shocked when she put the harness back on. 

‘Oh no,’ I said, or something like it. 

‘Just once more,’ she replied. 

I assumed the position, but she asked me to turn over and get on my knees.  We were going to do it doggie-style.  I acquiesced, and quickly felt her hands holding my butt and then the dildo pressing up against its target.  It zoomed in, I gasped, and then it began probing.  Again.  And again.  Finally, it hit the spot, I moaned, got hard and came.  Mercifully, she withdrew and we lay next to each other and cuddled.  It was over.
 
We said nothing for a while, just holding each other tightly.  Lynette hadn't removed the harness, so the dildo was still on her, pressed up against my stomach, a silent reminder of all that had just happened.  And what had just happened? 

The physical act had been one thing, and a weird one at that.  But the psychological effects were just beginning to waft in.  I'd just come about as close as I ever will to experiencing what Lynette had experienced the first time I had screwed her.  This was not like my first experience all those years ago, from which I took away feelings of power and exhilaration.  To the contrary, this mostly involved powerlessness - being pursued, penetrated, and under the control of another person. 

All my life I had been the penetrator and even when the woman was aggressive, there was no doubt as to who was doing what to whom.  But now, as the one being penetrated, I was on the other side.  She'd gotten me to give it up.  Four times.  She'd probed, thrusted, and done any manner of other things, all of her own urging and without regard to what I wanted.  She had been cool, under control, self-assured, while I'd been emotional, afraid, out of control.  And yet, I'd experienced great orgasms, real rock 'em, sock 'em ones.  My mind had reeled at the experience; and my body had enjoyed almost every second of it.  Even the pain (and there was pain) was rewarded in the end by pleasure. 
 
I told her all these things.  She hugged me all the harder and explained how it had been great for her.  She told me how she loved being in charge for a change and how great it felt to be able to control me, as opposed to usually being under my control.  She said that what really surprised her was how protective she become of me when she realized that I was now vulnerable to her.  (Yeah, I thought sarcastically, you really acted protectively.)  She said that she felt like she'd conquered me but at the same time wanted to make sure that I was OK. 

She also said, mimicking a cornerstone on which patriarchy is based, that she felt surprised at how easily I'd let her do what she was doing and in a way lost some respect for me.  I nodded.  I was surprised by that too and a little angry that that was how she felt.  After all, I'd just done what she wanted me to.
 
So that was that.  Since then we have added anal to our repertoire, and I must admit that it is enjoyable but I've never shed my ambiguous feelings about it.  Maybe that's part of what makes it so exciting.

virginityproject joins us from The Virginity Project

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I was introduced to Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology at New York ComicCon, where editor-in-chief Jeff Yang led a spirited discussion on Diversity in Comic Books. As a self-professed comic book geek and an Asian American, Secret Identities really excited me as a dynamic group of Asian American actors, writers, and artists sought to bring the stories of our community into a world with a pronounced lack of diversity. I stopped over at the Secret Identities Blog and was really distressed to hear that the anthology is receiving a lot of push back, nationally, from bookstores and booksellers who refuse to offer them shelf space:

Dear Friends,

During the first leg of our college book tour last week for "Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology", the editors and I made a very disturbing discovery when we made impromptu stops at major bookstores in between appearances:

Bookstores were NOT carrying "Secret Identities" nor had any plans to do so.

We were told customers could place orders at the stores but as far as physical self space? Nada. The situation was the same in the stores around us in Baltimore, D.C., Southern California, and New York. The reason? Well, we’ve been given several of them: “Stores are confused whether the book fits under Asian American Studies or Graphic Novels”, “It’s an accounting error”, “You’ve got too small of a print run”, and of course the popular “E” word these days… “The Economy”.

So I’m finding myself having to appeal to the Asian American Community once again in an open letter as I did 6 years ago for “Better Luck Tomorrow” – asking that readers request the book at their local bookstores and/or order copies online through: Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Borders.com.


The friendly folk at Slant Eye for the Round Eye note that if this anthology was packed with as many non-Asian stars from stage and screen partnering towards this graphic novel anthology... the publicity would be booming around not only the world of comic books, but beyond. The Secret Identities staff has put together a fantastic documentary on what their books is, who is working on it (Keiko Agana aka Lane Kim from Gilmore Girls!), and why it's so important that this book not only is published, but does well, critically and economically. I want to encourage everyone to heed managing editor Parry Shan's call and pitch in and support this fledgling publication! Check out the awesome video below:



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In the morning, the sun beats through the huge glass door of the mansion office, exposing Parker and me on a hardwood floor, lost in a pile of blankets, sheets, and pillows, the aftermath of a tug of war to keep warm.

The other fraternity brothers bustle in the other room, packing frantically for flights and road trips home, piecing the mansion back together after the weekend’s raucous bachelor party. I bury myself under our covers, shielding myself from the sun, the boys, the reminder that my unexpected two-night fling was coming to a close. It is a fruitless attempt at escape.

I overhear the guys outside, rock-scissors-papering their way to a decision: who’s getting Parker out of the office to make sure he catches his plane? One of them had entered mistakenly in the night. When the door opened, he found us frozen, pretending to be asleep, but betrayed by the obvious—no one falls asleep directly on top of each other. We heard his shock, a surprised “ummmm, go to bed,” and the quick shut of the door. Now they debated who would lay eyes on the assumedly post-sodomic moment: dear God, not me.

Someone mans up and leads a pack to fetch Parker. Underneath the covers, I imagine them standing at the door, silently ooh-ing and aah-ing at us, looking down at our makeshift bed as if we were a freak show at the circus: “And in this ring, ladies and gentlemen, we have what looks like a normal morning-after … but look: it’s two men!” We were an unlikely byproduct of this hypermasculine event, and they couldn’t, despite their machismo, look away. All of us wondered, through the nuances of our individual subject positions, if this had actually happened.

Parker leaves the room quickly. With my flight still hours away, I stretch, my body flattening some of the sheets while pushing away the others. I blink my way into the sun, take a breath, and confront an inevitable end-of-hook-up question: What kind of hook-up was this? And what type of closure does that entail?

I have no ready answers to either question. I exit the office. I find my bag by the entrance of the mansion. I begin packing, and out of the corner of my eye, I see Parker following his ride to the airport, approaching the door. We stand side by side without acknowledging each other: I, intent on my packing, he, checking messages on his iPhone. I want to say something: nice meeting you, have a good flight, let’s stay in touch, SOMETHING. But he is out the door and gone. And I continue to pack the weekend away.

+++

On the long flight to San Francisco, I settle: I will not communicate with him. No emails. No phone calls. Our awkward, unacknowledged goodbye provides proof enough that this weekend was merely fun. I remind myself that not every successful flirtatious or sexual encounter can (or should) turn into something more substantial. I tell myself I need to absorb the excitement of the bachelor party’s shenanigans and learn to move on, that someday I will have an opportunity to pursue a fruitful relationship under less sexualized—and heterosexualized—circumstances. I have never been one to stray from more conventional dating models anyway. I am old-fashioned. I date. I wait. This fleeting, drunken weekend fling was not meant to be anything more than what it was. I will be fine. I will look back at this weekend and laugh. If anything, I’ll see him at the wedding and maybe there’ll be more fun there. But otherwise, I decide that there is nothing more to think or say about Parker. Done. Gone. Filed away into my memories.

Until he emails me. I arrive at my apartment, sit down at my couch to catch up on the weekend’s piling email, and find a short note from him:

I just wanted to say bye since I didn't get to at the house.

And in fifteen words or less, he manages to keep me from shutting the door. His email revives what my heart—but not head—cling to: the na├»ve belief that anything can happen.

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Such sad news. It seems as though Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has died. She was fighting cancer for a long time and passed away last night.

Eve Sedgwick contributed a number of really amazing works to the gender/queer studies world, including Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (1985) and Epistemology of the Closet (1990). She was totally my sophomore year of college academic idol, and I know that gender geeks everywhere will be so sad to hear this news.


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Amazon.com the behemoth in e-media sales has been under heavy criticism from the blogosphere after Amazon execs decide to make their searches more family-friendly by removing "adult" content from their searches. The gaffe which a twittersplosion has deemed "#amazonfail" makes all content related to queer topics much more difficult to browse and purchase. Not only are queer related media being removed from Best-seller lists, which reduces their sales... but they are also being removed, wholesale from search options. In order to find gay content, you must now search for items by their name. Amazon's Canadian website does not seem to be affected by the decision:

Top 4 books in subject search for 'homosexuality' on Amazon.CA

* Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You by Peter Cameron
* The Gay Man's Kama Sutra by Terry Sanderson
* And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson
* What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality by Daniel A. Helminiak

Top 4 books for the same search on Amazon.com

* A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality by Joseph Nicolosi and Linda Ames Nicolosi
* You Don't Have to Be Gay by Jeff Konrad
* For The Bible Tells Me So ~ Gene Robinson, Archbishop Desmond Tutu
* Can Homosexuality Be Healed? by Francis MacNutt

Already calls for a queer-wide boycott of the bookseller are being trumpeted from all corners of the intertubes. Currently, Amazon execs have not responded to any of the hundreds of emails sent to them complaining about the change. You can follow the conversation as it develops.

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+ news +

Yay Barney Frank!,
push for trans protections expand,
and poor, poor chihuaha for the week.


Also, found this via towleroad:



Ooh -- also -- just found a cool NYT article published today about gays and American Idol!

Sincerely,
ts


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We all know that racism abounds in America. I don't think anyone can say with any kind of authority that racism is behind us in this country. Sure, we've been making progress. But continue to have many mountains to hurdle.

This week seems to be filled with racial incidents. Just yesterday (the same day, might I add, that I post about my experiences with sexual racism in the gay community), while engaging in some retail therapy in H&M an employee turned to me and asked, "Hey, How do you say 'two' in... your language?" The question caught me off guard. I almost had to pinch myself because the situation was just so painfully stereotypical of ignorant American interaction with immigrant communities. I turned to the employee and said, "Two."

Now, I know that this woman had no intention of offending or othering me. But, with a tremendous amount of ease she was able to reinforce the fact that due to the shape of my eyes and the color of my skin, I was an outsider.

I was forwarded this video segment of Rep. Betty Brown of the Texas State Legislature who just astounds me with her profound ignorance of the Asian community. At one point she even suggests that the Asian community should adopt a name that is more easily dealt with by American officials. She also seems to forget that China is not a democracy and that, in general, it's impolite to refer to a constituency as "your people."

Witness and be appalled:


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I've been called a lot of things in my life. The standard pejoratives come to mind: faggot, Cocksucker, Chink... Commie chink. Although I took that last one more of a compliment, than anything else. But easily the most painful name came not from the homophobic jock or the drunken frat boy... It came from a lover.

It came tangled between bed sheets; heads buzzing with the freedom afforded by alcohol, he whispered softly in my ear, "You're perfect. My perfect little geisha boy." To this day, those words, which I'm sure were intended to make me feel treasured and beautiful, continue to haunt me.

Now, I have had my fair share of racially skewed relationships. In fact every substantial romantic relationship I've had has been with a rice queen. I had grown acustom to questions asking where I'm from. Seeing their confused faces after I tell them "Washington D.C.", I have learned to always qualify this with "but my family is from China." I see their disappointment in learning that I don't speak my "native tongue," or that I have never been "back."

I had even become desensitized to the inane guessing games they would employ to infer my ethnicity. "Yeah, I get Korean a lot. It's my face," is my rote response.

I found myself feeling less like a person and more of an idea; an amalgam of expectations; a blur of tawny skin and slanted eyes. I had gotten to the point where when I walk into a bar, I immediately gauged myself against the other Asians in the room, because I know it is by this criteria on which I will be judged. They are not my friends, my camarades, my brothers in arms. They are my competition. They are the enemy.

At once I am caught in a vice of being required to captivate my prospects with my overt displays of ethnicity, yet cut off from those whom share this oppressive experience. Unable to form alliances for fear of canablizing our market, we are divided and conquered by the inevitability of economics.

I eventually reached an impasse; the proverbial back-breaking straw where I realized that I could no longer live in this colonial schema of rice queen and exotic object of affection. But in all of my personal and romantic experience, men who like Asian guys but are not rice queens either did not exist, or required too much vetting to be viable romantic prospects.

I realized a fundamental flaw in my equation: if we, gay Asians, continued to entrust gay white men with the keys to our eventual happiness, they would inevitably fail us. They are born and bred to subjugate. Of course there are a select few who are able to resist this pervasive culture of appropriation and wholesale theft. But attempting to seek these individuals out, using our hearts as collatoral is simply too costly. I reasoned that the only truly revolutionary thing to do was to renounce the world of rice queens and go sticky rice. What a novel thought, gaysians dating gaysians.

I would renounce the code of beauty which casts us as undesirable, small-dicked, pansy, geishas, incapable of fucking or owning our agency. Rather I would seek to escape the fundamentally imbalanced politic of inter-racial relationships, and find happiness in a world free from racial power desparity: with those of my own race.

to be continued...

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4.07.2009

Gyno what?


Time and again I find myself in a social situation in which the question of sexuality arises and the whole room looks at me, that same question with which many gender deviants are all too well acquainted, "Are you gay or straight?" My answer every time is an emphatic "neither", and then of course they'll say "ah, you must be bi?" to which I of course say "No, I am a gynophile". Can you predict what question comes next?

Do not bother guessing. I will tell you, (refer to entry title) Well, random person, a gynophile is an individual with a love for/ or attraction to the female sex regardless of the individual's own physiological sex. For those of you who are wondering whether or not that makes me straight, the answer is still a resounding no. I am biologically male and a self-proclaimed androgyne who is in medical terms heterosexual, however, I refuse to identify as straight for I reject the heteronornative implications that it brings.

In our society the term "straight" often carries a defensive undertone which fundamentally asserts the normalcy and societal virtuosity of the straight identified subject. Macho males are especially guilty of hiding their true sexual and gender nature behind the fundamental insecurity of hiding behind the shield straightness. Its homophobic essence not only connotes the rightful nature of heterosexuality, it also promotes heteronormative behaviour subsequently condemning homosexuality and gender defiance to shame. The term itself is self-glorifying and dogmatic; its use is a very insult to our social intelligence.

In the past when I have made the poor judgment to identify as such, I did so with a nagging sensation that somehow it was a garment ill-fitting of my true self. As a gender deviant I've learned to reside in a no man's land that is too gay for the hetero world and too hetero for the gay world, however, I do so proudly and with no desire to make apologies.

For those readers who identify as straight, this post is not intended to be hateful or insulting, even though it is emotionally charged by its writer's own critical observations. Its intention is to make readers, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, consider the social values with which the word is loaded; perhaps after doing so readers may reconsider its use.

Consider this, there was no straight before there was gay.

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News comes out of Vermont this morning that the State's Senate and House of Delegates have successfully cast votes which override Vermont Governor Jim Douglas's (R) veto of a gay marriage bill which was voted on earlier this week. The Senate vote passed with a wide margin of 23-5 vote, and squeaked by in the House with a narrow 2/3 majority of 100-47. Us gays have yet another remote speck of rock to make our nuptial nests.

This also marks the first time a State has willingly and successfully afforded marriage rights to same-sex couples via the legislature. All prior advancements in this area have been made through the Judicial system. Way to go, democracy!
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Ladyhawke, the latest pond-hopper in the British Invasion encroaching on American popular culture, released her debut single "Paris is Burning" on her eponymous new album. The song caught my attention while running at the gym. I didn't hear the music at first since I was bopping along with my own iPod, but I saw the music video start up on my treadmill's screen. Seeing the title of the song instantly reminded me of the groundbreaking 1990 documentary of the same name, which chronicled the life of the transwomen and drag queens of the New York City Ball Culture. These influential drag artists have seen much cultural poaching from the likes of many pop superstars, *cough* Madonna *cough*. I feared the worst. A young upstart 80s revivalist usurping queer culture for her own gain. After some investigation it didn't turn out as bad as I had thought...

In an interview with the Village Voice, Ladyhawke describes how she was inspired to write Paris is Burning after her first trip to Paris, where she stumble upon Paris Gay Pride.

One of my favorite cuts is "Paris is Burning." Seems like you had this really romantic notion of Paris going into it, like we all do, but it was a bit overwhelming.

Exactly. I'd never been to Europe in my life and I'd just arrived to London. Europe is always this really fairy tale place when you're young, when you think of Paris and Italy and all those places. It should be out of a storybook. I was really stressed out at the time, and my friend was like "come over and play with me." So I went to Paris to visit her and I immediately thought, "Oh my god, this place is amazing." I had such a great time and got really drunk and that was basically my trip. The day I got back to London I wrote "Paris Is Burning."...

When I was there, my friend and I were watching TV in her apartment. We heard all this commotion: yelling and screaming, people marching down the street. I was like "What the fuck is that?" I looked out the window and it was French Gay Pride day or something. There were hundreds of thousands of people--I've never seen so many people. They were on top of bus stops, on top of cars. There were DJ's and bands playing. This was like twelve o'clock, lunchtime, and people were wasted. Falling all over the place. The streets smelled like wine. I was like, "Man, this is my first ever time to Paris and its like the biggest party of the year." [laughs]

It soothes my initial desire to rant about cultural appropriation, but it seems as if any borrowing that happened was largely incidental. And it does make me happy that the buzz of gay pride helped birth a pretty rad song. Catch it below:


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I'm sure most of you gender activists have heard by now, but for those of you who woke up late this morning, gay marriage has come to Iowa! The State Supreme Court of Iowa unanimously struck down a 1988 law which restricted marriage between a man and a woman. Iowa is the first mid-western state, and first state on the interior to approve gay marriage.

The court has given the state legislature three months to implement the decision, which means gays across Iowa will be able to jump on the summer wedding bonanza. Iowa joins Massachusetts and Connecticut as the two other states which permit gay couples to wed. New Jersey and New Hampshire both offer civil unions, which approximate marriage rights. We have yet to see how marriages in Iowa will be recognized in other states. New York recognizes same-sex marriages in other states, but whether or not these unions will be honored in states like California, are yet to be seen. I also don't know if Iowa has any residency stipulations like Massachusetts does.

Gay Marriage legislation also passed in Vermont, but that is likely to be vetoed by the republican governor. Still, good news in queer news today!
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I suspended my work as a consultant economist to, among other things, become the Programme Director of a Caribbean NGO that I helped found, called the Women's Health Advocacy Network (WHAN). I sometimes get the sense that some people don't understand that: they don't understand creating something because you think it should exist, because it is necessary. The conversation often goes like this:

Person: So what are you doing now?
A_D: I'm a writer, and I work with an organisation called WHAN - Women's Health Advocacy Network.

(The writing part does not register at all. I might as well have said "Oh I'm an eater...and a part-time cougher." So they just gloss right over that part to the other thing that sounds more like a job, with acronyms and such.)

Person: Oh! And whose company is that?
A_D: Well it's not really a company. It's an NGO that looks at issues of women's health and sexual and reproductive rights in the Caribbean, and educates women on their patient rights...how to be agents in their own health care.
Person: Right. And who runs that?
A_D: Well I do. Along with some other very bright women. We started it.
Person: Yourself? But who pays you?

This is where people start to look skeptical and confused. They seem to be puzzled by the notion that I could have the audacity to be dissatisfied enough with the way things are being done to get up off my ass and do something about them myself. They apparently expect me to take a regular job like everyone else, and then spend all my time complaining that I had to wait two hours in the waiting room at the doctor's office, and then another hour waiting naked on his table, after which he spent 30 seconds looking at my vagina and zero seconds looking at my face. Or they expect that if I step out on my own, it should be because I've built an online business or invented some device that I can hawk on QVC, which - don't get me wrong - is never out of the question. Or they also expect that WHAN must be a little group of forlorn women who park our behinds in front of supermarkets clanging our tins for some pennies, rather than the board-run, non-profit corporation that it is.

Now there's nothing wrong with a 'regular' job. I had one, and many people I know have one. In fact, I have one now, it's just that I created it myself because it is necessary, rather than waiting for someone else, someone presumably with more power and influence, to create it and then deign to give me a job. I've decided to first earn - through work I've previously done - and then own, my power and influence. And to seek to grow it on my terms. And also to help other women own theirs. Because that attitude that leads people to believe that I don't have the right to get up and do for myself, as my mother would say, is the same one that has women believing that they don't have the right to demand to be listened to by doctors, and to be treated with dignity and respect. It's the attitude that says that as Caribbean people, as Black people, as women, as Black, Caribbean women, we should only be takers of what is given to us: takers of someone else's job that they've created and offered, takers of someone else's economic policies, takers of someone else's health care that they administer in the way they think we deserve.

I grew up in a time when our mothers were so pleased to be accessing free government health care, that they saw doctors and nurses as gods, and seemed afraid to question them, in part - and this is true of most societies - because they had knowledge our mothers did not have. But they were also afraid to challenge them lest they withhold their care, time and medicine, which many of them doled out as if we were begging, as if it was their own to control, and not the state's. As people have started to do better, and private, paid care has become the standard, that attitude has been slow to change on both ends. Many of us still believe that we're lucky to be sitting in that doctor's office, so we'd better shut up, nod, smile, and try not to cause any trouble. And many doctors still act as if they are gods come down from on high to save the stupid natives from themselves.

Well that attitude is not only annoying as all get out, but it at best potentially delays healing, and at worst, kills people. WHAN now focuses very heavily on HIV/AIDS and other STIs; sexual and reproductive decision-making including abortion; and violence against women. But we were thrust into existence on the basis of patient rights and education, because I, for one, was tired of the assumption on the part of doctors that I had nothing at all to contribute to my own health care, and tired of hearing all the stories from my friends. One story of how a doctor failed to diagnose her breast cancer because he saw she was in her thirties and therefore dismissed the lump she had felt; another who eventually almost committed suicide because when she approached her doctor about post-partum depression he asked her why she couldn't just be happy, she had a baby now, and why couldn't she just get over it. And yet another who had to beg her doctor for a prescription to help relieve the symptoms of her genital herpes. Because he said it was no big deal, it's just a sore, and the medication is expensive.

I could go on and on and so much further on. And I know people will sing the old song about patients not being knowledgeable, so doctors assume a blank slate in approaching treatment. In my experience, doctors often don't assume a blank slate: they assume a stupid one. And there is always knowledge to be had from a patient if you use your limited time wisely to get it. In any event, WHAN seeks to work on both ends of the relationship, but primarily to bolster patients' awareness of their own knowledge gaps, to help fill those gaps, and to give patients the tools to make their doctors fill those gaps. You have to know what you don't know, and then you have to claim the right to find out. It is for all these reasons, and so many more, that WHAN exists, works, and grows every day.


afro_diosa joins us from The Mongoose Chronicles.

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Now, I'm sure it comes to no shock to any of our readers to hear that I have a long-standing ire for GLAAD. While I deeply resonate with the spirit of the organization, I have been astounded by the depths these people have been willing to stoop to achieve their goals. Don't get me wrong, GLAAD does a lot of good work. Their annual report detailing queer representation in mainstream media and entertainment it top notch qualitative information.

But these media awards have long been a cause for many an eye-roll. Case and point: The highest accolade given by GLAAD is their "Vanguard" award, meant to acknowledge "media professionals who, through their work, have increased the visibility and understanding of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community."

In 2007, the award went to Jennifer Frackin' Aniston. /facepalm. While being introduced, her accolades justifying this alleged "work" that benefited us queers was so laughably tangential I could scarcely believe my ears. GLAAD claimed that Friends was a "gay-friendly" show, and also mentioned her appearance in a Melissa Etheridge music video. The spectacular gaffe of Aniston was followed the next year by awarding the Vanguard award to... Janet Jackson. Yes, that Janet Jackson. Wardrobe malfunctions and all. /double facepalm.

As you can imagine, I couldn't wait to see what bottom feeder of the celebrity barrel GLAAD had managed to scrounge up for this year's Vanguard award. Upon learning it was Tyra Banks, my eyes started rolling once more... until I listened to her acceptance speech. Catch it after the jump.


Now, Tyrazilla aside. I actually thought GLAAD had redeemed themselves to an extent with their selection of Banks. She has actually been an active player in using her platforms, as seedy and ridiculous as they may be, to further queer people's rights. And nothing beats that the last part to her speech. "Child, I took that damn word... I put it in my pocket book and RAN with it!" /cue uncontrollable laughter with a triple snap. GRRRRLLL!! Also, did anyone else notice that she was workin' the 80s power suit, shoulder pads and all? Someone means BIZNAS!

Now I just wish someone would have wiped that Gaiken off of the stage. I'm sorry, but you need to be out of the closet for more than a hot second before you get to be paraded in front of any gay awards ceremony. Or do you?

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