An online space for queer, questioning, lesbian, bi, trans and everything else in between women at Yale

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Being an Ally to a Queer Person of Faith

This Wednesday, I went to a panel discussion sponsored by the Chaplain's office on "Being an Ally to a Queer Person of Faith." Although all the panelists were cheery and supportive, I felt that the discussion sidestepped the pertinent issue. For the most part, the advice that was being given (be supportive, let people have time to adjust, etc) was the advice that you would give to a queer person struggling to come out in any community, religious or not. The panel seemed to be hoping that, given enough time and support, any community that cared about a person would eventually come around.

The posters for this event pushed this idea of eventual harmonization. A typical poster for the event read: "Bisexual Baptist? What if somebody told you that your identity was a contradiction?"

Yeah, well, what if somebody was right?

Religious groups make truth claims about homosexuality, that are, at times, impossible to divorce from the truth claims they make about the nature of god and the appropriate form of worship. In these communities, it is completely plausible that there will never be acceptance of 'practicing' gays. In these cases, being an ally requires us to help a queer people of faith to make a choice between acting on their orientation and maintaining their religious faith.

The panel seemed to be considering religion primarily in a cultural or social sense, but it is important to remember that religious faith makes demands on people. It is when we recognize that a faith is making unreasonable demands in that we make judgments about a religion's ability to distinguish true claims from false. Wednesday's panel should have recognized that, when we start telling the truth about ourselves, that change may force us to recognize that sexuality was not the only sphere of our life in which we have been living a lie.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Coming out (or not)

So last night, I decided to stay in and do work. That is, I started reading, got bored and went off to visit people. And so I ended up talking to my friend from Kansas. Last year during bulldog days, he was housed with an extremely flamboyant guy on old campus and got so uncomfortable that he left old campus in the middle of the night and went to TD to stay with another friend. Now, I’m sitting comfortably on his bed talking about the post I’m writing for Sappho, his roommate for next year (who’s bi), and if I should try (again) to come out to my mom and dad over spring break.

Talking about coming out, I realize how difficult it is to flat out tell people “I’m bi”. I have no trouble meeting people and telling them that, it’s just with people who knew me before I came out. I guess I’m afraid that their knowing will change their view of me or of our friendship in some fundamental way. So at the beginning of school, I came out to my new friends in a variety of indirect (and sometimes rather ill thought-out) ways. And so, for your reading pleasure, I thought I’d put together some of the more entertaining ways I’ve considered coming out to friends and family.

For your friends:

1) Play ten fingers.

2) Change your facebook to “interested in women”. Then join every possible gay rights group on facebook at the same time.

3) When friends come to visit, casually show them to your room, where there is a naked girl in your bed. Or a rainbow flag I guess. But the naked girl has more shock value.

4) Start flirting with your friends boyfriends and sit in their laps. When they ask what the fuck your doing, say “Don’t worry, I’m gay”. They’ll be so annoyed by your hitting on their boyfriends they’ll overlook the gay part.

5) just start making out with girls at parties. People will figure it out.

For your parents:

6) Explain that you are majoring in WGSS and are going to join softball

7) Start dressing and acting gayer and gayer until they are forced to assume. Even if you’re generally feminine, just wear guys pants and flannel whenever you’re home. Alternatively, dress only rainbow items.

8) Bring your girlfriend home with you and casually say “hey mom and dad, this is my girlfriend….”. They won’t want to make a public scene, so they can’t freak out.

9) Invite them to a “big surprise party”, and when they show up it’s a pride parade or drag show.

10) Or my personal favorite: Wear a hat that says “Mom, I’m gay”. They legit have them here http://www.spencersonline.com/product/hey-mom-im-gay-bb-hat/. I personally like the black one.

Who knows, I might actually need to use these one day.


Hey all,
While I haven't thought of myself as a blogger in a long long time, I just this moment realized that this is actually not my first blog post. Writing this blog takes me back to 9th grade when I had a xanga/livejournal thing with a bunch of my friends. And looking back is what I want to talk about today. At first I was at a loss for what to write on this blog. I just haven't been feeling very queer lately. I'm sure pretty much anyone that knows me will tell you that I'm real gay, but I've been feeling a little bit over it recently. I don't want to rally; I don't want to organize; I don't even really want to talk about being gay with people, which is usually one of my favorite pastimes. I'm just in the mood to have a beer, chill out in my white tank top with my lesbros and play the guitar. Yes. Really.
But then last night, when I was trying to write a paper at 2 in the morning, I started looking through my old personal emails from my freshman year at college. There were scores of emails that I remember writing to my parents and friends. I remember reading some of my mother's to my roommate since they were so funny, one about a trip to the Bris of a friend's grandson was especially entertaining. They reminded me of when I was new here, and trying to find my gay way in the world. I wrote to my mom that I actually felt like I was, "the only gay in the village" (little Britain shout out!), and how excited I was to finally find gay women when I did. I wrote about falling in love with first rugby, and then my girlfriend (although admittedly I did write more about rugby, it was my mother after all). It reminded me of when I was excited to read foucault and hated reading the illiad. It reminded me of when we got Sappho off the ground and when I was so focused on building the community we have now. It reminded me that even though it's late on a thursday night and I'm burnt out and I'd rather go to sleep, I'm contributing to this blog because I think it's a way to make that community larger and more encompassing and even better than it already is.
So that's all for now folks. I'm going to bed, but I hope you read this and it reminds you of your past and being excited about something.

Bulldykes, Bulldykes, bow wow wow.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sugarbush's Inaugural Sappho Blog Post

Hey guys, my name is Sugarbush, known as "Buisson de Sucre" in France and "Not Sour Shubbery" in Japan. This is my first post, and I figured I'd go with the traditional use of blogs and complain:

You know what I hate that is also a sexual double entendre? Being wet.

I don't know if anyone has noticed, but it's sort been raining on New Haven for three days straight. I wake up and it's raining. I get out of class and it's raining. I go to bed and if it's not raining, it doesn't matter because the next f!cking morning I'll hear those hateful little drops attack my window. This would be all fine and dandy if I had a car or something, but now all I have to shield myself from this torrent is an umbrella that is falling apart and a pair of Converse. CONVERSE. Those things are better at soaking up liquids than sponges, or my alcoholic relatives, or me. All of this business results in me being really, incredibly, and unsexily wet.

However, I have something that will hopefully brighten everyone's dreary and midterm filled week. This is a banned episode of the 90's cartoon "Cow and Chicken", featured on Cartoon Network. Remember that? The parents who would only be shown from the waist down? That devil with no pants? Yeah, you do. This episode is called "Buffalo Gals." I'd say it's interesting, which is vague, but even if you don't agree it's rather short -- only seven minutes.

I put a link to the video here because it did that auto-play thing and no one likes that so they would stop reading my posts and I would have no friends.

To be honest, I love unusually adult topics being referenced in 90's cartoons but this is . . . probably better banned. It goes past the "restaurant in Rocko's Modern Life being called Chokey Chicken" level on risque-ness. The art of putting adult jokes in a kids cartoon is to do it oblique so that they don't know what it really means. Still funny seeing woman charging into a house to munch carpet, though.

Anyone weirded out by the fact these women are hitting on a cow? Just sayin'.

Stay dry,


Tell me that is not one of the cutest things you've ever seen?

Anyhow, I'm excited. As awesome as I thought this was going to be when the page was empty but for a banner, now its 7x more awesome.

This is kind of a warm-up for me, so I'm writing about one of the easiest things for me to talk about at all times...rowing.

Yesterday was the first day Yale Women's Crew was back on the water. Thank God. The winter is extra cold and extra long when you're a rower. The jubilation was palpable. It was cold, but it was awesome.

I've had a very interesting experience (so far, still have a few months) as a varsity athlete at Yale. I started rowing in high school after giving up on tennis and softball. Oh the cliches. Anyhow, I was an okay rower, but I'm small for the sport. I wasn't even sure I was going to row in college, but it did look sparkling on all of my applications. Sure as day, I got into Yale. Once I got here, I got snapped right back into the fray as a freshman with experience. There were actually quite a few of us that year, which made the transition easier. Still, YWC was full of surprises.

Oh the shock I had when I discovered there were not shower stalls in the boathouse but just a room with tons of shower heads. "I'm fucked" I thought, followed by "what is this the military?" The answer to the later turned out to be "Yes" in quite a few ways, mostly the physical demands. But it turns out I was fine. I've now got something like 60 sisters in addition to the 2 biological ones.

At Athletes and Allies this fall, I got asked, as the sole representative of my team and one of the few female athletes not playing rugby or fencing, what the culture on YWC is like. Still unclear on whether I was more embarrassed for myself or my teammates in absentia, I stuttered out what was probably a totally incoherent response with the bottom line of "we're all repressed as hell".
So now, I will take some time to clarify that statement, and amend it somewhat, given the events of the past four months.

The culture on our team has changed year to year. It's created very heavily by the senior class. My freshman year, the seniors were incredibly stand-off ish to the rest of the team which created a tension. On the upswing, one of the seniors was just out of a relationship with a recent alumna, so the reality of queers on our team was readily apparent. I was far too terrified of the upperclassmen to have it effect me one way or the other, but I did come out to my class.

My sophomore and junior years were both dominated by the Class of 2009. They were bitches. So much so, that in their absence, even our coach recognizes it. I came quite close to having a physical altercation with one of them after she made a snide remark about another teammate who had quit being a "fat dyke". It didn't help matters that this particular teammate of mine was a close friend and a huge crush of mine, but that is a story for another day.

Fast forward to Athletes and Allies. It's my senior year, and I figure its time for me to be the change I want to see in the world, or on my team. So when it came to be my turn to speak, I said whatever I did, and for the most part I stick by it. Rowers are all nuts. All of us. It's a full time job you don't get paid for. It hurts like hell. It eliminates your night life for the last three months of school. It will occasionally force you to miss things you really REALLY want to do (bad romance...). But its awesome. Racing is awesome. Being jacked is awesome. the NCAA paying for my printer ink is awesome. But we get so wrapped up in the pursuit, and in our ability to talk exclusively about rowing, that we're practically strangers. That's been my big realization of the term.

I got in so much trouble after Drag Ball in the fall because only two of the kids in my class knew it was happening. After my scolding, I responded honestly, "I didn't realize you guys would care". I didn't mean it to be brazen, or rude. But it changed things. It's like everyone woke up and realized how far we'd come from freshman year, and how far apart we'd come.

I would point fingers if I could. I was the outcast because I'm bi (also a discussion for another time, but trust and believe, it is coming) so on and so forth. But everything in life is a two-way street. I'm a naturally private person, my teammates sometimes really piss me off, and I wasn't going to force a discussion where there wasn't one already. Though if these past couple of months are any indication, some people may have really wanted to talk, but I came off as stone-walling them, which in part I probably was.

It's apparently not a problem limited to sexual orientation, gender preference and all that jazz. Everybody feels isolated. Even people I assumed were deeply snuggled in the web of our team felt isolated. And through whatever confluence of forces, I became the center of this surge in interest in having more meaningful interactions with each other. Everyone came and talked about their isolation with me, that and to quiz me on girls.

So, what's the culture on YWC like? It's like the hugest, longest lasting family reunion you'll ever see. There are nuclear families who are tight, and distance relatives who you can barely recall any meaningful details about. There are those I wish I knew better and those I wish didn't show at all. But at the end of the day, given a little initiative, we're all closer. More relaxed. More person, less rower.

And so I go into this spring more excited than I've ever been to be on this team. Because I'm building my own friendships, and I see the same thing happening everywhere. And we're going to fast, which always helps.

It occurs to me that might not be any more coherent, just longer. I'd fix it, but you'll never guess where I have to run off to....

Also, what the hell everybody posting? Now I want a cool alias too. Any ideas?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Feminism, Femininity, and Fucking (aka Queer Porn Suggestions)

The other day a friend of mine posted a link to a website that pretty unashamedly bashed burlesque as an art form, and the women that perform in it as silly victims of the patriarchy (http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2010/02/22/is-your-pout-plump-enough/). In addition to being a pretty poorly written blog entry and completely ignoring male burlesque dancers, the argument offended my sensibilities as a Queer Femme who not only has found redemption and reclamation in burlesque and other Queen-y exhibitions, but whose large community in New York City primarily revolves around radical Femme performance work and activism. I ultimately had a really kind and genuine conversation with my friend about it, but the blog post has stayed with me as a reminder of why I don’t always trust feminists in my community.

Pardon the somewhat delirium induced segue, but this IBTP blog entry got me all riled up to post about great queer porn for the Sappho readers. Without going into a rant against (primarily straight, though not always—I’ve seen plenty of femmephobic stuff all over okcupid*) feminists who rail against makeup, high-heels, and fishnets as trappings of the patriarchy, I will state that it is a rebellious act to reclaim one’s body and one’s desire from a society that is consistently bombarding you with images of how to look, act, and feel. *Especially* as queer women, who have to face societal judgments concerning our sexual desire and our gender presentation, its important to recognize that choosing to wear X or do Y is rebellious. Our choices will always be fraught with meaning—my fishnets will symbolize both queer femme ferocity and acknowledge the history of enforced feminine
presentation on female bodied people—but that does not take away their power.

You may be wondering, okay grrl, can we get to the porn already? ::hands up:: I love supporting queer porn, and why I stay away from free sites like xtube and such, is because I think its important to me to support our movement’s right to represent ourselves the way we’d like to represent ourselves. In the 1970s, lesbian feminists asked our community to shed our BDSM, butch, femme, and kinky desire. Thankfully, our communities are now reclaiming that. My three top picks for you all are:

1. Crashpadseries.com (All episodes are directed by Shine Loise Houston, an incredible artist, and feature a wide range of kinks, gender presentations, and relationship dynamics. Its hot, sexy, and creative. It is on the pricier side, but if you can indulge for a couple of months I definitely suggest you do so!)

2. Nofauxx.com (Nofauxx is a bit cheaper than Crash pad, 60 dollars for six months! Similar to Crashpad, Nofauxx features a whole spectrum of queer beauties and story lines)

3. Sugar High, Glitter City (This is actually a film. I suggest it for the less kinky, though it still packs a punch for sure! The idea is that sugar is now illegal, and all the actresses are going around fucking for treats. My favorite scene is the Butch “dealer” and his Femme servant, who go and fuck this gorgeous woman who used to be an old costumer. Yum).

Let me know what you think, or if you have any suggestions of your own? I know there is some other “lesbian” oriented porn out there that is a bit too soft for my taste, but plenty delicious in its own right.
::kisses:: Magnolia

*Okcupid.com – a free online dating service. I met my primary sweetie on the site actually, and have enjoyed many other fun dalliances with folks that I met through it as well! Less great for CT, but if you’re in NYC a lot it can help you set up playdates. xx

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tegan, Sara, Kaki, Kim, Jessie and Odessa

Hey! I'm big into music, so my posts are probably going to discuss that. This week, I'm going back in the archives to recommend some of my favorites from or about queer women from the last couple of years.

I recommend: Tegan and Sara's Sainthood

I'm not entirely sure if I know a queer woman who isn't into Tegan and Sara. When I was in high school I went to one of their shows and the crowd was approximately 95% girls in couples and 5% awkward boys. Sainthood, their sixth album, was released last fall and though it is a grower, it's already become a classic in my eyes. They left behind some of the folksy and prog rock inspired spirit of their previous album, The Con, and spend most of this album exploring this strange but interesting fusion of subdued punkinshness and synth pop. I love Tegan and Sara because they write songs that are so damn listenable - Sainthood is no exception.

I recommend: Kaki King's Dreaming of Revenge

I read somewhere that Kaki King is the best and most famous out female solo acoustic guitarist. I don't know if that is true but I believe it. This album came out in March 2008 and I have been simply obsessed with it ever since. She jokes that this was supposed to be her pop album - and while I don't know if I would necessarily call it pop, it is a beautiful album. There's something on here to please almost everyone: "Pull Me Out Alive" has a modern rock edge, "Life Being What It Is" shows her prowess as an acoustic songstress, and "Air and Kilometers" is vaguely experimental (so much faint percussion in so many polyrhythms!), yet it is also very earthy. But best of all is "Montreal." It's a beautiful, ethereal gem of a song that only really reveals itself to you when you're by yourself on a rainy day with great headphones and just an ounce of sadness in your heart (not too little, not too much).

I recommend: M83's "Kim and Jessie"

The jury is still out on this one, but I'm pretty sure the song is about a pair of girls in love. Whatever the correct interpretation of the song is, I don't really care because it such an accurate distillation of what it means to be a teenager in the muted pastels of a John Hughes movie. It's pure drama, all haunted screeching synths and crying guitars over a steadying drum machine. You can't really decide whether to dance or to drown in the memory of your own pained adolescence, such is the genius of M83's foray into beautiful nostalgia.

I recommend: the video to Caribou's "Odessa"

This one isn't queer-related at all, I'm just obsessed with the song (especially the pan flutes, my god!) and the video is well done and very haunting. It employs the faded polaroid aesthetic in with a skill that is essentially confusing but also so pretty. The girl (our Odessa, I believe) is cute too!

(image credits: last.fm, photobucket.com, and photobucket.com)

IvyQ: Let's start with the similarities

This past weekend I attended my first educational presentation on Trans issues at the First Annual Ivy Q Conference. Before this workshop, my knowledge and understanding of what it means to be trans was practically non-existent. In order to speak about trans issues “we need to start with the similarities”, Allyson Robinson, our speaker and HRC Associate Director of Diversity said. In cold and humbling honesty, before the workshop “I could not understand transgender individuals”; I was respectful of the transgender community, but mostly thought of how I could not wrap my mind around why someone would be transgender. I recognize my ignorance, which is precisely why I am so thankful for this past weekend’s workshop. (If you're interested in seeing it, I can find you the link to the video).

“Would you take this million dollar check... under the sole condition that you undergo a sex reassignment surgery?” No. I wouldn’t. But why? Because I don’t feel myself to be a man, I do not consider myself to be a man, and most likely because all my life I have been socialized to be a woman, were my answers. “As a kid were you ever reprimanded for doing something that only girls/boys were supposed to do?” The audience shared a number of stories of boys playing with Barbies and being called out for it, and of girls not being allowed to be “boyish” after a certain age around adolescence. At birth we are assigned a sex, Allyson said, “it is the only time when it’s acceptable to call a person it.” Sex is more than genitals, it is hormonal, and genetic as well, but let’s be honest, I paraphrase, no one runs DNA tests on a baby, they check to see what? If has a penis! And at birth, right then and there, we impose a sex on a person, a sex that carries a gender and has a whole set of social norms attached to it.

The “Trans 101” that Allyson assumed most of us had had was essentially a portrait of political correctness, of separation, and of otherness. And while I had not had a similar workshop, her explanation still very much portrayed my previous conceptions. In your Trans 101, she said, they defined for you a series of terms: trans man, trans woman, transgender…., then they showed you a series of terms that they recommend you don’t use, then they told you that transgender issues were something separate and completely removed from you…The problem with this approach is that it presents transgender individuals as fundamentally different and separate from you; it makes them the other; and it generates a position of power and of oppression. It is because of those frameworks, she said, that someone on the street can call me it.

There is a spectrum of gender, and there is even a spectrum of sex, although we tend to think of them in terms of a male-female binary. Most of us fall somewhere within it, although some may not feel represented by it. With regards to gender, Allyson argued that there are three components to it: gender identity, how you identify; gender expression, how you express gender; and gender attribution, how others perceive you and whether they consider you male or female. For some people these three components are aligned; for others, such as the boys playing with Barbies, there is a bit of a disconnect between the three; and for others, such as transgender individuals, the gap between the three is much wider. So, the difference is not a fundamental one that separates us, since we all experience these three components of gender; rather, the difference is in the gaps.

The message was a powerful one, a thought-provoking one, and certainly an eye-opening one as well: “Let’s start with the similarities,” so that we don’t alienate each other, and so that we never have a justification to call our brothers and sisters “it”.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Welcome all to the Sappho Blog!

Feel free to look around, read and enjoy.

Through this project, we will attempt to convey a part of the essence of the queer women's community at Yale as best we can. This blog is meant to provide a safe creative space for queer women to talk about what's on their minds. This includes anything, from what we think about a class, to a family situation, sharing a poem, a picture or a song, anything...really.

As a reader, we ask that you treat the posts being shared with utmost respect and appreciation for the writer and the community as a whole. We encourage you to comment on posts, give feedback and share your own stories.
If you are interested in becoming a contributing writer of have comments/questions/suggestions, please e-mail sappho.blog@gmail.com.
With nothing left to say, you are left with the amazing women that make up this beautiful community. May you find wonderful things in their contributions and their view of the world.

Sapphic love from...

The Writers of Sappho Blog

Thoughts at half past 2 am...

Lovely queer women of Yale!

I am so excited about this space for us. To laugh, share stories, ideas, thoughts, ...complain...whatever! What an awesome thing to have at our very fingertips.

So it's four minutes to 2 am....and I have yet to start work since Thursday morning. I'm sitting with my ladyfriend and she's eating these crackers that smell like fish-food and listening to Vitamin String Quartet (a must for studying music). I'm reflecting on this past weekend in Philly while listening to lovely violin music. The IvyQ Conference at UPenn was amazing. Too much fun.

I learned so much from this weekend. On a positive note, that the world is heading in such a wonderful direction--and we hold the power to influence that direction with the resources and relationships we make on a daily basis. On a less positive note, that there are many people within the queer community that need to be educated about some queer issues/topics. (I had no idea so many gay men ACTUALLY have NO idea how women interact sexually? That some think that girls can not have sex? Unacceptable....perhaps a Lez101 course for the boys? :)

My favorite moments from the weekend....
At the Queer Women's party at one of the UPenn girl's house, a friend and I started to play "Never Have I Ever" just the two of us. Somehow, from all the way across the room, a couple girls saw our fingers up (lesbian super-vision powers) and jumped over the couch to join. Before we knew it, every girl at the party (25+ girls!) had joined the circle. I haven't done that since high school---it was hilarious and so much fun.

After this our beautiful Sappho co-coordinator reenacted her monologue from Vagina Monologues. Mariana did loud moans for so many queer women, was interrupted by more people coming in during the "Militant Bisexual Moan." Thankfully one of the ladies who walked in is bi and arrived just in time to enjoy.

Later on...mistaking Alejandro for a girl at the banquet. That was great. He looks HOTTTT in drag. Amazing calves...why can't I have those?

Hearing that when a couple guys passed out the last night...instead of coloring their faces with sharpies, shaving an eyebrow... the boys poured glitter all over his head. Welcome to the Gayborhood.

I hope all of you women are not having too much trouble this week with midterms. If it makes you feel better, I am wildly behind.

But I'm smiling. Because my heart is filled with sapphic love, I'm looking at an adorable pink screen, and my tea is still hot.

Sweet dreams ladies.