Arthur and Clementine.

Our first reblog! This is a fantastic post about boundary setting and how a healthy relationship is one that doesn’t constantly require it.

Swimming in Deep Water

One of my oldest possessions is a book titled “Arturo e Clementina” (“Arthur and Clementine” in English). It was published in the 70s as part of a series called, in Italy, “editions on the side of little girls.” (In English the series is called “non-sexist children literature,” which I think may be a misnomer. “Non-misogynistic” might have been more accurate.) The book is out of print now, and often wretchedly expensive, but a summary, lacking some of the subtlety, can be found here.

The book is the tale of two tortoises, Arthur and Clementine, who marry after a whirlwind romance. Clementine is looking forward to a life of activities and adventures with Arthur. Arthur does not disabuse her of her notions, but he has other plans.

Every time Clementine tells him that she would like to do something or go somewhere, he poo-poos her ideas. He explains to her that she’s just not…

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Man or Beiste?

Football coach Shannon Beiste was first introduced to Glee fans at the beginning of the second season. She was a force to be reckoned with; an intimidating presence with a hefty build and a loud, booming voice. She came with a bit of a chip on her shoulder, having been bullied throughout most of her life for her perceived lack of femininity.

In general, Coach Beiste was not considered sexually attractive. In one unfortunate storyline, several of the glee club boys (and one girl) chose to visualize her in overtly sexual outfits as a way to avoid “overheating” during make out sessions. Clothing choices included lingerie, a cheer uniform, and a ballet leotard. The juxtaposition created by this “mannish” woman attempting to be feminine and sexy was, apparently, a pretty effective boner killer.

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Beiste as a cheerleader. (Never Been Kissed)

When word of this unkind strategy made its way to Beiste, she was visibly hurt. She insisted that she wasn’t gay (a fact that she would repeat more than once as the series went on) and expressed her exasperation with situations like these:

“I know I can be a little intimidating sometimes, but deep down inside, where no one can see, I’m just a girl. Am I nuts that I just wanna be reminded of that sometimes?”
Continue reading “Man or Beiste?”

Kinda Gay: Bi Erasure on Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Willow Rosenberg wasn’t always into chicks.

Throughout season one of Buffy, our lovable hacker pined for her best friend, Xander. Her feelings weren’t reciprocated (Xander was too busy mooning over Buffy), but even so, she carried a torch for him well into season two.

That’s when she met Oz, an adorable guitarist who made no secret of his interest in her. The two began a tentative flirtation, rendering Willow appropriately smitten. Eventually, she managed to ask him out on a date. So began the cutest romance ever.

Xander, upon being rejected by Buffy, eventually struck up a dalliance with a cheerleader named Cordelia. After a bit of a rocky start, they settled into being boyfriend and girlfriend.

Things were going great for everyone until a few days before Homecoming. Willow and Xander decided to try on clothes for the dance together. Nothing was amiss until Willow emerged from behind the privacy screen and they saw each other, fully and fancily dressed.

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No harm in dancing ridiculously close, right? (Homecoming)

They stared, awestruck. Xander told Willow she was gorgeous. Awkward breathing and shifty gazes inevitably gave way to kissing. When they (finally) parted, both felt guilty but still drawn to each other.

The two struggled with their palpable attraction over the next few episodes, playing secret footsies in the science lab, giving ill-advised temple massages in the library, fighting a losing battle. Oblivious to their hormone-fueled angst, villain Spike chose precisely then to kidnap them and lock them in an abandoned factory. Continue reading “Kinda Gay: Bi Erasure on Buffy The Vampire Slayer”

Big Brother Boys Club

(Feature Photo from CBS.com)

Big Brother (the U.S. version) is nearing the end of its eighteenth season. As someone who has been watching since the very beginning, I can tell you it’s not a terribly prestigious show to be a fan of. Most people my age are surprised to discover that it’s still on the air, since they can’t name a single person they know who actually watches it. But every July, without fail, it returns to the CBS lineup. Year after year, Big Brother is kept alive by a mostly silent but intensely loyal fan base. (It’s sort of like the Nickelback of television in that regard.)

Why do I watch? Because it’s fascinating. It’s a three-month long social experiment that I get to observe while sitting on my comfy couch and eating popcorn. It’s a microcosm of the western world; a (not quite random) sampling of America. It’s a popularity contest with a $500,000 prize, and sometimes, when they get the mix of people just right, the underdog wins.

So who’s the underdog? Well, just like in life, Big Brother‘s underdogs are any contestants who are not straight white males. We can blame the casting process for this, to a point. People of colour are vastly underrepresented on the show, and it’s a rare season that includes more than one sexual minority. Alliances usually form between like-minded individuals. Straight white dudes are typically in the majority, and they frequently decide to work together.

On paper, women get a fair shake at the outset. The cast is always split 50/50 by gender. On Day 1, there are just as many women are there are men, so why are the ladies only pulling out 29% of the wins?

Continue reading “Big Brother Boys Club”

Why Sexist Comments Sometimes Make Me Smile

In 2007, I was involved in a very minor car accident. I still got whiplash, though. WAD-1, it’s called: Whiplash Associated Disorder, level 1. The doctor who examined me told me to ice my neck, and gave me a short prescription for a muscle relaxant. Cyclobenzaprine. The pain got to be pretty intense, and the drugs made me woozy enough to pass out, so it was a rough few weeks after that.

I was hardcore into Taekwon-do at the time, and had taken a break to recover from my injury. As soon as I started to feel better, I started training again. In the middle of class one night, a move I’d done hundreds of times before went wrong. Something in my back hurt. A lot. I was frozen in pain as the class continued around me, until a friend noticed and helped me off the training floor.

That sharp pain in 2007 formed a muscle knot in my lower back to the left of my spine – a lump which remains in my back to this day. It varies in size, and on good days is pretty hard to find. On bad days, it’s the size of an egg and super painful.

And so began my struggle with myofascial pain syndrome, a chronic pain condition involving the muscles (myo) and muscular connective tissue (fascia). The basis of the pain comes from trigger points – basically “knots” in the muscle – that can spasm painfully, and can even create pain in other areas of the body, known as referred pain.

It started in my back, but it spread. You might have experienced something similar; you’ve got soreness in one part of your body, so you compensate – maybe you limp, or you use your non-dominant hand – which creates a stress on the compensating portion of your body. Or your shoulders hurt, and then your neck gets sore, and then you get a headache. My pain moved. Trigger points spasming in my lower back made my midback develop trigger points, and then my shoulders and neck (already primed by the previous whiplash injury).

Cyclobenzaprine stopped working. I was in a lot of pain, almost all the time. It put my stress levels through the roof. What I didn’t realize at the time was how heavily my stress levels would impact my condition. Continue reading “Why Sexist Comments Sometimes Make Me Smile”

In / Out

(Originally posted on January 12, 2013 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

I am not out at work.

A handful of my co-workers are also friends with me on Facebook, and they’re bombarded with my truth on pretty much a daily basis. My super gay life is all I talk about on the Internet these days. But most of the people I work with don’t know I’m gay. Some of them may suspect, I suppose, but they haven’t received any sort of confirmation from me.

My non-work friends are surprised when I tell them this. Some of them can’t fathom the idea of a person knowing me and not knowing that I’m a big lez. To them, my gayness is a blinding rainbow beacon, unwavering and undeniable. “Have they not seen you walk?” they ask.

It’s a fair question.

Until recently, I wasn’t prone to oversharing. I took a passive approach to conversations, not volunteering any information I wasn’t directly asked for. This was a defense mechanism; a way to avoid being judged. And it carried over to small, stupid things, like not mentioning a TV show or band that I liked, for fear of being disagreed with or thought less of. One of the biggest driving forces in my life has always been my need to be liked. And a great way to do that is to sit back, observe, and mirror what people want to hear.

I’ve never liked being conspicuous. I’ve spent most of my life feeling completely different from everyone around me. And this feeling of alienation – of unbelonging – has often driven me to focus all of my energy on being unnoticed. On blending in.

I’m friends with a lesbian who, like me, isn’t out at work. I was surprised when she told me this, because she has a long-term girlfriend. But on reflection, I can believe it. She’s not someone who would have pinged my gaydar; at least not right away. She can certainly pass for straight. And since a lot of ordinary people consider “straight” to be the unquestioned default setting for everyone they meet, it’s possible that she doesn’t have to work very hard to keep this information to herself.

I’ve been out at other workplaces, but never right away, and certainly not with any big declarations. I’ve come out to co-workers gradually, one-on-one, and usually after having formed friendships first. I tell people I’m gay when they ask, and then I assure them that it’s not a secret.

It’s not, really. It’s just not something I lead with. I prefer for people to get to know me first. That way, “lesbian” is a label they’re applying to a person they already know. Once they know me, they like me. Once they like me, it’s less easy for them to dislike all lesbians on principle.

Right? Continue reading “In / Out”

Going Home Again (Again)

I was 22 the first time I moved across the country. I had lived with my parents while attending university and it was finally time for me to leave the nest. People were surprised when I announced my plan. I was pretty quiet and meek back then. I had never lived anywhere other than with my parents, and to some, it seemed like a big first move.

I distinctly remember my grandmother assuring me that there would be no shame in changing my mind if I decided I wasn’t ready for this. Mom told me the same thing. But I was determined. I was also gay and looking to create some distance between the claustrophobic motherland and me.

That day at the airport, my parents hugged me and handed me some cash while I gushed over a cute puppy to distract myself from crying. We said our goodbyes and I headed through security with my cousin, Melissa, who was on her way back to Calgary after a holiday in NS. It was nice to have family with me during this time of huge change.

Our flight included a stopover in Hamilton, Ontario. The first leg of the journey went off without a hitch, and we made it to our next gate in plenty of time. We boarded Plane #2, found our seats, and waited. We waited a while. I don’t remember how long it was; maybe an hour, maybe two. But eventually, we were all asked to get off the plane. Continue reading “Going Home Again (Again)”

A Woman Works

(Originally written on March 9, 2014.)

I am a bisexual woman engaged to a woman. A wonderful woman who has made me happier than I’ve ever been before. There is that saying that, someday, someone will walk into your life and make you realize why it never worked out with anyone else. This is what I have, and it’s phenomenal. I feel like I’m the luckiest person alive! But of course, all my exes are men, and my fiancée is a woman. So the question always comes:

“Do you think it’s working out so well because of who she is, or because she’s a woman?” Continue reading “A Woman Works”

Prodigy or Parody?

I think I’ve always known that I might not be entirely… normal in the gender department. Purely by fluke, I seem to have grown up hitting milestones in my personal life (in regards to gender diversity) which correlated to the milestones North American pop culture was hitting at the same time. As I explored what it meant to be a woman, and whatever else it was that I was feeling, I was also being shown that it was okay to not necessarily be “one or the other.”

Since I was raised on a steady diet of The Oprah Winfrey Show, I was often exposed to gender diverse people through Oprah’s interviews with them. Although these conversations were always novel, to me, they never felt wrong or impossible. Little ten-year-old me thought: Of course there are men with uteruses. Of course some women used to have penises. I wasn’t freaked out by any of it. Gratefully, neither were my parents, and I was able to have very open conversations about it all with my mom.

She had always done her best to help me feel safe to express myself in whatever way I needed to. Neither she nor my dad discouraged me from being friends with the boys, or wearing more masculine clothes. They weren’t bothered by me being the boy when I played make-believe with my sister and friends, and they didn’t mind that many of my friends and teachers gave me male nicknames over the years. Even when I started to write male characters almost exclusively, they didn’t get annoyed.

My mother, did, however, instill a very strong sense of girl power in me from an early age. I was overweight and taller than everyone else from day one, so my mom did her best to help me to feel confident in my own skin. She called me an “Amazon woman” for as long as I can remember, told me to use my feminine powers “for good and not evil,” and taught me about feminine divinity. She helped me to celebrate every stage of puberty; every way my body changed was another step toward Womanhood, and I was trained to be thrilled about it.

For most of my life, I think I was pretty comfortable with all of that. I still am, I suppose. I really enjoy traditionally feminine aesthetics, and many days I enjoy my feminine curves, and putting on makeup and jewelry. I still feel strongly connected to this image of the “Amazon woman” that my mom presented, and I’m still happy and confident with the way that I look… on the days that the gender dysphoria isn’t there. Continue reading “Prodigy or Parody?”

Soft Skills and Baby Steps

(Originally posted on July 5, 2012 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

I am the youngest child of three in my family. And though I stand at least six inches taller than my mother, I am still frequently referred to as “the baby.” This is how my parents see me. I suspect my older siblings probably see me this way as well. I’m younger and less prepared for things. I’m someone to teach; someone to take care of. They might always see me this way. The real question is: will I ever stop seeing myself this way?

Not long ago, I watched a Ted Talk by Jeffrey Kluger about siblings and birth order and the impact both can have on the people we become. (The pertinent part of the discussion begins at the 12-minute mark.) What I heard stuck with me, because it felt like an eerily accurate picture of my own experience. Just like I am a textbook lesbian in a lot of ways, I am also (apparently) a textbook youngest child.

The portrait of the oldest sibling didn’t come as a big surprise to me. They tend to be extremely independent. They are doers, and problem-solvers, and they are usually more professionally successful than their younger siblings. They are intelligent, and confident, and self-assured. They know how to take care of themselves.

So, you might be wondering, where does this leave the youngest child?

I’m glad you asked!

The youngest child in the family tends to be funny; tends to be charming. She has strong communication skills and she knows how to read others. She is a natural people pleaser. The oldest sibling knows how to take care of herself, but the youngest sibling knows how to persuade others to take care of her.

Compared against my own personal experience, this description rings ridiculously true. And so, here I am at age 31, wondering how much more I might have accomplished if I had been the oldest child in my family. Wondering how I may have benefited from some mad independence skillz.

I have had a string of unsatisfying and poor-paying jobs. I have underachieved and disappointed myself. I should have been and done more but I was ill-equipped and distracted. Life had thrown me a curve ball; an obstacle my family couldn’t help me with. Life had made me gay. And that was a road trodden by neither sibling nor parent.

Being gay has pushed me in ways that nothing else has in life. It’s challenged my comfort level at every turn, and I think that’s actually been good for me. I have had an agonizingly slow go of it all, and even now I am only inching forward in baby steps. But it’s a lifelong journey, and at least I am moving in the right direction. As they say, it’s better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb than halfway up one you don’t.

The thing that has held me back the most in life, and what still holds me back in little and big ways as we speak, is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of making mistakes. A lack of trust in myself. I’m afraid to take on a career that challenges me, because I’m afraid to fail. I’m afraid to drive a car in the city. I’m afraid to travel outside of the country by myself. I’m afraid to ask a woman out on a date. It took me until the age of 31 just to join a lesbian social group, and even when I finally struck up the nerve to go to one, I spent several minutes out in the parking lot, afraid to walk in the door.

That was almost three months ago. And now, with every new meeting or event I go to, I struggle to remember what the hell I was so afraid of. Was I afraid of lesbians? Have I been afraid of myself this whole time?

Now there are new things to be afraid of. If I’m too friendly with a girl, will it come across as flirting? On the flip side, if I’m actually attempting to flirt, will she be able to tell? I spent my twenties mastering the art of falling in love with heterosexual friends. I knew the boundaries then. I knew where I stood.

Liking someone who might actually like me back sounds completely terrifying. But I guess that’s how I know it’s worth doing. Part of being an adult is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

So line up, ladies! I’m prepared to be terrified, if you’re prepared to be charmed.


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