On bi-erasure and coming out

On sexuality

Its pride month again! Last year I wrote this post explaining why Pride is still celebrated. I stand by what I said there, but over the past year I have grown, as has my experience. This year for pride month I will be getting a little more personal, not because I feel the need to share my story, but because I feel that my story is one many people can relate to and everyone can learn a bit from.

About two years ago I came out to my close family and friends as bi. Coming to terms with my sexuality was a complicated and personal journey and because of that, its not one that I will not be getting into here. I will talk about it a little bit, but more importantly I’ll talk about my experiences after coming out.

To start out, my coming out story is nothing exceptional. I’m lucky to have an accepting family and group of friends. After coming out, I no longer tried to suppress my identity and now the vast majority of people that know me know about my sexuality. That being said, I still experience some of the struggles faced by queer people and would like to share that experience to you. In this blog post I’m mostly going focus on bisexuality, as that’s obviously what I have the most experience with. Keep in mind that each sexual identity faces different challenges and I’m unable to speak to them all.

When I came out to my dad, the first thing he said was, “How do you know?”. It wasn’t said with malice and looking back on it, I know it was a completely innocent question. At the time though, I was defensive. My response: “How do you know you’re straight?”

This question goes beyond just me and my experience. Often queer youth are questioned on how they know they are gay or bi or asexual or anything in between. Queer people are routinely assaulted or raped in an attempt to “turn them straight” (this is referred to as corrective rape and is super common in South Africa). Before becoming cemented in their sexuality, queer people are expected to experiment with heterosexual experiences. Straight youth on the other hand are never questioned, they are not raped or assaulted in order to be corrected, and aren’t expected to experiment before coming to a conclusion. The lack of questioning straight youth face is illustrative of something about sexuality: it’s inherent.

It’s known inherently, too. Sexuality is an extremely personal thing.  Someone’s sexuality may not be obvious to you. This is especially prevalent for bisexual people. For example, I am currently in a relationship with a boy. That being said, I am still bisexual. My sexuality isn’t dependent on who I am currently seeing. The binary mentality many people have towards sexuality leads to what is called “bi-erasure”, or the lack of representation for bisexuality.

Both the queer and straight community play a part in this. Bisexual people in a committed relationship are often seen as choosing sides. If they are in a heterosexual relationship, they are just seen as straight and not a real part of the queer community. If they are in a queer relationship, they are seen as gay and not a part of the straight community. As a result, neither community is particularly accepting of bisexuality as a valid sexuality.

Fetishism and representation play another huge part in the difficulties faced by bisexual people. Bisexual women in the media are portrayed as a personification of the male gaze and provide an opportunity to play out threesome fantasies. Bisexual men are almost never represented. I could go on and on about representation (not just for bi people), but will just save that one for another post.

These are just some of the problems bisexual people face in coming out. Each person has a different experience and each identity faces different challenges. I encourage you to keep an open mind. Be understanding, be kind, be accepting and have a happy pride month!

Every good wish,

Julia

For Anchorage PrideFest schedule go here!

 

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On the women’s march

On feminism, On politics, On sexuality

Yesterday I participated in the second  annual women’s march. It was powerful, empowering and inspirational, but I didn’t want to be there. A protest for human rights should not be an annual event. Still, we came together and we marched.

Thousands of people gathered around 11 at the Park Strip. After hearing from a few speakers, we moved to Williwaw. On the way we only passed one counter protester, blocked by wall of women’s march organizers. At the end of the march we gathered for chants, music, and information. Organizations supporting women in office, reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, voting, the environment, and gun legislation were handing out sign ups, stickers, and flyers. The amount of people and information was overwhelming.

Compared to last year, the women’s march was less of an event. Palmer hosted one last year, but this year the closest was in Anchorage. Not as many people attended and there was less publicity. Walking back to the car from the march, people asked what all the crowd was about.

While the march was less popular, the issues are growing in importance and number. Silence gets nothing done. This is why I march.

I march for access to affordable birth control, accurate sex ed, the right to choose, and medical screenings. I march so everyone can have access to healthcare. I march for and end to violence against women and trans people, an end to victim blaming, and credibility for male victims. I march against systemic racism, sexism, transphobia, ableism, ageism,  and homophobia. I march for land rights. I march for my right to love who I want and for others to use the bathroom safely. I march for parental leave and baby changing stations in all bathrooms. I march so all can vote. I march for clean water and air. I march against fascism. I march so everyone has equal opportunity and equal rights.

For me the women’s march is not in protest of the president. It’s a march against policies that oppress in the US and worldwide. The problems we are facing are not isolated to January 20th and they are not isolated to this country. We face these problems on the daily and no matter where we are. We must be everyday activists to overcome. Your gender, race, sexuality, political beliefs, religion, age, and ability do not dictate your ability to make a change. The power is with the people.

Get involved with any (or all!) of these organizations:

Register to vote in Alaska here.

The organization listed above are just few of the options available. As always, exercise your rights, stay informed, and stand together.

Every good wish,

Julia

On LGBTQ+ sex ed

On sex ed, On sexuality

Recently I attended a kind of top secret research project about LGBTQ+ sex ed. It taught basic sex ed info (STI and pregnancy prevention, violence prevention, etc) and talked about self-advocacy (which I talk about in this blog post). As most of you know, I’m super passionate about sex ed, especially when its inclusive. This project brought the issue back to light.

The thing that stood out to me was the binary (phallic?) focus of sex ed even when it was geared towards LGBTQ+ youth.

I’ve posted a couple times about the need for inclusive sex ed and the need reevaluate the model. Seeing a sex-ed program for LGBTQ+ youth was fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, the curriculum is a HUGE step in the right direction. While it fixed some problems, it brought others to my attention.

So back to the binary bit I brought up earlier. Sex ed being taught in schools is generally heteronormative, meaning it focuses mainly on heterosexual relationships and penetrative vaginal sex. Even within the cirriculum geared towards people that don’t identify with this, there was still focus on penetration. This is super great for men having penetrational sex with men, but leaves a solid chunk of the community out of the conversation.

Women having sex with women is the most obvious example. External or male condoms don’t work for this group of people. There was absolutely some discussion of dental dams, how to use them, and how to make them. At the same time, there was no discussion of the safe use of sex toys or finger cots (finger condoms!).

For other groups of people there was even less information. People who did not identify as male or female, were transitioning, or who are not interested in sex at all got little to no information. Pregnancy and STI’s can be hard to navigate and discuss if someone does not fit traditional ideas of gender identity or biological sex.

Again, its wonderful to see more LGBTQ+ inclusive sex ed. As more steps are taken in the right direction, its important to make sure that everyone is included in the conversation. There are so many different ways of identifying, expressing, and practicing when it comes to sex and gender. All people should have the information and education they need to be safe and healthy.

Usually this would be the place where I propose some sort of solution, but for this one there isn’t much action we can take. So, as always keep your eye out for opportunity, stay educated, and support those around you.

Every good wish,

Julia

On pride month

On politics, On sexuality

As most of us know, June is LGBTQ+ Pride month. The first official pride celebrations started in 1970 in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Riots. The first pride march, called the Christopher Street Liberation Day March took place in 1970. Since then, the movement has expanded to week long festivals all over the world. Since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage many people question why Pride is still celebrated. For the same reason that there is International Women’s Day and Black History Month, there is Pride Month; groups that have been oppressed and discriminated against rise up to celebrate themselves and to show the world that they will not be silent.

While it is a celebration of sexuality and openness, Pride month is also a political statement. Almost every festival will have a memorial for LGBTQ+ people that have died or been killed because of hate. We honor those who commit suicide because they can’t find acceptance, those who are disowned for their sexuality, those who are attacked because of who they hold hands with, and those who die for who they love.

Pride celebrates the rights that have been won: marriage, workplace rights, military service, adoption. The marches also call for the rights we still don’t have and an end to violence.

The celebrations provide a safe environment for people to be open and comfortable with their sexuality. It gives people of all ages, races, genders, abilities, and orientations resources to be safe and healthy.

Finally, Pride shows that you shouldn’t be ashamed. For people who live in places that aren’t supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, Pride lets them know that they aren’t alone. Their sexuality is normal and valid and doesn’t have to be hidden.

Pride celebrates perseverance in the face of extreme adversity and the freedom to be you.

Whether you are part of the LGBTQ+ community or not, Pride is a wonderful way to show your support, meet inspiring people, and make a stand for what you believe in.

Every good wish,

Julia

Anchorage PrideFest is this week! Schedule here.

On getting tested

On sex ed, On sexuality

Fun fact: 1 out of every two people will contract an STI at some point in their life.

This can lead to some pretty nasty consequences. Cancer, infertility, pregnancy complications, chronic pain, and even death. The problem with this is that our much loved high school sex ed programs forget one important detail.

Most STIs are asymptomatic.

That means symptoms don’t show up. HPV, for example, is asymptotic, but can lead to cervical cancer if left untreated. Undetected STIS tend to be a bigger problem for women as the urethra and the vagina are separate, whereas in men, painful urination makes STIs a whole lot easier to detect. Its still a valid problem for everyone. At first, most STIs don’t cause too much harm. Its when they are left untreated for long periods of time that they start to wreak havoc.

So how do you prevent getting an STI?

  1. Safe sex! That’s right, condoms prevent up to 98% of STI cases when used correctly. This includes all types of sex, whether it be penetrational, oral , or anything in between. STIs such as gonorrhea can infect any mucousy area of the body- throat, nose and eyes included.
  2. Communicate! Don’t be afraid to talk to your partner about any STIs you might have and ask them if they have anything. The conversation will probably be awkward, but its much better than having and STI.
  3. When in doubt, see a doctor. If you even suspect an ingrown hair may be something more, get it checked. Even if you exhibit no symptoms, get tested. Its recommended that you get tested at least every 3-6 months. Like I said before, most STIs are asymptomatic, so its better to be safe than have an untreated STI.

If you or your partner have an STI be sure to communicate it. First off, both of you should be tested to make sure everything is being treated. Second, communicate. I know I say this all the time, but communication is the foundation to a healthy relationship and healthy sexuality. Lastly, follow the doctors recommendations! They tend to know what they’re talking about

Before I leave you alone, here’s one last resource. iknowmine is one of my favorite resources for Alaska teens. They have a whole bunch of helpful information. Additionally, they provide free at home STI testing kits and condoms. For those of you who don’t have easy access to a doctor, this is a way that you can get tested. The whole process is anonymous and parental consent is not required in Alaska. The website also has information on your sexual health rights, as well as countless resources about basically everything involved with sexuality. Highly recommended.

Every good wish,

Julia

 

On pronouns

On sexuality

Traditionally, gender is binary, or split into two options: he and she. Gender fluidity, agender, intersex, and other non-binary identities challenge this idea. The idea that gender is more of a spectrum with masculinity and one end and femininity at the other is becoming more accepted. For society to be inclusive and respectful to all identities and expression of gender there needs to be a gender neutral pronoun. As we become more and more inclusive, the list of preferred pronouns grows.

The most common is “they”. It is used just like the plural they, but instead to refer to a singular person. Instead of “He enjoyed himself.” you would say “They enjoyed themself.” They and themself take the place of he and himself respectively. Other pronouns include co, en, ey, xie, yo and ze. People choose pronouns based off of personal identity and what they feel most comfortable with.

A handy guide from UCDavis lists them out here:

co

co

cos

cos

coself

en

en

ens

ens

enself

ey

em

eir

eirs

emself

he

him

his

his

himself

she

her

her

hers

herself

they

them

their

theirs

themself

xie

hir (“here”)

hir

hirs

hirself

yo

yo

yos

yos

yoself

ze

zir

zir

zirs

zirself

Again, these are by no means the only options, just the ones most commonly used.

So some questions:

Why use gender neutral pronouns?

Using the correct pronouns is a respect thing. If you use someone’s preferred gender pronouns (PGP), it shows to them that you respect their gender identity. This is huge. More importantly, it shows that you respect them as a person. Using the wrong pronouns, intentionally or not, can make someone feel alienated or invalid. It’s just as insulting to be called “he” if you identify as “she” as it is to be if you identify as “ze”.

How do I ask someone’s pronouns?

It can be an awkward thing to do. Chances are, the person will be happy you asked. Again, its a show of respect.

One way to ask is to introduce yourself with your pronouns and then ask the other person. Example: “My name is _______ and my pronouns are _____/_____. What about you?”

You could ask just ask directly “What pronouns do you prefer?”

When in doubt, just use the person’s name. It can be awkward to ask, but its more awkward to assume.

What if I make a mistake?

It is perfectly okay. Just correct yourself, apologize and keep going. The fact that you’re making an effort is a good thing.

Remember to always keep in mind the person’s needs. Keep in mind if they are closeted or not. Many people are open with their identities in some circles and not others. Ask in what situations each pronoun is appropriate or what the person is comfortable with. The last thing you want to do is out them by accident.

As always, keep an open mind, do your research and communicate!

Every good wish,

Julia

On consentual nonmonogamy

On sexuality

Consensual nonmonogamy is the practice or desire of having multiple partners with the knowledge and consent of all parties involved. Recently there has been a push for nonmonogamy to be recognized as a sexual identity, so let’s talk about what exactly it means.

To start, some definitions of common terms:

  • Closed relationship: This is the ‘traditional’ relationship made up of two people with the expectation that neither has an additional partner.
  • Open relationship: An open relationship is typically made up of two people. There is an agreement that either partner can have sexual relations outside of the main relationship.
  • Polyfidelity: Multiple partners are involved in the relationship, as in a triad, but no one is allowed to take on outside partners.
  • Polyamory: This is a blanket term for multiple partner relationships.
  • Swinging: Focusing on recreational sex and not relationships.
  • Primary relationship: This is an individual’s closest relationship. The majority of their time, energy, and emotional connection is invested in this relationship.
  • Secondary: This is a less intimate relationship. Less energy and time are invested in this relationship.
  • Triad: This is a relationship involving three people. Each person is equally involved with the other two members.
  • Vee: This is similar to a triad. Instead of everyone having equal involvement, two people (the arms) have equal involvement with one person (the hinge) and less involvement with each other.
  • Compersion: Positive feelings that are felt when a partner finds joy or love in a partner other than oneself.

These aren’t all of the possible combinations of multiple partner relationships. There are countless different arrangements and styles of relationships.

Multiple partner relationships are often misunderstood as cheating. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The key to a successful relationship (monogamous or not) is communication and consent. This is even more important in multiple partner relationships. When the rules of a relationship are broken, then it is considered cheating. In monogamous relationship these rules sometimes aren’t openly discussed, but are more of a social expectation. In multiple partner relationships it’s vital to discuss the rules and expectations of each party involved. This can be anything from who can have sex with who, to emotional ties, to the approval of outside partners. If any of the rules are broken, it is considered cheating, just like it would be to a monogamous couple. Full consent to engage in a multiple partner relationship ensures that all feelings are out in the open. Each person involved must be happy with the arrangement in order for it to be as successful as possible. This communication and consent of all parties is the most important aspect of a nonmonogamous relationship.

The want or need for multiple partners is often labelled as greed or unhappiness with a current relationship. Again, this assumption is far from the truth. The increased communication that comes with multiple partner relationships often leads to stronger, happier relationships.  The concept of compersion comes into play here. This the excitement and happiness one partner feels when the other finds joy or love in a different partner. The feeling is often compared to the excitement you feel for a friend when they get a new job, or a promotion or something else positive in their life. With compersion also comes the threat of jealousy. This is where communication comes in again. People in multiple partner relationships tend to be more open with their emotions and better at communicating with others.

Another argument against nonmonogamy is the threat of STIs and pregnancy. In most cases of cheating safe sex isn’t practiced increasing the threat of contracting a STI or becoming pregnant. The opposite is true in multiple partner relationships. There is a noticeable increase in condom usage, sanitation, and STI testing. Most multiple partner relationships have what is called a “safe sex circle” or a “condom contract”, which is an agreement that dictates condom usage and testing rules for everyone.

Multiple partner relationships are not for everyone. They require strong relationships and lots of communication. Conflicting emotions and complicated situations can arise, so an open mind is vital. Even if you are a serial monogamous, it’s important to know what different issues are facing the world. As always, spread the good word, smash stereotypes, and keep informed.

Learn more here, here, or here!

Every good wish,

Julia