Bill Hader’s Stefon Celebrates Mother’s Day

[The Stefon Catalogue: 1-45-6, 7]

Okay, so first I assumed Stefon was gay. Then I backtracked and allowed for a bit more ambiguity about his sexuality, admitting that it wasn’t clear and didn’t define him. Can we at least now admit that he’s got a serious thing for Seth? It’s clear he almost already thinks they’re dating… and he wants to change his diapers. Or maybe the fact that he’s promoting bi-curious beach parties should be a clue! Not that it matters.

I recently attended a Stefon-themed party. Only a few people took the theme to heart, but there was a DJ Baby Bok Choy and a Jewpid in attendance. I hope the creative nonsense just keeps coming. Here’s what Stefon offered up for Mother’s Day!

Seventh Appearance – May 7, 2011

First club: Uuuuuuungh!

» Located in the middle of the West Side highway.
» Bi-curious beach party.
» (Italian) Club owner: Bologna Danza
» Split kicks.
» Pachucos.
» Pile after pile of expired Lunchables.
» Hawaiian cleaning lady that looks like Smokey Robinson.
» Natalie Portman? No. An old Irish black man that we call “Murphy Brown.”
» This Sunday: 2-year-old ultimate fighter “Drooly Lips Jackson.” He’s got fists like little empanadas. And he’s my best friend.

Second club: Spicy! (said in a strange voice)

» Opened in 2017.
» Upper east side of a dumpster.
» 24-hour bitch fest.
» Club owner: Rabbi Jew Diamond Phillips.
» Sandworms.
» Geishas.
» Rock eaters.
» A 7-level course in adult education.
» Kick back in a subway sleeping bag. (“When you’re on the train and you sit between two guys in FUBU jackets.”)

Stefon’s mom is Ms. Stefon and his dad is David Bowie.

How to say thank-you to your mom:

» Take her to central park and bond while flying a human kite. (“Where you tie a string to a midget in a windbreaker and then run through a field.”)

Seth’s Assessment: “Even though you didn’t help tonight at all, no young party monster should be alone on Mother’s Day. So why don’t you come home with me and meet my mom.”



Target, Chick-Fil-A, and Our Reluctance To Sacrifice

The retort is: “Yeah, well maybe I’m afraid of being seen as a Target shopper.”

Believe it or not, the American Family Association is (I think—who can tell?) still boycotting Pepsi and Home Depot, and probably a few other companies who have done anything pro-LGBT. I guess that demonstrates that the AFA is all bark, no bite.

But part of the power of a boycott is its visibility. It’s not always just enough to not shop at a certain store or not buy a certain product. For example, I don’t buy peanut butter or eat at Long John Silver’s, but not because I’m boycotting either.

I actually have been boycotting Target, though. And I’ll be honest, I haven’t been the best at it. Sure, I’ve not purchased anything at Target in a good 10 months, but I haven’t been vocal about it, and I certainly haven’t stood in front of Target protesting or written letters to the editor or done any of the things effective boycotters should do. For me, it’s just been a matter of personal principle.

There are a lot of folks in the LGBT community who shrug their shoulders at boycotting Target, and I can appreciate their reluctance. I used to think Target (tar-zhay) was the gay store. It was the anti-Wal-Mart and anybody who was anybody had one of those chic medusa lamps in their dorm room. And Target has long been lauded by HRC as being pro-LGBT. Target’s donations last summer challenged that image, and just because we can understand why Target would support a pro-business PAC doesn’t forgive them for supporting an anti-gay PAC, nor for continuing to support anti-gay candidates since that debacle. Lady Gaga’s calling off of her deal with Target should’ve suggested we haven’t seen the last of the store’s anti-gay antics.

The same goes with Chick-Fil-A. A lot of people really like Chick-Fil-A and don’t want to stop enjoying their tasty chicken. I am fortunate, I suppose, that thanks to geography I’ve never really had Chick-Fil-A. (Ironically, the one time I’ve ever had it was on the campus of a university who ended up not hiring me as a social justice educator because they weren’t “ready” for someone so outspoken about LGBT issues; unsurprisingly, that campus has not had much debate about the presence of a Chick-Fil-A in its campus center.) But plenty of folks will continue to eat there, regardless of how anti-LGBT the company might be. After all, it’s just chicken, right?

But this week, we learned a little bit more about both of these companies and just how anti-LGBT (and duplicitously so) they really are. In the case of Chick-Fil-A, Equality Matters uncovered that Chick-Fil-A is a WHOLE lot more anti-LGBT than we already knew them to be… to the tune of $1.1 million. And that’s money not just going to pro-business right-wing PACs; it’s going directly into the hands of “pro-family” groups who spread lies about LGBT people, defend Christian bullies, and promote harmful ex-gay therapies.

In the case of Target, we learned this week of their lawsuit against Canvass for a Cause, and as I wrote about over on The Wonk Room, they seem to be targeting this group exclusively because of its support of same-sex marriage. While the complaint speaks of CFAC’s harassment of customers, the trial saw no first-hand testimony confirming these allegations. But Target’s own filed complaint (PDF), corroborated by its employee’s testimony, confirms that Target is concerned customers will “never shop at Target again,” “ensure their friends and family do not shop at Target,” and “return everything they bought at Target” because they “believe Target promotes the same sensitive political message” as CFAC.

And while CFAC promotes a number of issues, that particular “sensitive” message is support of gay marriage marriage equality; it’s the only issue mentioned in the whole case from the documents I’ve seen, and they mention it a lot. Daniel Brown, the employee who provides the only testimony hearsay (PDF) about the complaints, said that some customers were “offended” and that “many mothers with children have complained about the sensitive nature” of the messaging.

For decades, the LGBT community has been fighting the meme that queer people are dangerous to children—that we’re going to molest them, recruit them, and teach them all about anal sex while they’re in Kindergarten. And here is a supposed “friend” using that same old stereotype to defend itself in a gratuitous lawsuit against a grassroots group being defended by a volunteer lawyer.

Target doesn’t want to be known as supporting marriage equality because gays are dangerous to children. That’s the takeaway. It’s in the public record.

So the decision comes back to the LGBT community. Do we still patronize these companies—companies that actively demonize us and work against our equality? While my personal answer will continue to be No, I think the larger community needs to have a serious conversation about it.

If the recent poll on marriage equality tells us anything, it’s that we have more allies than ever. If we really wanted to mobilize a huge block of people to support us, I’m betting that we could. The problem, I think, is that we’re too comfortable. We like shopping at Target and eating at Chick-Fil-A and we don’t see their actions as that big of a deal—at least not big enough to change our habits. We want equality, but it almost seems as if many of us would rather wait than make any sacrificial efforts in the meantime.

Maybe AFA is the lesson for us. Maybe boycotts don’t work in 2011, or don’t catch on, or aren’t worth it. Maybe bad press is enough to get the job done, along with a certain quota of negative tweets. Or maybe we’re desensitized to our inequality; we’re willing to tolerate it, such that  it takes something as big and visible as Prop 8 or DADT to really get us off our asses.

But gosh, I’d love to see us try. I’d love to see pickets in front of Targets and Chick-Fil-As (Chicks-Fil-A?). I’d love to see all the big orgs really visibly condemning the corporations and every single blogger actively promoting the boycott. I don’t think we’ve tried it on the national stage, at least not anytime recently. And certainly we saw a lot of success—or at least visibility—from the boycotts of Prop 8 supporters like the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. So the only thing stopping us is ourselves.

At the end of it all, when we finally get all the equality we deserve in this country, I hope we don’t look back and say, “We could’ve gotten it a lot sooner if we’d just acted more like we wanted it.”



Being The Kind of Blogger One Wants To Be

It is SO weird to think that 26 months ago I started this blog just as a hobby, a little place to synthesize some things that were on my mind and hopefully create some discussion. I never really thought it would become a prominent part of my life and identity, and it seems that now it is very much the defining aspect of who I am.

I spent this weekend in San Francisco communing with 40+ other LGBT bloggers and publishers, as you can see in the photo above. As I felt at Netroots Nation last year, I still had moments where I looked around and still couldn’t believe where I was and with whom I was working. I hope this doesn’t come off as false modesty, but there’s still something crazy about seeing your tweets be retweeted by bloggers that you have always looked to as role models or by mainstream LGBT publishers. I’m still not sure how I got here.

Add to that the fact that after I return east from San Francisco tonight, I will be packing up to move to DC this week to start my full-time job as an LGBT blogger. It’s now going to be my occupation—my primary purpose in life—what I stake my reputation on. It just blows my mind.

And I guess what I want to say is… Go for it. I’m not where I am because there’s anything special about me. I’m not being handed anything on a silver platter. While I’ve certainly been mentored, I don’t think I’ve gotten any special advantages as a result of connections that I’ve made. I just committed myself to my writing and to making the difference I want to make.

Commitment, passion, integrity. That’s what it takes.

The unfortunate truth is that there are a lot of folks out there who think it’s all about just drawing attention to themselves. They provoke just to provoke and complain just to complain. They don’t write their blogs or tweet their tweets for anybody but themselves. They think if they can cause a stink that they mean something and that they’re worth listening to.

They aren’t.

The power of the blogosphere is the passion of individuals to communicate ideas for the benefit of others. We can work together to amplify important messages (like the topics of youth suicide we discussed this weekend in San Francisco) to affect the ideas discussed by society when the mainstream media doesn’t. We can challenge each other and engage with each other, but we also trust and respect each other because we have common goals. None of us live luxuriously off our efforts; it is the difference we can make that propels us.

This weekend, as many of us were connecting and sharing important knowledge with each other, some antagonists posing as “gay activists” tried to interrupt our efforts. Motivated only by their own egos, they attempted to hijack our twitter stream and paint us as a group of uber-privileged brats who want for nothing and are secretly out to destroy the LGBT movement. They attacked us, insulted us, smeared us, bullied us, and victimized themselves despite clearly having no understanding of who many of us are, what we write about, or what the purpose of this meet-up was. They also wanted it to sound like this was some secret exclusive meeting, despite the fact we livetweeted the entire event. It couldn’t have been more transparent.

These individuals have no credibility as advocates, activists, or even as writers, but they feel because they have a platform on the internet that their point of view is valid. It is clear when the only effective way to engage with such individuals is to ignore them that they do not have substantive or meaningful contributions to make towards our supposedly common goals.

It is this selfishly motivated approach to blogging that gets folks nowhere. They do not get respect; their ideas do not get traction. They are not worth a single retort because the attention of such a retort is all they care about.

The blogosphere is a community, and the more that we can work together, the better. To those whose approach is to attack, belittle, and (self-)ostracize, there is no reason to invite them to further engage. It is those who aspire to educate and inform and create a more inclusive society who must be highlighted and promoted.

I continue to be honored that I have been welcomed and promoted in this way in the blogosphere. I admire the brilliant minds that I now get to interact with on a daily basis and look forward to all the opportunities yet ahead to work with them to make society a better place for LGBT people. And to all our detractors; keep trying. I’d rather you waste your time as our petulant trolls than bother other people with your nonsense.



OK, let’s love the dead, but much more the living

[Glen Retief teaches creative nonfiction at Susquehanna University.  His memoir, The Jack Bank, appears in April from St. Martin’s Press.  www.glenretief.com]

We teach our children: speak no ill of the dead. At a funeral, say nice things about the corpse in the coffin. She can’t answer accusations anymore.

St. Sebastian

If this is true of dead people in general, even more so when the dead person in question is a mere kid, a “laaitie” as we say in my native South Africa. (I immigrated to the United States about sixteen years ago—more about that in a minute). When that child has been bullied and brutalized, we’re tempted to raise them to sainthood. So St. Sebastian, with arrows sticking out of his body, looking to heaven in wounded ecstasy. Also, college boy Tyler Clementi, who got taped making out with a man in his Rutgers dorm room, and then jumped off the George Washington Bridge. Or, closer to my central Pennsylvania home, Brandon Bitner, who got fed up with being gay-bashed at Middleburg High School, and stepped in front of a speeding truck.

As Zack Ford said in this blog three months ago: “We owe [Brandon] that love now, more than ever.” In my home town, people compete for stories of how they are connected to him. My cousin’s husband was the driver of the truck—those kinds of tales. Brandon’s memorial page is understandably full of longing and regret. An acrostic poem states: “An angel you are to us now.”

I don’t mean to spoil the party, but I just can’t do go along with all this anymore. I’ve had enough. It’s certainly not that I hate Brandon, Tyler, Justin Aeburg, Asher Brown, and all of the other depressed queer teenagers who’ve taken their lives over the past year or so. A gay man myself, I value their difference. Is it even necessary to say I strongly condemn their harassment and abuse?

Nor am I blaming these kids for their own deaths in that sadistic US marine sergeant kind of way: “Friggin’ sissy! Toughen up!” They had enough of that crap while alive.

What I am tired of is feeling I’m supposed to fetishize these boys’ victimhood, kiss their broken bones like George of Diocletian’s, adore them ten times the more now they are dead than I would have done if they’d carried on to live happy, fulfilled, grown-up gay lives. More than if they’d survived.

I experienced my own homophobic hell growing up white and gay in apartheid South Africa, an experience I describe in my forthcoming memoir, The Jack Bank. I spent my early years in the Kruger National Park, where a lioness charged my mother and a buffalo killed a housekeeper who crossed a dry river bed in the wrong spot. But what I experienced at age 12, when I was sent away to a whites-only, government boarding school, made these early brushes with danger seem simple.

A seventeen-year-old prefect figured out I was gay when he caught me “looking at him funny” in the shower room. He beat me, sometimes several times a week, on my buttocks with a cricket bat. We called them “jacks,” in South Africa—thrashings—and senior boys were unofficially allowed to administer them to juniors.

He built an electric shock machine with a hand telephone crank and shocked boys’ genitalia. When he suspected another kid of informing on him to his parents, he staged a mock nude hanging in the senior boys’ bathroom. All the time he told us—me in particular—he wanted to beat the “queer” and “sissy” out of us. He said we needed to fight a race war, and this meant we should get some backbone.

One night, just before he got transferred out of the junior dormitory for being too brutal even for apartheid norms, he invented something called the “jack bank,” where we could deposit beatings and they could earn interest. We volunteered for these beatings. We begged him, “Please, sir! More!” When he got transferred out of our passage, the thing that most infuriated us was that we lost our deposits.

We sweltered, for years, in fear and dehumanization, a program designed specifically to prepare us for the role of racist oppressors. At times I felt like Brandon—suicidal. At other times we took out our hurt and anger by beating those younger than us. Some of my most nauseating memories of high school are of pushing younger boys’ heads in a wooden mailbox, beating them as hard as I could with a cricket bat, and then feeling a great deal of power and self-satisfaction when I got them to fear and obey me. Until the self-disgust later drove me to vomit over the toilet.

But I got through these trials, as did hundreds of thousands of other gay white boys under apartheid, not to mention the millions of young black South Africans whose suffering greatly exceeded ours.

The world knows the end of this story. Nelson Mandela, walking free in front of the television cameras. Corporal punishment being banned in South African schools. The adoption of one of the world’s most progressive constitutions, which also bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation—a clause I helped lobby for, and celebrated ecstatically when it was passed into law.

I’m trying not to be self-righteous here. Lord knows (metaphorically speaking, on this atheist blog!), I have no reason to be. See a couple of paragraphs above.

But still, part of me is angry at Brandon, Tyler and co. for caving in. For giving the haters what they wanted—a few less gay people in the people. For not keeping going long enough to show the world they could leave adolescence behind and be peaceful and happy queers.

Any depressed gay teenager out there today could look at the reaction to these kids’ deaths and think, “If I want everyone to love me, I should just kill myself!”

But this is wrong. We can survive, hard as it is. We can find joy and peace; can learn to be kind to each other. We can mourn people like Brandon and Tyler, without romanticizing their martyrdom. We can protest bullying. And that way we can, at least at moments, be real angels for our fellow human beings, as opposed to vanished saints.

THAT’s love worth giving, day after day, for as long as it’s needed.



Do DOMA Reactions Reveal Challenges of Tentative Progress?

So, President Obama comes out last week and says the DOJ will no longer defend DOMA in court (as so many of us have been asking him to do for two years) and the right wing goes CRAZY.

Possible presidential candidate Herman Cain called it a “breach of presidential duty bordering on treason.”

Newt Gingrich has called for Obama to be impeached.

Speaker Boehner expects the House GOPers will step in to defend it.

And plenty of folks all over the right are lying that the President is no longer enforcing DOMA, which he quite notably is.

All of this got me thinking about the very gradual approach—the long haul—toward LGBT equality. In the scheme of the movement, this DOMA decision was not that big. It was two years overdue. It doesn’t undo the damage done by the anti-LGBT DOMA briefs. It doesn’t even necessarily expedite federal recognition of same-sex couples.

If anything, the call for heightened scrutiny is a much bigger deal, but no one’s talking about that.

But this one little decision has spurred a deluge from the right. Treason? Impeachment? Loss of all credibility? All the big guns for just this one little policy change.

Where are our big guns? Continue reading “Do DOMA Reactions Reveal Challenges of Tentative Progress?” »



Two LGBT Short Films You Should Watch Today

Hey world out there!

I’m a little under the weather today, so if you’re looking for some content to absorb, you should watch the following two short films. The first is sweet and the second funny. Then, if you still need more content to absorb, go catch up on Queer and Queerer!

One on One:

Y2GAY:



Creating an Atheist-Inclusive Creating Change and LGBT Movement

[It might be helpful to read some previous posts that set the context for this one. Last year, I wrote about how religious I felt Creating Change to be. In November, I built upon that post, arguing that nonbelievers have become a marginalized community within the LGBT movement. And then, before attending this year’s Creating Change, I noted how prevalent religious themes would again be and the fact that the atheist caucus I’d proposed would be the only space that affirmed nonbelievers.]

The opening plenary of Creating Change 2011 bridged the main conference with its subconference, Practice Spirit, Do Justice. Entitled “Hard work for our common good,” the panel featured four religious leaders with prepared statements: Bishop Yvette Flunder (City of Refuge/UCC), Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson (MCC), Rabbi Joshua Lesser, and Faisal Alam, a Muslim leader.

And while I was prepared for many faith-centric messages, I was not prepared for how erased and marginalized I would feel on the very first day of the conference. Most of the 25 who joined the atheist caucus the following evening expressed similar concerns, as did many CC veterans who could not attend but followed along on Twitter.

As an obvious start, the opening panel did not feature a Humanist, Unitarian, or nonbeliever who could speak for the experiences of those who do not identify with faith. Arguably, plenty of other worldviews also went unrepresented as well. But the language that was used, particularly by Rev. Wilson and Bishop Flunder, not so subtly erased nonbelievers from the LGBT community and movement. And while atheists and agnostics were acknowledged a time or two, we were not represented nor affirmed by the supposedly interfaith panel. Continue reading “Creating an Atheist-Inclusive Creating Change and LGBT Movement” »



Bill Hader’s Hilarious Stefon Returns to SNL

[The Stefon Catalog: 1-4, 5-6, 7]

I wrote back in December about Stefon, the eccentric club promoter played by Bill Hader who appears on SNL’s Weekend Update from time to time. I want to continue cataloging his interesting ideas, but first want to offer a correction of sorts.

I’ve referred to Stefon as gay before, and I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate. I think part of his eccentricity does play into gay stereotype, but his actual orientation seems to be a bit more ambiguous than that. In his Christmas appearance, he tells Snooki he has a girlfriend, and in last night’s Valentine’s appearance, he alluded to having dated girls before. Of course, he also hit on Seth (You should probably break up with her and do like a total 180 or something.). At any rate, his orientation has more of a Pat-like ambiguity (bi? pan? who knows?), so my apologies for playing into the assumption that he’s just gay.

It also seems to me that the SNL writers know I’m out here trying to interpret everything Stefon says. In last night’s sketch, they spell out one of the club names just before offering an unspellable club name. So to all you SNL writers: it’s not fair to tease when everything else you write is so unfunny.

Fifth Appearance – December 18, 2010 (Christmas Song)

In this unique appearance, Stefon sings “O Christmas Tree” with Gov. Patterson and Snooki. Here are the Stefon treasures we get:

» Brrrr….
» To Snooki: “This is fun, drunk leopard.”
» ????: “When jacked elves have like the pony keg chest and they bang their little baby hammer, sparks happen, and it’s just amazing…”
» In response to Snooki’s offer to smush: “I have a girlfriend. Sorry.”

Sixth Appearance – February 12, 2011

First club: Booooooooof

» Located in an abandoned orphanage on the lower lower East side of Chelsea.
» Round-the-clock puke party.
» Narcoleptic club owner: Snoozin’ Lucci.
» Pugs.
» Geezers.
» Doo-wop groups.
» A wise old turtle that looks like Quincy Jones.
» Gizblo, the coked-up Gremlin. “I’ll have what she’s having!”

Second club: HuYiKoSiYoVoHo!!

» Built on a dare.
» Club promoter: 90-year-old Fuji Howser, MD.
» Stun guns.
» Mole people.
» Freezing cold air.
» 12 dancing Jewpids (Jewish Cupids). “I just want you to meet someone nice and settle down!”

Romantic Valentine’s Day Gift:

» Human suitcase. (“When a midget on roller skates wears all of your clothes and then you pull them through an airport.”)

Seth’s Assessment: “Maybe just for tonight, and just for tonight, you can be my Valentine. I guess I got struck by Jewpid’s Arrow.”



“Born This Way” Makes It Better… But For Whom?

[Shannon Cuttle is an educator, school administrator, safe schools advocate and trainer, community organizer, and policy wonk.]

So today is a big day for little “Monsters” everywhere (otherwise known as Lady Gaga fans).

If you have not already noticed by now in your news, Twitter, Facebook, and other feeds, Lady Gaga has dropped her highly anticipated new single called “Born This Way” today from her upcoming new album (available in May). Hype of the song release has been everywhere for weeks building up in anticipation for today.

Lady Gaga, who has been viewed as a vocal LGBT supporter, said in her recent VOGUE interview that, “I wrote [“Born This Way”] in ten fucking minutes, and it is a completely magical message song. And after I wrote it, the gates just opened, and the songs kept coming. It was like an immaculate conception.”

Having admitted this past October that she was bullied in school as a youth, she is now selling and marketing her new single about bullying to the LGBT community as an “anthem” and a “timely piece”.

But, an anthem and timely piece for whom?

Lady Gaga has signed an exclusive deal with Target for pre-order sales of her new album that also features an extended album with additional tracks only available at Target, with free download of the much-hyped song “Born This Way” as purchase incentive.

As you may recall, this past summer Target was caught donating funds to anti-LGBT candidates and the LGBT community responded with a boycott of the retailer that is still largely in effect.

Lady Gaga, who last year made headlines at the MTV video music awards by speaking out for the repeal of Dont Ask Dont Tell, is now in an exclusive contract with Target, who has made anti-LGBT contributions?

Forbes has estimated that Lady Gaga, with a new album, tour, and marketing in 2011, could make as much as an estimated $100 million dollars. An estimated $30 million is expected to come in just from potential sales of “Born This Way.” In 2010, she was ranked as the seventh highest grossing artist just behind Jay-Z.

Is it all about the Benjamins?

Lady Gaga stands to make herself the top grossing musician this year with her anti-bullying anthem benefiting in the wake of the recent tragedies this past Fall.

The LGBT community should also have concerns about her use of “transgendered,” a grammatically incorrect form of the word “transgender” that is often used by opponents of equality to conditionalize transgender identities.

Similarly, Hispanic and Latino groups are also criticizing Lady Gaga‘s use of the terms “chola” and “orient.”

Organizations like Chicanos Unidos Arizona and MEChA do not like Lady Gaga’s use of the words ‘Chola’ and ‘Orient’ in her lyrics, viewing both as being racist and derogatory.

The word chola according to the critics refers to Latina girls in gangs, Latinas from the barrio who have a certain look about them and conjure very negative stereotypes.  Lady Gaga use of this term in the song is sure to promote already negative Hispanic stereotypes, according to these organizations.

Is she making it better?

The selling and marketing around bullying is a hot topic these days, with promotions and products that are aimed at the LGBT community and other marginalized groups. Using tragedy for profit instead of awareness is not the way to remember those who have been lost or who are still struggling with bullying and harassment.

If Lady Gaga wanted to make a song to empower the LGBT community and youth everywhere, why is she marketing the theme of bullying to sell units to her masses? Why not make “Born This Way” a FREE download or donate the sales of the song to inclusive organizations or charites that work to assist youth?

Instead, Lady Gaga seems to be only making it better for herself in a most timely—or rather untimely—of fashions.

Take a listen and make your own decision:

BORN THIS WAY
Written by: Lady Gaga

INTRO:
It doesn’t matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M
Just put your paws up
’cause you were Born This Way, Baby

VERSE:
MY MAMA TOLD ME WHEN I WAS YOUNG
WE ARE ALL BORN SUPERSTARS

SHE ROLLED MY HAIR AND PUT MY LIPSTICK ON
IN THE GLASS OF HER BOUDOIR

“THERE’S NOTHIN WRONG WITH LOVIN WHO YOU ARE”
SHE SAID, “‘CAUSE HE MADE YOU PERFECT, BABE”

“SO HOLD YOUR HEAD UP GIRL AND YOU’LL GO FAR,
LISTEN TO ME WHEN I SAY”

CHORUS:
I’M BEAUTIFUL IN MY WAY
‘CAUSE GOD MAKES NO MISTAKES
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY

DON’T HIDE YOURSELF IN REGRET
JUST LOVE YOURSELF AND YOU’RE SET
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY

POST-CHORUS:
OOO THERE AIN’T NO OTHER WAY
BABY I WAS BORN THIS WAY
BABY I WAS BORN THIS WAY
OOO THERE AIN’T NO OTHER WAY
BABY I WAS BORN-
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY

DON’T BE A DRAG -JUST BE A QUEEN
DON’T BE A DRAG -JUST BE A QUEEN
DON’T BE A DRAG -JUST BE A QUEEN
DON’T BE!

VERSE:
GIVE YOURSELF PRUDENCE
AND LOVE YOUR FRIENDS
SUBWAY KID, REJOICE YOUR TRUTH

IN THE RELIGION OF THE INSECURE
I MUST BE MYSELF, RESPECT MY YOUTH

A DIFFERENT LOVER IS NOT A SIN
BELIEVE CAPITAL H-I-M (HEY HEY HEY)
I LOVE MY LIFE I LOVE THIS RECORD AND
MI AMORE VOLE FE YAH (LOVE NEEDS FAITH)

REPEAT CHORUS + POST-CHORUS

BRIDGE:

DON’T BE A DRAG, JUST BE A QUEEN
WHETHER YOU’RE BROKE OR EVERGREEN
YOU’RE BLACK, WHITE, BEIGE, CHOLA DESCENT
YOU’RE LEBANESE, YOU’RE ORIENT
WHETHER LIFE’S DISABILITIES
LEFT YOU OUTCAST, BULLIED, OR TEASED
REJOICE AND LOVE YOURSELF TODAY
‘CAUSE BABY YOU WERE BORN THIS WAY

NO MATTER GAY, STRAIGHT, OR BI,
LESBIAN, TRANSGENDERED LIFE
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN TO SURVIVE
NO MATTER BLACK, WHITE OR BEIGE
CHOLA OR ORIENT MADE
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN TO BE BRAVE

REPEAT CHORUS

OUTRO/REFRAIN:

I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!
I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!

I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!
I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!



Sexual Liberation, Desire, and Queer Equality

Note: I’m going to at least allude to aspects of sex and my own sexuality in this post, so if you’re the kind of person who might judge me for that, please do us both a favor and skip this post.

Creating Change offers a huge variety of workshops, academies, and day-long institutes to choose from, which is one of the many reasons it continues to be a rich experience every year. This year, I decided to take a risk by committing to a day-long institute that would be a personal learning opportunity as opposed to just a professional skill-building one.

Geographies of Sex: Mapping our Desire: An Institute for Sexual Liberation

Any time a title has two colons in it, you know it will be intense, and it was, but in really poignant ways.

The goal of the institute was “discovering and reclaiming pivotal experiences that have forged our sexual paths” so that we can map our desire and “move toward a more vibrant, empowered daily expression of our sexualities.” So yes, that meant lots of people talking about their sex lives, and then each of us taking time to reflect on our own sex lives and examine them for themes and understandings of how we think about sex today and make decisions about how to move forward. But no, I’m not going to blog my entire desire map.

Let me start by saying this: sex needs to be demystified. I thought before I attended this institute I had a pretty forward-thinking view on sex (and I certainly haven’t shied away from talking openly about it in positive ways). I was wrong.

Sex is so taboo, and it’s bizarre! We are all sexual beings. We all have sex lives (even abstinent ones). We all have fantasies. We all have desires and our bodies are all capable of experiencing pleasure. And yet conversations about sex have really diminished in our movement.

What’s the one thing that sets apart queer people from the heterosexual/cisgender homogeneity? Our bodies and what we do with them. And as we’ve pushed forward for acceptance, we’ve often done so at the expense of covering up the very things that make us unique.

The problem is that all thoughts related to sex reside in the primal part of our brain. It’s the place where anger and fear are first-responses and it’s quite far removed from our much more evolved intuition and critical thinking skills. So when people are faced with conversations about sex, people go to that very protective place, which makes it difficult to move forward. We’ve moved  toward equality by sacrificing our understanding of our own sexuality.

But honestly… if there is consent and mutual benefit, everything should be fair game.

So let me take my own little step towards a liberated queer community. My name is Zack. I have kinks and fetishes. I am also a romantic and love connecting with sexual partners on deeper levels. And after spending a day examining my sexual history, I realized that I’ve been tentative and insecure with sex in the past. I’ve been afraid of sex, I’ve been afraid of not being desired, and I’ve been afraid to let myself feel pleasure. Moving forward, I am going to try to overcome these insecurities and take a greater ownership of my desires. I’m not ashamed to be a sexual being and I’m not going to let anyone suggest I should be. In fact, I’m going to do my best to encourage others in embracing their own desires as well.

What’s hot for someone is hot for someone.

If shame is in charge, we avoid opportunities for pleasure for ourselves.

If you don’t play out sexual desires, they could take over in other ways.

Those are three quotes from the day. I can’t wait to see how someone tries to use this personal disclosure against me at some point in my life.

Honestly, what I just shared is nothing compared to the kinds of conversations we had at the institute. Here are a few examples of some of the discussions that came up…

It’s not uncommon to have rape fantasies, but what if you’re a rape victim? What kind of sexual paradox is it to still find pleasure in a fantasy that has such a traumatic imprint in your life? I can’t even begin to imagine that conflict, but how liberating it was to have several people in the room who could speak to it. Once you’ve healed, you can play with it. Without undermining the severity of rape, these powerful survivors spoke to reclaiming their sexuality and their desire. How profound to focus on being the survivor instead of always being the victim!

What about consensual incest? I’m talking about two people who have a familial connection but are both capable and willing of giving consent to the other for sexual pleasure. It’s a thought that really racks the brain and makes us think it’s such a horrible thing. What about even just the fantasy of it? What about having a crush on a sibling or a cousin? Given that we’re all sexual beings, don’t we owe it to ourselves to at least consider the question before dismissing it outright for the ick factor it evokes?

Are fantasies in our head meant to stay there or be realized? Sometimes our desires have consequences. Sometimes we spend our whole lives “performing” instead of just “being,” letting go. How do sex workers rediscover what their own sexual desires actually are? How do racial dynamics impact power exchange play? How do we distinguish between our personal sexual feelings and the feelings we have for our partners? How do we ensure that we aren’t just catering to our partner’s desires at the sacrifice of our own?

What is it about monogamy that motivates us to hold it up as an ideal? Is it because we’re just so insecure about expressing our own sexual desires that once we’ve found a single person who pleases us that we aren’t able to trust in an emotional commitment without strict sexual monogamy? I’m asking these questions as someone who identifies quite strongly with monogamy!

One of the panelists discussed a time when he and his partner of then-5 years were having a fight. It had come to light that both of them had had sexual encounters outside of their relationship. But the fight wasn’t working. It was a conditioned response; they weren’t fighting because they actually wanted to fight, but merely because they felt they were supposed to. They soon realized that they were actually both okay with the other’s “indiscretion.” In fact, it kind of made them hot to hear about what each did with the outside person. Eventually their relationship evolved to the point where they could be open and cruise together, and occasionally even welcome a third home with them. They sit on the subway and play the “who would you bang?” game. They are still a committed couple (now 11+ years as I recall), and they are confidently committed enough that they recognize they don’t (and never will) complement each other’s desires perfectly.

I still don’t know if I could ever do that… but how great is that? When we choose to value individuals’ sexuality and desires, it’s not difficult to arrive at a place where his experience with his partner actually sounds quite healthy and vibrant. Still, we have these constructs about what is “right” and “wrong” with sex that are hard to shake. Ultimately, what do we gain from these schemas except limitations to our own sexuality and relationships?

I want to share one more moment of personal learning for me. At one point, I made a comment to the group about how young people (like myself) have absorbed a lot of messages about safe sex that are motivated by fear of HIV and STIs. Later in the day, several different folks in the room disclosed they were HIV+ and that my comment reminded them of the stigma they often face and the way it can really stifle their sexuality. It caused them to shut down a little bit. I had really forgotten about the privilege I have as someone HIV-, and I had indirectly reinforced the stigma against people with HIV. I approached these individuals later to express my regret for the microaggression, and it’s an awareness about creating inclusive spaces that I will carry with me.

So, I hope I’ve given you all something to think about. Much thanks to all the presenters and panelists who helped give me something to think about! Sexual liberation is something I think we all deserve. I know I am nowhere close to being liberated, but engaging in these kinds of ideas has had a profound impact on my thinking. As we move forward in achieving LGBT equality, we have to continue creating space for our sexuality and acknowledge that sex can be a very positive thing. I welcome your thoughts about these important ideas as we all challenge the taboo around sexuality and desire together.

At the end of the intense and emotionally draining day, we were invited to share a next step we were going to take upon leaving the workshop. One young man shared simply, “I intend to fuck soon.” He received a boisterous round of applause.