Sunday, June 21, 2015

This is a blog post about being an ally

Recently someone asked me how to best be an ally to Black people; she didn't want to offend/step on any toes/misstep. I really appreciated her asking, but I also gave a convoluted answer. I thought instead of being redundant, I would share a great video that succinctly talks about how to be a good ally.

Franchesca brings up privilege, which can be something really hard for people to understand. I remember realizing a privilege I have when I was interacting with someone who has dwarfism, her and I were talking and walking, when she starts taking the ramp and I head for the stairs. It hadn't even occurred to me that the ramp was a viable option, but for her she always took the ramp because it makes her life easier. Here's another super video that's about intersectionality, but is a good illustration of privilege (white-female privilege).

Both of these videos are great, but there's a few other things I'd like to add on how to be (or what to know as) an ally:

1) Sometimes you won't learn anything. Of course members of the community you're an ally for are a great resource, but please do not reduce them to being just resources and not humans. There are times when I just want to rest in my blackness; this means I don't want to be your tour guide and explain everything to you. It is exhausting at times to always be held responsible for the education of others when it comes to something that you are (being black) and not just something you do (make smoothies all day). So if someone is kinda blowing you off, it might be because they don't feel like traveling down this road with you at the time.
2) Don't fetishize. There is a lightyear's difference between being an ally and fetishizing said group. When you turn the group into a spectacle for yourself or for other's, that's problematic. These marginalized people aren't here for you to be entertained by. An ally helps the community, some one fetishizes for their own self-intent.
3) Don't say how they should feel/what they should do. When something bad happens to the marginalized community you're an ally for, don't give advice. Whatever their reaction is, is the right one. Every marginalized people group (PoC, women, LGBTQIA, those with disabilities, lower class) have been told (and are still told) how they should act/feel/think/live. So they don't wanna hear your shit.
4) Do give space. Sometimes members of the community are feeling raw and just like you wouldn't poke a stick in an open wound, you (as an ally) don't wanna be that stick to their open wound. A few days ago when the Charleston church shooting had happened less than 24 hours before, I was feeling raw. I had called my little brother warning him to be careful existing so he wouldn't get shot, I cried randomly throughout the day, I yelled, I mourned, and I wanted to see/communicate with/think about ZERO white people. I understand that not all white people are raging, gun slinging, racists, but I also understand that no white person will ever experience living in an systematic, institutionalized society that's set up to keep them oppressed. That is white privilege. I do not know what it's like to live in a society built for the benefit of my gay-black-woman self. No matter how great of an ally you are, you have the privilege of not having to always think about XYZ people group, so please recognize that sometimes we don't want to see members of the privileged group because it brings awareness of our lack of privilege.
5) Stay in your lane. Franchesca touches on this when she says that 'ally' is a verb and you are the Michelle to Destiny's Child (meaning it is not about you so don't try to make it about you; it is always and only about Beyonce, all hail Queen Bey). Just like the 'A' in LGBTQIA doesn't stand for ally (it stands for asexual) and no amount of skin damage (aka tanning) and weave will make you black (*side eyes Rachel Dolezal*), please know that you are not an actual bonafide member of the community. This doesn't mean you can't come to the Pride Parade, this doesn't mean you can't go see a black comedian and most importantly it doesn't mean you can't fight for the de-marginalization, the rights of others. But recognize that you have a specific place in this relation to this community and don't go swerving trying to do the most.

Being an ally is great, being a conscious ally is even better. I hope this helps.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

you're doing it wrong

I mean, I’m a catch, right? I’m intelligent, attractive, compassionate, kinda fit, social, I could go on, but you get it. So why, a few years back, was it so hard for me to catch someone? This was the first time in years, possibly ever, that I had decided to actually try to not be single. I yoked myself to the online dating world and invested time in finding the right guy. In retrospect, I now realize why none of those potentials worked out.

I dated some eligible guys. There was the really handsome anesthesiologist tech who was a great conversationalist and shared my love for breakfast foods. There was the parks & rec employee with a brilliant smile and winning attitude whose one flaw was that he had a cat. And there were a couple of guys who just really weren’t for me. There was the guy who expressed that he was so great that he wanted to have kids so they could admire his greatness. There was the guy who wanted to jump right into a relationship with me and then got upset when I just wasn’t feeling it. And there was the guy who touched my ass two times “on accident” while trying to kiss me then asked me my five year plan. Those were some of the gems I met from online dating.

Now all those guys were actually not that bad, and some woman would be lucky to have them, but I am not that woman. In actuality, I didn’t really want to go on any of those dates, but my compulsory heterosexuality made me do it. It wasn’t until I realized that I was crushing on a girl that I understood what a crush should feel like. The feelings I had had for women up until that point, I had always just called a lady-crush…you know the kind where you wanna spend all your time with her, and have a slumber party with her, and you feel so close to her that you wanna hold her hand and maybe smell her hair while y’all spoon, you know, standard straight girl stuff, right?! Wait a minute, that’s pretty gay…as it turns out so am I.

So dating, I was doing it wrong. I struggled to figure out why I was attracted to zero of the guys, even the great ones, I dated; I mean I didn’t even like my first and only boyfriend. I struggled to understand why the crushes I did have on men, never felt fully legitimate, there was always some factor, some excuse, that kept my heart from falling head over heels, even when I felt love sick, there was something missing, some sort of apprehension present. But now I know what a crush is and why my heart would be broken when a friendship with a girl (who I liked) would crush me when it didn’t work out. 

I was doing it all wrong.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Genderally Speaking: A couple of musing on womanhood

A couple weeks ago I was in fitting rooms (trying on clothes I had no business buying) and I was taken aback, encouraged and thrilled, by the chatter I heard among the women in the space. As women, we’re taught that we should always be ashamed of at least one thing on our body. And that we should dress according to our physical insecurities instead of our tastes in clothing. So if she is self-conscious about her fat thighs, then she should only wear knee length skirts/dresses/shorts; and she’s brave if she wears otherwise. In the fitting rooms I heard women building up one another by compliments and best of all by correcting. When someone would say she didn’t look good in something, her friend corrected her and said that she looks great in whatever she feels comfortable in. If she likes yellow, then wear yellow and don’t worry about how others will perceive her; if she likes big prints then don’t think she can’t wear them because of her size. It made me smile and almost brought me to tears to hear women being so complimentary of each other.

Changing gears here:

A couple weeks ago I was talking to someone about our plans for the next evening and I mentioned that I was going to wear a short dress because I had just shaved my legs and I was feeling pretty damn good about them. She, a lesbian and feminist such as myself, called me a bad lesbian. She called me a bad lesbian because I shave my armpits and legs. It offended me at first, but mostly surprised me that a very vocal feminist would put down another woman for her choice to do what she wants with her body.

She doesn’t shave or wear bras and that is her choice and I respect her decision to do (or not do, rather) that with her body. She should have shown me the same respect because I choose to wear bras and shave. These things don’t make me less of a feminist or lesbian and they don’t make me more or less of a woman. Being all of those things looks different for each person.

From a young age girls are subliminally (or perhaps intentionally) taught that we should be doing everything in accordance with the male gaze. That means that every decision that I make about my appearance and outward mannerism should be presented and done to the liking and temperament of men, familiar and strange. Well that’s some bullshit and I refuse to live my outward life for anyone else besides me.

There’s a ‘new’ movement going on in which women, queer and otherwise, just don’t shave their body hair. Not only do they not shave it, but they also don’t try to hide it. So they wear sleeveless tops and dresses; some even dye their armpit hair! I think it’s wonderful that women are no longer feeling ashamed or dirty for having body hair. I mean, it does naturally occur on our bodies and men are allowed to be as hairy as they like without worrying about being thought of as being dirty or as making some political statement for not ‘taking care’ of it. I tried it, the whole not shaving thing and it just wasn’t for me. I didn’t like how it felt or how it made me feel, so I decided there was another way for me to fight the patriarchy. Notice how this decision has nothing to do with anyone else’s perceptions of me. My body, my decision. It’s called autonomy.

I am Woman. I am Feminist. I am Gay. I am Black. All of these intersect within me and there is no one correct way to embody this conglomeration of amazing elements! One of my favorite things in the world is to see and hear of women who have taken control of who they are and who they want to be by means of career, sex, love, and life, bonus points for them encouraging and aiding others to do the same.

Being a woman is amazing in any shape or form so fucking own it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


You know that feeling
when you stand up from sitting on your leg wrong?
You know you're leg is there
but you can't feel it
yet it's heavy
and then the uncomfortable prickly feeling kicks in
so you try to carry on gingerly
because that leg can no longer be trusted?

That's you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


When I was a kid I had two clocks. One I got for my 9th birthday, it was a gold colored wind-up alarm clock; I had seen it on some tv show and asked for one for my birthday. My dad made a big schpeel and rhyme about it when he gave it to me before school. I loved it and had a very particular routine about keeping it wound up. The second was a bird clock; one of my great aunts sent it to me after she thought I asked her for it. Every hour, on the hour, a bird would call. There were 12 different birds, but I can only remember and recognize the sound of the mourning sparrow, its sadness and deep call at 7am and 7pm always reassured me.

At night I would lay in my bed and tune into the clocks. My gold clock moved in eighth notes: 1+2+3+4+; my bird clock, just quarter notes: 1 2 3 4 . Both clocks were at 60 beats per second, but they weren’t in sync themselves so the air was filled with ticking. The ticking seemed to take on musical textures and I would happily lay in bed under layers of them.

Happily I would compose beautiful symphonies and songs to the ticking. It kept me away from the boredom and more often times scariness that was my sleeping and dreaming. As an anxious kid who had more nightmares than pleasant dreams, I would try to position my brain so that when I did finally fall asleep I would simply continue the pleasant musical I had been directing in my mind. It didn’t work, but I always tried.

It wasn’t until probably last year that I learned other kids didn’t do this; they didn’t write music in their head to out of sync clocks’ ticking. Perhaps they did something else to not feel so alone and so anxious. Perhaps they had relaxation exercises to wind them down for bed, or maybe they just weren’t anxious.

Those clocks and their music were my haven. They distracted me from that figure in the corner that was probably a demon watching and waiting to possess me. They salved the wounds of the day from when that kid was mean to me. They stimulated my brain in a way that school, though I loved it, hadn’t found a way to do just yet. They helped me concretely know that whatever I do in life I want to be surrounded by music and to make art.