Category Archives: Opinion

Lock ’em up!

I heard of another mom who found her kids, and some neighborhood kids, playing fake-karaoke with her Hitachi, singing into it like Mr. Microphone…

 

Dear Queen Latifah: Please Come Out

LatifahI don’t usually fall for feminine straight girls. But I’m making an exception for Queen Latifah.

Or am I?

The gorgeous, glowing Queen herself will debut a new daytime television talk show on Sept. 16. It’s almost worth getting Tivo just so I can come home to her every evening after work.

But the one thing Queen Latifah won’t dish about on her new show is her own personal life.

She has long been rumored to be a lesbian, in a relationship of many years with Jeanette Jenkins, with whom she bought a Hollywood Hills home in 2010 and has been photographed embracing. Jenkins is a Hollywood personal trainer with her own workout show on Lifetime Television.

“I don’t feel the need to discuss my private life on this show or any other show,” she recently told The Hollywood Reporter. “There’s the part of my life that the public and I share together. And there’s the part that’s mine to keep for myself. And that’s mine. For me.”

It’s too bad she won’t let the public see this vital part of herself. Daytime talk host Elle DeGeneres and wife Portia Di Rossi have been visible and vocal and it certainly hasn’t hurt their careers. However, Queen Latifah and (let’s just say it) Oprah Winfrey, continue to fiercely block any discussion of their sexuality. Their fear of public rejection seems to outweigh any interest in contributing their personal strength to the LGBT community.

Each of them has dropped hints in her own way. During a performance at the 2012 Long Beach Pride event, Queen Latifah addressed the crowd as “my people,” causing many in the audience to believe that she had come out, according to The Advocate magazine. Oprah hasn’t been quite as transparent, but nonetheless seems overly interested in lesbianism and camping with BFF Gayle King.

The Fine Line Between Fear and Desire

Fear&Desire2I’ve been thinking about race and gender a lot this week. It has been hard not to, with demonstrations protesting the Trayvon Martin decision, and sell-out screenings of Fruitvale Station, a movie about the local killing of another unarmed black man. Mid-week I came out of the 19th St. BART station to a near-empty downtown, helicopters circling overhead and favorite restaurants and bars sporting plywood windows. Telegraph looked like a smile with teeth missing.

I don’t know if any mother of a teenage boy — black, white, or any other race — can read about the Martin decision without thinking about her own son. I know I did. It was also hard not to think of the teenagers I encounter every day in Oakland, many of them dressed exactly like Trayvon, many of them with dark faces inside their hoodies, like Trayvon. It’s an urban uniform that cloaks the individuals within. Some of the teenagers I know are gone this summer. Their families have sent them to stay with friends or relatives in quieter locations rather than have them while away their summer at loose ends in Oakland. Who can blame them? The shooting death of an 8-year-old girl four days ago was the city’s 54th homicide this year.

This summer has found me commuting to San Francisco, a venture that has involved at least six kinds of public transportation, in varying combinations, sometimes all of them in a day. It’s a far cry from my usual schedule, where I work about 10 minutes from home. Continue reading

Fifty Years Later – A Different Feminine Mystique

Betty Friedan 2It was 50 years ago that Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique was published, changing the lives of women in the early 1960s, and – many would agree – forever.

Many feminist scholars date the beginning of second-wave feminism to the publication of her book.

So I was heartened to get an email from my alma mater saying two things that were immediately tied together for me: That the school has renovated its biology labs and has more students studying biology this year than ever, and that all incoming students this year will read The Feminine Mystique.

This points up that quality I really appreciate about single-sex education and being the graduate of a women’s college. I love knowing that an understanding of the vagaries and shifts of feminism won’t just belong to the students who take women’s studies classes, but to the future biologists and mathematicians, too.

Wait! Don’t Go Away!

CupcakeIn keeping with my gay and geeky theme, GeekPornGirl has become the homophonic LetsBeInappropriate/LesbianAppropriate.

The content is still the same. And, you can still find my original 756 posts. Only the look has changed. Continue reading

Thank you, Mr. Trudeau!

There are times when Doonesbury hits the mark like nothing else. Life sciences geeks and women everywhere are cheering!

You Don’t Own Me, GOP

Brief, Specific, and Sincere

I survived a femme crisis this weekend with a little help from my friends.

My love and I live a distance apart. Think counties, not states. We’re close enough to see each other several days a week, but far enough apart that we can’t run home to pick something up on a whim.

So Friday I showed up at her place toting all my usual stuff: My computer (duh!), my weekend bag, and a bag of shoes and boots.

What I forgot were my clothes, which I had very carefully hung near the door. I was facing down a busy Pride weekend with only the things I had stuffed in my bag – lovely red lingerie, a vintage black slip, stockings and garters, a tank top, and a cardigan – or had on my back. I had no dress, no skirt, no fetching tops.

To make matters worse, I had stopped for a hair appointment on my way to the Bay Area, and I was dressed in the most daytime basic – a t-shirt, ripped vintage Levis, red ballet flats, and my black leather motorcycle jacket.

When I arrived at my sweetheart’s, we had less than two hours to jump on BART and sign in for our volunteer shifts at a certain women’s party at a certain private location. Yikes.

Since my t-shirt was black and white striped, my girlfriend joked that we could add a beanie and red scarf and I could be Waldo for Pride weekend. Funny and not funny.

I finally cobbled together an outfit that was a little tougher than my usual evening wear, and definitely not what I had planned for our weekend kick-off – fishnet stockings under my torn jeans, my red bra under one of my butch sweetheart’s white ribbed under-tanks, and my jacket. (I was so happy I had a fresh haircut and pedicure and had not forgotten my makeup. These things go a long way toward making me feel pulled together every day.)

I was feeling awkward and I know exactly why. Lately, I’ve been suffering from a little femme invisibility. My professional life has necessitated growing my hair out a few inches. In my daily life, I feel like I just don’t look as queer. Plus, I’ve somehow become une lesbienne d’un certain age* (which sounds SO much nicer than “middle-aged dyke”).  Because of these factors, I look forward to queer events, where I feel much more attractive than I do in the world at large.

(Side note: I’m probably not alone in this. I suspect there are lots of queer women who, like me, felt uncomfortable, unattractive, and misplaced until they came out and found their place in the community of women.)

I wanted to look pretty and witty and gay, damn it.

But really, this isn’t an essay about my fashion travails. It’s about compliments and how thoughtful people can really make your day.

During my volunteer shift at the party, I was sitting at my station on a stool by the door, greeting people as they came in. A woman took a moment as she passed by to tell me that she thought my outfit was “perfect”. She said (something like), “you’ve hit just the right balance of sexiness there”. Awww. I felt better already.

But later that night, a young woman** rocked my weekend. My sweetheart and I were sitting on a couch, getting ready to face the cold winds on the way to BART. She approached us and said to me, “I just wanted to tell you that I think you’re really beautiful.” She delivered this in a way that was completely un-ironic. I said “thank you” and told her she was very sweet, but I was really too stunned to formulate a proper thanks.

The next day, when the three of us ran into each other again at the Dykes on Bikes party at El Rio, I explained about my missing clothes and how funky I had been feeling, and how she made my night. We introduced ourselves and ran into each other one more time, at the Dyke March, before the weekend was over.

I know I’m supposed to be able to move through the world without needing the feedback of other people to feel secure, happy, and attractive, but I’m not always completely at peace with myself. A heartfelt compliment is a mood-booster.

In my days as a department manager, I was told that any effective compliment should be brief, specific, and sincere. And I think that’s true in our non-work life, too. For most people, it feels uncomfortable to be gushed over, when a simple “that haircut is great on you,” sounds so real. Statements like “you rock,” “you go, girl,” and “you’re hot,” feel as ubiquitous as “wassup?”.

So when someone takes the time to approach and say something meaningful and nice, it’s special.

The best part of this sort of exchange is that it inevitably pays forward. On Saturday, we passed a young woman sitting on a curb in Dolores Park. She was wearing a long, vividly printed halter dress that looked absolutely amazing against her dark skin.

I stopped right there and told her so.

*une lesbienne d’un certain age: Probably too old to be a MILF, old enough to hunt younger cougars, and not old enough to star in granny porn.

** A special hug to Vanessa in case she reads this.

Please Stop Calling Us “Ladies”

It’s become ubiquitous.

Everywhere we go we hear, “Hello, ladies”. “Ladies, how can I help you?” “What will you ladies be having?” and “Thank you, ladies, please come again.”

There’s nothing grammatically wrong with these phrases, despite the superfluous “ladies” dumped into the beginning, middle, and end of them.

What’s wrong is that one of us – a lesbian couple – doesn’t identify as a “lady”.

Continue reading

Have a F*ck Valentine’s Day Party For Me

So, one year I wrote a “Fuck Valentine’s Day” post. Then I ended up having a Valentine’s Day lunch with a new friend. We were both careful to avoid acknowledging it was Valentine’s Day. Although we had just met, we were already in unspoken agreement that having a first date on Valentine’s Day was just too precious for either of us.

Ultimately, it made Valentine’s Day awkward, and it stayed that way for a couple of years until we split up.

Really, if there’s one piece of advice I could offer lovers everywhere, it would be to pick an anniversary date without any other emotional load. Don’t propose on Christmas, don’t spend your first wild night together on Thanksgiving, don’t have a first date at a Seder (why is this night different from all other nights?). Don’t get married on your dad’s birthday (okay, that was me, and the subject of another post), unless you want the potential of crappy holidays in the future. After all – paraphrasing the words of the sage Dan Savage) – “No relationships work until one does.”

Continue reading

Before the Internet: Dyke Anthem Redux

Last night I had a conversation with a friend about this whole lesbian anthem thing and she shared her point of view.

Although we’re almost the same age, we hail from different parts of the country. I’m from the west, she’s from the south. I came out later in life, after opposite marriage and a child. She’s known she was a lesbian forever.

Continue reading

The Kids Are All Right, But The Movie Sucks

At a screening, director Lisa Cholodenko kisses actress Julianne Moore with more passion than the lesbians in her movie ever display.

I had a busy summer getting ready for graduate school, and after the semester started in August, I didn’t have time to think.

That’s my excuse for not seeing Lisa Cholodenko’s film, The Kids are All Right, when it was in theaters. Continue reading

And Another Reason to Give Thanks for Dan Savage

In a recent interview with CNN, Dan Savage took the network to task for giving airspace (and by association, credibility) to hate-mongers such as Tony Perkins, the head of the anti-gay Family Research Council.

The interview ended right after Dan criticized CNN. Some have interpreted this as him being cut off by the network, although he says that wasn’t the case. You can read his blog post about the interview here.

I was happy to hear Dan criticizing the media for their role in perpetrating hate. He has had considerable media exposure for the It Gets Better Project, formed in response to a rash of gay teen suicides. In this recent blog post, I expressed my hope that he would use this platform to take the press to task.

At the Rally to Restore Sanity, Jon Stewart said it best:

“The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems and illuminate problems heretofore unseen, or it can use its magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous-flaming-ant epidemic.”

Unfortunately, right now, gays and lesbians are flaming ants. The press gives a amplified voice to bigots and haters and then put stories about our community’s miseries at the top of the news hour and on the front page.

Call them on it, Dan.

(Dan Savage will be interviewed about the It Gets Better Project on Monday’s Colbert Report.)

Give Thanks to “It Gets Better” and Pixar, Too

My Thanksgiving started early when I listened to this week’s Savage Love podcast.

Dan Savage reported that the It Gets Better Project, which moved off YouTube to its own website, now has 6,000 video contributions which have been viewed an amazing 20 million times. According to Dan, everyone from “the president… to Buck Angel… to drag queens and lesbian dairy farmers in Vermont” have contributed.

The latest touching contribution is from the kind, caring, and creative folks at Pixar:

Visit the It Gets Better Project website and watch some of the videos. Then consider making a donation in the spirit of the holiday. Donations are directed to the Trevor Project and/or GLSEN, two organization working to make the world a better place for queer kids. After all, if just one kid didn’t die as a result of this project, that’s something for which to give thanks.

Note: Check out this blog post about the making of the Pixar video by Pixar staffer and video participant Kate Ranson-Walsh.

Did Basketball Make You a Lesbian?

There used to be a billboard in my county, sponsored by a helpful non-profit organization that was working to prevent teen pregnancy. In big letters, it said: “Nine out of 10 girls who play high school sports will never experience a teen pregnancy”.

That may well be true, but the billboard was located on a road many of us took to get to the local dyke bar, so it became the source of jokes, and more than once its catch phrase was used as a drinking toast.

Now, according to a post on AfterEllen.com (written by Twitter buddy @thelinster), a Kentucky man claims to have pinpointed basketball as the cause of lesbianism.  Jaye Collins, the coach of the Louisville Legends, says on his website that he is “encouraging young girls to be proud and secure in not being part of the lesbian and homosexual lifestyle which is so prevalent in woman’s/girl’s athletics”.

It apparently hasn’t occurred to Mr. Collins that some young lesbians may self-select just by trying out for the team. Many young women are drawn to sports because teams provide a safe place, away from the awkward frenzy of boy-girl interactions, and they may seek this environment before they’re fully aware of their sexual orientation. Lesbians aren’t “converted,” as Mr. Collins alleges, but they eventually find each other – on the court or off – when their sexuality awakens.

Collin’s coaching approach is far from supportive for his closeted or budding lesbian players, and he is actually encouraging prejudice and homophobia. (Read the full story here.)

I don’t have the “ball gene,” as my girlfriend calls it. I was a hapless, hopeless girls softball player who can attest that the grass grows lusher in right field. And I’m still queer. Of course, I like to watch women’s basketball. But, if liking to watch could make a person gay, a whole lot of straight men would be converted to lesbians (or pro ball players). Or so I’ve heard.

(Read G.’s essay on Can I Help You, Sir?, for the perspective of someone who, unlike me, actually played ball.)

Enjoy some lesbian basketball comedy relief with the now-legendary L Word basketball scene in which Helena proves herself to be crispy with the rock. (Some language is not safe for work.)

Soundtrack for My iPhone Love

Yep. My love affair with my iPhone continues.

Even my hard-convert PC-using sweetheart drank the Kool-Aid last weekend. She’s had an iPhone 3GS for more than a year, but its functioning has been spotty. It kept turning itself off with ever-increasing frequency. She was frustrated and making android noises. I finally convinced her to tell her story to the folks at the Apple Store and guess what? Apple replaced her phone even though it was 120 days past warranty.

They were friendly and sweet and quick about it, too. In fact, they were so nice, I actually got choked up for both of us and cried real tears. But then, I’ve had a love affair with Apple products since 1984, when Steve Jobs stood by the first Mac. (Admittedly, this video makes me tear up, too.):

Now, let’s all celebrate how far we’ve come with some music:

What Do Mormons and Gays Have in Common?

After the Mormon Church-funded debacle that started California’s continuing Prop. 8 battle, you’d think that the Mormon and gay communities would have nothing in common except a passion for unusual underwear.

However, it turns out that neither Mormons nor gays can lead a Boy Scout troop.

In the ironic cycle of hate, a straight, married Mormon couple in North Carolina has been told they can’t be Cub Scout leaders.

According to NPR, a Presbyterian church was happy to have Jeremy and Jodi Stokes as Cub Scout leaders until officials there found out they are Mormons. They were told they would have to step down because the church does not consider them “real Christians”. (Mormons consider themselves to be Christians.)

The Boy Scouts of America requires its members to swear an oath of duty to God.

Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, NC, about 10 miles from Charlotte, has about 2,350 members according to its website. It is part of the Presbyterian Church in America, a conservative Evangelical denomination. Evangelicals have consistently criticized the LDS church.

The LDS Church has consistently criticized gays, among other minority groups.

The Boy Scouts of America has legally discriminated against gays for a decade. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the BSA has a constitutional right to exclude openly gay men from serving as troop leaders.

See how this big jamboree of hate works?

The Boy Scouts discriminate against gays and Mormons.

The Mormons discriminate against gays.

But Mormons and grown-up Boy Scouts are all welcomed into the gay community with open arms.

So, tell me. Who’s looking most Christian now?

There is a great movie about one young man’s battle against discrimination in the Boy Scouts called Scout’s Honor. You really should see it.

Yes to FCKH8! (NSFW)

Thanks to Dan Savage at the Savage Love blog for sharing this with me. Now I’m sharing this with my five (plus) friends. F-bombs abound… (Don’t waste a moment! Go straight to the website & buy the shirt here.)

Responding to Suicides, GroundSpark Shares Films

GroundSpark is a non-profit filmmaking company that makes educational documentaries. Headed by filmmaker Debra Chasnoff, GroundSpark produced the groundbreaking 1999 film It’s Elementary, and the sequel It’s Still Elementary, re-interviewing the original participants. Last year it released the powerful, Straightlaced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, a film aimed at showing kids in grades 9 through 12 how homophobia, stereotypes, and bullying hurt everyone, including straight kids. (You can read my post about the film here.)

In response to the recent rash of suicides by gay teens, GroundSpark is making many of their films available for free, by streaming online. This is the perfect opportunity for teachers and parents to pop some popcorn and talk about really important stuff with the kids they care about.

Click on the video to see a trailer and read the message at GroundSpark.org. While you’re there, consider donating. They do great work filling a significant education gap.

Steal This Letter and Pass It On, Please

Today I was moved to write my first-ever letter to Dan Savage. However, you should feel free to copy it, edit it, and send it to any media outlet you’d like.

Dan,

I’m a huge admirer of your work. I’ve read several of your books, and am a faithful follower of your podcast. If I were 30 years younger, I would be aspiring to be one of the Tech-Savvy At-Risk Youth. I’m a lesbian and the mother of a 14-year-old boy. And, while I’m currently back in school, making a mid-life career change to teaching, I originally trained as a journalist and worked in the field at the beginning of my career, in both television and print.

I know I’m preaching to the big gay choir in writing this to you, but you have a platform to be heard by people outside of our community.

Following the youth suicide rash of the past few weeks, and the media attention these deaths have garnered, it has become more clear than ever that violence against the LGBT community is being institutionally perpetrated by the news media, in ways that would be less likely to happen to another minority group.

While the fourth estate likes to claim fair and balanced reporting as a tenet, in matters of race and other discrimination, this just isn’t true. There is no editorial board of a major media outlet that would hide behind the idea of “balance” to give airtime to a bigot spewing hatred about blacks or Jews. For example, if a cross is burned on the lawn of a black Baptist church, media outlets don’t provide “experts” to speak to their perception of the societal unworthiness of all black Americans.

Why not?

Because editors understand that to do so would be perpetrating hatred and, potentially, violence against people of color. Any self-respecting journalist would tell you this.

Yet, this happens daily with issues affecting gays and lesbians. Any discussion of marriage equality or DADT is followed by the “balancing” opinion of someone delivering thinly disguised (or often raw) hate.

These horrific teen suicides are not the result of teen bullying. They are the result of institutionalized and sanctioned hatred.

As long as hateful opponents of LGBT equality are given print and air-time to vent their religious, cultural, or personally paranoid beliefs about us, violence – in the form of attacks and suicide – will continue.

Yes, I believe in fair reporting, but I also believe that media outlets should stop shaking their bobble-heads sadly and clicking their tongues at this rash of deaths. They need to take ownership of their part in these tragedies. Editorial boards across this country need to understand that the blood of many people is on their hands, as long as they continue to hold the LGBT community up as targets of hatred.

Call them on it, Dan. Every time one of these media outlets interviews you, remind them that they are helping to harm our community in very real ways.

Thanks,

S.