5 Things Cis People Can Actually Do For Trans People (Now That You Care About Us)

Great read for all my fellow Cis ally friends and followers. Please check it out

The (Trans)cendental Tourist

It’s been a weird year for trans people.

Allow me to be more specific: It’s been a heated, daring, tumultuous, graphic, specularizing, aggressive, pointed,contentious, highlyfatal, and really, really complicated year for trans people.

Here are a few examples: Kristina Gomez Reinwald, Ty Underwood, Lamia Beard, and many othertranswomen of color have been brutally murdered at the hands of lovers, family members, and strangers.Meanwhile,Laverne Cox and Janet Mock have come to fame and exhibited incrediblefeats of grace, articulation, and poignancy under the gaze ofan eager media. Blake Brockington, Leelah Alcorn, Taylor Alesana, and many other transgender youth have committed suicide afterenduring endless bullying and systematic brutality. Meanwhile, Jazz Jennings became the new face of Clean & Clear and published a children’s picture book about her life, and teen trans couple Arin Andrews and KatieHill (best known for “Can You Even Believe They’re Trans?!” types of headlines) wrote and published individual books…

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Strap On Sex Tips From Queer Ladies

Following last night’s post about the ways that sex education has failed queer women, I thought it would be great to follow up with some sex tips for queer women from queer women. And of course these tips aren’t just relevant to queer women because you don’t have to be a queer woman to use a strap on! All different kinds of people will all different kinds of gender identities can engage in strap on sex. Frequently queer  women are curious about it because pop culture has popularized strap on lesbian sex through shows like The L Word. Two of the women featured in my post last night actually mentioned The L Word as a point of reference for their self taught sex ed.

I reached out to two college-aged queer women activists, Aya Folk and Chey Cook to help me dish out some strap on sex tips. Aya and Chey both had plenty to say about how to pick out straps and harnesses, communicating desire to engage in strap on sex with partners, and cleaning and protecting straps and other toys. Together we came up with these tips…

Selecting a Harness

It was unanimously agreed that the harness is where you really need to shuck out the big bucks. Toys aren’t cheap. There are some affordable options if you know where to look, but when it comes to toys, you get what you pay for. And you don’t want to cut corners when it comes to toys because you want to make sure you and your partner have safe, easily cleanable, long lasting items. The harness especially is an important item to focus on. You don’t want a harness that is too tight because it can become constricting and painful. But a harness that is too loose won’t give you proper reign over the strapped on appendage. Harness can come in all different styles- from leather, to nylon, to underwear style harnesses. We all highly recommend RodeoH brand underwear harnesses. They’re comfortable, sexy, long-lasting, and they fit well. They also come in all different styles so there’s something for every kind of harness-wearer.

RodeoH have styles for all different types of wearer. Masculine of center and butch folks can rock it in brief styles.

RodeoH have styles for all different types of wearer. Masculine of center and butch folks can rock it in brief styles.

Taken from the RodeoH Tumblr gallery. http://rodeoh.tumblr.com/post/98757905150/samuravonriot-3-rodeoh

While femmes and feminine of center folks have a variety of lacy RodeoH styles to choose from. (disclaimer: being masculine or feminine of center does not mean that someone will enjoy briefs or lace)

Lube, Lube, and more Lube

People with vaginas, especially people who identify as women or have been socialized as women and therefore are impacted directly by misogyny, are taught that their vaginas are supposed to just magically open and stretch when engaging in sex. We’re taught that it’s okay if it hurts the first time. That’s its normal if it bleeds when you have “your cheery popped.” Sisters and Siblings, this is not the truth. Your vagina deserves to be carefully and lovingly coaxed open, not harshly penetrated before you’re ready, and it does not have to hurt! It’s okay if you can’t take something as large as a strap on at first! Start slow. Work your way up to it. Communicate clearly with your partner. And use plenty of lube. Aya and Chey couldn’t stress this enough. The more lube the better! Do not hold back.

Keep ’em Clean

Female bodied people who engage in sexual activity with other female bodied people have a very low STI transmission rate, however, there is no such thing as too safe when it comes to sex. Even if you and your partner have a low transmission likelihood, you should always keep your toys covered. Strap ons should be covered by a roll on condom or used with an insertive condom. They should be cleaned after EVERY single usage. They can be washed with warm water or you can invest in a toy cleaner. Some strap ons can even go in the dishwasher. Keep them clean to keep your body safe.

 

There’s a lot to discuss when talking about who may be comfortable wearing a strap on or being penetrated by one. These are good, important conversations to have with sexual partners since everyone has different desires and sexual interests. If you’re interested in engaging in strap on sex, get talking with your partner(s) and don’t be afraid to try it out! Have more questions? Send them to me or leave them in the comments!

Sex Education Has Failed Queer Women. These are Their Stories.

The main purpose of creating this blog was to discuss the ways our current sexual education system fails us. My posts have covered a number of different topics regarding sex education but I realized that I wanted to once again situate the conversation and highlight the need for these discussions. I reached out to some of the queer women on my campus and asked them to share their stories about the sexual education they received growing up. All of the women I spoke to have been misled by teachers, doctors, and parents. They have relied on television shows and internet communities to learn about queer sex, and it has impacted them all in different ways. Their stories are proof that queer people aren’t being taught about safe sex and are being forced to try to figure it out on their own. I’ve decided to include these stories because more than anything else they show us how much important work we have left to do. They make all of these overarching themes of safe sex more personal and more relevant.

Faith’s Story 

Last year I went to my gynecologist for my annual check up. I was already out to my gynecologist and he was like ‘alright, that’s great.’ I had come out to him because he had told me ‘I just want to let you know that guys just want to get into your pants so make sure you don’t trust men…’ and I was like ‘actually I’m gay.” And he said ‘ok, well girls just want to get in your pants too, don’t trust women.’ So last year when I went I said ‘I have a question about safe sex in terms of women who have sex with women. I don’t ever use dental dams. I’ve never had sex with anyone who’s used a dental dam or has wanted one. How easy is it for women to spread STDs to other women and how important is it to use a dental dam?’ And his response- a gynecologist’s response- was ‘don’t use a dental dam. I think they’re gross and make you look like Hannibal Lector.’

That was what my gynecologist told me. In the moment I thought it was really really really funny, but then the more I thought about it, that was a totally irresponsible thing for him to say. As a medical professional he should say ‘you should use a dental dam anytime you’re performing oral sex on someone else.’ And he didn’t. And I think that is the opinion I’ve gotten from a lot of people- that dental dams are gross. But at the same time in my sex ed classes in middle school, because I never had sex in high school, no one discussed dental dams. I had never even heard about dental dams. It was all very very very heteronormative. I think teachers just assume that since the majority of the people they are talking to are straight, then it makes more sense to focus on straight sex. I didn’t learn anything about sex as queer woman in sex ed. That was all the internet, The L Word, the gay and lesbian movies on Netflix and that’s about it.”

Aya’s Story 

“In 6th grade I had a home room teacher that was my main teacher and we were supposed to have a unit on sex education. She must have run out of time because literally on the last day of class, the day before summer, she spends 20 minutes handing out little cards to anyone. She said “If you have any questions about sex write them down.” Then she collects them and stands at the front of the class and literally…we learned nothing. It was such a blatant way of being like “and this doesn’t matter for you and it doesn’t matter to me if you know this information.”

I thought it was weird at the time but the more I looked back on it I’m like holy shit- 6th grade is a big year! That’s when people are getting their periods for the first time and all this shit is happening to your body and you’re starting to experience attraction for real. And she just totally dropped the ball. I learned nothing.

Without any solid sexual education programming or any understanding of queer sex, Aya, like many queer people, turned to alternative sources for information about engaging in sex and intimacy.

“So I watched The L Word where Shane has sex with Molly. It was Molly’s first time having sex with a woman and it’s this scene where she’s had to get over her fears and it’s really intense and their in this barn or something and then the one thing that Shane says to her is “Breathe with your mouth.” Then the scene fades to black right as she’s about to go down on Shane. And that’s like the one thing I had in mind was ‘breathe through your mouth, breath through your mouth.’ So the first time I went down on a girl I had labored breathing and was audible gasping for air. Because that was my one piece of knowledge through my fear of having sex with a woman for the first time.” 

Cindy’s Story 

I had sex ed in high school for probably about two weeks. I specifically remember my teacher- the gym teachers taught us sex ed. It was supposed to be half sex ed, half driver’s ed, but really it was like 8/9ths driver’s ed, 1/9th sex ed. I specifically remember the teacher that was supposed to be teaching me sex ed saying ‘Listen, you’re lucky that you have me to teach you because sex is great. Sex is awesome and I’m awesome at it. So it’s great that you’re learning from me.’And I remember sitting there thinking like ‘what??’

But then when we did cover it we had a project where we were all assigned STDs and we had to research them and present them to the group about ways to prevent getting these STDS. Of course everyone talked about condoms and abstinence but I remember there was this one girl who brought a dental dam. And the teacher didn’t know what a dental dam was. So there was this 14-year-old girl explaining to the teacher what people use dental dams for. Everyone’s mind was blown. Including my own. She mentioned that sometimes their used by lesbians- that they’ll place them on their partners’ vaginas for oral sex and I was like ‘wow! that’s awesome! I didn’t even think that that was a thing!’

Sex ed had never really gotten into the mechanics of sex besides saying ‘use a condom when you have sex,’ so my only knowledge of safe sex included [roll on] condom usage which I never really needed in my sexual encounters. So I remember coming to college and everyone was like talking about safe sex and I was like ‘No, it’s fine. I’m a lesbian. All of my sex is safe sex.’ Which is not true and is a very dangerous thought to have. Especially when you come to college and you’re a lot more liberal sexually.”

Did you have better experiences with sex education growing up? Leave your stories in the comments. Unfortunately, many queer women don’t receive any relevant sex ed. Here’s a link to a great reference about queer women’s safe sex for those who like Aya, Cindy, and Faith, didn’t receive proper information about their sexual health needs.

GAY/BI/QUEER MEN PARTICIPANTS NEEDED (And some thoughts on talking about sex)

A close friend of mine is doing amazing research for his senior thesis and his final focus group is tonight, Tuesday October 14th!! He is looking for Gay, Bi, Pan, or Queer men ages eighteen to twenty-five to participate in a conversation about condom usage. The focus group will be held from 8:30pm-10:30pm (will potentially finish earlier depending on how the conversation goes) on American University’s campus. All participants are compensated with at $10 Starbucks gift card (that’s two and a half free Starbucks drinks right there, folks). For more info and the exact location of the discussion, interested participants can email Derek at dsiegelresearch@gmail.com. Please spread the word and come out if you can make it!!

Please come out to support Derek's amazing research!

Please come out to support Derek’s amazing research!

I’m really proud of Derek for the work that he is doing and I have no doubt that his final research product will be outstanding. I deeply value friendships like the one I have with Derek because it is so impactful to have friends who are passionate about destigmatizing safe and consensual sex. One of the best ways to learn and grown in our knowledge of safe sex is peer-to-peer accountability. I owe it to my friends to share what I know about safe sex and testing  so that they have all the information and tools that they need to take agency over their health and wellness.

This is different than communicating about sexual interests, desires, and boundaries with sexual partners. Communication between sexual partners is vitally important to safe and healthy sex. In fact, you can’t have consensual sex without communication. You can read my earlier post about consent for some more thoughts on that. And you can utilize these AWESOME worksheets created and designed by the team over at Autostraddle for some help and guidance discussing sex with sexual partners. Seriously these are amazing, here’s just one of the many pages.

This is just one page of many created by the Autostraddle team. Please head over to the link to check out the rest!!

This is just one page of many created by the Autostraddle team. Please head over to the link to check out the rest!!

But in addition to the kinds of communication that we have with sexual partners, we need to communicate with our friends and peers about sex as well. Mostly because no one is talking about it! No one is teaching college aged people about proper safe sex, and many people don’t get the information they need about safe sex prior to college. It’s even rarer that people get information about safe queer sex- or any information at all about sex that is non-heteronormative. So it’s up to us to share what we know with our friends. We need to engage each other in conversations about sex and intimacy. Here’s a number of ways to do that.

1. Reach out to organizations and student groups on your university’s campus that might be interested in putting on a sex education event. Women’s groups and queer groups or any health related groups are good places to start. Check with your school’s Women’s, Gender, Sexuality Studies department or your university’s health or wellness center for organizations that might be interested in putting on a safe sex event.

2. Bring your friends with you to get tested. Getting tested alone can be daunting and scary, but getting tested with your closest friends can provide the support and confidence you might need to get out there and get tested regularly. Get a group of friends together and go regularly. You should go every couple of months or in between sexual partners but a good rule of thumb if you’re trying to get a group together is to go every other month. Decide on the last Friday of every other month and stick to it. Get tested at your student health center of at a low-cost or free testing center in your area. In D.C. you can go to Whitman-Walker Health Care Center in Logan’s Circle.  Go to dinner or lunch together after you’re done getting tested and just hang out. It will eliminate a lot of the stress.

3. Just get talking! Engage your friends in conversations and share your knowledge with each other. Know where to get condoms on your campus for free? Ask you friends if they do to and if they don’t, let them know. Curious about the best sex shops in town? Ask you friends!

Starting these kinds of dialogues and discussions can be imperative to sexual wellbeing. It’s important that we look out for each other and help each other build healthy sexual health habits.

On Coming Out

One of the most important parts of stigmatizing queer sex and creating open dialogue about testing, protection, and consent is empowering individuals to feel comfortable communicating their needs and desires. Communication is the most important element of safe and consensual sex. We can’t get to the root of our sexual desires and explore them fully without first feeling comfortable enough to talk about them and communicate openly and honestly. We can’t have safe and consensual sex without first empowering each other to speak out when we are uncomfortable.

I was thinking about these things and the importance of communication last Thursday morning when I spoke on a panel in an anthropology class here at my university. The class, a course called Sex, Gender, and Culture, invited a panel of four students, including myself, into the classroom to talk about our coming out experiences. We talked about the households we had grown up in and shared personal stories of coming out to our families, friends, and the other important people in our lives. I talk about these kinds of things frequently as someone who is thoroughly involved in queer activism. I share my own personal stories of coming out with people all the time. But for some reason, speaking on this particular panel made me reflect more deeply on the importance of communication during the coming out process and also made me realize how communication can often be a privilege when we do try to come out.

National Coming Out Day was this past Saturday, October 11th, and for many queer people it is an important day to celebrate the power of coming out and self identifying. Coming out can be a very powerful thing. It takes tremendous courage and strength and we should celebrate and stand in solidarity with everyone who chooses to come out. Anyone who so chooses to publicly self identify themselves as a part of the queer community should be able to live openly and authentically and should be supported. Coming out is an act of power. It’s political and brave and beautiful. I am thankful to the people who have outed themselves to create visibility and pave the way for younger generations of queer people like myself. Queer visibility and representation is such an important thing and I’m happy to celebrate National Coming Out Day every year.

Art by Keith Haring

Art by Keith Haring

But as I do so it’s important to recognize that not all people are able to come out. There are many members of the LGBTQPIA community who might not ever have the chance to come out. For some people, their jobs, financial stability, places of dwelling, familial relationships, and even their personal health and safety could be put in jeopardy by coming out. In 29 states people can be fired for being gay. In 34 states people can be fired for being transgender. LGBTQ people are not legally protected from job and housing discrimination in many states across the country. LGBTQ youth are being kicked out of homes after coming out, resulting in shocking rates of LGBTQ youth homelessness. Trans women of color are being brutally murdered because of their gender identity and expression. This beautiful post by Lourdes Ashley Hunter, a cofounder of the Trans Women of Color Collective is a must read on National Coming Out Day that speaks to the importance of supporting trans women of color and black trans voices.

This piece is about the intricacies of coming out to family as a South Asian identified queer person was shared with my by a good friend. The same site shared this post for National Coming Out Day as well. I’ve mentioned before how amazing Dark Matter are and these pieces are no exception. Dark Matter’s tweets surrounding NCOD were also amazing. I recommend giving both pieces and the above piece by Lourdes Ashley Hunter all a read and taking some time to consider the importance of supporting the members of our community who cannot come out on this, or any, National Coming Out Day. Coming Out and communicating sexual orientation or gender identity based identity is not a privilege that all have. But we can communicate with each other and push ourselves to better support the queer people whose voices are most often ignored. Happy National Coming Out Day to those who did celebrate. Your strength and courage are inspiring. Now it’s time to lend that strength and courage to dismantling the systems of oppression that are impacting our most marginalized brothers, sisters, and siblings.

Navigating DC as a Queer Identified Person

A couple weeks ago Queers and Allies, the queer student organization at American University in Washington, D.C., hosted an event called “Navigating D.C. and AU as a Queer Identified Person.” The event was a how-to guide for finding queer-centric  and queer friendly resources of all sorts on our campus and in our city. An awesome how-to handbook summarizing the highlights will be created and published on Queers and Allies’ Website in the next week or so but I wanted to share my portion of the presentation and some of my favorite takeaways here with all of you. I’ll keep it D.C. focused and those who attend American University and are interested in the AU portion can shoot me a comment.

I work with Queers and Allies as the Executive Director this year, but my main focus with the organization has always been safe and consensual inclusive sex, just like the theme of this blog would lead you to believe. Though that’s a main interest of mine, I have many passions in the world of queer focused and friendly activism work. So I hope you won’t mind indulging me with this post which isn’t at all about queer sex, but instead focuses primarily on queer inclusive social spaces in the city.

Social spaces can provide more than just fun, stress relief. Creating social spaces, celebrating culture, engaging in entertainment, and supporting and creating art is integral to community building. Queer specific or queer inclusive communities can provide vitally important sources of support for queer people. I remember the first time that I was surrounded by other queer people in a social setting- it changed my life. To be able to engage with people who have had similar experiences and share similar perspectives can be amazing. It’s also comforting to know that your surrounded by people who understand basic parts of yourself that you normally have to qualify or explain. To take a break from explaining the differences between pansexuality and bisexuality for like half a second and just have a good time can be really helpful for mental health and well being.

Unfortunately before advancing I must qualify that, not all queer spaces are safe and healthy spaces for all queer people. Monosexism (the privileging of people who are attracted only to the same gender or only to the opposite gender) still prevents bisexual, pansexual, fluid, and queer people from always feeling comfortable and welcome in some queer spaces; queer- friendly spaces are not always trans- friendly spaces, and people of color and people who are disabled can be excluded from queer spaces as well. This is the sad reality of our movement. We need to continue to push ourselves to a more inclusive and respectful community and we have a lot of work left to do. For some really good reads about the most marginalized members of the LGBTQ+ community and ways to better stand in solidarity with them I recommend checking out work by DarkMatter  and Black Girl Dangerous. In fact, an amazing Disability Justice advocate and friend of a friend, Ki’tay Davidson just contributed a relevant article to Black Girl Dangerous that you should read. Here it is. I also highly recommend the work of Julia Serano.

Lack of inclusivity in the movement is a monumental problem and there are many sub-issues and categories to consider. I only start to mention them here because I want to recognize and be aware of the fact that queer specific spaces are not always safe for all queer people. That being said, here are some of my favorite places to go and things to do as an out queer person in D.C.

1. Busboys and Poet’s *SPARKLE* Queer Open Mic Night is my number one favorite queer friendly activity in the DC area. Held the first Sunday of every month at Busboys and Poet’s 14th and V st. location, this open mic night provides a welcoming and safe community space for queer people to share their poetry, music, stand-up, and other performance art. Tickets are $5 (a little over $6 once fees are added online) and you can get them ahead of time online to secure your spot. Check the Busboy’s events calendar  for info about performances and ticketing.

2. As predictable as it may seem, I can’t create this list without mentioning Capital Pride Fest. Though the Pride parade and festival that happen on a Saturday and Sunday every year in early to mid June are the main attraction, Pride season has many offering to take advantage of. Pride kicks off in late May with Youth Pride, held annually in DuPont Circle, and continues with Trans Pride, Black Pride, and Latino Pride, which all host a variety of parties, workshops, and events. The week before the Pride Parade and Festival there are a number of activities including a Women’s Open Mic, an Interfaith Service, concerts, and a fun run. Pride is not just a two day experience in DC, its more than a month of exciting activities and networking opportunities. I have an amazing time every year.

 

Those are just two of my favorites! What are yours? Leave them below in the comments!

 

 

Happy Bisexuality Pride Week

September 23 was Bisexuality Visibility Day, an annual celebration- and most importantly- recognition of the bi members of the LGBTQ+ community. A day to stand up against bi-erasure and bi-invisibility, and to stand in solidarity with members of the queer community who are affected by monosexism. Monosexism pervades both the straight and queer communities, making it difficult for bisexually identified people to live openly and authentically within either community. Straight communities might reject a bi identified person for their same gender attractions, while queer communities might invalidate bi peoples’ identities because of their opposite gender attractions. The experiences, feelings, desires, and identities of bi people are valid, important, and just as relevant as everyone else, so it is unbelievably paramount to celebrate and recognize bi people not just during Bisexuality Pride Week, but in all the work we do as queer activists and organizers. My friends over at Autostraddle have published yet another amazing article about celebrating Bisexuality Pride Week. Give it  a read here.

To celebrate bi pride many people are sharing their own stories of coming out as bisexual. They are particularly beautiful to read especially as we approach National Coming Out Day which happens every year on October 11. I think about coming out frequently. Mostly because I come out every single day. The process of coming out as a queer identified person never ends; there are always new people and new situations where coming out may be an option. I hope to follow up this post with more in-depth conversations about coming out in later posts as we get closer and closer to National Coming Out Day. For now I want to start to get ready to talk about the difficulty of navigating safe and consensual sex education as a bisexual, pansexual, or fluid identified person (note: people can identify with any number of labels or identities that express an attraction or desire for more than one gender and it is impossible to list them all here. I will be using the terms bi, pan, and fluid to try and account for those identities as accurately as possible).

First some quick definitions.

Bisexuality is an identity held by people who feel mental, physical, emotional, sexual, or other forms of attraction to both men and women.

Pansexuality is an identity held by people who feel mental, physical, emotional, sexual, or other forms of attraction to more than one gender. This can mean they are attracted to both men and women similarly to bisexually identified people. Additionally it can mean that people are attracted to certain types of traits or other things despite gender identity. It can also mean that people hold attraction to nonbinary, agender, or other people who do not identify exclusively as male or female. Long story short, it can mean anything a pansexual person decides they want it to mean but is typically used to express attraction free from the constraints of potential partners’ gender identities.

Fluidity as a sexual orientation is an identity held by people who can have a number of different kinds of changing attractions towards a number of different kinds of people, often exclusive of potential partners’ gender identities.

It is so vitally important to note that these definitions are listed only as a way of trying to help readers understand the intricacies and differences between the identities and are not completely accurate definitions. Identities are completely self defined by each individual person who claims them, and a pansexual identified person might have a completely different, personal definition of pansexuality.

Again, happy Bi Visibility day to all! Now that we have some groundwork, my next post can competently discuss sex education for bi/pan/fluid identified people. Hope to have it up by the end of today. Stay posted!

Bi Pride Flag

Bi Pride Flag