29 April 2009

Obama on abortion

i watched President Obama's press conference tonight, streaming on youtube, which i think is its own animal that may deserve its own attention. (we live in the information age. no denying it.) and the part that grabbed me the most was his answer to a reporter's question on the Freedom of Choice Act.

i love Obama's views on abortion; they are my own exactly:

y view on abortion, I think, has been very consistent. I think abortion is a moral issue and an ethical issue. I think that those who are pro-choice make a mistake [...] if they suggest [...] that this is simply an issue about women's freedom and that there's no other considerations. I think, look, this is an issue that people have to wrestle with, and families and individual women have to wrestle with.

The reason I'm pro-choice is because I don't think women take that position casually. I think that they struggle with these decisions each and every day, and I think they are in a better position to make these decisions, ultimately, than members of Congress or a president of the United States, in consultation with their families, with their doctors, with their clergy.

The other thing that I said consistently during the campaign is, I would like to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that result in women feeling compelled to get an abortion or at least considering getting an abortion, particularly if we can reduce the number of teen pregnancies, which has started to spike up again."

i don't feel like this even needs any commentary on my part, because it would just be redundant.

(read the transcript on nytimes.com)

27 April 2009


i am officially a college graduate.

what this has meant about the last few days:

friday, my parents came into town, because my school had its "recognition ceremony" for graduates from our programs that evening. it was kind of a nice ceremony, because every graduate had the chance to walk. and when they say "walk," it sounds idiomatic, but they mean it: you walk, and you don't stop walking. you pause for a moment and shake someone's hand, someone else's hand, pick up a facsimile of a diploma, but you keep moving and then somehow you are back in your seat. the highlight for me was just after i stepped off the stage: my thesis advisor stood up in the front row of faculty and gave me this huge smile. he shook my hand, gave me a hug, and said to me, "congratulations. you've done good work. now go get a job."

the keynote speaker at that ceremony was a brigadier general who has served as assistant surgeon general, but who has no medical background or training--he's an artilleryman by trade. weird enough, right? the only part of his speech i particularly liked was, "be prepared for the human dimension of your business." but i can now say (with his permission) that i have seen a brigadier general cry. he got all choked up telling a story about a soldier in recovery from a rather serious set of injuries who was from pittsburgh, which he remembered because there was pittsburgh stuff hanging all over the walls. he asked this young man, "what do you want to do next? maybe go to the university of pittsburgh?" and the soldier, who was not yet able to speak, shook his head and pointed to his uniform hanging on the wall: all he wanted to do was go back to the army. ...i have a few issues with the military, which could probably make up their own entry, and which more than probably contributed to my distaste for this particular speaker, especially his emphasis on the importance of family to the healing process (for anyone, but his experience is limited to soldiers). this bothered me because, while it is absolutely true, this man was trying to speak to me from a setting in which i may very well find myself disallowed to be family to those who are important to me.

saturday was a slow day. i woke up late and spent the afternoon doing nothing with my parents, before going to dinner and then downtown to see Godspell. this is my favorite musical, and my mother's as well, so i was excited when i found out it would be playing the weekend they were visiting. i'd never seen a professional production before, just the movie (1973) and a church production a few summers ago. this was...different. it's the sort of musical that is inevitably "updated" with each production. there were a ton of pop culture references worked into the parables, some of which i liked and some of which i didn't. even some of the music was...reinterpreted--some of which i liked, and some of which i didn't. but overall, it couldn't have been anything but a good experience: Godspell is my religion, and seeing it performed is like going to church. more on that another time, perhaps.

sunday was the big graduation for the whole university. i was dreading it, because i expected it to take about 5 hours and be incredibly boring. it was one last "ok, i don't care, let's get this over with" obligation before departing from undergrad.
...and the gravity of it hit me as i first saw out into the arena, waiting in the processional just on the other side of the door from the winding hidden hallways where they'd staged us. This Was Big.

the arena where we have to hold our graduation boasts that it seats 12,500 people. and while it wasn't packed, it was full, of people and positive energy.

the event itself was nothing special, i thought. i was pleasantly surprised when we escaped in less than three hours. nobody even pretended to be dignified: people were texting and talking all over the room. the chancellor probably gives the same speech every year. the commencement address and the student response were traditional at best, trite at worst, and altogether uninspiring.

highlights there: the smile on my mother's face when my name was one of 39 called out of thousands of undergraduates in recognition of what actually had been hard work. exchanging grins with the man who read my name as he stood at the podium.
the relieved, ecstatic enthusiasm of the pharmacy and nursing students. the chancellor's assertion to graduates from the school of health sciences that "yours is the science of second chances, of human restoration." confetti making its graceful, glittering descent from the ceiling and the seeming sky in that final rush of confined adrenaline.

that evening, dinner with my family, including the family of one of my closest friends. sitting on another's lawn with more-and-less nostalgic tales and a digeridoo--"wait, guys, i just realized: these are the stories we're going to have from college." beer and the kinds of conversations you can only have Right Now.

25 April 2009

more list-based procrastination

posts i want to write:
-the experience of an aura-reading synaesthete
-things that happen on the bus

what i feel capable of writing:
-i completely lack any energy/brainpower right now, because i just finished four years of what has actually been mostly hard work, even if i don't recognize it. this weekend, i'm dealing with my parents being in town, my, um, girl?friend being out of town, ridiculous graduation ceremonies, and not knowing where i'm going to live in three months. there is almost no food in my house [that belongs to me], and this is mostly ok because i'm going to go visit my family for a week, but then i have to cope with being there. Home is a funny thing. home, now, perhaps even more so.
-i am exhausted.

20 April 2009


which began as a response to radicalharmonies.

this may not be what you hoped would be picked out of that post, but:

the pathologizing of human experience is probably among the greatest tragedies of modern Western medicine. i've been thinking about this a lot lately (where "lately" is over the past several months), in a few different directions.

in the course of my research, i ran into the idea of autism as a culture rather than a disability: a collection of people who see the world the same way and have similar experiences. and yet, the only way it seems neurotypical folks can cope with these differences is to label it a disorder, to pathologize it, to treat it so that autistic people can become "more normal."

why do we need to make everyone the same? yes, there's something to be said for providing services that enable people who experience differences to communicate effectively, to function independently. but i don't see why it should be necessary, or even desirable, to make everyone's experiences the same. there is way too much in the universe for any one person to experience & grasp fully; this is why we need each other. if another person sees the world in a way completely different from my own, i want to talk to them, to get another perspective, to see another side of things and maybe make more of the pieces fit together.

that said, it's really cool when you meet someone whose experience of the world is similar to your own in a way you didn't think anyone else's experience could be similar to your own. and then you can talk without words and communicate without language, because you just get each other. or, you find a new set of words that someone else finally understands. why should we want to alter anyone's experience just so we don't have to come up with new sets of words to describe them--or risk facing a perfect description that we don't easily understand?

you could make similar arguments about religion, culture, and morality, and in fact i listened to a particularly interesting one in panera last week. two guys were talking about morality and how it's relative, but then the one guy kept trying to impose his personal morals on the rest of the world. i almost wanted to get involved, but i figured they'd be okay on their own.

18 April 2009

sunny day in Pittsburgh

it was a day much like this one when i first visited Pittsburgh, sunny and 70 degrees. tonight on my way to work, i walked past the hotel where my dad and i stayed, and the smell of the air triggered a vivid memory of walking back with a waffle cone from Dave & Andy's, him telling me, while smiling like he was still talking to his little girl, that i had chocolate on my face. and i walked down that street and i took in the first view i ever remember of the Cathedral, except then it wasn't nighttime, a view i've liked to revisit in recent weeks.

i've thought so many times, and finally said out loud to someone else, that if that building ever fails to impress me, i will know it's time to leave.

i feel like i need to be writing in about three different places at once right now.
there are fireworks outside my window at work. i don't care what you say; fireworks are magic.

today has been such a good day, in so many ways.

drag show, 2009

two weeks have passed, which is a long time for things that don't affect you. but this? i can't believe it's been so long.

this semester has gone unbelievably fast in general; the last several weeks, especially so.

i was not affected in the way i expected to be. that whole night went so fast....everything just moved. first i was on-stage, opening a show and trying my best to build the energy of hundreds of people who may not have cared. then, i made a bunch of bad jokes, lost track of the numbers, poured out my soul (to hundreds of people who may not have cared, but who cheered anyway), and the next thing i knew we were at fuel & fuddle.

(my chosen method of coping with incompetent, immature administrators, and the drama they create, is to ignore them.)

i don't remember much of my opening number. i remember more of it than of my debut....this seems to be common among drag performers. you black out during your debut and emerge with only shadows of memory. but the longer you've been doing it, the more you remember each number. i remember that it was not as good as i wanted it to be, but it was better than i had expected it to be, and it was good enough. other parts of the evening left much clearer impressions.

the dollar he pressed into my palm was worth so much more than a hundred pennies. especially knowing which dollar it was....i don't think he realized that connection, or why it would be important.

the two points of my monologue that stand out most clearly are "i am a person, and just like each and every one of you, i have the right to present myself as i wish to be seen"--and "i am a person, and i am in love with another person, and their gender doesn't matter either." at both of these points, the audience cheered so loudly--and so warmly--that i felt a profound sense of acceptance. and even thought i was still nervous as hell (that song wasn't for them, after all), it helped me to know that, no matter what, it really would be ok.

i have toyed with the idea of posting that monologue....i finally wrote it down after the fact, because i wanted to be able to say i'd composed it in my head, but i was amazed that i remembered the whole thing. but i question whether it would be appropriate....i'm not sure what reasons i'd use to argue either way. i suppose i could say, i will post it if anyone else wants to see it in writing. but then, perhaps the transience of it, the existence of it as pure and momentary--the very qualities that made it so precious to be in that room--would be compromised. certainly they already have been, for me [aside from it being written down, there's nothing momentary about something you've been planning for four months], but i wouldn't want to compromise them for too many others.

11 April 2009

MSN article response

Why Women Are Leaving Men for Other Women

i found the article linked above through a listserv i subscribe to. so i read it, because hey, that's kind of an intriguing title. and there were a lot of things in it that bothered me. this, of course, led to clicking on the links at the bottom, which led to the original article on oprah's website, which led to more clicking....which leads to me sitting here at work going, why didn't i just do my homework.

granted: MSN just pulled out a couple of pages from the original article, and there's a lot more to it than what they republished. and there's good and bad in that, too. after reading the condensed version on MSN, i wanted to respond to specific things i disagreed with; now, maybe what i really want to do is bitch about Oprah and pop culture and mainstream media. but i don't think i'll manage that as well. so, setting aside Oprah and her empire founded on creating drama where there need be none, i'll stick to the MSN article (at least for now).

(my favorite thing about the iteration of this on MSN is that there's no forum for comments. but that could turn into its own rant, so i'd better wait.)

"But experts [ . . . ] agree that alternative relationships are on the rise."
...wtf? "alternative relationships"? what does that even mean?! i don't think i can even articulate why that pisses me off. maybe because it sounds so much like "alternative lifestyle" (which i've always thought had more to do with the punk scene than whoever i'm fucking).

"Of course, we shouldn't imagine that we're living in a world where all sexual choices are possible. Just look at the cast of The L Word and it's clear that only a certain kind of lesbian — slim and elegant or butch in just the right androgynous way — is acceptable to mainstream culture."
this, at least, is definitely true. in the original article, they talk a lot about Jackie Warner, and with the pictures they chose to use of her, my first thought was, "she is NOT androgynous." (then i found pictures of her with short hair, and you could maybe make the argument.) but they were going on about how all these straight women send her love letters because she's this "perfect mix" of masculine and feminine qualities....i just got confused. or if you think about The L Word (which i have seen but never followed), you see Shane and she's the "butch" one, and she's really not butch-looking at all, she just fucks everyone, and that's what straight guys are supposed to do....this could very quickly becom a rant on the mainstream media and how they're trying--or pretending to try--to present gay people positively, but really they're just reinforcing (unrealistic?) stereotypes and offering no positive portrayal of the queer people who actually need support from the mainstream media in order to, oh, i don't know, NOT face harassment on a daily basis.

then there's the "science" of it. i'm beginning to think that the more we know, the less we understand. and maybe there are some areas of research that should just be left alone. sure, it'd be great to have "scientific support" for a genetic/biological basis for (homo)sexuality--but what happens if we do? there are aspects of my sexuality that i don't want reduced to chemicals.

and here's a great comment on the implications of the research that's currently being done:

"Fluidity represents a capacity to respond erotically in unexpected ways due to particular situations or relationships. It doesn't appear to be something a woman can control."
...so a man could control his erotic response? news to me.

finally, the last two sentences of the section republished on MSN:
"Most of all, they long for an emotional connection. And if that comes by way of a female instead of a male, the thrill may override whatever heterosexual orientation they had."
one more time, with feeling: WTF?! THIS is the thought you choose to leave your readers with?! yes, straight women are redefining themselves and leaving their husbands and destroying their 1950's-style perfect families because they're looking for a "thrill"? this is your justification for your entire article about the fluidity of female sexuality and this perceived phenomenon of increased acceptability of lesbian relationships for people who have not always identified as lesbian? at least they tried to get that idea of emotional connection in there, but it makes it sound almost like a fantasy, like all women are supposed to know that men can't connect emotionally, and we're able to make believe that other women can, if it seems like fun at the time.

bottom line, this article underscores the attempts by the mainstream media to "normalize" gayness and gay relationships, which ultimately fail because they miss the point entirely and minimize the real experience of the majority of gay people.

10 April 2009

on moving forward?

i honestly have no idea what came out of my mouth when i started speaking on thursday night. here's what i would have liked to say.

So I've been here for four years, and I've always been in Rainbow. I walked into that first meeting my freshman year, and there were probably 50 or 60 people in room 527--it was packed. and I was just amazed that there could be that many queer people, all in one place! but I never would have dreamed that we could have filled the Ballroom.

i wasn't out in high school--not to more than my closest friends--and i was That Kid who came to college and got uber-Queer just to prove a point. and it was important for me at that time to have Rainbow as a place i could do that and be that, to explore my queer identity. and over the last seven semesters as an officer, i've grown up a lot, and become even more sure of myself--and secure in my identity.

seven semesters. jesus fuck. i literally do not know what my life would be without Rainbow Alliance. i've learned more from this organization than from any of my classes, and possibly from all of my classes. i've learned how to deal with people--and how not to. i've learned that there is always something you can do--and i've learned how to tell when it's better left alone. i've learned that i can, in fact, stand in front of hundreds of people and be whatever the hell I Am.

i've made some of the best friends of my life here. and that's a large part of the reason this city has come to feel so much like Home to me. never underestimate the value of that.

so I guess, the last thing I need to say is, Thank you. thank all of you for making this organization what it is and for helping me to get out of it all that i have.

06 April 2009

what should be several posts, in one

there are so many things going on right now that i want to be writing about, but when i have the energy i don't have the time, and when i have the time i don't have the energy. it's a common problem for me. topics include:
-drag, and various aspects of [my] performance.
-head-shaving, and ways this time was similar to and different from the first time.
-family-watching on the Plaza.
-making a final decision as to where i'm going to spend the next two years of my life, writing the check, and searching for an apartment.
-getting ready for graduation, whatever the hell that means. (very little, actually.)

might as well start at the top of the list and see what happens:

the two people i most want to share their opinions about the ballsiest thing i have ever done have said nothing (or practically nothing) to me about it. damn.
i'm not quite sure what i want to write about that, to be honest. i really want to write a story about it, and write about how i used it to tell a part of my story (in keeping with the theme for the year). but i don't know how to go about it. it seems like everyone needs to further collect their thoughts on the drag show, myself included, despite and perhaps because of my deep involvement with it.

sunday afternoon, i shaved my head for the second time (the first was september 2, 2007). i absolutely loved it the first time and thought it was the best thing i'd ever done for myself, and i've just been waiting for the right time to do it again. my original plan was to wait until after graduation (april 26!), dye my hair blue, and then shave my head....sometimes, things just don't go according to plan. i'd gotten out of work and gone to sit on the grass with a couple of friends, and it was sunny and warm, and [certain] impulses must be followed in circumstances like these. i don't really have anything important coming up between now and graduation....not that i need to look particularly professional for, anyway. and who cares if i have hair at graduation. silly hats and all. the idea is that my hair should grow enough in 3-4 months that i'll be able to look like a grown-up by the time i have to start clinic in the fall, but i think i can look perfectly professional with a buzz cut. to look "professional" in this case means, of course, to look feminine, which is probably deserving of its own examination.

one big difference between this instance of head-shaving and the first one had to do with the other people involved. Shannon was still there to hold my hand and take pictures, just like she was the first time. (Shannon being my only straight female friend, and one of my oldest friends of any kind at the moment.) now, the last time this happened, the person who did the actual clippers-to-head bit was the boy who lived upstairs from me at the time; we had shared a wall for the year prior; we kind of hated each other. this was our bonding experience: i got to be grateful to him for relieving me of my hair, and he got to laugh at me for being bald and know that he was the cause of it. we left each other alone for the rest of the year, instead of complaining about things. but this time, someone i actually like shaved my head, and that was a different kind of bonding experience entirely. there's one moment that stands out particularly clearly, when she put her hand on my shoulder--and i felt completely relaxed & content. and i'll be honest: Shannon took the scissors to my hair and started chopping it off in chunks beforehand, and that made me nervous. the word "trust" is floating around in my brain right now, but i don't know what sentence to put it in.

today, it rained. the city could not have chosen better timing.

(jeez, i might as well have worked in noun-incorporation...)
this has been a pastime of mine since the summer after sophomore year, when Shannon and i first started spending too much time on the Plaza, particularly in the late evenings and on sunday afternoons, when the families come out to play. i hadn't done it in a while, and i was past due.

family can be a touchy subject, for a lot of people and for a lot of reasons. for me, it's touchy mostly because of my potential future(s); for others, it's often touchy more because of their past. i was raised in a very "traditional American" family, and for a long time, i had that vision of my future with a husband and 2.3 children and a dog and a white picket fence in the suburbs. and when i broke up with my high school boyfriend (of 3 years) and subsequently started dating my first girlfriend, i grieved for that. it was a life lost, albeit not in the conventional way of losing such things. it required coming to terms with, and part of me is still working on that. it's reassuring, in a way, to see that stereotypical/heteronormative/"normal" family, especially when they're together and happy. then again, my life requires redefinition of the word "family," in any number of ways. i still want to make one of my own, but the probable method keeps changing. i don't know if i have a preference anymore. i'm sure i do, but i might be hard pressed to describe it. (also probably worth its own examination.)

i'm making it official: i will be spending the next two years in Pittsburgh for grad school.

i knew as soon as i opened the envelope.

with any big decision, there's always that moment when it becomes no decision at all.

i'll be graduating from college with a BA and a BPhil in less than 3 weeks.
it occurred to me today that this is actually quite an accomplishment, and that maybe i should be proud of it, because i've worked hard to get where i am. i don't tend to think of it that way. both my parents graduated from college, although i'll be the first in my family to go to grad school. it always just seemed like what you do, and i'm one of those kids who's still waiting for school to get hard. part of me hopes that it will in the fall; part of me dreads it.

so much has happened in the last four years that it's not even funny. the girl i was when i came here might not recognize me now, and would probably want to kick the shit out of me pretty frequently. (what was that comment the other day? "we don't need bisexuals"?) i've changed a lot in a lot of directions, and i won't say for better or worse because i don't believe it's either. but i have learned a lot, which i don't believe can ever be a bad thing.

this is still my city, and i still own it. and it still makes me, on a daily basis.

04 April 2009


i kind of hope the following post will make some people uncomfortable. but i don't want it to be at the top anymore. ;)

[on the rag]

i told you, "i've decided that tampons
are the greatest invention ever."
and you said, "yes!!
because they can make you feel like there's nothing wrong with you!"

...and i wonder:
is there something wrong with me?
i am distrusted
because i bleed this much and don't die,
but maybe
i should distrust those who can't bleed this much
and live.

who decided
this needed to be
taken care of,
cleaned up,
that it was taboo,
not to be talked about,
even when i am in pain
so bad it makes me not want to move?

when did my

there is nothing unnatural
or wrong about this.
even the moon runs in cycles--
monthly, at that--
but at least she gets to go into hiding for a few days.

i will celebrate it.
i will go out and paint the town red
with the blood of my mothers
my sisters
my cousins, my daughters.
and maybe this is just my inner feminist
bleeding through,
but if your body touches my body
so deeply
that i bleed your blood and i follow your path,
how could we not talk about it?

Pride Week 2009 recap (non-chronological)

i'm spending the morning writing things i can't decide if i want to post.

i haven't even gotten to my paper journal all week.
this tends to prompt writing-about-writing....meta-writing, if you will.
(i love the 'meta-' prefix, and want to use it for everything.)

it's been a busy week, and a lot has happened. one does not necessarily mean the other.

i wrote about drag the first time i performed, and i haven't written about it here since. it's funny, reading over it, to see how my perceptions have changed. in that entry, i write about "becoming someone other than yourself," and on thursday night, i made a point of telling an audience of probably upwards of 400 people that "i'm not impersonating anybody--i'm up here trying to express another part of myself." which, i suppose, is what drag really means to me now....but i've become a big fan of the notion that "all gender is drag." my gender, especially. i wrote somewhere else recently that i am androgynous, so my drag is either end of the [gender] spectrum. it was weird--i was kinging on thursday night, so friday i dressed femme, to get some of the balance back, and i did kinda feel like i was in drag (or at least giving a performance) then too.

i've also changed a lot as a writer in the last two years, i think. at least here.

tuesday night, i had the good fortune to see alix olson perform. she's pretty cool. and she has amazing energy. and i can't remember the name of the piece that almost made me cry. i'm not sure i'm supposed to. but it's funny how touch works, and how it seems we so often can't use it when we want (need?) to most. decompression with tea after that performance was wonderful....i don't think i can read all the things that are happening around me right now.

that paragraph was delightfully cryptic, wasn't it? ;)

monday night, a bunch of us college-aged queers got together and played dodgeball, and it's fascinating how something that's so terrifying when you're a kid can be so much fun once you've grown into yourself, once you've really learned what they try to teach you forever: it doesn't matter whether you win or lose, as long as you're having fun. and oh, man, was that a blast!

friday night at the club--and before going to the club, for that matter--was a pretty awesome experience actually. it was, as predicted drunkenly beforehand, a good night. there are probably too many things i could say about that, and not all of them belong here.

back to the notion of gender as performance: it was fun to sit on the bus counting the "socially acceptable" things being done by a drunken girl--things she probably didn't even realize she was doing.
wearing makeup. carrying a purse. wearing a skirt. keeping her hair long. when the female sex meets a feminine gender, nobody even notices. "we think too much."

i'm pretty sure i want to shave my head again this summer.

final note: one of my Deaf teachers told me i need to go to the michigan womyn's festival sometime in my life and watch the ASL interpreters, because lesbian interpreters make the most beautiful signs. (and apparently when straight women interpret for lesbians, they're awkward.)