My 10 #GivingTuesday Charity Recommendations

There are a lot of great charities out there, but here’s 10 (in no particular order) that I suggest you donate to this Giving Tuesday. A lot of these organizations I either know the people behind them, have been a long time supporter myself, and are otherwise closely connected to what I believe in.

Give thanks by giving back for #GivingTuesday!
Give thanks by giving back for #GivingTuesday!

1. Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation

The first one is for the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation, and my friend Joe Hall has put together this fundraiser drive. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are matching this one. OI is a group of genetic disorders that mainly affect the bones and causes them to be fragile and break easily.

2. Feminist Frequency

Feminist Frequency advocates for a more inclusive, intersectional media and increasing cultural conversation around gender, sexuality and race. They encourage being critical of media, and their most famous work is about tropes in video gaming. I also know some of the ladies behind the org, and they’re the raddest. Continue reading “My 10 #GivingTuesday Charity Recommendations”

Film Deadpool Is Not a Pansexual Icon

Deadpool's sexual orientation
What box will Deadpool choose?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Deadpool movie since seeing it last weekend. It was not one of my favorite Marvel-based movies. Many people found the movie transgressive, as an R-rated risk for Marvel properties and a reaction against the overly serious DC movies and tones of the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse and Captain America: Civil War films. One of the conversations coming out of Deadpool aka Wade Wilson being turned into a film is Deadpool’s position as a pansexual comic character.

Let me be clear: Deadpool, in no way, shows attraction toward men in the film.

We can argue and debate subtext or queerbaiting all day, but there’s nothing in the entire film for the average straight person to say, “Wow, Deadpool also likes men.” Continue reading “Film Deadpool Is Not a Pansexual Icon”

Happy National Coming Out Day, Friends

Me at Gay Pride with GeekGirlCon friends. (I'm Wonder Woman in the middle.)

Today I’ve been pondering a lot about two conversations I had yesterday with two different friends. Conversations that were intense with feelings and deeply personal and all about coming out and being queer in America today.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m queer (bisexual, pansexual, bi-romantic lesbian, insert your label here) — for those of you who’ve known me for years and didn’t know, I’m a little shocked too (in that you didn’t know) — as I’ve been out for 13 years. Out to the varying degrees that one is in varying different situations and settings. The first time I came out may have been to my childhood best friend, a few months after he came out to me; but when everyone assumes you’re straight, coming out never ends. A toast to all those brave enough to come out and a wish of bravery for those who haven’t.

Yesterday, my first conversation was with a queer friend, who’s more recently come out. We chatted about dating; about the women that we love but live so far away; about family, those who love us, reject us, are in the middle; about being out; about those kindred spirits who befriend us and those who knew long before we could say it; about conversations with others — who we’d never talk to about “those issues” — that left us wondering; and about the wonder of just being who we are, no apologies or remorse. Our emotions went on the roller-coaster from laughing to regret and sadness to happiness. But I was always glad to have someone to talk with, someone else to understand.

My second conversation was with a straight friend, who’s a big ally. Our conversation was more about the personal being political, about the R74 vote (gay marriage in WA). We talked a lot about how the two-party system in the US doesn’t have any real political differences, except when you get down to the “you’re a baby killer” (pro-choice Dems) and the “you’re a bigot” (anti-gay rights Reps) and how deep a nerve that hits. Nerves that run way deeper than “let’s argue about tax policies that we probably don’t fully understand.” About the privilege associated with being able to pick to vote on the economy, taxes, or who’s sexiest. About this article, which is essentially the story of really understanding that privilege and maybe choosing not to vote on the economy.

We’re a nation of storytellers, and this is part of my story. This is why when I’m not alone, writing in my apartment, I may get incoherent. This is why I get angry and why I might get upset with you. I truly do believe that everyone has the patriotic duty to vote and that everyone should vote for the candidate who they think would do the best job. I believe that political differences are healthy and debates should flourish to be more than incoherent rantings. I believe that both Obama and Romney are running from President because they love America and believe that their ideas are the best for the country, which is an extremely American thing to do. I don’t think I should get so mad I want to cry when trying to explain why I’m passionate about “queer lady issues” as a queer lady.

I think a lot about what’s happened since I came out (the good, bad, and in-between). I think of how my mom told that she didn’t want me to be gay because she didn’t want me to get hurt by the world. I think about how in these past 13 years, I couldn’t imagine not being out and how uncomfortable I’ve been in situations where I’ve chosen not to speak up. Civil rights are the personal as political. And today, this is what’s happening. This is me.

What Men’s Fitness’ Hate-On About Cosplay Teaches Us: Sexism Hurts Everyone

Superhero Cosplay by Karl Palutke
Superhero Cosplay Parade. Photo by Karl Palutke.

When I first saw the “article” about cosplay from Men’s Fitness, I shrugged it off as immature linkbait.1 It wasn’t worth my time to argue with a troll, and I’m sure as hell not linking back to it. (Which is what the author, Jordan Burchette, wants.)

Then I thought for a second and went, great, now next time we bring up a systemic oppression in geekdom (as geekdom is part of society), male geeks with +20 privilege are going to bring this article up and say they are oppressed by society. (First rule of talking about oppressive systems, check your privilege at the door. Second rule, don’t derail. Third rule, don’t compare oppressions in a hierarchy of oppression; it’s all bad.)2

But because I spend my time around wonderful people who try to find the teaching and learning moment in everything, I instead did my best Wesley Wyndam-Pryce3 impersonation and said, “Eureka!”

Men’s Fitness actually illustrates beautifully why sexism hurts men too.

Burchette spends most of his time making snarky comments, not perpetuating ridiculous beauty ideals for women, but mocking male cosplayers who lack the same idealized male bodies as Thor, Batman, or Captain America.4 Unrealistic ideals found in the pages of Men’s Fitness. Burchette says that there’s something innately missing in these cosplayers that causes them to dare to dress up their less-than-perfect-by-Men’s-Fitness-standards bodies like comic book characters. No one will argue that spandex — superhero fabric du jour — shows everything and that many male superhero costumes are cut to show off uber muscled bodies.5

The problem, however, is not the cosplayers or even the fabric choices. The problem is the beauty ideals perpetrated by sexism and put in the media.

Surprise! Men’s Fitness is the media, and a magazine that sets Western body ideals. Men’s Fitness literally has the power to change these stereotypes and male beauty myths. But they aren’t, because they make money off telling men (and women) that their bodies are not perfect enough. Why would you buy Men’s Fitness unless you somehow felt bad about your body?6 At least this is the misguided logic used in editorial and advertising decisions.

Ridiculous men’s beauty standards are just as dangerous as ridiculous women’s beauty standards. They hurt people.7 They promote ridged gender coding and make unhealthy and unrealistic expectations for how people are supposed to look and act. Born out of sexism, these male stereotypes have progressed and grown right along female stereotypes, and they hurt individuals and society.

Male geeks with +20 privilege are right; they are being bullied by Men’s Fitness. The way to stop it isn’t just to call out the author or the article, but to call out media, like Men’s Fitness, every single time they pull this false beauty ideals out, even when it doesn’t directly affect geeky male cosplayers. Because in the end, unrealistic beauty stereotypes affect everyone.

  1. Linkbait: An article purposely written in such a way to draw lots of attention and comments. In this case, this is the bad kind of linkbait.
  2. I completely made these rules up. Though they are what I try to operate under, especially when I am in a space where I have privilege.
  3. This would be Wesley from Season 2 of Angel, who’s actually a great example of a character who early on does not conform to masculine stereotypes and is the “girly” or “wimpy” one. (I love Wesley in all his incarnations from adorkably dancing in sweaters to grizzly and shotgun-wielding.)
  4. As long as none of them are penciled by Rob Liefeld because no one wants 1) a 74-pack; 2) that many pouches; 3) no feet. <– This is how you snark like a comic book geek.
  5. This is not even getting into women’s costumes, which often have a whole layer masturbation-fodder attached to them. (Not literal layers as that’s what the clothing lacks.)
  6. Other motivations for buying magazines include actual journalism or real health tips, which are both harder to write and (sadly) harder to sell (which is the media’s own damn fault for giving us junk food and guilt).
  7. There are almost 1 million men and a little over 7 million women in the United States who suffer from eating disorders.

P.S. Yes, I am a cosplayer. But you can make fun of me all you want about that.

GeekGirlCon Date and Venue Announced

Jen, Erica, and Marissa with the signed contract
Jen, myself, and Marissa with the signed contract for the Seattle Center Northwest Rooms for GeekGirlCon.

GeekGirlCon, a celebration of geeky women, will happen Saturday and Sunday, October 8 & 9, 2011 in Seattle. Get your passes now.

Also, there have been four guests announced: Bonnie Burton, Trina Robbins, Jen Van Meter, and Greg Rucka.

I’m so excited. Myself and the GeekGirlCon staff have worked long and hard to secure our date, and we’ll be continuing to work a lot to make the convention fully come together. We are so excited to have a place. Hope to see you all there!

Happy National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out Day. National Coming Out Day celebrates visibility for LGBTTQQA people.

I’ve been out of the closet as bisexual for over 10 years now. But like any queer person, can tell you that coming out never really ends, especially in a society where you’re straight until proven otherwise.

Sadly, this year has been marked with several deaths of bullied and harassed queer people (or assumed queer people). While, I’m glad that these stories are actually making the news — compared to be a hidden secret — I hope that some day, there will be no deaths to report. Sex columnist and fellow Seattleite Dan Savage has created the It Gets Better project, which is where anyone can upload a video speaking about their experiences and how as an adult, life gets better for queer people. Because it does. If one young person (or really anyone of any age) knows he/she/zi is not alone, then these videos have worked. There is hope; there is help; and there is community. You are not alone.

The following is my video:

Confessions of a Geek: No iPad, No Kindle, No iTunes

Erica and Winston in front of books
Me and Winston, my cat, in front of some of my books.
I didn’t order an iPad. I don’t have a Kindle or Sony e-Reader. I don’t buy TV or music off iTunes. I still trudge every week to the comic book shop to pick up my weekly stack. I still frequent used book stores to collect whatever trashy vampire book I’m reading next or cookbook I want to pillage for recipes. I still buy CDs and pay for my favorite shows on DVD. I still have freaking vinyl records.

Admittedly, I have a love for books — yes, the physical form in my hand. They never run low on batteries and only cost you page wrinkling or under $20 to replace when you drop them in the bathtub. However, I wouldn’t mind giving up my CDs and DVDs for digital copies. If for no other reason, I’d have more shelf space for books. (Oh, yes, I am that girl, the one you never want to volunteer to help move.) I’ll admit to owning an iPod, and how it’s much more convenient to have 128 GB of music at my fingertips when I need to tune out at work.

I don’t own an iPad or Kindle and I don’t buy from iTunes because of Digital Rights Management (DRM).

I don’t like the idea that Amazon could hit the kill switch on a book I paid money for. Same with iTunes. And how many generally technologically savvy friends have I had who’ve killed all the music on their iPods due to syncing issues related to DRM. I’ve also had several tell me that every CD they buy off iTunes, they immediately burn to a disc, which rather defeats the point of digital copies. The iPad premiered with a Marvel Comic Book app. It looks very slick. Besides some issues I have with pricing, how do I know these comics aren’t going to disappear when Marvel decides I can’t own them anymore?

Amazon tells the consumer how many times s/he can share books to different devices and with other Kindle owners. Marvel doesn’t allow sharing, unless you want someone to borrow your $500 iPad. iPods are set from the factory to wipe their entire harddrives when hooked up to a different computer.

I think I’ll keep my books, my CDs, my DVDs, and yes, my vinyl records until someone sorts out this DRM issue in a way that’s pro-consumer, not pro-corporation. I’m okay with being old fashioned here.

Visibility Matters: Queering the Census

Pride Flag by John Carleton
Pride Flag by John Carleton
Like most college freshman, I lived in the dorms paired with a random roommate I’d never met before. My former roommate Chelsea is a nice person. Score one on the freshman roommate lottery. However, Chelsea had grown up in a small town — smaller than our tiny 2,000 student liberal arts college — and I was the first openly queer person Chelsea had met.

(Or at least thought’d she met as one of her close male friends came out later that year. He also pinged my gaydar when he stayed with us to try out for American Idol and hopped into bed with his SpongeBob SquarePants pj bottoms.)

While certainly not a bigot, I felt Chelsea still struggled with having me being an out bisexual and very active with the LGBT group on campus. At least at first. But by the end of the year, Chelsea even came to a few events as an ally and had a great time.

It’s the little things. It’s knowing openly queer people that makes straight people realize the impact when gay rights pop up on the ballot. Knowing that voting affects real people, people you know, is different than the abstract concept of ‘gay marriage’ or ‘hate crimes.’ And this is where the U.S. Census comes in.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is running a campaign called Queer the Census, where they send you a sticker to put on your census envelope. It reads: ATTN: U.S. Census Bureau, It’s Time to Count Everyone! and then there are check-boxes to mark your sexual orientation and/or gender identity, including a box for our straight allies.

My census — but not my sticker — came yesterday. It asks who lives at my address, if we rent or own, name, sex, age, race, if I live here all the time, all the same information about my partner, and how my partner’s related to me.

During the 2000 Census, I remember how surprised many statisticians were about how many people identified as mixed race. I’d love to see the same surprise about how many queer-identified people live in the United States. In my personal experience — likely extremely skewed — the estimation of 1 in 10 has always seemed low to me.

Counting’s important. Not everyone’s out and not everyone can be out. Being queer isn’t something the farmer selling me parsnips at the Farmer’s Market knows by looking at me. But maybe it’d be better if he did know. I am a loyal customer, supporting his business. On the flip side, it’s also nice to say, I am not alone. I am so not alone.

There will be a sticker counting me on my census.

Homophobia in the Sookie Stackstackhouse Books and True Blood’s Response

I really thought my vampire thing was over. I read all Anne Rice’s books through middle school and high school. And I’ve been completely obsessed with Buffy: the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel for years. Like let me sing you the musical, go out cosplaying, and attend fancons obsessive. Then my friend Gretchen insists I watch True Blood.

Both Charlaine Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries books and the True Blood TV series have their flaws. They aren’t high literature by any means, and clearly fall into the category of beach-reading for the novels and trashy-TV for the show. The actors constantly drop their accents and Harris goes on and on about Sookie’s less-than-stylish outfits. And I’ve take to randomly calling out “Buuhill!” and “Ssucky” in mockery.

The first season of True Blood basically follows Dead Until Dark‘s plot. I whipped through the book knowing what was going to happen around every corner. Some of the little changes I liked better than others. When I got the second book, Living Dead in Dallas, I stumbled a bit with it, and likewise, I felt the second season stumbled. I’d been warned this was the weakest book in the series.

But what I couldn’t get over was the homophobia in Living Dead in Dallas. This book made me forever grateful for Alan Ball’s flimsy second season fixing the missteps the book took. Neither are gems, even in the vampire-porn genre, but True Blood‘s Season Two isn’t as offensive. Continue reading “Homophobia in the Sookie Stackstackhouse Books and True Blood’s Response”

The Story of My Left Boob

Or Why I Support a Public Option Health Care Plan for All

Pink Ribbon for Breast Cancer
Pink Ribbon for Breast Cancer.
Boobs. As a woman with family history of breast cancer, I can tell you that boobs aren’t something we’re shy about talking about; breasts are important. They are battleground. A ticking time bomb. A much discussed enhancement of beauty and youth. A food source for human babies. There are Congressional bills about them. Despite the new guidelines, we all believe in self-examinations and starting mammograms at age 40. My beloved maternal grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago. She’s a survivor. Those ubiquitous pink ribbons dot a lot of my mother’s accessories.

I went in a few weeks ago to my doctor’s for a routine physical. As my doctor’s asking me about my eating habits and checking my breasts, she finds an odd lump on my left breast. Lump + family history = ultrasound at a diagnostics lab. (I’m too young for a mammogram.) I freak out a little. My doctor says it’s probably nothing, just something I should get checked. I freak some more. I tell myself my mom’s had several benign lumps removed. Comfort comes in statistics and phone calls to friends. And then I freak out a little more.

At some point, I realize I’m not freaking out because I might have cancer and die, but I’m freaking out about my health insurance (or inn-sewer-ants, as Terry Prachett put it). Continue reading “The Story of My Left Boob”