Monday, April 30, 2007

Reflections On Race & Gender

I was sitting around, half sleepy, thinking about the popularity of Halle Berry and Beyonce among men of all races and backgrounds and how the clip I linked to a few days ago raised some important points. First, I have to say--the guy who said that his observation or experience with black women is that we are if we're not supposed to be?! We're not justified in being bitter? I always hate when people call someone bitter about something bad that has happened to them, as if that's so wrong to be that way. I don't think anyone has more of a right to walk the earth angry than black women.

Second--about this Halle/Beyonce business. Can men produce a more predictable list when it comes to attractive black women? Nikki and I were sitting around talking, and we want to know--what about Sanaa Lathan, Kerry Washington, Gabrielle Union, Angela Bassett, and other black female celebrities who do not have white features? I don't think most men, particularly white men, realize what all they are really saying when they list off women such as Halle and Beyonce as attractive black women. Furthermore--and I'm sure a lot of black women agree with me--I am tired of hearing about Halle and Beyonce. The media has really made me dislike them, and you would never find either of them on my list of "it" women. In addition to all the attention they receive, I have a problem with the way Beyonce speaks and sounds, and with Halle's indications of mental instability. Besides, I think I might possibly be moving into a new phase in terms of women I like. I find myself looking at dark-skinned black women more.

The Imus situation got a lot of people talking about the depiction of black women in the media. It also got some people talking about how black women have been treated throughout history and how they continue to be treated in their daily lives by men, including me. Now, I want to point out two things that I found interesting. First, Rachel of Rachel's Tavern, about a week ago, added me to her list of blogs--many thanks, Rachel, such an honor to be added to one of my favorite blogs--and she considered adding me as a multiracial feminist. I commented on her blog that I am not a feminist. And I thought about it, because I know that a lot of women deny being feminists and want to disassociate themselves with feminism because of the stigma many people place on feminism. Second, after the Imus situation, blogger Ann wrote a lot of good, long blog posts about black the point where I would click onto her blog, see another post about how black women have been treated over time and I just laughed. And I remember telling Nikki about her blog and laughing when I told her.

It's not that it's problematic or that I don't agree with most of the things Ann wrote, or that I don't want to be associated with feminism. You see, I laughed and I denied being a feminist because I rarely care about my being a woman. So it was funny to me to see a woman writing so much, so passionately about what black women experience. When I write, I do write about women sometimes, and I definitely write about black women. But the emphasis when I write is on black, then queer, identity. I add sex in when I see intersections or when I think about something that I really haven't started thinking about until this last year, which is my gender identity. So, I realized just this school year that I don't really care about being a woman, for the most part. There could be many reasons for this--the two that come to my mind are 1) because I feel that my sex is the least disadvantaged of my major disadvantaged identities, and 2) because I don't really feel as if I am a woman.

In general, I am not interested in feminism. I remember mentioning in another post that white women can probably point out all kinds of problems that women still face in society that I never think about or do but am not terribly concerned with, and I bet that's absolutely true because I am much more concerned with being black than anything else. I tend not to feel as if being a woman is all that harmful to me--even when I did "male" things, such as music production, I felt more respected, particularly by males--and I am much more likely to attribute obstacles I experience in life to race than to being a woman or even an identity intersection. For example, I think the legal field is unfair to anyone who is not a white man, and yet I feel, I'd say, over 90% of the obstacles and unfair treatment I currently experience and will experience in the future in that career are due to being black. Perhaps if I wanted to start a family, it'd be different. But as it stands, I hardly ever think about the role my sex might be playing in law school or law. I think much more about race whereas I know several white women in law school who think a lot about gender and the obstacles that they feel come with being women.

Honestly, when white women wonder why we don't all care about sex the same, why sex doesn't transcend other identities and bring us together, it pisses me off. Like interactions I've described with other identity groups, such as white gays, Asians and Latinos, it makes me angry when people think that because we share some identity we are supposed to understand each other and come together. Being a woman doesn't make me the same as a white woman--far from it. To me, white women are second in command in this nation; black women are in second place for last in command in this nation...and some would argue that we are last in command in this nation. And being queer probably isn't all that much of a reason as to why I tend not to be concerned about gender issues, because I know heterosexual black women who agree with me on this. I hate to say it, but many of us think that gender issues are trivial in comparison to what we go through just for being black. And I want to assure you that no fight for equality is trivial, but it just feels like it sometimes when you are being asked to fight inequality in multitude. As a person with even just one disadvantaged identity, fighting is tiresome. I know many black women don't want to fight for two identities, and I certainly don't want to fight for three, much to the chagrin of gay people. Unfortunately, that results in picking and choosing sometimes.

I remember at one point over the school year, this one white female asked me, essentially, why gender identity doesn't transcend race, because she wanted to know why the organization in our law school that is for women basically has all-white membership. This same female later revealed to me that she gets uncomfortable around other races, although I think she meant in particular scenarios such as if there is a group of us. She said that if she saw a group of blacks and a group of whites, she would head for the group of whites. She also said that she has wanted to attend some of the events held by our black law students organization but didn't know if she was welcome.

To me, she answered her own question. See, I think white women and white gays ask those kinds of questions, yet answer them themselves several times over the course of a week. For one thing, gender doesn't transcend race, and sexual orientation doesn't transcend race, because people don't want them to and won't allow them to. Race affects more decisions we make than any other identity--who to hang out with, who to date, what neighborhood to live in, what school to attend, where to sit in class, etc. You have no idea how many times this past year or two white kids have come into the classroom and have tried to not sit by me, or how many times I've taken a packed train to Chicago and had white people pass an extra seat by beside me looking for another one. In the classroom scenario, I was pretty sure that was race-related after a while. For example, in one class, these two white guys technically sat by me. But they only would ever sit directly by me if there happened to be no other seats available so that they could put distance between me and them, or if they were sitting in class first and I came in and was left no other seats to put distance between me and them (which, I usually was in class before them).

As far as what I said about black women being next to last in command--I believe that, although black men are accepted more than we are in social situations, black women are more accepted in every other way. I think a lot of black women wallow in this lingering misconception that we are the very bottom, possibly because that's the message black men try to send us, but we have now passed black men in most ways...which I think is exactly why black men treat us so badly, both in the media and in our personal interactions. Even though I get angry at black men for how they treat black women, I also know that I have very little interaction with black men and no reason personally to be angry with them. The fact that I have very little interaction with black men in the first place, as a law student and someone who grew up upper-middle class in a family full of women and a white male, is an example of how black women have passed black men.

Furthermore, my findings regarding how white people view black people actually fall in line with my idea that black women have passed black men in most ways. Yes, Imus degraded black women, and yes, black men degrade us. I didn't feel degraded by Imus, and I don't feel degraded by rappers--the latter exactly because of where I am in society vs where they and other black men are in society (and, yes, I did basically just say I don't get bothered by what black men, including rappers, say because I think I'm better than them...but, honestly, I tend to think I'm better than most people ;)), and the former maybe more so because I don't identify with the kind of women he targeted or even because I generally don't feel I identify with most women. For whatever reason, I just never quite feel like people who degrade women are talking about me. Yes, white people will date and be friends with black men before they will date and be friends with us, and whenever they need a token black in a movie or on a TV show they grab a black male instead of one of us. But black males have made themselves less intimidating to whites than they used to be, not that they aren't still intimidating--though I think that often has more to do with what kind of black male he is and the way he carries himself.

However, black women remain intimidating to whites, and I think the irony of that is our intimidating demeanors/stereotype--along with the strides we've made in society despite being who we are--garner us a lot of respect from white people. I mentioned in my Imus discussions, and I'll mention again, that I think other races of women--particularly white women--look much worse in the media than black women do, just that no one ever points that out. And I think white men are largely responsible for such degradation, while black men are probably more responsible--once again, because they are angry at black women for passing them in society--for our degradation, at least directly anyway. I would still argue white execs are right there pulling the strings, but they degrade all women. Black men, on the other hand, are gunning straight for black women, trying to "remind us of our true place," and, obviously, a lot of black women are internalizing their messages.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that several white people have indicated to me that they regard black women highly--though not necessarily as highly as they regard other people--several times flat-out admitting that they regard us more highly than black men. Because of the course of conversation with these individuals, the information was neither offensive nor meant to be offensive. These are people with whom I speak candidly about race on a regular basis, and I found their descriptions of how they view black women extremely helpful. I have found that some white women, in particular, really think highly of black women. One of my white friends said that she thinks black women are stronger than white women and have been doing a lot of things that white feminists have fought for even before white feminists started fighting for those things. She believes white women know black women are stronger than they are and that this intimidates them. Another friend told me that she always pegs the black women in her classes as smart and on top of their business whereas she does not view the black men in her classes in this way.

With both of these friends, we have discussed our viewpoint that--generally speaking, of course--white women are shallow. This is another thing about white women that makes me angry when I think about it. I mean, here, we have Halle and Beyonce as the only black women held up as meeting white standards of beauty in America. Yet, I turn on shows such as "Oprah" and "Dr. Phil" and see blonde white woman after blonde white woman crying and acting plum crazy about her looks. I remember this one really pretty white model on "Oprah" crying, talking about how she thinks she's "hideous" and saying that she breaks mirrors because she can't stand to look at herself. I remember another cute, thin blonde on "Dr. Phil," crying and talking about how she needs to lose weight for her boyfriend.

I watch white woman after white woman act as if her life is completely in ruins because she is "fat" or "ugly" or admitting to an eating disorder...and, yet, I almost never hear these things from black women--in fact, I am the only black woman I know who does not think she is good-looking. They obsess over carbs, fad diets, fashion, white female celebrities, etc, while the majority of black women seem overweight and happy with a I-know-I-look-good mentality (which, hey--I'm not knocking it...besides, actually liking to eat is a requirement that must be met in any woman I consider). I see more white women underestimate how they look and more black women overestimate how they look than I know how to even comprehend! But us black women are the least desirable. Only Halle and Beyonce measure up. Some black women act as if they don't even notice. They still whip out these insane lists of requirements that must be met before they will consider a man. (laughs) But that's okay--I still say white women are the ones who need therapy.

Another thing that has happened over the past year is I've thought seriously about whether or not I might be transgendered, which I don't think I truly am. But I have wondered more and more if I weren't supposed to be born a boy. Not only do I not feel like a woman a lot of the time, I hate even thinking about who or what I'm supposed to be as a woman. I hate stepping outside and looking at the way other women are dressed, knowing they are wondering why I don't look as indistinguishable as they do--because, let's face it, with all of you ladies trying to look fashionable, you just end up all looking kind of the same. It's even worse with black women, because, as I mentioned in another post, some black women seem to go the extra mile to make sure they look good and expect the same from other black women. I wish this was something I didn't have to deal with. But as much as I wish I didn't have to deal with that, I just think of what it would be like for me to be a queer black which point, I realize that, whether I feel like I'm supposed to be a man or not, I would never want or choose to be a queer black male...because that's just too many ass-whuppins...

So, I think there's some luck in my being who I am in a lot of ways. ;)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Can I Call Myself "Queer"...

...And Have You Not Get Pissed?

I've been seeing various people mention how the meaning of certain words shift, most recently with the discussions surrounding "nigger." I was over at another blog earlier today, and I saw someone comment that "queer" has been re-appropriated by gays to mean something different or more positive. It was a slur that has become an acceptable way for many GLBTQs to refer to themselves. And my interpretation of how the person was referring to this phenomenon was that he/she felt it was a bad thing. In fact, other comments I've read to various people's posts have indicated they think any re-appropriation of "formerly bad" words is a negative.

I don't think "queer" and "nigger" are comparable. No, this is not another "one is worse than the other because of history" or "one is worse than the other because one group is treated worse than the other in the US" debate. This is me saying...the two words really are not all that parallel. If anything, "faggot" is the "gay slur" most comparable to "nigger." I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've heard "queer" hurled at a gay person, most--if not all--of which were on the tv show "The O.C." in scripted fashion. Instead, my experience with "queer" is pretty limited to other gay people taking that term for ourselves.

Second, the way we use the term is so incredibly different from the way many blacks use "nigger." "Nigger" is almost a false positive that makes absolutely no sense. And, depending on who you are and how you look at it, it doesn't make any sense. We know this big, huge story behind "nigger" that many of us don't know with "queer." It's a derogatory term that is tied to so much mind-blowing negativity that I don't even want to think about, and you have black people running around using it in a "positive" fashion, an exclusive fashion and a derogatory fashion. I suppose "nigger" means something like "homeboy" when used in a "positive" fashion, but the extremely loaded nature of the word, as well as the multiple uses existing today for it, make it incredibly easy for that positivity to get lost.

To me, "queer" has always signaled "weird," which, as we know, anything that is different in America is "weird." So, baseline, "queer" means "different" to me. Hell, I am different! We are different! And many of us who call ourselves "queer" do so because we don't feel like we fit G, L, B or T...which, once again, makes us different! Funny thing is the people getting all up in arms about "queer" are those who do fit G, L, B or T. But I think that when we use "queer" today, it is pretty--or at least relatively--easy to know how it's meant, especially by most gays. If someone really wants to call you something bad just based on your sexual orientation, they will pull out "faggot" or "dyke." "Queer" is not exactly the "it" slur for us right now. "Nigger" is, and has always been, the "it" slur for blacks.

I know that "different" sometimes is taken to mean that something else is normal and you don't fit it. That is not at all what I'm trying to say. I'm just recognizing the truth of the matter, which is that, in society, when you have more people who are X than Y, X is considered the norm. It works this way for skin color. It works this way for religion. It, too, works this way for sexual orientation. I am not one of those "pride" people, because I have never understood being proud of something you had little or nothing to do with. To me, you should be proud when you've worked hard and earned something, which means any accomplishments you've made in spite of are worthy of pride, not the identity that made it more difficult to accomplish. I am black, I am a woman, and I am queer. Honestly, I wouldn't have chosen any of those things had I the choice, so're never going to hear "black pride" or "gay pride" come out of my mouth in relation to those identities, although I accept that I am these things. In fact, I do like that I am different. Although I wouldn't have chosen to be black, I value being able to see the world in racial terms for, I feel, how it truly is...a skill that is truly lost on most people, I believe. Since I love knowledge, I think I would kill myself if I walked the earth as clueless as I feel most white people are. But I digress.

Because I like to be different, I have no problem with calling myself "queer" since that's what the word means to me. Not only am I different from heterosexuals, I am different from other gays--the ones who fit the G, the L, the B or the T. It makes life harder, but it makes me smarter, for I can see things that most other people can't even begin to imagine without my telling them about it. And I absolutely pride myself on being smarter than everybody else. ;) Which I can because I have worked at it...I like to think that this blog is an example of one of the ways in which I have worked hard at being smarter.

I do think gays tend to forget or fail to realize that we don't all fit nice, neat categories. At least for me, it was recognizing that "queer" does mean I don't fit heterosexuality or homosexuality or transsexuality. It means I am, once again, left out, once again without a label, and that was the best term that is still different enough from other terms to not cause confusion--a term that lets people know my sexual orientation is, at the very least, not heterosexual and is affiliated somehow with homosexuality or transsexuality. If you say "I don't have a label," it's too many words and it, to me, doesn't tell people enough about who you are. That could relate to not having a sexual orientation label, not having a gender identity (male/female) label, not having a gender role (femme/butch) label, or anything else related to identity. If you say "I am different," it doesn't tell people in what way. Similarly, if you tell people "I'm not straight, but I'm not GLBT," then you still haven't answered the question for them--they don't know what else is left. And simply saying I'm "homosexual" will lead people to think I am a lesbian, which is not exactly true.

True enough, some people won't know what you mean by "queer," but then I think that's getting into their lack of education more so than your lack of specificity. You have told them what fits you best, and they simply don't know what that means. But they somewhat get the point either way--they know you are some sort of homosexual and are not heterosexual, which is really all I was trying to reveal to them in the first place.

I think the gays who are complaining or think using "queer" for something "good" is negative are among the people who simply don't get what "queer" means. I believe many of them think we are interchanging "queer" with gay, lesbian, transgendered...and some people might be, but not all of us. I call myself "queer" because nothing...else...fits! You might think it's as simple as "you either like your sex or you don't," but it's not for all of us--I have so many posts that demonstrate that it's not that simple for me. Many of them are included in the category list to the right entitled "Suggested Reading for Newbies." As the title indicates, I suggest you take a look. For me, calling myself "queer" is just not at all about taking a derogatory term from the majority and turning it around.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Stereotypes About Black Women

Check this clip out...I'm actually laughing at it as I'm listening, first because of how the host refers to unattractive women as "shocking" and then how she seems to get frustrated and argumentative with an ignorant male.

This is an example of what I was saying about finding value in offensive comments. These stereotypes are so incredibly pervasive, and it's very interesting to hear them expressed here. The most interesting thing to me is how one guy gives a typical list of black women as attractive, i.e. Halle Berry and Beyonce, as so many people tend to do. It really just shows you how so many people of all races think. And I think the way the host responds is very interesting, especially in response to the guy naming Halle and Beyonce and how most white women don't look like white female celebrities, as well.

Various Personal Updates

Wow, I'm up pretty early (well...early for me). That's because, not too long ago, I got a call from the police officer who came to see me on Tuesday about LA Girl's complaint against me. I had e-mailed him to ask if he'd include in his report that she never asked me not to contact her and wanted to make sure that this would not show up in a background check. He told me that, because it's not a criminal incident, it would not. He also reassured me that I do not have to report this to the Bar or on the Character & Fitness Examination.

But I did the research last night, and this seems like one of those things that you don't have to report but, on the other hand, you do have to report. Being admitted to the Bar is about being candid, and if you're not and they find matter what the lack of omission is, you could end up disbarred or not admitted to the bar because of the omission rather than the incident itself. My reaction? Shit.

The good thing about that is, in combination with what kind of complaint it was, it seems if I just am upfront about it then I should still be okay. I checked the incident logs online last night and found my situation, and I found out it's actually a harassment complaint, not a stalking complaint. So I don't think it's serious enough for me to not get admitted to the Bar, and it's something I can definitely explain. The officer did mention stalking when I was talking to him the first time, though, and I think what he was saying was if I contact her again and she decides to file charges it will be considered stalking.

By looking at the incident log, I saw that she actually mentioned my blog to them. I don't think she gave them the link or anything, and I don't know if she has ever looked at my blog. The officer never mentioned the blog to me. Her name is not on my blog--no one I know has their name on my blog, nor will they ever unless they say they want that or are fine with that. I was kind of surprised she mentioned it, though. I found out I can get a copy of the report the officer files when it's available, and I will do that and see what it says.

The thing I'm most happy about is I thought about myself first. I've always been a career-oriented woman, and that, initially, was all I was concerned with when this happened. I'm not going to put anyone else before my goals ever. Then I wondered why she did this. So I asked the officer when he called how she sounded when she filed the complaint--did she sound/seem scared? He seemed to say yes without directly saying yes.

It had already been true that I didn't want to study for finals, but this has really given me an excuse to not study. For the past two days, I haven't been able to completely focus on anything because, before I knew it, I would be staring off into space deep in thought without realizing it. I had intended to work on my take-home exam tomorrow/Friday, but I realized that wasn't going to work since I hadn't studied at all yet (yes, we need to study for take-home exams here). So I got someone to take my work shift on Saturday in hopes of my actually being able to sit down and do that exam. I am immensely happy that this didn't happen while I was working on my final paper for one of my classes, because that paper was more essential than this take-home exam is. I am hoping I can make 'A's in all the classes I'm taking for a grade, and I am not getting a grade in the class with the take-home exam (unless I fail). I did find it interesting that it took her a week & a half to call the police, though.

I feel better today than the past two days. I feel like I can actually focus on things now and that I will be able to study today. I'm hoping to spend a large part of today and most of tomorrow hitting the books. Since this class is not really for a grade, I just need to show a little something on the exam, not knock it out of the park, and I will be okay. Hopefully by next week, I will feel good enough to really crank it out for the the in-class exam I have for a grade. I think I will. For the past two days, I have not wanted to eat. In fact, I ate nothing on Tuesday. Yesterday, I tried to make myself eat and was rather unsuccessful--can you image having a hot fudge sundae, a free fudge brownie thrown in (I totally didn't ask for it, and it usually does not come with what I ordered) and a salad (which, I absolutely love salads, and the place I ordered from has the best salad I've ever tasted!)...and not being able to eat most of that?

A couple things have made me smile. Seeing my favorite singer ever on "American Idol" last night...even though she sang with Elvis Presley an Elvis Presley song, but okay. She still sounded amazing, and I "tivoed" that performance. And I was watching BET this morning after the officer called, and my former celebrity crush, singer Mya, was on there. Is it just me or has she gotten "blacker" in how she acts? I could notice stuff like this and laugh about it today.

I could even make a joke out of this harassment situation today--actually, a couple jokes. For one thing, I'm having trouble getting into this class I want to take outside of the law school. So I've been having to e-mail and e-mail people to see if there's a way I can get in soon, because there are almost no seats left in the class. Finally, I e-mailed the professor as a last resort (and I call him a last resort because, out of all the people I have contacted, he should be the last one to know how I can get into the class). This whole situation has me really gunshy, so, first off, I was like, "Sorry to bother you..." I've e-mailed him a couple times before about the class, so I just kind of imagined that if I finally do get into this class it will be after truly harassing some people. And I thought to myself, "Well...obviously I'm very good at it. I have the police report to prove it!"

For some reason, I can deal with being called a "harasser" rather than stalker. I actually do think harassment falls in line with my personality, but I just tend to think of it as "tenacious" or "persistent." When I really want something, I don't give up...and although I think that's usually a good thing, sometimes it's bad. Of course, I never wanted to harass her, and now that I know she felt like I was to the point of calling the police, I am completely done with her. The depression and the hurt that I've felt have not been because I am upset about the friendship. I mean, for me, there's nothing like sending the police after me just because of an adult version of a "will you be my friend? check yes or no"/apology letter to totally change how I feel about someone and make me lose interest. But I was depressed and hurt more because of a combination of worrying about my career, feeling stigmatized and like everyone knows--even though no one I know should know and no one at the law school should know about this--and worrying that she really felt scared or like I was a threat to her.

Over the past year or so, nearly everyone I've told about this chick has basically told me that I shouldn't be interested in having her as a friend--not that they knew her, just what I told them about her and our relationship dynamic. I realize that's unfair--they are going by what I had to say only. But, in fact, one of my friends had told me she sounds kind of crazy months before this happened. And after I told my friend the psychologist about the police incident, he euphemistically said the same thing repeatedly. Both of these friends of mine are in fuddy duddy, touchy feely fields, i.e. social work and psychology, so they have been trained in reading and understanding people, and are entrusted with people and sensitive situations. Sometimes social workers don't work directly with people on problems, but my friend works directly with troubled youth. Both of these friends thought the way she just completely wouldn't talk to me after everything had been going well might have been kind of a warning signal.

This incident is another reason why I do want to get into this class about queers of color. I figure most of them will be of color, we share the same interests--at least in terms of wanting to explore the topic and its readings and engage in classroom discussions about it--maybe I could meet some cool, sane people whom I won't have to "harass" into a friendship. ;) But as scared as I was of women before, this makes me even more so...maybe I will just try to talk to the guys? hehe.

I think I actually feel like eating right now, so...I'm off to look for food before I hit the books...or bs with my mp3 player. ;)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ending Media Attacks On Gays & Blacks

The above is a, I guess, satire-type song of someone trying to be Al Sharpton singing about Obama's lack of blackness and his appeal to the mainstream. Apparently, Rush Limbaugh played it on his show.

"And he's still on the air?"

Jush hush, okay? I've been wondering why Limbaugh is still around, particularly after his little drug scandal, but...hasn't responding to the Imus thing, i.e. solely blaming blacks for that, been exhausting enough? Is it so that every other week, we either have to be raising hell about a "gay thing" or a "black thing," as if we are not yet somewhat, but unfortunately, accustomed to this kind of stuff...especially from people like Limbaugh? Apparently, people who do these things are not learning anything from--or scared of--the rather predictable ways in which many of us respond, because these things really are happening every...other...week!

A lot of people have been writing about free speech and the possibility of banning some words, etc. Mentally, today I'm not in the best shape to give my well thought-out, well-articulated opinion. I just think there's value in everything everyone says, something to learn from it. I think that's even more true with the Limbaugh clip than with what Imus initially said about the Rutgers women. To me, Limbaugh is telling us exactly why a lot of white people like Obama and how a lot of whites think of him, as well as suggesting some blacks think the same way, too--which is true. It's not funny. It might be offensive to some. But it sends a message that actually kind of matches some of the concerns I wrote about with regards to Obama, only I said it in--I think--a more intelligent way.

I don't know what to do about all the offensive media lately, even though I still question whether or not offensive incidents are just being reported more now and/or whether or not people are being blatantly offensive on purpose to get attention, etc. I do know two things: 1) the way we respond isn't working, and 2) nobody in the gay community uses homophobic incidents to point the finger at gays like many people just did with blacks, which suggests that other people are entirely the problem when it comes to gays but not with blacks and that there's something blacks can do to make people stop hating them.

There's a larger problem, i.e. two groups with overlap are alternating their turns at getting picked on in a rather carefree fashion by the majority. If telling gay people they need to clean up their act and behave better is not the answer to make people stop saying hateful things about that group of people, then I don't see why it's the answer for blacks. Make no mistake--there will always be ignorance. There will always be hateful comments. If you succeed in banning words (which I seriously doubt will happen), then there will still be those who say them and there will still be other ways to demonstrate hate. After all, some states have hate crime legislation, and hate crimes still happen. So, no, I don't know what to do.

In my mind, what people are asking is for something to be stopped that simply can't and never will be, in which case...why all the uproar each and every time? For me, personally, I can experience, hear and be the target of racism, sexism and homophobia without generally thinking of myself as a lesser person in this world. Maybe this is what we should be focusing on. Maybe this is another reason why I have never gotten the "hair" thing or the skin color thing among blacks, another reason why I don't tend to get offended by derogatory comments, etc. Maybe all it takes is instilling in people in these groups the confidence, the self-esteem and the mindset that even though people will say XYZ about you that's not who or what you are, so that when those things are said they, too, can ignore it and walk off unscathed...because I've noticed a lot of black people are lacking in self-esteem, and even more gay people than that are lacking in self-esteem.

Maybe we should be telling our people to do things not to please whites or heterosexuals or to make these people think a certain way about us, but so that we can think a certain way about ourselves. Some might argue differently, but I really don't think this was the message behind the black Imus responses--it was more so the former, i.e. "white people won't treat us like this if we don't treat ourselves like this." Oh, yeah they will. As mentioned before, I'm not interested in living my life for whites, for making sure they are comfortable or that they think a certain way about me or other blacks. I think living like that is a manifestation of self-esteem problems. It's still a master-slave mentality. And I've started hearing gays express this master-slave mentality, which really makes me worry about gays who are racial and ethnic minorities, that perhaps they have double master-slave mentalities (or maybe even more, depending on how they think about things such as sex/gender).

Furthermore, I think minorities--racial and otherwise--need to shed group mentalities just as much as we think majorities should shed them about us. In other words, we need to stop looking at everything a black or a gay person does as a reflection on all of us, because when we do that we've engaged in the same essentialism we despise. Essentialism, as I understand it, is reducing an individual to nothing but their plain-face identity, i.e. sex, race, sexual orientation.

Forget about the fact that the majority will continue to do this, which I know is important since we find ourselves at their mercy for so many things. I'm saying we need to focus more on us than we do. If a black male commits a crime, he needs to be viewed as another criminal, not as another black criminal or another male criminal...or, really what it is, as just another typical black male...because, as I spent the weekend writing in a paper for one of my classes, criminals aren't just black men. Even black people do this--I've admitted to it. The point is, a lot of the time, when we're feeling like someone else is a reflection on the whole group, they've done something that anyone could have done, i.e. we're ignoring individualism and assuming sameness just as much as the majority does. And that's the argument I would make to the majority, as well.

Whew, I think I actually did manage to type out something decent! ;)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Most Personal Reflection Yet: Communication

See the very end of the post for an update 4/25.

Something huge happened just a few short hours ago that I don't want to write about here (let alone think about or be living), but I think I need to both because my friend the psychologist said I need to document what I told him and to get it out. I'm going to try my best to be honest and objective, even if I look bad. Normally, I write things here that could bother people and don't really care how I look, but this is really of my biggest fears with writing this and talking to people about this is that they won't understand or believe my perspective, which is what I think is at the root of the situation I'm about to tell you anyway. Please try to understand.

So here it is:

When you have any sort of relationship with someone, no matter what that relationship is--working, friends, acquaintances, study partners, casual dating, long-term relationship, married, etc--communication is one of the most--if not, the--most important aspects. It just is. When communication breaks down, all kinds of problems arise, and any problems that were already there get worse. As bad as I am about expressing emotions and as hard for me as it is to do that, people in my life are important enough to me so that when it's necessary I will make an effort to communicate even if it's difficult for me. Usually, what's comfortable for me is writing. As I've written several times, approaching people is difficult for me, and sometimes this is even true with people I already know. Writing makes everything so much easier for me.

Sometimes--despite all your good intentions and your desire to be heard and to make things right--people just don't want to listen to you or give you a chance. I made the mistake of trying to make LA Girl listen, even though something was telling me maybe I should back off. I only ever did this through writing, mainly several e-mails throughout the school year. The one time that was different was recently, right before the Virginia Tech shootings. I had talked to my "therapist," and he suggested that I write this person a letter because the more personal touch might help. He can testify to the fact that I commented several times that I really feel like I am bothering her. I talked to him about how, despite wanting to work out whatever was wrong between the two of us--which I'm still not entirely sure what that was--I didn't really know what else I could do. Admittedly, she had been ignoring the e-mails I had sent her, which I should have just taken as a response in and of itself.

So, in a sense, I was ready to leave it alone, but that's why I wanted to talk to him in the first place. I wanted to tell him about the situation that I've, more or less, described throughout this blog to get his thoughts and possible advice. Had he said to leave it alone, then I am pretty sure I would have. But I think he could tell that finding some way to talk things out with LA Girl and work things out was really important to me, and I believe he agreed with me that when you have a problem with someone you should just talk to each other about it. Essentially, his advice was to keep trying to open the lines of communication, that he didn't understand why I felt like I was maybe going too far by trying to get in touch with her, etc, and he gave me several ideas of ways I could approach her, including the letter. Most, if not all, of the e-mails I sent, I don't think she read. He asked me how often I had been writing to her, i.e. daily or along those lines, and I said that I hadn't been writing that often. So then, he assured me, I wasn't stepping into any serious troubled territory, nothing to worry about.

I didn't agree, I still felt kind of uneasy. But this was something that was really important to me, so I figured I could try. After all, what would she really do if she didn't like it, other than tell me what I'd been waiting to hear all this time...which was either, "Leave me alone" or "Okay, we're cool," or just continue to ignore me. Last year, I got an "Okay, we're cool" when I kept trying to get her to listen to me, but never once in all the time I've known her have I gotten a "Leave me alone." With that in mind, I also kind of thought that I was just repeating what worked in the past--if at first you don't succeed, try again.

I want to make two things clear here. One is that I don't blame my friend the psychologist for the rest of the story that follows. This was set in motion long before I brought the issue to his attention. I blame myself, and I blame LA Girl. He gave advice, but I didn't have to take it. In fact, I really could have seen what happened coming, in all honesty, and I will write more about that in a second.

Two is related to one of the main purposes of this blog, i.e. discussing the difficulties of being queer and coming out for me. As I've mentioned before, I don't have any gay people in my life, and I really would like to. Furthermore, it has been difficult for me to meet any queer people in person that I do feel like I can have a friendship with or relate to, and I felt that she was the first queer person I met that I could relate to and would want to be friends with. This was the person who really got me started thinking about being queer, coming out and trying to learn more about queer people, and that is a huge deal to me. That's why it was important to me that, if I did something wrong, she'd tell me so that we could maintain a friendship. If she didn't understand that, I understand because I never actually told her how important this was to me or why, and it wasn't like we were anywhere near best friends. If she sensed that I liked her as more than a friend and had a problem with that or thought that was why I wanted to associate with her, I can understand that, too.

What I don't calling the police on me rather than just taking five or ten minutes to either write me back or speak with me directly like a mature adult about what I could have done so bad to make her not want to hear from me bad enough to call the police. The police! On me! Man, you don't understand. I have never written a threatening word to her. I have never followed her--in fact, I never see her and have barely seen her over the two years I've been at this university! The letter, I felt, was nice, not something that should make someone feel threatened. Again, I understand if she wanted me to leave her alone, and I could have picked that up from her refusal to respond to my e-mails. But, again, she never said! And I honestly think that, regardless of any indirect signals you're giving someone, that is the first step you take before you go to the police!

And I mentioned I could see this coming, but I never exactly saw having the police call me to ask me to come to their station or if there was somewhere else they could meet me. What really made me worry about anything like that happening was the Virginia Tech shootings, particularly since it happened right after I left the letter for her. By the way, where I left the letter was a place she had willingly showed me so that I could find her when I wanted to--I have an e-mail she sent me that says just that. I have never gone there after she showed it to me, nor prior to placing the letter there. I can understand if she was freaked about my showing up there, but, as I said, there was nothing threatening about the letter or anything else I had said/done. When the shootings happened, some news came out about how Cho had been bothering these two women and writing them...and something just made me freeze, cold and panicked. What if, G-d forbid, the shootings put the thought in LA Girl's head that I might actually hurt her or someone else? But that's crazy, I thought...I've never said or done anything to make her think I would hurt people or that she should fear me.

That is probably the most painful thing about all of this. As my friend said when I called him immediately after talking to the police, the exact opposite was true--I wasn't trying to hurt anybody. I thought I had hurt her, and I was trying to find out what I could do to make things better! I thought she felt like I unfairly alienated her, and I was just trying to make sure that she understood that was never what I wanted. And I asked my friend to tell me what exactly is "stalking," because that word is tossed around so much, so carelessly, by people. And he said, "What you did is not stalking." He said stalking is, essentially, following people and being everywhere they are and saying things that make them think you would assault them; it's not writing e-mails and sending one letter. He said, "She overreacted." And, most importantly, asked, "How did the police react to you?"

When I thought about how the police treated me--a white guy, to boot--I started feeling a lot better, like maybe my friend was actually right. I absolutely do think I have some blame in this. But his making me talk about the police illuminated so much for me--the guy acted like he really didn't think what I did was a big deal, just that since she complained it was his job to make sure I was informed of what she wanted so that he could file a report. As my friend pointed out to me, the fact that the officer asked me if I could come to the police station or meet him on some corner rather than his just coming and getting me says a lot about how much of a threat the police, even after Virginia Tech, believed I was to this woman and everybody else. When he called me on the phone, told me he was with the police and heard my reaction, he actually just kind of laughed in a way that was like, "Oh, no, no...don't worry, I just want to talk to you about a little something, no big deal." And then the way that he talked to me was kind of like, "You've really got no problem with us, she just doesn't want to hear from you."

But my point! She should have done that! Instead, I had to walk to meet some cop, scared to death the whole time that, all because of some woman who would never just tell me why she was mad at me or to leave her alone, I had just spent two years in law school and would never be able to practice law! Because when he called me and asked me to meet him, I pretty much figured this had something to do with her. And practicing law really was my one and only worry. Never once did it cross my mind that maybe people could find out I am queer from this. Every...single...question I asked him related to whether or not this was going to be something the Bar Association would have to find out about. I seriously never knew I cared that much about being able to practice law, but apparently I do, if that was all I could think about in those moments.

And when he answered those questions, he was telling me how she didn't want to file charges or anything else that would hurt if I'm supposed to be grateful for that? Again, I understand after Virginia Tech the desire to be cautious or whatever it was, and that I should have just left everything alone after getting no responses, but seriously. It has become clear to me now that, apparently, we are seeing whatever happened between us from two totally different angles with my having seen it as a misunderstanding that we could have worked out if we just talked about it. However, that would have been helpful to know before she really hurt me by going to the police, and that's really all I had been trying to get from her--"what are you seeing that I don't?" And then after you have that little talk with someone, you want them to go away, you've made it vocally clear to them that you want that and they still won't, then...that's when I can understand bringing the cops in, perhaps even if it's just e-mails and a letter.

For my part in all of this, I truly am sorry, and I asked the cop if he would tell her that, as well as that I will leave her alone. If she felt threatened, I feel horrible about that, as that was never my intention. If I had known she didn't want to talk to me this bad, I would have stopped trying to be friends a long time ago. It just goes to show that everything she said about gay people supporting each other and how she likes to help out a gay person is bullsh!t, at least with respect to her. But, to be honest, it also just falls in line with what I already thought about gays anyway, not that I want to generalize every queer person. And apparently, I'm supposed to just let people who are important to me go the next time we don't see eye to eye and they decide not to respond to my e-mails, which is an extremely disappointing thing for me to think that I might have to do in the future just to be careful that something like this doesn't happen again.

I don't necessarily want to say anything bad about LA Girl, but it was helpful to me to hear my friend say that he felt like the problem was more with her than with me. Again, I should have left it alone. Hopefully, I've made clear where I was coming from and why I didn't leave it alone. But what I really want to make clear for anybody reading this is please be mature, please face people and please handle problems yourself the right way.

All this reminds me of how women oftentimes will break up with a guy without letting him know that. I met a guy last semester while this was happening to him, and I felt bad for him because I have been there. And I've mentioned this to women before, and they always point out how men do this, too. I don't think men do, in general. I think women give men their phone number and the guy never calls or just stops calling after a while...but this generally doesn't seem to be after a relationship has actually developed and been in process for a long time. You might have had sex, but that wasn't any sort of lengthy romantic relationship. No, this guy who got dumped had been dating this girl for about two years or so, and I just thought the way she went about it was so girly (because this is not the first time I've heard anything like this in relation to a woman) and punkish. The guy was just trying to do the same thing I was trying to do--had come from another city, brought her flowers and wine and everything, trying to apologize for something that, as far as I could tell, he hadn't done wrong.

I don't know if people who handle ending various types of relationships like this do it because they don't have the guts to just face someone and be honest, worried about hurting their feelings or a confrontation...but, in my case, I really don't know how you think calling the police would be any better. Things just don't have to go as far as they do sometimes, if handled the right way. So if you have any personal business with someone that needs to be taken care of, excuses, just take a few minutes to be straightforward, and you can disclaim just about all the blame for anything that happens after that.

Update: After having time to sleep on it and a day to think about it, I do think I understand better now why she called the police, given the Virginia Tech situation--assuming that's why the letter and the situation resulted in her going there rather than talking to me. I was just saying the other day that there should be a way to report anything that might seem like it could turn into something serious later without having authorities not take it seriously...not that I think the officer is taking what happened here seriously, but he allowed her the opportunity to be safe rather than sorry. I completely understand that. It is still just incredible to me that anyone would ever think of me in this way, and I do hope she wasn't seriously worried I would hurt her. I still think things didn't have to go this far, that she could have just told me to leave her alone prior to my even sending the letter.

Part II here.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Straight "Girl Crushes" & Therapy

So...I think my friend Nikki got me a date with the hottest woman in the law school?! Or a "date." It's funny how things start and lead to something you totally couldn't have seen coming. Here it is:

I wrote about some of the women I like, both in the media and in "real life," at the end of this post, one of them being this gorgeous dark-skinned black female in my program who is from an African family. She's a year ahead of me in school, which means...she's about to graduate. I can't decide whether that's good or bad...well, let me just tell the story.

I was at work, and Nikki stopped by and chatted with me for a long time. I think we were talking about TV shows when just randomly she mentioned that a character on one of her favorite shows was her "girl crush." I was surprised to hear her mention this freely, and then she dropped another bomb on me--the hottest woman in law school is also one of her girl crushes. Now, it seems like that word has different meanings, but the base meaning is that of a heterosexual woman being attracted to another woman in some way. This post, as well as this one, I found explains pretty perfectly how a lot of straight women tend to think of girl crushes.

I think of it as a little bit more, because there are women whom I'd really like to get to know but I don't think of it as crushes--I think of it as a general interest. I had recently concluded that my definition of a girl crush was the phenomenon of a heterosexual woman thinking of another woman in a semi-queer fashion, i.e. her reaction to that woman is similar as to how a queer woman would react. I don't know if that's true--though this article kind of supports my definition--or if it is and heterosexual women just don't want to admit it. I guess, on some level, that definition does not differ too much from the posts I just linked to above. I had started developing the belief that the majority of straight women have these kinds of girl crushes--a hot woman who comes along and makes them stop and question themselves for just a bit somewhere in the back of their minds, i.e. a physical, but not necessarily sexual, attraction. And my take on the approachability factor is...when is a crush ever approachable? That was my whole problem, as a queer woman, with LA Girl! Either way, I'm coming to find out that, whatever "girl crush" truly means, it is, in fact, true that quite a few straight women really do get them.

I think shifting the term from "girl crush" to "friend crush" in those posts was more accurate. Whenever I've spoken to my straight friends about other women and their crushes, I'd always gotten the sense that the way they thought about these women matched my definition, for the most part. Sometimes my friends talk about wanting to be that person, but other times they just make it a little difficult to tell them apart from lesbians. When Nikki and I talked about the hottest woman in law school, it was mainly in terms of the physical with a side of personality. It wasn't about someone being unapproachable or wanting to get to know them better, because Nikki knows this hot woman and even went to her birthday party, I think. I, on the other hand, almost never see her and wouldn't approach her even if I did because I'm the kind of person to whom people must come. Plus, she's not like LA Girl is for me, for whatever reason--the thought of approaching this woman doesn't totally freak me out.

However, when Nikki announced that she was going to tell the hottest woman in law school (HWILS) about the crush we both have (Nikki thinking mine is like hers since I'm not out to her), that was a-whole-nother ballgame. My definition of "girl crush" being what it is and since I didn't know other people have more tame definitions for it, that kind of freaked me out. I told Nikki I hoped HWILS wouldn't take it the wrong way, i.e. that I'm romantically or sexually interested in her, which I haven't been since I don't know enough about her to have been. I still don't know if Nikki told her about both of us or just me, because when she told me how HWILS responded it sounded as if she only mentioned me.

I found this timely post by Bernie about how someone else's interest in you can spark an interest in them where you previously had none. And, again, the article I linked to above is on point:

Ms. Zimmer, when a reporter told her about Ms. Tyler's feelings, said: "I was very surprised. Sometimes, when you don't have a direct relationship with someone, you don't really understand how they're observing you."

And while Ms. Zimmer did not say she had a reciprocal crush, she did say that she considers Ms. Tyler talented and grounded and that "it's exciting to work with someone who has shown that kind of interest." She added, "It's a mutual respect."

Once a crush is revealed, it can change the dynamics of a relationship.

I think this is where Nikki got me by telling HWILS. When I asked her if she told HWILS about the crush, she said she had and her response was like Ms. Zimmer's, i.e. "but we don't know each other" kind of thing. And Nikki says that she told HWILS that I was worried she'd think I was weird (which I never said, because I am weird--everyone knows that), and apparently HWILS said she doesn't.

And then...!

According to Nikki, HWILS is thinking about asking me to lunch after finals...! Seriously, we've only spoken to each other, like, three times (very much in a passing kind of way) since I've been at this school, almost two years! And Nikki tells her this one little thing, that I think she's gorgeous (or whatever Nikki actually told her--maybe I should ask), and look what happens!

Now, two things: 1) I am pretty sure this woman is straight, which is fine but I still hurt my jaws grinning all night after finding this out, and 2) I don't think this lunch is actually going to happen, which is fine but I still hurt my jaws grinning all night after finding this out. And then, on top of it all, she's graduating and moving really far away. So even if the lunch happened, it would be like, "Well...thanks for lunch...have a nice life!" Plus, I kind of feel as if it'd be best if this didn't happen and that it's best that what has happened so far took until right before her graduation, i.e. I won't have to face her. I mean, the thought of it does make me nervous. Let's face it--I am just not good with beautiful women. And last night, I wondered how I could even get through such an event without either grinning like a huge dork the whole time or being so freaked by the whole thing that I'd be incredibly boring and non-responsive.

The one thing this does have me thinking about is how much you miss out on when you 1) don't approach people, and 2) fail to utilize the power of compliments. Admittedly, I'm a pretty smooth woman, when I feel comfortable enough. I am very good with words and know how to make people feel better and good about themselves without that even being the goal. If gorgeous women didn't freak me out so much and if I weren't rather emotionally dysfunctional (i.e. not good at expressing emotions), I could say all the right things in all genuineness, because it's all there in my head...which, with the way complimenting and showing interest seem to work with some women, would probably get me a lot of women as friends and otherwise.

If I could take some of the confidence I have in other areas of my life and bring it to the social interaction department...we could have been getting to know each other ever since we first met almost two years ago, things with LA Girl and I probably would have turned out differently, and so on. Instead, I depend on other people to be outgoing and to make the effort with me. I'm not really sure how to change that, but I'm thinking this is definitely a topic to raise in my "therapy session" tomorrow...which I haven't written about yet.

I wrote in another entry a couple weeks ago that I was going to meet with the male leader of the coming out group in which I participated last semester. I've also mentioned before that he is a psychologist. But we met as friends. We talked about several things, mainly LA Girl, during that first meeting. And at the end, he noted that I have a lot of things going on in my life right now, which is one of the reasons for my lack of motivation with school. Then he asked if I might be interested in a few formal sessions with him until I leave school for the end of the semester. We didn't pin it down but decided to meet again the next week, which we did. I ended up doing something I usually don't do unless it's around that time of the month, i.e. I can't control my hormones, and that's cry while we talked.

He mentioned trying a session again, and so I agreed. And that's what we're going to do tomorrow. Even though the other times we met weren't therapy sessions, they were crazy! I ended up realizing so many heavy things (not ready yet to write about them) and walking away with a million thoughts rushing through my head, so much so that I really couldn't even function for the rest of the day--especially that first time we talked. So tomorrow, with it being formal, is kind of scary because getting to the root of things really will be the goal tomorrow, whereas before it wasn't but it started happening anyway!

I can't believe that someone with a psychology degree can sit and feel stigmatized about going to therapy, but I really do. I have not wanted to mention that on this blog at all! I know nothing is wrong with it, but I still feel as if other people really take that as a sign that you have serious issues. I do have my issues, as we all do, and I think dating or a relationship is the last thing I need right now because of that, particularly since a lot of those issues relate to those two things. I was also a little resistant to actual therapy because after talking to him last week, I felt talked out. And in just a week, so many things have happened and occurred to me that I don't even know how we're going to talk about all of it tomorrow. And I look forward to talking to him--I do still primarily think of him as my friend, the only one I really can just tell everything I'm thinking. I look forward to that, and it is quickly adding to the list of reasons why, even though I am excited about Chicago this summer, I don't want to leave where I am now.

Oh, well...I'll keep you posted on therapy, as well as the lunch invitation! ;)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Reflections On "Good Hair"

So, finally, I'm going to touch this topic. Just about every black female blog I visit has a post about this topic, and they all say, more or less, the same thing. So this is yet another topic I can say something different about.

Some comments I read over at Rachel's Tavern inspired me to take up this topic right now. Now, I'm reciting these comments from memory...One was a comment by someone whom I presume is not black that he/she always thought the reference to "good hair" related to manageability, not so much hair that is "like white hair." Another was a comment about how whites view certain black hairstyles as a sign of a black militant.

I do think that the "good hair"/"bad hair" distinction is rooted in manageability, i.e. hair that is easier and quicker to do vs hair that is harder to get a comb through. White hair and hair that is similar to white hair is easier to do; black hair is not. Or so it goes. I've commented on other blogs, as well as to my friend Nikki, that hair was never really something I grew up thinking about. It's still not something I really think about, so the depth with which most black women think about black hair amazes me. It's almost one of those moments in which I imagine myself as a white person listening to black people talk about the depths of racism in society, and, simply because I am a white person who doesn't think about this and has never really had any reason to, I'm finding myself going "that's so ridiculous!" or "You've put way too much thought into this!" I really do have to consciously keep myself from completely dismissing these black women's interpretations about hair, as well as from getting defensive over an "attack" that is not specifically aimed at me as many white people tend to do when racism is discussed.

Nikki--someone who seems very confident and comfortable with herself--told me that hair used to be a huge issue for her growing up. I was pretty surprised, but I have a hard time imagining her self-esteem suffering over anything, especially an issue so common to others. She said she once told a white female that she wanted hair like hers. I really was amazed. Was I simply a naive kid? Well, obviously if you read some of my other posts about other issues, you will see that I was. I mean, I think I knew that white girls had different hair from mine, but I never seriously thought about the difference or wished my hair was like theirs. When I was younger, I questioned differences so much less than I do now, which I think is a good thing because sometimes I feel imprisoned by how much I notice about the world, about people and about human nature. Philosopher John Stuart Mill was on to something when he said that the more we know, the harder it is to be happy.

I never really thought about the fact that Sunday afternoons for white girls were probably way different from Sunday afternoons for me. Getting my hair done was an all-day long event. I remember always trying to find ways to get out of it, until I finally discovered that falling asleep before it was time for my mother to wash and dry my hair worked every time. My sisters had perms, but, for some reason, I didn't want one. I think I just didn't want to go to the beauty shop and have someone else do my hair--smart girl (I hate beauty shops). I think my mother was getting tired of spending hours on the weekends doing my hair just as much as I hated for her to do it. She was saying I needed to get a perm, and I resisted for years.

Come to think of it, the reason I probably didn't notice anything about hair was because, once my hair was done, I liked it. My mother would either use products that resulted in my hair looking nice, to me, or she would use a hot comb in my hair. The hot comb, in particular, excited me, even though I didn't love the process of getting my hair hot-combed. I'm still the same way. I hate doing my hair, but once it's done I'm happy with how it looks. And I prefer my hair better when I do it rather than when I go to the beauty shop.

When I finally started going to the beauty shop and getting my hair permed, I hated that process. I still do. At the same time, I just always envision not having a perm as my having to revert back to those wasted Sundays that I now don't have time to waste. I also truly can't stand struggling to get a comb through my hair. I'm sure there are products I could use that would make un-permed hair manageable, but I've gotten much too comfortable with dealing with permed hair to make any sort of change. I like knowing for a fact that it will take 20-30 minutes to do my hair and knowing that I have found XYZ products that work perfectly for my hair as it is now, because I struggled for years to find the right shampoos, conditioners, detanglers, etc.

As far as braids, dreads and afros, I honestly have never liked those hairstyles. It took me a long time to be able to look at other black women and seriously think those styles looked good on them. However, they are still not styles I'm interested in for me. I tend to think of having those hairstyles as a statement, which I guess is the same thing the commentor was saying about whites thinking blacks with certain styles are militant. But the thing about me is I'm very plain, and I like that--my hair has nothing to do with any sort of statement, for me, be it that I'm trying to look "white" or that I'm trying to look "black." And I want to keep it that way. Black women used to ask me why I don't "style" my hair--I have such nice hair and I don't do anything with it, they'd say. I don't want to do anything with it. Remember, I'm not a woman. I feel that worrying about my hair and what is says about me is too feminine a thing for me to engage in. Perhaps this is another reason I never really gave black vs white hair much of a thought growing up.

The thing about me is even though I "look white," I think whites understand that I am "militant." It's the funniest thing--I think white people can read me better than black people can. I can imagine black women looking at my hair and making all kinds of assumptions about my lack of blackness. On the other hand, I sense that white people look at the way I carry myself and the expression on my face and understand that I'm not really "safe" to approach. I mean, I am safe--I'm not mean to anyone who approaches me. However, I'm not a black person who just doesn't care about race or who claims to not see race--I see race all the time, even where most people truly don't.

White people are intimidated by me. My white best friends have said white people are intimidated by me. I think a lot of black people have a problem with such intimidation, but I actually get a kick out of it because no one should be intimidated by me! I can't imagine a black person ever being intimidated by me, and I can't get my nieces and nephews to listen to me to save my life. So it's kind of cool when someone actually is intimidated. Honestly, it makes me feel powerful. So I embrace whatever white people happen to think of me, whether it's "militant," "angry," "unapproachable" or whatever--it's all hilarious.

What makes this funnier is that Nikki, with all the afrocentric hairstyles she sports, attracts white people in groves. They are not intimidated by her. My observation would be that the majority of black women who do wear certain hairstyles truly are more black-centered, i.e. they are like me in that they are not going to reject white people who approach them, but they focus more energy on blacks and have, for lack of a better phrase, a lot of "black interests" (not that I have a lot of "black interests" other than the topic of race. I'm also too much of an "individual" to focus on people of any race). Nikki is not exactly like that--she's extremely outgoing, and approaches and gets along well with everyone. So I think when you're a certain kind of black person, white people really can tell a lot of the time. When I was more naive and less "angry," I had more white friends and more white people would approach me. I am pretty sure I now give very closed-off vibes around whites.

I have also seen on a few blogs about how some black women try hard in the presence of whites to not come off as "angry" or attitudinal or emotional. I rarely speak to whites about anything that upsets me, and, being that I'm not an emotional person to begin with, I rarely speak with much emotion when I talk to anyone anyway. But, to me, it doesn't matter anyway. I think that because the "angry" stereotype is the one that is applied to us, there are very, very few ways in which you can approach non-blacks about certain issues without them placing you into that box. It's an effort I'm not interested in making, the effort to debunk stereotypes.

I remember the disagreement LA Girl and I had was basically her telling me how I needed to act a certain way because of what white people think about blacks. Frankly, hearing that from anyone angers me, but the fact that she, as a white person, said it came off almost as "you need to prove yourself to me and people like me" and "you should let white people and the racist way they think dictate your behavior." Immensely offensive, to me. I don't want to give other people that much power over me, especially when it's basically not going to make much of a difference. People see what they want. If you're not messing up in one way, you're messing up in another, as a black person. I want to be happy and be me and do what's right for me and express myself how I express myself.

I also just have a problem being told to do anything; I have become quite rebellious the older I get. ;)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Transgender Student Runs For Prom King

Transgender Student Runs for Prom King

FRESNO, Calif. (April 21) - When school officials announce the name of the Fresno High School prom king on Saturday, Cinthia Covarrubias will be wearing a tuxedo just like the six boys vying for the honor. Administrators agreed to reverse a district protocol this week that limited males to compete for the title after Covarrubias was nominated by her classmates.

"I would never have run for anything if I had to wear a dress," said Covarrubias, who considers herself transgender, an umbrella term that covers all people whose outward appearance and internal identity don't match their gender at birth.

Gay youth advocates called it a landmark victory for campus gender expression and said they believe it's the first time in the U.S. that an openly transgender student has run for prom royalty.

"We are growing as a society to accept much more diversity in gender expression, and that's a positive thing," said Carolyn Laub, director of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network.
Covarrubias, who wears black-and-white Vans, baggy shorts and close-cropped brown hair, sometimes identifies herself as Tony. Her date, a close female friend, plans to wear a black dress and red corsage to the prom at an outdoor reception hall surrounded by man-made waterfalls.

On Wednesday, officials at the school of 2,700 students shifted course, saying the district's lawyers had recommended adding Covarrubias' name to the ballot to comply with a 2000 state law protecting students' ability to express their gender identity on campus.

"We always want to do the right thing by our students," Vice Principal Sheila Uriarte said. "This is why we came to this decision."

Leanne Reyes, 16, said Covarrubias had her vote.

"It's not like the stereotype where the king has to be a jock and he's there with the cheerleaders anymore," said Reyes, a senior. "We live in a generation now where dudes are chicks and chicks are dudes."

Still, some students criticized the decision to put Covarrubias on the ballot.

"I like lesbians, but they shouldn't be allowed to run for king," said senior Erich Logan, 18, as he stood outside the stately high school building.

A native of Jalisco, Mexico, Covarrubias said she has bucked rigid expectations of how a girl in her culture should behave. Explaining the meaning of terms like "queer" and "transgender" to her parents and eight siblings has at times been painful, she said.

"My freshman year I just started feeling different," she said. "When I decided to change to be like this, all of a sudden I said, 'Wow, I feel OK. I feel like finally I'm being me.'"

She has no current plans, however, to permanently alter her gender through hormones or surgery.

Tiffani Sanchez, a science teacher who advises the school's Gay-Straight Alliance, said the decision would foster understanding of the broad spectrum of gender identities.

"Cinthia is still really learning who she is," she said. "We want her to know that there's a safe space for her here and we support her."

Covarrubias is giddily looking forward to the prom, but acknowledged being a little nervous.

"I'm happy I actually made a difference about changing the law and the policy so you can run for your choice," Covarrubias said.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Reflections On Tomboys & Girly Girls

At this moment, the incident that prompted my telling myself to look up the definition of "tomboy" on the best site on earth escapes my memory. Here it is, from Wikipedia:

A tomboy is typically described as a girl who behaves according to the gender role of a boy. This social phenomenon typically manifests itself in certain individuals through one or more of the examples stated below:
The wearing of typically
masculine-oriented types of clothes.
The practice of
games and activities (often physical in nature), that are typically considered to be the domain of boys.
The preference of school subjects typically considered to be the domain of boys.
The preference to befriend boys rather than other girls.

There's more that stood out to me:

Historically, tomboys have been defined, as suggested in the examples mentioned above, by "boyish" behavior (like more physically active, technological, and scientific interests) and wearing boys' clothing. In recent times, as the use of traditionally female clothing such as dresses, blouses and skirts steadily declines among Western females, the distinction has become more and more one of behavior. A general increase in the popularity of woman's sporting events...and other activities that were traditionally male-dominated, is today broadening tolerance and lessening the impact of "tomboy" as a pejorative.
Childhood gender roles are handled somewhat differently for tomboys and girlish boys. Gender scholar Judith 'Jack' Halberstam has noted that while the defying of gender roles is often tolerated in young girls, older girls and adolescents who display masculine traits are often repressed and punished.

There is little study of the causality of the phenomenon, since it has been considered, first and foremost, to be a phase one might go through in early years of life. In recent times, however, due to a perceived correlation between tomboys and lesbianism, there have been attempts to find a causality for what is perceived as a deviant behavior in some cultures. One theory of a possible cause is that a girl who spends her childhood and/or adolescence in an environment where the male presence predominates, she simply lacks any feminine role models. However, this hypothesis has been widely challenged by research that suggests that the state is heavily influenced by genetic and prenatal factors.

And then when I scrolled down, I saw a link to "girly girl" and decided to click on that:

Girly girl is a slang term for a girl or woman who chooses to dress and behave in a traditionally feminine style, such as wearing pink or floral dresses, blouses and skirts, wearing make-up, talking about relationships and other activities which are associated with the traditional gender role of a girl. It is an informal term, and in most contexts, it is at least mildly derogatory. The term is sometimes seen as a term of disdain or abuse, particularly among tomboys and some feminists, since the "second wave" of feminism in the 1960s and '70s, after which gender-blind clothing and/or behaviour started to become more prevalent among females. Whether "traditionally feminine" traits are inherently repressive or harmful to women is a matter of some debate.

This caused me to mosey on over to and see what they had to say about these terms and/or similar terms.

Once again, "tomboy":

an energetic, sometimes boisterous girl whose behavior and pursuits, esp. in games and sports, are considered more typical of boys than of girls.

A girl considered boyish or masculine in behavior or manner.

And "girly":

Featuring minimally clothed or naked women, typically in pornography: girlie magazines.
Weak, timid, or effeminate. Used of men.

Let me tell you how I think of these terms and where I fall in these descriptions:

I think I mentioned in another post that I was never quite a tomboy, but I was never "girly." I didn't consider myself a tomboy growing up because I wasn't good at "boy" things, which is how I tend to think of tomboys--girls who can hang with guys, beat them at their stuff. For example, I used to try to play basketball and soccer with boys, but it never quite worked out. I would barely get playing time, because I would stand there while all the guys repeatedly got the ball. A real tomboy, to me, would take playing time. Sure enough, the definition on Wikipedia includes this element.

But it's the other elements that fascinate me. I remember writing in that post that I used to dress kind of like a boy. And I still prefer male clothes, even though I don't shop 100% in the male section of stores like I used to--I now basically tend to buy either from female sections or gender neutral sections. Indeed, most clothes I wear are for both males and females. So, as far as wearing "masculine-oriented" clothes, I guess that's not exactly true, at least not today.

The preference for "boy" subjects...hmmm. I suppose I'm androgynous here, too, or perhaps even lean a bit more towards the feminine side. I'm basically equally right- and left-brained--I have the test results to prove it. When I was growing up, teachers told my parents that I excelled in English and math, and I loved both English and math. For a while there, it seemed I was doing better in math than in English. I didn't initially like science, but that changed. When I was considering medical school, I definitely wanted to go into neurology. Sometimes I think about applying to a Ph.D program in Neuroscience--doing research and writing about my findings in that area would be amazing!

When I was studying psychology in undergrad, my concentration was on the more scientific part. I was excited when my professor for one class would mention mental or brain disorders that are still mysterious, that no one knows the causes for or how to cure/reverse, such as alzheimers and Parkinsons. I would write down everything he taught us about those issues and vow to be the one to come up with the answers. I had theories right away sometimes, too. I also absolutely love technology--computers/lap tops, mp3 players, dvd players, DVRs, cell phones, music software/gear, etc. I named some of my technology and call them my kids, you know--it's that serious! I would hurt someone over my lap top.

At the same time, I love literature and languages. If you can't speak "standard English," you don't want to be caught around me--you will get laughed at. Don't believe me, ask my parents--they are chronic victims of my dissecting, mocking and teasing when it comes to language and speech. I have this weird love of grammar, even though I am definitely not perfect with it on my blog. But I probably know and can recite just about every grammar rule (I feel like this should be more of a "boy" thing, though...grammar feels so logical to me). I've studied Spanish and French, and learning an Asian language such as Japanese and/or Chinese is still on my list. I remember when I was younger, I used to burst out randomly reciting Shakespeare, and I still remember my most favorite parts of my most favorite poems by Shakespeare and Frost. And this all goes without mentioning my multiple talents for the arts--there is probably not one artistic endeavor I haven't dreamed of doing professionally at some point in my life, save maybe photography. So, kind of like with the clothes, I'm split on "boy subjects."

"The preference to befriend boys rather than other girls"--YES! Even though this has changed as I've aged, too., no it hasn't. The thing is all the guys around me now are total dorks. I mean, the choice for them was between becoming a lawyer and becoming a serial killer. Males who attend law school, especially white ones, tend to not be the coolest. Maybe that just correlates with the kind of law school they attend--who knows. I'm just telling you my experience. On the flip side, it seems as if women who attend law school are the absolute best, most tolerable women I've ever met. I wouldn't be surprised if the woman I ended up with, if I ever end up with one, is a lawyer. They are the only women I seem to be able to get along with, mainly because they are less sensitive/emotional than the average woman...which means I can get away with saying more "offensive" or "you hurt my feelings" things to these kinds of women.

Prior to law school, I definitely preferred males as friends. In several of the stories I've read by lesbians or transgendered individuals, they've described the confusion and/or the inner resistance they felt whenever situations arose when they were among groups of people who were separated into groups based on sex. I have so been there! There's one time I remember. I was a senior in high school, in AP English class, and for some reason the girls decided one day that we should all sit on one side of the classroom away from the boys. I remember just being like--at least in my mind, anyway--"Uh, NO!" I actually don't think I moved, either--I think I stayed with the boys. In college, my best friend was a guy. Prior to high school, I basically followed boys around and made space for myself in groups of boys that would accept me, i.e. the two white boys from junior high with whom I discussed music, and the three boys I ended up friends with at the junior high school to which I transferred the next year.

I don't think being a tomboy is exactly related to being a lesbian. Do I want to be a man? Well...truthfully, there's at least one week of every month in which I seriously would. ;) Plus, I just think life is so much easier for men. But more on this question in a second, when I talk about girly girls. You'd be surprised how many girls grew up as tomboys, and I remember in one of my psychology classes we read this article that suggested that being a tomboy is correlated with intelligence and future success. Given that, our professor asked all the girls in the class who had been tomboys growing up to raise their hands. Only one girl didn't. To give you an idea, we had approximately 30 students in the class, only about two of whom were male. And this was at a college that is essentially a southern Ivy League school.

The second part of the Wikipedia definition of "tomboy" supports what we all know and what I've written before on my blog, as well as other blogs, i.e. girls acting like boys is more acceptable than boys acting like girls. Older girls being repressed and punished is interesting...I've never thought about it, except in the sense that I think it makes girls less attractive to males and less able to make female friends. That said, when I was in high school...I don't think anyone thought of me as a tomboy or unfeminine. I did somehow end up with more female friends than I used to have--I'm not sure why. I don't ever remember feeling pressure to be girly or hang out with girls. I just know that during high school and college, I was probably at my girliest, which still wasn't very girly.

I did not spend my time in predominantly male environments, though! My family is ridiculously female and feminine, and I have just never related to it.

As far as and "tomboy," I have never been "boisterous" or "energetic," and I don't really think I am masculine in behavior or manner. I am rather quiet unless you're the right person--all my friends are required to be outgoing--and I am very laid-back. I have a personality that is more associated with males, but I don't "act" male.

Now for you girly girls...I want to make something clear: I...LOVE...YOU! The more feminine, the better! The femininity of a woman really turns me on, so, yes, I love you! I just don't understand you. I know I say "girly girl" and look upon the way you dress, the things you like, the time you spend on how you look, etc, as shallow and ridiculous. I know I say it with a negative connotation and it seems like it is said with "disdain" or "abuse." But when I say it like that, I don't mean it in relation to you, because I think you're gorgeous! I wouldn't like you any other way. But for me?! YUCK! That's where the derogation comes in.

So, going back to what I was saying before about wanting to be a me, I'm not a man or a woman. There's this tweenie spot that a lot of people fit. That doesn't make me androgynous. I think, to most people, I would actually be considered a femme. The thing about that is I cringe at the thought of someone actually calling me that. I think I'd actually rather be called butch. But I wouldn't rather look butch. Looking butch doesn't fit in with how I think of myself, and being labeled femme doesn't fit in with how I really am. And I don't want beautiful femme women discounting me because they think I'm femme, too, or that I'm not butch enough, nor do I want butch women hitting on me because they think I'm femme.

I do have a bit of a problem with submissive, traditional women, though. I don't like straight women like that, and I don't like lesbians like that. I'm not looking to take care of anyone or to "be the man" in a relationship. In fact, I bet I end up with this incredibly feminine woman who almost completely runs our relationship and can totally take care of herself. I don't know why, but the thought of a femme fatale or a "dominatrix" is just hot to me. In other words, I guess I want a girl who looks femme but isn't quite just like I seem tough and controlling but am not quite. We would switch roles, in a sense.

What has to say about "girly," which is actually "girlie," is interesting. I think it's very related to the reduction of women in society, even the definition as it relates to males. And for males, I kind of do mean it in a reductionist way, with "disdain," since I love femininity in women but hate it in men. But I think even the definition for men tells us a lot about what it means for feminine women.