Sharing Time!

First of all, I have such a huge aversion to telling people about things I’m doing. This may be a silly aversion, or in fact totally validated- I just know when I go on my blog to yap about things I’m doing I can’t help but feel like an obnoxious little beetle. So instead of making this a shameless promotion-fest, I’d love for us all to get involved! Below, I’ll share with you some things I’ve done recently,and in the comments I’d LOVE for you to tell me what YOU’RE doing, so I can check it out. And seriously, I really will check it out. 

Jas’s article on Black women, Queers and Sex Ed was just featured on Bitch Magazine. (See the original here)

Story Time! Jas’s short story, “Next Joke” is now a The-Toast.net thing

And finally, finally, finally- Check out the new JasSoandSo Facebook page. Jas will buy you a house filled with kisses if you like it. Figuratively, of course.

This has been a shameless promotion brought to you by Jas Joyner. Murp.

Thank you all so much for reading! Now, post you’re cool things below because I can’t wait to read about them!

Gender and the In Between- A Gender Queer’s Journey

Featured on Afropunk.com and SheWired.com!

As a child, I spoke as few words as possible. The sound of my feminine voice disgusted me. I hated to be called a girl, while loving the color pink. I was a budding genderqueer.

Boys are different from girls, they said.  Fundamentally different, they’d persist. Boys don’t have long hair. Boys don’t like pink. Boys don’t cry and boys are tough. Girls like playing with dolls. Girls do poorly at math and enjoy frilly things.

Boys.  I studied them. I developed obsessions with male classmates with the utter desire to someday become all that they were. I would play make believe with my siblings in which I’d only be satisfied if I took on a male role.  I connected with boys in a way I never could with girls, and never quite understood why. I would wear suspenders as a tween and feel like a boss because they would make it look like I had no chest. When I started to develop, I would wrap myself in a bandage, not realizing that was a trope practiced all too often in the trans community. I would do this until my gender identity was challenged.

“You are so flat,” my very influential peers would say, prompting me to ask my mother to buy me my first training bra.

And then I discovered the internet. I learned about the term transgender. I looked at hundreds upon hundreds of befores and afters, FtMs. Top surgeries, bottom surgeries, hormones. I would read and read until my eyes would blur from my families’ bright Dell desktop screen, and I’d sink in my chair, feeling the emptiness grow inside of me. It was as if the more I searched for myself, the more lost I got. Because I couldn’t avoid my feelings; I didn’t feel fully male.

I didn’t know any trans people in my anti-queer, southern town, and definitely wasn’t going to be the first. So what did I do? I conformed. Like the scared child that I was, I began to present myself as outrageously feminine, so no one would suspect anything strange. It was as if I thought people could see through me, and wanted to give them no reason to use thier x-ray vision to spot my insecurities…or my weirdness.

I fell into a bout of shame, hating my natural femininity because I’d used a false, hyper-femininity as a wall to hide behind for so long. Oh, what a person will do to fit in.

I wanted no more shame, so I turned to the bottomless internet once again, searching for a reason to love myself. I studied femininity and the power of it all. I learned that being feminine does not equate weakness. There is strength in the power of women. In femininity, there is beauty; not the skin deep kind but the unconditional kind.  Through countless articles and books, and studying empowered feminist women like Betty Dobson and bell hooks, I learned to love my female body, and now I don’t want to lose it.

So here I am, yin and yang. Masculine and feminine. I wear my hair long but learned to walk from male role models growing up. The color pink still makes me smile, but I feel like a lie when wearing a dress. I still bind and wear clothes from the men or boys section, and prefer to hide my curves (the little bit that I have anyway). Not because I want to look male, but because it is how I feel most comfortable.

I call myself a boi, a budding term used in the lesbian and queer community, and truly believe if energies were gendered, I would be just that. I have little to no desire to have surgery or take hormones, though I like it when you call me “he.” I don’t mind “she” or “they” because I am that, too. All of the above, please. Sometimes I feel completely male, and wish on those days I had an attractive male body to wear. But most days I feel like both. I know it is confusing. I even confuse myself sometimes, but that’s simply how I feel. I don’t feel masculine enough to be male, nor am I feminine enough to be female. I love and accept my female body, though I ask you to not suspect that makes me a “woman.”

Through my journey, I find that in terms of gender identity, you are what you say you are. A man that wears makeup and has double D’s is still a man if he tells you so. It takes no more criteria than that. What it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman are social constructs, and though the masses follow these standards, you don’t have to. I don’t have to. I prefer to say I am in between genders, masculine of center, and as I feel, I am.

I spoke recently to a dear friend that had a challenging question for me;

“Why don’t you just ignore gender? Why don’t you just be who you are and not worry about what that makes you, be it male, female or otherwise?”

I sat there, stumped and silent, too caught off guard to admit my annoyance. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but this anger boiled inside me. I slowly felt the tingle as my senses returned and I blurted out,

“Because nobody wants to be an outsider!”

I certainly didn’t think before I spoke, but couldn’t ignore the truth behind my words. Nobody wants to be an outsider. No one wants to feel like they belong nowhere. So many queer and trans people walk through their lives never feeling fully human, as if there is something alien about us that no one will ever understand. That is why we search for acceptance. That is why we challenge the gender binary and tell you to call us Zir. We’re fighting for our visibility, because we don’t like feeling invisible. We are not transsexual, we are sometimes not even transgender, but we’re definitely all over the gender spectrum, as a gender “binary”  is all but an illusion.

I’ve wanted to talk about this for a while now, but due to the fear of officially coming out as a genderfuck, I’ve avoided it. But as you see with this whole rant, I don’t care who knows anymore. I am tired of hiding in the binary and this is my way of connecting with all you gender queer and trans folk out there that are not interested in going all the way, on either side of the gender binary. We are the in betweeners, and we’re proud. Finally. 

Smartest Queer Black Women Series (Twitter Included)

Fast Company recently released their 2013 “Smartest Women on Twitter” list in which you will find no, I repeat, no black women. At all. So, in honor of  black-queer greatness, here’s a new series to present to you amazing, intelligent  black, queer women that are smart enough to be on anyone’s “Smartest” list. These women have greatly impacted the fight towards black LGBT visibility,social justice, and all around wonderfulness- and as a nice touch, all will have Twitter accounts.

Stacyann Chin- Poet, Writer, Activist- Twitter/stacyannchin

Staceyann Chin, a native Jamaican,  has written a number of  thought-provoking poems and even had a one-woman show at New York City’s  Nuyorican Poets Cafe.  She was co-writer and original performer in Russel Simmon’s Poetry Def Jam on Broadway. She wrote a memoir entitled “The Other Side of Paradise,” and was featured on “The Oprah Show” where she expressed the difficulties coming out as a lesbian in Jamaica.  She has spoken openly about her pregnancy through In vitro fertilization, and proudly represents as a single, lesbian mom.

Don’t Speak: On Black Women, Queers and Sex Ed

 A version of this article was featured Bitch Magazine. Check it Out!

 

Black Queer Couple

Being the queerio I am, I have this pass time of regularly Googling queer sex related topics in the news for fun. Hey, who knows, maybe there’s some new sex toy I need to learn about #possibleTMI. Well this time, I was met with less than awesome news; Black women are less likely to get HPV Vaccines. According to a recent Health article,a  only 18 percent of black women from 18 to 24  as opposed to one third of white women ( across all income lines), have started taking the vaccine.

“Given that cervical cancer is more common and associated with higher mortality in African-American and Hispanic women than in white women, it is especially important to understand the barriers to HPV vaccination for these populations.”

Black women, as I’ll further explain, have a history of doing less when it comes to sex protection. So in the words of the ever-dope Salt-n-Pepa,  “let’s talk about sex”, people. No not that sex. The boring sex; sex education.

HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus, and it is the most common sexually transmitted infection of them all. To clarify, the HPV vaccine only protects against two out of the 40 different kinds of HPV. However, these two types, 16 and 18,  are the most likely to cause cervical cancers down the road.  I must be honest, for the longest time I thought it was far more difficult for one to contract HPV in lesbian sex than in heterosexual sex. Sadly though, it turns out we can catch it just as easily, and in similar ways, as can a straight person. According to the Cancer Network, we can catch cervical cancer through genital on genital contact, touching partner’s genitals then our own, or sharing uncleaned toys. Bisexual women and even some self-identified lesbians have also had sex with men, which increases the risk of HPV even more so.

As a black person from the conservative south, I understand that it’s not really a big thing in black culture to discuss sex. I notice more of a “mums the word” approach. In high school, I remember discussing with a few female friends, all black, the ever-awkward “talk” parents give. You know, “the talk.” I was stunned to find my mother was the only one out of all my friends to have given me some version of the talk when I turned ten. Though my mother’s awkward ramble was totally hetero-centric (as I was not out and proud at the mere age of ten), I’m so thankful today that she even went there for me, as I learned not a lot of parents do. I’ve noticed as I grow older that no matter how liberal sexually a black woman is, it is more respectable and acceptable to keep it to ourselves than to vocalize. In a poignant article from Bitch Magazine, Tamara Winfrey Harris further discussed the active silence black women practice when it comes to the subject of sex.

Respectability politics work to counter negative views of blackness by aggressively adopting the manners and morality that the dominant culture deems “respectable.”

Acting overly prudish whether we (black women) actually are or not,  is meant to work as a neutralizer for us when compared to non-black women, as we are already attached to so many other negative stereotypes. But I must ask, is it really beneficial to express virginity if you know that’s not what’s up? I think not, because it hurts us as black women on a fundamental health level, as you can see from these statistics, courtesy of WomensHealth.gov –

  • Chlamydia rates that are more than seven times higher
  • Gonorrhea  rates that are about 16 times higher
  • Syphilis rates that are 21 times higher

However, the avoidance of sex ed talk doesn’t just go for black folks.  Queers in general seem to have this air about us that implies some sort of magical-STIs- shield, more so than straight folks. I say this from a completely personal perspective, as my experience in relationships and conversations with close friends have illustrated this idea to me. It is as if we feel since we are not having hetero sex, we’re safe. That is why it’s important to broaden our understandings of what sex actually is, so that we stay protected in all sexual situations. Especially when facts like these exist; lesbians (of all colors) are far more likely to develop cervical cancers than are heterosexual women.

Full disclosure, I hate all doctor’s visits, let alone doctors that have total V.I.P  access to my who-ha. Nothing sexy about it. I especially don’t like having to wonder whether my doctor is LGBTQ friendly, because if they’re not, the whole experience can be quite traumatizing. Who wants discrimination while simply trying to be healthy? Well, I come to you with great news. Queer allies have got our backs when it comes to pre-sexy-time woes.  The Human Rights Campaign has created an annual Healthcare Equality Index in which hundreds of gay-friendly hospitals and clinics make themselves known. Also, many LGBT centers all over the country offer or support companies that offer free and low-cost HIV testing specifically for our community on a regular basi

Consider all those times you had sex and protection didn’t once cross your mind. Mhmm. It happens. But the fact is, it should. I agree, depending on what you’re into, it can be harder to protect against STIs as a vagatarian; Yep, I went there. But in the long run, caution is really the best way to go. I’m not saying we all need to run out and get that HPV vaccine like, now, as there are precautions and arguments against it, let alone the many qualms some people have with vaccines in general. The real concern this Health News article raised was the overarching need for women and queers of color to do so much more when it comes to sex education and protection. As much as I like to think of us queerios as some sort of superhuman species within ourselves, we must accept the fact that no one is invincible. We’re all subject to contracting a sexually transmitted infection. The great thing is, if we’re careful and responsible, there’s a lot we can do to avoid them.

 

Generation Miley

 

 

 

 Miley, Miley-Bo-Biley. What are you doing, girl? It’s a question many have asked over the past few months, from Jezebel’s poignant piece on the racial issues with Miley Cyrus’s new music video, to The Grio discussing Miley’s apparent obsession with modern-day ghetto culture.  But after Miley’s recent, uber rachet Video Music Awards performance, it’s all starting to make sense; Miley Cyrus is my generation, the good the bad and most definitely , the ugly.


The Good

Millennials don’t care about race or sexual orientation. A recent Pew Research Study showed that an overarching majority of 18-29 year olds support interracial relationships and marriage, averaging at about 90% across the board. We are a generation of open minds, with the most progressive  social views.

 

In Miley’s recent music video of ” We Can’t Stop”, Cyrus is most definitely referencing blackness, but in the same way white people imitate black people by tanning for darker skin. You won’t find many white people that tan because they actually want to be black. No, they do it for the superficial reason that they will look more toned, and appear to glow a little more as a result. Miley twerks and wears gold teeth and does all those offensive things black culture experts are least proud of within black culture not because she wants to be black, but because she wants to be cool. Be edgy and “badass.” When the time comes that twerking is no longer cool, bet you won’t catch Miley doing it. Professor Akil Houston of Ohio University had to say this about whether Miley will stick with this rachet girl persona for long:

…Madonna. Consider her career trajectory and the different stages of representation she has in her public performance. If Miley plans to have the longevity of a Madonna, we will see many shifts.

 Miley flirts with bisexuality because to Millennials, queerness is cool. So cool in fact, that every cool kid wants to get in on it. Dare I say, that’s a good thing.  To come from a time not so long ago that queers were expected to hide their relationships and “unearthly” desires from the world into a time where every female pop singer worth her weight in pennies has at one point hinted at their desire to kiss girls, looks like progress to me.

 

 The Bad

Millennials don’t care about race or sexual orientation. We are the colorblind generation.

Through research and continued study on the topic, Professor of Social Psychology at University of Washington, Anthony Greenwald, found that though younger generations ” think only older generations are still racist,” studies show biases with youth, as well.

“The truth is, we’ve found no indication that race bias is any less apparent among young people [than it is] among older people,” he said.

But the problem is thinking we live in a post-racial society. Ever heard the lovely comment “ I don’t see race?” That’s my generation for you. We are a generation that basks in ignorance.

 We don’t care that over three hundred and fifty years ago, slavery exist, and that we’re still facing backlash from it to this day. It’s old news. We don’t care about “the n word” and it’s extremely negative history. So much so that we throw it around along with the word “fag” constantly, because it’s “no big deal” anymore. In response to Rachel Jeantel’s thoughts on the n word, CNN’s Don Lemon interviewed three intelligent college students that admitted they, along with their peers (black, white or otherwise), have used the word “nigga” in “non-racial” way.

Jeantel explained to Morgan that “the whole world say it’s a racist word” but the version of the word that she testified Martin had used in reference to Zimmerman, spelled “n-i-g-g-a” doesn’t mean what most people think it means. It doesn’t mean a “black male” as Morgan assumed, she said, but rather any kind of man…

Assimilation isn’t always a good thing. While it’s great that generation y-ers are becoming one culture wise, it’s important that we recognize the different walks of life it takes to somehow meet each other in the middle. Let’s talk queerness for instance. the phrase “that’s gay” is thrown around constantly to mean something that, quite frankly, sucks. Gen Y’s apathy towards our differences can, and does, sometimes lead to accidental discrimination-which sorry to break it to you- is still discrimination.


The Ugly

We Millennials are a sloppy bunch.We appreciate rachet culture because it is innately rebellious against authority. To go out and present yourself to the world unattached to any rules or any etiquette is exciting for us.

It is super easy to borrow from the experiences of others as a way to be “fun,” or stretch boundaries on what is “acceptable,” without any acknowledgement of context or framework.

You know how old Hollywood with it’s Rosemary Clooney’s and  Audrey Hepburn’s used to do everything with a classy flair? We’re the opposite. Celebrities that don’t present any hint of rebellion bother us; #AnneHathaway. We’re all about pushing the envelope, the more outrageous the better. We get bored easily and we want to be entertained, and we’ve found that the best way to be entertained is to amuse ourselves with our own ridiculousness. Youtube is so popular now because Millennials, as the driving force, are constantly looking for the next crazy thing. We’re go, go, go all the time. To quote Miley “ We can’t stop, we won’t stop.”

 

The Real

Miley Cyrus may be a hot mess, but she’s our hot mess.  Her VMA performance was merely a reflection of just about every modern day American high school and college dance party. The only shock comes in Miley’s adamant attempts and successes of putting such offensive “young people trends” on blast. Let’s be real,  the term “twerk” didn’t make it into the dictionary for nothing. No wonder I can’t discuss my qualms with Miley with a group of my peers without at least half of them squealing,

 

“ But she’s so real!”

 

“I feel like we could be friends!”

 

I get it now. Miley is simply reflecting Generation Y of America in all our disgusting awesomeness.

Poor Kid, Rich Kid

   My sister teaches special education and my father has worked in the school system for over thirty years, helping to form my unapologetically biased love and respect for the value of our teachers in the United States. Furthermore, it’s no surprise that education was hugely emphasized in my upbringing. my ability to focus so strongly on school related greatly to my financial privilege, coming from a financially stable -middle class family. I recognize this privilege and understand  not every child is so lucky. However, it doesn’t seem our education system cares so much about this disparity, as child after child from lower income families is being left in the dust when it comes to quality schools.

 

With income disparity among the poor and the very rich higher than ever, and a system that values instant gratification over investing in our future, many low-income children are left in the dust of a stale and antiquated education system.

In  high-poverty schools, more than one in every five core classes (21.9 percent) are taught by an out-of-field teacher, compared with one in nine classes or 10.9 percent in low-poverty schools

  Though legislation like No Child Left Behind set laws to close the gap of unqualified teachers per low-income schools versus higher-income schools,the disparity between the two is still strong today.The Independent Budget Office of New York released a study showing the link between poverty and low test scores, stating that students who qualify for free lunch are far more likely to fail tests than student who are eligible for subsidized meals. Wealthier areas can afford to invest in their programs and curriculum, furthermore helping students from already privileged backgrounds, to excel even more. This goes the opposite for low income areas, in which poorer schools are not invested in, and students that already have late starts academically are left behind.

More than 40% of Low-Income Schools Don’t Get a Fair Share of State and Local Funds.

Teachers cannot adequately invest in this disparity.  In a response to the editors piece on the need for higher pay for teachers, T. Elijah Hawkes, principal of  James Baldwin School in Manhattan, stressed the dilemma in expecting teachers to transform lives of students in hardship simply by teaching.

Until we perceive child poverty as something to be fixed not by our schools but by wage, labor, taxation and health care policy, we will continue to place unrealistic expectations on teachers, and see them as to blame for dashed American dreams.

Low-income schools are subject programs that force underprivileged students to learn from insubstantial teaching standards.  Teach for America, while offering wonderful opportunities  for recent college graduates, does not benefit our education system as a whole. Unqualified teachers are sent to low income, over crowded schools where unaccounted for students need closer attention, not less. After months of minimal training and often times, no previous teacher’s training, these TFA recruits attempt to teach students to reach minimal test requirements. If we want to expect more from our teachers, we must raise our standards of what it means to be a teacher. Professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University, Mark Naison wrote a piece about how Teach for America has spoken out about his disdain for the program in the Washington Post

Until Teach For America becomes committed to training lifetime educators and raises the length of service to five years rather than two, I will not allow TFA to recruit in my classes.  The idea of sending talented students into schools in impoverished areas, and then after two years encouraging them to pursue careers in finance, law, and business in the hope that they will then advocate for educational equity really rubs me the wrong way.

Every child deserves the opportunity to excel, not just the kids from well-to-do backgrounds. No Child Left Behind, in which the administration attempted to close the gap between school’s successes failed, and much of that reason is because poor schools were not given the adequate resources to meet those standards that were expected of them. Teach for America is not the answer, and it’s time we move more towards a system that better recognizes  financial disparity rather than general requirements for students that are not starting out on the same level playing field as their peer.