Finding Faith in “Unreal”

It’s no secret that there isn’t a lot of “gay” media out there. It’s why, if you’ve ever hung around lesbians or bisexual women, you’ll hear a lot about The L Word and Orange Is the New Black. Or you’ll hear us talk about shows that aren’t gay per se, but that made us feel better about being weird or different back before we knew why we were weird or different. In other words, we cobble together our own media history as best we can, looking for something – anythingthat looks like us.

And that’s why I was surprised to find myself in tears over my own reflection on a show that by all accounts is the most straight.

Last week I was looking for a new show to watch at the gym, and the writers on my favorite tv site, previously.tv, had been talking up a show called Unreal on – of all things – the Lifetime Network. Unreal is a scripted, fictional show about two women who produce a reality program called Everlastinga not-very-covert stand-in for The Bachelor. If you’re familiar at all with old reality staple The Bachelor, you’ll know the rumors that the program is heavily produced, that the women on the show are sometimes manipulated into saying and doing things they might not otherwise do at will. You know that they’re pumped full of alcohol at every opportunity. You’ll know that one is always picked to be “the villain” and another “the wife”. In short, if you’re familiar at all with the program, you’ll know that it might be hard to work as a producer while maintaining any semblance of self-respect.

That’s the battle that the two lead characters, Quinn and Rachel, fight each episode. Rachel in particular has a feminist past; she mentions all her friends from school who work for public television; she sometimes wears a shirt that says “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like”. A portion of her wants to believe that she’s painting the women on the show in a positive light. But she is constantly undermining her own dreams of purity by putting the ladies in situations she knows, deep down, are manipulative or unfair.

I knew the basic plot of the show when I began watching. I expected to see women portrayed in a way that was complex and interesting. I craved the complexity offered by a show where women could be strong, but not always right. I wanted to see Quinn and Rachel struggle with real, complex life decisions. I wanted to see them make mistakes. And I was not disappointed. the show contained all that and more. What I didn’t expect, though, was for the show to gift me with a gay woman whose story felt just enough like home to make me cry and punch me in the stomach. Continue reading “Finding Faith in “Unreal””

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A Mother Speaks Out

(Originally posted on November 7, 2012 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

Guest Post by Sandra (a.k.a. Mo’s mom)

To borrow a well-known phrase from a famous organization, I would like to begin by saying: “HELLO, MY NAME IS SANDRA AND I AM THE MOTHER OF A LESBIAN.”

At 62 years of age, I can honestly say I never expected to be saying this. But, after being introduced to this site by Mo, I wondered if perhaps there might be an audience out there to hear what one mother’s thoughts might be, especially if some lesbians have still not figured out where their own mothers stand. So this is my attempt to share my feelings with you. Continue reading “A Mother Speaks Out”

Real Housewife of Edmonton

When Kate and I first got together, we both had full-time jobs. Neither of us were terribly satisfied with the career paths we were on. Our home time was split between doing household chores and recharging our social batteries. Weekends were just long enough to make us feel like people again, and then Monday would roll around. Our jobs were leeching more than the requisite eight hours per day from us. We both craved a proper work/life balance.

Now and again, we would toy with the idea of one of us taking time off work to focus on writing. It was fun to think about, but it didn’t really seem feasible as an actual option.

We got married last year, in a much smaller ceremony than we had originally planned. Most of our “wedding fund” wasn’t needed for the wedding, but we still wanted to use it for something that was important to us. Investing in one of our dreams seemed like the right choice.

I quit my job back in April. So far, it’s been weird, but good. From the start, it was important to me to make the most of the opportunity. I’ve structured my lifestyle accordingly. Continue reading “Real Housewife of Edmonton”

Independent Woman is Dating a Woman

(Originally posted on January 9, 2014 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

Several weeks ago, I went to my first appointment with my therapist. I’ve done therapy before, but I had a new, pressing topic to discuss. Since coming out, I’ve been feeling guilty about my outward expression; how I dress, how I wear my hair, whether or not I choose to wear make up.

Growing up, I idolized my older brother. I wanted to be as good as he was at everything, wanted to eat my cereal as fast as he did, wanted to grow to be as tall as he was. After we both grew to our close-to adult sizes, I started wearing a lot of his hand-me-downs. I continue to favour baggier clothes than many women do, and continue to purchase men’s pants to this day. When I was fourteen, I stopped dance classes after almost ten years. I was tired of having my hair styled tightly into buns cemented in place with gel and hairspray, and I was tired of the thick stage make up. I withdrew from make up and had no terrible interest in putting great effort into my hair.

When I was about fifteen, a year after I stopped dancing, I started Taekwon-do and archery classes. I wore more men’s clothing, and I enjoyed being good at things that were predominantly ‘guy’ things, like martial arts and science. I actively avoided anything pink, as I didn’t want to be associated with anything that girly. It got more and more intense as I got older. I only wore men’s pants and refused to carry a purse, opting for a man wallet. I took a bow-hunting course and was one of only three or four women in a class of around twenty. I was proud just to be there as a woman, and when I turned out to have more natural talent at certain things, you couldn’t wipe the grin off my face for days. I learned to drive a stick shift. I took welding classes. I was running my life under the motto of anything you can do, I can do better.

My dad has influenced me in this regard, as well. He has always been adamant that I should never need a man for anything – not to pay my bills, not to fix my car. I have done a lot of my own car maintenance, with my dad and brother showing me how to do it for next time. I’ve replaced my own brakes, done all my own oil changes, and I’ve changed a flat tire in a rainstorm. I see my financial and personal independence as a huge part of who I am, and will frequently deny help from others, especially men, with the phrase, ‘I’m an independent woman!’

Continue reading “Independent Woman is Dating a Woman”

#YQL – There’s No Place Like Home

The city I live in now, Lethbridge, is very well known for its wind. It’s not a rarity for winds to gust between 70 to 80 kilometers per hour on any given day (that’s 44 to 50 miles per hour, for our American readers). March 5th, 2016 happened to be particularly windy: research tells me that it got up to 34 km/h that day (21 m/h).

Although I’d already been living with the Lethbian wind (yes, we’re really called Lethbians) for about six months, I’d somehow managed to forget that factor while my friend and I were getting ready to go see DarkMatter perform. When we arrived, our carefully coiffed and sprayed hair was utterly destroyed by the wind. This wasn’t lost on the local hosts of the evening, who made more than one joke about the windy state of affairs. All of us guffawed merrily, and I, for one, felt slightly less bad about looking like I’d just arrived in Oz via tornado.

However, that night was a bit like arriving in Oz. When I’d told people up north that I was moving way down to Lethbridge, I’d had a lot of warnings about how conservative (and windy) the city was. I figured that since I would be attending a pretty liberal University, I’d probably be sheltered from the conservative ideologies of my fellow Lethbians. While this ended up being true, I also learned that night that the greater community wasn’t entirely conservative, either. Continue reading “#YQL – There’s No Place Like Home”

Reflections

(Originally posted on June 25, 2013 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

What a week it’s been.

I typically try to keep my blog topics queer-themed, but lately I’ve been thinking more broadly. It’s all been big picture stuff – life, the universe, and everything. I’ve spent this past week in east coast country; breathing fresh air, being moved by nature, and having intense conversations with people I don’t talk to nearly enough.

Being here, off work and surrounded by family, friends, and scenery I only see once a year, disrupts my routine in the best way. It forces me to really see my life like an objective observer. It’s a time-out, during which my only priority is to figure out where I am and where I’m headed.

It can be so easy to leave things as they are in life. Routines feel safe and comfortable and uncomplicated. Human beings resist change by nature. But this past year has taught me that moments of change are the moments when we really live. Continue reading “Reflections”

Inhale and Exhale

Guest post by Devin.

About 40 million adults in the United States are affected by anxiety disorders. I’m one of them. I suffer from depression and anxiety, and personally, I feel my anxiety is more damaging. Anxiety can take many forms, but for me it flares up most when I am over-stimulated or doing something so far outside of my comfort zone that the potential benefits do not outweigh my fear. Usually, my anxiety is triggered the most when I have time to overthink.

If I can dive into something without thinking about it, I am fine. I have a pretty successful auto-pilot and a strong poker face, so I can handle most think-on-your-feet situations. But it drains me. I only have so much battery power. And social interactions and fear-conquering come at a high price for me.

In fact, I am still recharging from a recent battery-draining experience. As I write this, it has been 3 days since I started conquering a new fear. Continue reading “Inhale and Exhale”

A is for Acronym

Not long ago, I got into an argument on the internet.

Revolutionary, I know. But for me, it’s fairly unusual these days. As much as I love to use my words, and as much as my debate team history would imply I love arguing, I’ve never been good at comment wars. Maybe it’s something about the unending nature of arguing on the internet – the constant “ping” to let you know it’s still happening, and may continue in perpetuity. Or maybe it’s the stories from this election cycle of women being harassed for their political opinions on Twitter. Whatever the reason, when I start replying to a “hot topic,” I usually stop myself and backspace the hell out.

So when I found myself engaging in this particular debate, I surprised myself – especially given that the issue was one I’d never considered one of my “pet” topics.

The discourse centered around the LGBTQIA acronym, and whether it should be expanded. The discussion had been started by some straight allies who were genuinely concerned that they were using it incorrectly, that they hadn’t added enough letters, and that they’d be called out on it. Their concern was genuine, and palpable. They had the best of intentions, and were debating with one another what the current consensus might be among the gay community – and whether they were being bad allies if they weren’t sure what all the letters stood for.

Then, someone (who happened to be a straight man) popped into the conversation and said “Hey! I just heard about this great new version of the acronym! QUILTBAG! Isn’t it amazing! I like it a lot because the ‘quilt’ image evokes things like the AIDS quilt, and also it’s easy to remember. I think we should all start using it!” Continue reading “A is for Acronym”

Terms and Conditions Apply: Dating as an Asexual

Our first Anonymous post.

I don’t think my parents ever gave me “the talk.” You know, the one where you’re kind of squirmy, they’re kind of sweaty, and neither of you want to be there? The talk about… sex. This meant my knowledge and understanding of sex came from what I read in books, saw in movies, and heard from older kids in school.

In the seventh grade, I borrowed the book Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist from the school library. As any good Christian 12-year-old would be, I was slightly taken aback by all the swearing and sex talk. But as much as my rebellious spirit found it exciting to read the “F” word over and over, I was a little disappointed by the fact that I couldn’t actually relate to the horniness of either of the characters. I thought to myself, “I must just be too young.”

Fast forward a few years to the tenth grade. The “F” word, in its stout and aggressive beauty, had become an essential part of my casual vocabulary. At some point in the summer between junior high and high school, the desire to be cool seeps its way into every kid’s mind. Regardless of what “cool” meant to you, you wanted to be cool. To me, that meant going to parties. I didn’t really get invited to any, but I heard stories of sex in tents and making out in closets and I thought to myself, “I must just be too ugly.”

Fast forward to my graduating year, where I finally realized that even if I had been invited to parties, I probably would not have wanted to “F” word in a tent or make out in a closet with a different classmate each week. It occurred to me that the horniness I couldn’t relate to at age 12 was still foreign to me at age 18. Someone then showed me a definition of asexuality and I thought to myself, “Oh. That’s what it is.”

I will not include a definition of asexuality with this article because it is different for everyone. For me, asexuality means I don’t have any desire for sexual intercourse. I have never masturbated nor have I ever felt the need or desire to. I get no pleasure thinking about sexual acts, and I have difficulty picturing myself engaging in them. In a world where sex is becoming less and less taboo, I am finding it incredibly necessary to be open about my asexuality, especially with my partner.

For privacy’s sake, I will call him Steve. I met Steve on OkCupid in my last year of high school. I had received my diploma early on and had no classes left and no job during the second semester, leaving my social and romantic life wide open. I talked to a dozen other guys on various apps before meeting Steve, none of which seemed to be interested in anything other than taking my virginity. At that point in my life, I was only open about my asexuality with one other person, and the topic of sex made me very uncomfortable.

The first few dates with Steve went really well, and I knew that if I wanted to continue my relationship with him, I would need to discuss my asexuality with him. A few weeks into getting to know him, I sat him down and explained to him what asexuality meant to me and how it would impact our relationship. I remember saying something along the lines of, “I probably will never have sex with you. I have no interest in having sex with you, the thought of it kind of makes me sick.” I probably said it in a much nicer way, though, because he took it really well. So well, in fact, that he asked me permission to hug me the first time we hugged because he didn’t want to make me uncomfortable.

My experience with Steve has been nothing but fantastic, and I feel extremely fortunate to have someone who cares so deeply about me that they are willing to sacrifice an extremely pleasant physical and human experience in order to be with me, but I would be lying to you if I said that two years in, we still haven’t had sex. While I still identify as being asexual, the way it presents itself has seriously changed over the course of my relationship. I still find no pleasure in sexual acts themselves, but I find pleasure in the pleasure they bring my partner.

On a good day, sex in all shapes and forms doesn’t disgust me, and I can set aside my disinterest in the act itself and focus on what I’m bringing to Steve. On a regular day, intercourse is out of the question, but I am indifferent when discussing it. On a bad day, I don’t want to be seen naked. I don’t want to talk about sex, and I absolutely don’t want to feel his boner when we’re cuddling. This unpredictability can be disappointing and frustrating but we have been able to handle it very well simply by communicating.

Steve will never instigate anything without asking permission. This is important regardless of my asexuality because it’s an exercise in consent. He respects my decision no matter his mood, and if it’s a “no,” he doesn’t bring it up again. He always reminds me that I don’t owe him anything, and his favourite line is “Even if we never had sex ever again I would still be happy just because I’m with you.” The wonderful thing is that I believe him.

Throughout our relationship and from its very beginning, we established a high standard of communication, both emotionally and sexually. If I had not told him from the start that I was asexual, I’m not sure we would be as committed and comfortable as we are now. I would probably always be a little bit scared that he would want sex on a bad day and that I would have to give it to him because I never told him it terrified me. If I hadn’t made my verbal consent mandatory regardless of the signals I was sending him, I would probably feel taken advantage of on regular days. And on good days, I would feel guilty for showing him that I sometimes enjoy it, because he would see that and think it’s always okay.

I don’t want to make it seem like I’m encouraging optional consent. Consent is not optional. What I’m saying is that it is important to not feel ashamed by your lack of sex drive, or your disgust towards intercourse, or your sudden hyper-sexuality. It is important to bring these things up so that everyone involved knows exactly what they are getting into. Most of all, don’t settle. If you feel you’re getting into a relationship where the other(s) involved are not understanding of your asexuality, get out. There are people who get it, and there are people who will love you no matter how you feel that day. You should not feel limited to dating only other asexuals because you think they are the only ones who will understand you.

To the Steves out there who are patient and kind and willing to masturbate quietly on their own because their partner just isn’t feeling it that day, thank you. Your understanding means everything to us. Keep listening, and keep asking. You’re doing it right.

To the aces out there who are still looking for a Steve, you’ll find one. You are not weird, there’s nothing wrong with you, and you have every right to feel the way you do on any given day.

The conversation about sex needs to continue. My asexuality is different than yours, guaranteed. So don’t be afraid to talk about it.


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How Kelly Clarkson Made Me Gay

(Originally posted on August 27, 2012 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

10 years ago, in the summer of 2002, I started watching a new reality show called American Idol. I was somewhat late to the game; on the night I first tuned in, the preliminary “loser” rounds were over and we were down to the top eight finalists.

The production values were laughably low-budget back then. They had canned background music and a tiny octagonal stage facing a tiny audience. At the centre of this modest octagon stood a short, curvy girl with a microphone. She was wearing a necktie and what I believe is referred to as a trilby hat, and she was singing Aretha Franklin’s Natural Woman. It was 60’s Night.

I was recording the show (on VHS!) as I watched, because I was expecting a phone call and I didn’t want to miss any of the songs. I took my call, and then resumed the episode where I had left off. Once I reached the end, I hit ‘rewind’ and watched Kelly’s song again. I watched it a few times, actually, and I became thoroughly confused with myself.

Why was I re-watching this? What was it about this performance? What was it about this girl? How could I rationalize keeping this instead of taping over it? Continue reading “How Kelly Clarkson Made Me Gay”