I get very emotional when I feel like I cannot change something I feel needs to be changed.

Consequently, I have been a bit off the grid lately, moping, reformulating, and reflecting on personal issues which probably have nothing to do with tearing down gender norms, uniting marginalized groups, or getting people to go to schools and say "stop f*cking harassing and attacking our LGBTQ youth" instead of saying “don't bully.”

But these things do keep spinning around me as news from the outside world, mixed in with a whirlwind of ignorant depoliticizing rhetoric from sources that should know better. And I've been sucked into institutional frameworks that constantly say “it IS better” because it usually is when you are near-sighted and look only directly backward.

I was going to write a post about the differences between progressive movements in larger cities and smaller places like where I live. Because I think it is interesting, and there are many pros and cons each way; I will not be one of those people who perpetuates the myth that every non-metropolitan area is socially backward. I will also not be one of those people who looks at the fact that gays and lesbians can get married in Iowa and say that makes Iowa a particularly progressive state. Social Progress does not come one issue at a time, or at least not successfully. We have a political system where compromises are made all the time to get things done, so in cases like the health care bill, progress gets compromised right into oblivion. But I digress.

Rather than do a whole post on all the differences between movements in larger areas vs smaller areas, I'll limit it to one or two. One of the most significant differences is that in smaller areas, because they are often less integrated into the larger movements, there are often interesting and new forms of resistance and organizing that are a result of local culture. Because of their smaller size, it is often easier to make big waves as well. In short, smaller areas have the opportunity to become very unique spaces for movements, while in larger areas, unique movements often must form either in conjunction with or even in opposition to whatever large-scale movement may be going on there.

Of course that's no guarantee that one WILL end up with one of those uniquely forward thinking communities or movements in a small place. And when one doesn't, it is often really difficult getting many people to understand why it is important to have a more nuanced perspective on social and economic issues than they already do. When people become trailblazers based on relatively moderate ideals, when they make progress with these rather moderate ideas, it is exceedingly difficult to show people that this isn't enough, save for the people who directly experience the shortcomings of such a moderate movement and/or understand the source of those shortcomings.

Instead, the once trailblazing movement becomes an institutional roadblock, co-opted by people who were not really all that different from the accepted norm and who are quite satisfied to see that they have been incorporated into the mainstream. I realize, by this point, this is no longer a situation which qualifies as a difference between larger and smaller areas, save for the fact that larger areas have enough people and resources for movements to split, and smaller areas don't.

What a lonely progressive might often hear is: "We are already diverse. We already have anti-bullying policies in place. We let people be who they want to be, we just don't have any of those people here. You are just being oppositional. You just want to be radical. You are trying to make an issue where there isn't one." Meanwhile we're ripe to be another headline in the national news.

But we must remember: if one voice raises an issue, there is an issue.

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“I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but you’re a girl. You have two X chromosomes and you have lady parts. Stop thinking and acting like a boy! It’s not like you need to be a boy to do the things you want in life!”


It’s true you can live a fulfilling life as a woman. But yeah, you can also live a fulfilling life as a man. Or any gender you identify as. And I don’t want someone determining my gender based on what parts I’ve got. Not only is it none of their business what junk I’ve have under my clothes, but why do they even care?

They care because they don’t like change. You were born with a certain set of things that made other people define who you were before you had any say about it. The second you exit your mother’s womb the doctor exclaims, “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!” And you’re stuck with that until you say different. But even when you say, “Hey...you know what you’ve been saying all my life...about how my gender matches my sex...well, I hate to break it to you, but you’re wrong. And it’s always been this way.” “Oh, this is just a phase. You’re a girl! You’re just going thorough a confusing time in your life, you’ll straighten out. It’s not important, there’s nothing wrong with being a girl! You’re just a tomboy! Some guys like that! Stop acting like you need to be a boy to be happy!”

No. You’re just not getting it.

It’s not a phase. And it is important. And, well, I’M the one who knows what my gender is, whether I be a male or something different. And I didn’t just decide. THIS IS HOW IT IS AND THIS IS QUITE LIKELY HOW IT ALWAYS WILL BE.

This is how I grew up. This is how a lot of trans people have grown up. “You’re not a boy! Stop saying that!” or “You’re not a girl! Stop saying that!” When I was little I told everyone I was a boy. And sometimes they believed me. When you’re wearing unisex clothing and have short hair, it isn’t that difficult to believe assume I’m being honest. Why would I lie, right? Well, I wasn’t lying, not exactly, but they didn’t know and they didn’t care that they didn’t know and everything was just fine and dandy.

But when you get older...

You get breasts. Or facial hair. And no matter what you do or wear, it’s hard to hide, especially if you develop early and develop fast. How the hell are you going to hide these things that are so suddenly happening to your body against your will? These changes only solidify the concrete decisions other people have made about your gender. You can no longer tell someone you are your proper gender and have them believe you unconditionally. But please tell me, why should other people be deciding, and telling me, who I am?

To make this long story short, people want you to be simple for them. They want to just automatically see you and say, “That’s a boy!” or “That’s a girl!” People don’t want you to correct them. They would rather think that you’re just being confused and emotional and therefore having temporary identity issues. You know, the kind you get when you go to college and are having a hard time deciding on your major. “Oh don’t worry baby, there’s nothing wrong with being a philosophy major! But I don’t think you’re the type who would do well in math. It’s just not who you are. You can be happy in life without being a math major.”

That example is very similar to the one I gave about gender, right? But it’s not the same thing. AT ALL. College is something you go through. It’s when you decide what you want to do, maybe for the rest of your working life, maybe not. Careers can be transient. But identities...your identity is who you are. YOU can’t change that.

So please, stop. telling. me. who. I. am.

Kirk out.

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Pink and Green II

I didn't plan for my last post on environmentalism and queer or feminist movements to have a sequel, but I've surprised myself by having a heck of a lot to say on the subject, so here's a second helping! In my last post, I focused quite a bit on what was wrong, in queer or feminist terms, with the mainstream Western environmental movement. This month I want to talk more about why environmental issues matter to queer and feminist activism.

Let me qualify this post by saying that I come to environmental activism from the point of view of a natural areas user, a conservation volunteer/amateur naturalist, and someone with a professional interest in sustainability. I haven't read up on ecofeminism and deep ecology, and I'm certain that some of the ideas I've cleverly come up with have been formulated and explored much better elsewhere. But this is kind of a unique forum, too, and so I hope that I can bring something new and useful to the table.

For me, the big connection between the environment and queer/feminist issues is bodily autonomy. I believe that all people have a right to decide what enters their body. Pollution contravenes that right. As silverscreened pointed out earlier this month, hormonal birth control is potent stuff – something that definitely warrants informed consent. But our waterways – and by extension our drinking water – are filling up with birth control and estrogen-like chemicals. In many countries, poor women and their children are disproportionately likely to suffer from respiratory infections and even die from the terrible indoor air quality caused by their coal and wood-fired cooking stoves. I talked a little bit about the idea of environmental justice in my last post. The fact is that the people who suffer the most from pollution, who will be the worst affected by “natural” disasters or climate change, are people who have no other choice: poor people, marginalized people, queer and trans and female-bodied people.

It should not be a privilege to be able to live in a neighbourhood where every child isn't suffering from asthma due to coal-fired power plants. There should be no question of whether your drinking water is messing with your hormones. Your gender, sexual orientation, immigration status or, well, anything else, shouldn't force you to take a job that's toxic or dangerous because you know you won't find anything else. But we all know these things happen all the time.

Environmental activism is, at its heart, about the preservation of our common goods: clean air, clean water, natural resources. And common goods are only common when we agree on our shared entitlement to them. We can argue for equal personhood or the right to self-determination of our genders and identities, but those concepts are pretty empty if some of us are excluded from having the basic building blocks to start with. Capitalism (particularly neoliberalism) would have us believe that self-determination is based on exploiting our resources (and our fellow humans). Frak that, I say. The radical first step in caring for ourselves and for each other is caring for our environment.

We can, and should, set limits on how much we use up or destroy resources that are finite, shared, sacred. We can, and should, insist on the fact that as humans we are all have the right to a basic level of decency that includes not being actively harmed by our environment. We can, and should, fight back hard against the notion that if something's important enough, the market will take care of it. We cannot continue to scrabble along in a rat race where the players are entitled to anything they can lay our hands on, and if that hurts someone else, well, they should have scrabbled harder. As queer people and as feminists we know, to mix my metaphors, that the deck in that game is stacked. If we're not fighting to change the rules of the game, we're fighting the wrong fight.

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I love topical writing, but it's such a drag, skimming through the rss feeds to find a news item I feel adequately informed on to pontificate. If only there was some sort of contraption available for three easy payments of $29.99 that would let me talk about current events with grace and panache. Until then, I have to pick on issues my own size, or rather, the size of my knowledge (for an extra 5 bucks, get the premium version of this article, with all the inappropriate dick jokes included). The voice in my head that tells me to take a bath with my toaster says I should stay 100 feet away from critiquing the “It Gets Better” project and a recent visit by door to door Mormons who, after learning I was trans, refused to give me a copy of their pamphlet and then came by a few days later to ask me what I thought of said pamphlet has left me with the nagging doubt that perhaps I don't know the enemy well enough to be calling air strikes. Yes, despite my radical politics and polyamorous background, I believe we need to win the fight for marriage equality. Now before we make any rash decisions, keep this in mind: if you remove me from your friends list I'm not going to bring my ice cream cone cupcakes to your vegetarian potluck slash spoken word concert. Think of the children, dammit.

But hold on, what do we have here? “Porn Actor Tests Positive For HIV, Adult Film Companies Halt Production”. Well hello there. What's a gorgeous story about the importance of using protection doing in a low brow feed like this? Finally, a news item in my league. Yes, I'm about to lecture you on why you should always use protection. We're going there. Write your mamas and tell 'em you love 'em, cuz not all of you will be coming back.

When asked what “queer sex” or “feminist sex” is to me, I take a moment to giggle at someone saying“sex” out loud and then I respond with this: the most proud, most feminist, most sex and gender positive thing you can do in the bedroom is to respect both your and your partner's bodies. Loving and taking care of your body in a time of bigotry and prejudice is the hardest you could fuck the heteronormative operating system without needing batteries. I know you know this. We both went to that queer spoken word thing and heard that one girl's poem and gripped each other's hands. Don't tell me you've changed so much already.

Why are we still able to engage in unprotected sexual activity with the AIDS epidemic, television shows about teen pregnancy and that one time our friend showed us their genitals and asked “does this look infected to you” in the back of our minds? Is it abstinence only sex education? The difficulty for the impoverished in affording protection or acquiring at no cost? Media? Christine O'Donnell? Good news, wafflers. The answer is all of the above (and then some). But in the spirit of “picking on targets our own size” I will be focusing on media, namely the adult film industry. You will note that I use the term “media”, as in “means of communication” and not “the media”, a term that is often confused for “the press” which is often used as a strawman by politicians and political figures, giving impressionable viewers the idea that its a sentient being walking around, ordering bagels and shit. I feel with my education and work in media (see also: made a film I let nobody watch, recorded a demo I let nobody hear, and maintain a blog with a readership of about 20) I think I can last long enough in the ring with media to make it look real. Still, don't try this at home. I went to art school.

Before the bell sounds let me go on the record as saying it is not my place to tell the porn industry what it can not and should not do, so I won't. I did not spend a day in the principle's office for putting up fake student government election campaign posters so I could denounce free speech when I ceased to be “threatening”. I'm only connecting the dots. Someone else can color it in.

Also, while I unwaveringly advocate the use of gloves and condoms (the latter of which I've required the two times in my life I've performed fellatio because I don't care for the tate and was only doing it to be generous), I'm not married to the idea of dental dams. I feel it defeats the purpose of oral sex, which is to be wet an warm and kind of messy. Still, I only perform cunnilingus on partners whose medical history is readily known to me. It also helps if I genuinely love them, because then it makes any complication that would arise a little easier to swallow. And I'm getting waaaaay to personal. So let's get back to the porn industry.

The use of barriers is relatively uncommon in porn, when you into account porn aimed at heterosexuals (which includes the long french manicured pseudo lesbian porn that drives much of the industry). The reason for this, those of you keeping score at home, is that condoms impede sales. At least that was the explanation given by the porn industry in 2004 after a brief “okay guys we need to start using condoms for real this time” phase following the last HIV industry scare. Some say it breaks up the scene. To this I shrug indifferently and say “find a way to work the condom into it”. I mean shit, she has no idea where that pizza delivery guy/cable repair man/singing telegram has been. An extra shot of her looking around the room, finding a way to pay for services rendered. She sees the condom on the coffee table. Bam. Done. An extra what, two seconds? And think of the comedic opportunity available here. I think mandatory condom use would be worth it if at least one porn does the aforementioned pizza delivery guy scene but instead of packets of parmesan cheese and red peppers the pizza comes with condoms. I may need to make that porn. Just for that one two-second gag. Operation Make Mom Love Me Less is a go.Others arguments for keeping barriers out include: it makes the sex seem less intimate, latex gloves look weird when it's not a “nurse” scene, and REAL MEN JUST WANNA BUST A NUT IN THEIR WOMAN. I fear I can't take the time to dissect all of these points. I need to keep those ideas a secret in case someone goes and steals my condoms on the pizza idea and I'm suddenly minus a film project.

Instead I will present my two arguments for how the lax attitude on barriers in heterosexual porn can affect the queer community:

1) The foods do touch. Straight actors do gay/bisexual porn and vice versa. This probably does not need to be expanded on.
2) Setting an unrealistic standard for healthy sex practices that could be misread by impressionable youth.

Oh my. It appears I've pokevolved into Tipper Gore. Shoot me.

Oh. You're pro gun control too?

Well then, I'll continue.

Porn will be emulated. I would argue that's the point. You see people being pleasured or acting in a way that stimulates pleasure in the viewer, it makes you want to be pleasured, even if by your own doing. Regardless as to why it will be imitated or if it's supposed to be, it will. The monkey see monkey do ethic of humanity conquers all. 30 seconds of youtube videos of people copying what they see on tv shows like Jackass, Mythbusters, and WWE should confirm my point. And if timed improperly, could cost you your job.

Not all queer youth start out watching queer porn. Straight porn is much more readily available and in many cases more acceptable to be caught looking at. These unfortunate first impressions, when compounded with subpar sex education and a lack of available safe sex materials, suck. I attended high school with the highest teen pregnancy rate in the state. If my straight classmates weren't using condoms, I think it's fair to assume the queer weren't either. We can do the dinosaur and argue whether or not it's okay for teens to be having sex. The fact is they are, and will continue to. The same cannot be said about the dinosaur.

Am I suggesting that the porn industry is responsible for viewers acting out what they see, and they should enforce the use of barriers to slowly train their audiences to emulate that? That's a negatory. I'm not taking sides on the issue. Just calling like I sees it. Or trying to, at least. I have neither the journalistic background or time in the day to edit my language to make it more objective.
Shit, I don't even watch straight porn anymore.

But I do attend leather fairs and Pride events, and it does grate on me when I see a bareback DVD vendor sharing the same space as AIDS outreach or safer sex programs. At Up Your Alley earlier this year, there was a bareback DVD booth right next to the Stop Aids Project. Doesn't the money I donate at the gate go towards affording you an extra pair of eyes to look at that and go “Um, no”? I should be at the very very back of the “queue to tell you your kink is not okay”, but selling depictions of how infections are spread at the same event where non profit organizations are asking for support in fighting the spread of those very same infections is in such bad taste, is so “bad” ironic, that if you focused that energy and shot it out of a laser gun at a random hipster they'd cancel each other out and you'd be left with the guy who plays PC in the “I'm a Mac, I'm a PC” commercials, sipping on a lambic and listening to James Taylor.


I understand that these fairs need to make money by renting out space to vendors, and that some just see community events as a place to peddle their shit. But damn son, there is a plethora of more responsible ways to make money off of queers. Like a zombie themed burlesque show!

A part of me that doesn't get out much fears that in some way, like the butterfly flooding the city with a flap of its wing, the standards of the straight porn industry are leaving indents on the queer community, and that heteronormative attitudes on barriers and safe sex can contribute to irresponsibility on our end. And that this laissez-faire standard of condoms in the straight and gay bareback porn industries will trigger an outbreak, an infestation that sweeps the nation.

We didn't do so well the first time. I'm betting we won't live through the sequel. You think our advanced medicine and technology will save us, but they still haven't perfected the formula for the pill that stops us from turning into damn damn dirty apes, harassing those suspected of infection, publishing lies in the press (in 1988 Cosmopolitan said that heterosexuals were not at risk for HIV because it couldn't be spread in the missionary position), and disowning loved ones infected or at risk of exposure. If half a million people really did attend the Rally to Restore Honor, then we're all about one broken condom away from Quest For Fire.

TLDR; Ooga booga, wear a condom and gloves or everyone you know will die.

So what can you do? Well, you can “write” the straight porn studios and insist they start making condoms mandatory, like most gay porn. If I was programmed to wink when I said “write” to imply “persuade with various mixed media campaigns and old fashioned boycotting”, I would have back there. You can get involved in or donate to various organizations to advocate safer sex and or provide safer sex materials to people. If you're one of those “direct action” types, you can buy a box of condoms and give them to friends or leave them on a bowl in your living room as party favors.

Or don't. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe an outbreak in the straight porn industry doesn't affect the queer community. Maybe nobody gets the wrong idea from seeing a bareback DVD booth at Pride. Having a regular op/ed column on the internets doesn't mean you have any more idea of how the world works than another person. I'm just as surprised as you that I'm doing this. I always thought I'd go into antiques.

If you take nothing else from this article, have this: underneath your fingernails is one of the hardest places on your body to sterilize. Even if you meticulously scrape them clean after putting your hand inside somebody, you can still harbor pathogens. And good luck getting a manicure with an infected finger. Spoiler alert: When I say “good luck” I really mean “don't try”.

Say it with me now.

No glove, no love.

The demise of the patriarchy hangs in the balance.

ETA: Oh, it turns out the actor in question starred in both gay and straight porn.


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I was on hormonal birth control for seven years. This is not rare or unique, many women go on it and are on it for much longer. We're taught that it's totally and completely normally to take synthetic hormones for years and years and years. Because it beats making sure the guy wears a condom, right??

Well no, because (honestly no surprise to me), birth control pills are shown to alter women's brains.

What. The. Fuck.

Before I even thought to research it (and honestly, I still never have), I knew birth control changed things. I had the normal sex drive of a 20-year-old straight college female, and almost instantly after going on the pill, that sex drive plummeted. Did I question if I should be on the pill or not? Of course not! I didn’t want to get pregnant! The risk of getting pregnant seems to trump pretty much everything else in a straight college female’s mind.

But did I even research being on the pill? And the side effects? No, of course not. EVERYONE was on the pill. So it can’t be bad, right? Besides the pill of the 2000s is so much better than the pill of the past – lower doses of hormones. So why fret? Just keep taking it.

So I dealt with the lack of a sex drive, and my now-husband dealt with it. I also realized that ever since I went on the pill, my moods levels off. I no longer had lows, but I also no longer had highs. One of my friends pointed out I seemed (much more) jaded. Did I question taking the pill? No, of course not. Hey, it was nice not to get the blues every now and then. Even if it meant a small fraction of excitement over stuff that would normally excite me.

After a few years, I started asking my gynecologists about going off hormonal birth control (by this point I was on the ring) and trying something non-hormonal, because of my lack of sex drive. I was given these options:

1. Condoms. Not so good because they make my husband go soft, and he can’t really fake it like I can. [Sigh.]
2. Diaphragm. Apparently so few women go on these that my gyno commented “wow I haven’t fit someone for one in awhile!” I immediately changed my mind on being fitted for one.

Also my gyno reminded me that the both options had higher failure rates than hormonal birth control. So that scared me into sticking with the hormones.

But I still hated it. I hated the lack of sex drive, and not really feeling life myself. I hated knowing that it had been years since I actually felt like my self. And I hate that our culture just pumps young women full of synthetic hormones without really questioning the effects, or if the effects are worth it. Sure beats being pregnant, huh?!?! So don't complain! It's so convenient and easy!! Just a little pill! Perfectly harmless ...

Eventually I discovered the fertility awareness method. The ultimate method for a woman to be in control of her body; it can be used to avoid pregnancy and also improve your chances of getting pregnant when the time comes. But despite the high success rates, most women probably have no idea what it is (I’m guessing they would think it’s the rhythm method - which is the act of abstaining during fertile times). No gyno I’ve ever talked to has suggested it as an option.

And why is that? Is it because it requires much more action by the women, and we’ve seen how well some women do taking the pill every day, so imagine how they’ll do with a method that requires a bit more attention! Ha ha ... those airheads. 

However, when it comes to reproductive rights, it’s all about choice. And how can a woman make the right choice for her when she isn’t even told all of her options? We’re told our options for avoiding pregnancy are condoms, hormones, or abstinence. The diaphragm is archaic and inconvenient, based on the way it was sold to me by my gyno. Pulling out is too risky and doesn’t give women control over their own bodies (they have to trust their partner will pull out in time). Spermacide is only sold as a supplement to another, more trusted form of birth control. And the rhythm method is only for the crazy religious. I didn’t learn about the fertility awareness method until a rather enlightened friend of mine talked about it on her blog.

In the meantime, widely used hormonal birth control may be altering our minds. I totally and completely believe that it is. Yet will hormonal birth control go away anytime soon? Doubtful. I posted a link to that story on my Facebook page, and the only comment I got was how funny some of the article’s comments are. Not, “holy shit that’s fucking scary why are they still shoving it down our throats and peddling it like candy??”

Although I’m surprised I haven’t seen the religious right jumping on this story as proof that birth control is evil. Or maybe I just do a really good job of avoiding their filth on the internet.

In the meantime, I will continue the fertility awareness method (supplemented by spermacide of course!). And one day when I have daughters, there is no way in hell I’m letting them go on birth control. Although maybe, just maybe, our society will be enlightened enough that we won’t be shoving hormones down the throats of teenagers because it’s too hard to teach high schoolers about condom use.

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Dan Savage recently launched the It Gets Better Project, a youtube testimonial campaign designed to remind queer teens that it gets better after high school. Savage and those joining the project attempt to address the uptick or at least an alarming concentration of teen suicides over their actual or perceived sexuality by reminding queer youth that high school ends and the bullying stops; you'll move to an urban gay enclave, meet the man of your dreams, and have a wonderful, sparkly, magical life. Maybe even get married, because, you know that's what all the other gays are doing.

I want to get one thing clear right out of the bat:

I think that the It Gets Better Project at its core is a good idea. Queer teens need to hear from their peers and their forebears that there is indeed hope. That life is indeed worthwhile and that high school is not, in fact, the end of the world.

What I question is this seeming meta-narrative that many in the gay mainstream are pushing: Get out of high school; Flee your biggoted small town and move to an urban gay enclave; Join the gay community as a card carrying member of the League of Fashionable Culture Generators; Enlightened, accepting queers versus Ignorant, biggoted straights; Urban versus Rural; Us versus Them.

It's this kind of self-congratulatory back-patting that the gay community is so want to do that I question: the notion that the gay community has it all figured out; that gay folk are so morally, culturally, and politically superior to the backwater, cousin-marrying, neanderthals of small town America; that once you leave high school and become a full member of the gay community, you will be accepted with open arms and you too will get to go out dancing every night and gossip about your latest fling over mimosas at Sunday brunch.

I fear that the way in which people are presenting the gay narrative to these impressionable teens is this sense that their lives will inevitably improve. That's just not true. They can get better, definitely. But we have to be real and transparent about the gay community and its problems.

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