Terrorism and the Violence of Otherness: Response to the Orlando Pulse Massacre

TW: Orlando Massacre, violence






In the early hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016, just after last call, a gunman entered the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The rest, now, is history. Media coverage of this massacre has been unrelenting and unreliable, treading often in intellectual territory that made the Pulse massacre possible in the first place. This was the act of one man, but discourse of violence against the Other propagated all over our society is just as much to blame.

The racism, sexism, classism, religious bias, and queerphobia of American society is well-documented and has been inextricably linked Her history and fabric. The same news outlets that only last week covered the multi-state battle on restroom usage for the transgender community with vitriol while fondly remembering unapologetic Muslim Mohammed Ali, diverted all of their energy and hatred toward American Muslims, another marginalized group, supposedly on behalf of queer people.

There are so many intersecting issues in the Orlando massacre that the vast majority of people are going to take pieces of analysis that fit their pre-established narratives. Many people only mock the concept of intersectionality, or that there is more than one major social influence affecting a particular person or event. This case is as intersectional as anything can be. To ignore even one element of the issue is to create a false narrative.

The shooter was born in New Hyde Park, New York, a municipality on the border between Northeastern Queens and Northwestern Nassau County, Long Island. He lived in Queens and Nassau most of his life. He was an American citizen. His parents were Afghani immigrants. The media would have you believe that the single best way to understand this tragedy is only to understand that the shooter was of foreign origins, that the shooter was brown, and that the shooter was Muslim. This is a gross oversimplification.

The shooter was unstable and violent. His ex-wife accused him of domestic violence, and described a scenario in which her family had to literally pull her from his arms as he was choking her. She describes him as having bipolar with bouts of psychotic rage. She described his as extremely secular.

He was fascinated to the point of obsession with both guns and the profession of law enforcement. The guns he used to carry out this grievous attack were purchased legally.

Many were quick to brand this attack “radical Islamist terrorism,” as if Islamist terrorism is somehow indicative of Islam as a total faith. Minimal research into the faith would yield their incompatibility, especially now during the Holy Month of Ramadan, during which it is forbidden to commit acts of violence. The shooter’s family has apologized on behalf of the family and the faith—a burden we do not require for members of other faiths.

It has been reported that the shooter pledged allegiance to Daesh in his 911 call. Another report claimed that he told one of the victims that he was committing the crime in retaliation for the U.S.’s ongoing drone war in Afghanistan. Do I believe this information was fabricated by the media to add to the easy, Muslim-as-terrorist narrative? No. He probably did do either or both of these things, but our common media narrative about the motives of those who join these groups is fundamentally flawed. The shooter, like most 18-39 year old men from Western cultures who join Islamist terror groups do not join for religious purity. They join for power, a sense of belonging, and egotistically narcissism that comes from believing to be on the brutish “moral high ground” over a world superpower. They join because they feel invisible and hypervisible at the same time in the West. They feel powerless and use the Western modality to create their own power: easy biases like racism, misogyny, and homophobia. These ideologies, as well as the promise of “real” power, both in this world and the next is what brings them there.

There is speculation that the primary motive of this atrocity was actually homophobia. The shooter’s father said that his son became enraged seeing two men kiss when the family visited Miami. He grew up in the New York City region, are we to believe that he had never seen two men kiss prior to this incident? That hardly seems feasible. There are many theories swirling about this.

It has been reported that the shooter visited his target location many times and maintained a profile on the gay hookup app, Grindr. One theory about the motivation behind this crime is that the shooter was closeted. This is among the most controversial of theories. Many see it as media narrative-building to make the attack even more one of the Other attacking the Other, as a way to absolve the media and the larger heterosexual community of any contributing homophobia. Many see the shooter’s behavior as little more than scoping out a target of violence.

If the shooter truly was closeted, the motivation may be more complex than just homophobia. Miami is a city with a very large Latinx community. The shooter deliberately chose Latin Night at the Pulse Nightclub as his target. In many minority communities in the West, there is a common theory that homosexuality is a “white” thing. It could be possible that the shooter was jealous of the Latinx LGBT folks for being so free while he was so repressed.

In the end, however, it serves no real purpose understanding why this tragedy happened. Nothing will bring back the forty-nine people he murdered in cold blood during Pride month. They are the newest victims in an ongoing war against queerness. Trans women of color are murdered at an exponentially higher rate in proportion to the rest of society. Hate crimes still occur in the most liberal of cities, including my own. This war was started long before the shooter purchased an AR-15 and created terror in Orlando. This war will continue beyond him, no matter how much our elected officials posture and claim to support the LGBT community. We are still considered Other. The Other is always a threat to the status quo. That is the American way. That has been the American way for centuries.

My fellow queer people: protect yourselves at all costs. If it is not safe for you to come out, don’t. Get self-defense training. If you are able, shout your queerness from the rooftops. If you are able, join groups like Black Lives Matter. Create coalitions with other marginalized groups. There are more of us than there are of them. We can keep ourselves safe if we protect each other.

Do not allow the nastiness of American culture to taint us. We are not bound by the biases of our nation. We will not play into the hand of Islamophobia. We will stand against homophobia, which is, of course, far bigger than one religion.

My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and their friends.

Rest In Peace: Eulogies For Strangers

Grief is such a personal emotion. It is one that we feel when we lose something that is precious to us: a person, a relationship, a home, a job, etc. On its first face, it seems strange that we collectively feel very deep, very real grief at the death of a beloved celebrity. The vast majority of mourners have never seen these people in the flesh, let alone met them. Let alone gotten to know them. Still, the feelings remain intensely palpable.

Actors, musicians, sports stars, TV personalities, and celebrities of all stripes evoke these feelings in us. There is something about how these people chose to share their lives with the general public so freely. I think with artists, the connection between artist and stranger is strengthened because that artist has allowed us to peer, if only for a second, into their soul.

This year has been particularly hard on artists. It’s only April, but the world has been in mourning more times this year than any year I can remember. I have lost three of my heroes. The world has lost two queer-of-center artists, for whom my heart aches the most: David Bowie and Prince. The world has lost one of my favorite actors of all time as well in Alan Rickman.

I have always been a very self-isolating person. I’m an introvert. I’m a writer. I enjoy many of the things I enjoy in solitude. When I listen to music or watch a film, I dedicate my full attention to it. I allow the art to envelop and seep into me. I allow art to find empty corners in my heart, my soul, and my personality. I allow the art to live in those nooks and crannies. I carry those artists  with me for the rest of my life.

When an artist dies, their fan base mourns as if they were close, personal friends. We celebrate their lives and work. We mourn them in any way that we can. We struggle to do something positive in their memory, just as we would for a recently deceased friend.

The Artist Formerly Known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince passed away on April 21, 2016. His formal cause of death is not yet known, but sources indicate that an acute overdose on the painkiller Percocet.

Prince was a revolutionary performer. He was prolific. He played several instruments and wrote music not only for himself but several other performers. He allegedly possessed a vault in his Minnesota estate containing enough unreleased music to quench the thirst of his fans for years to come. His musical style was all his own. A smooth combination of soul, funk, rhythm and blues, and pop, there was something for everyone in his repertoire. He was also a fashion icon, embodying an androgyny once reserved only for women and David Bowie.

Prince redefined what it was to be a black man in the United States. He found a way to strip away the layers of machismo forced into the black psyche by the brute force of colonialism and slavery. As he sang in “I Would Die 4 U,” “I’m not a woman/I’m not a man/I’m something you will never understand.”

Prince was considered something of a diva. He had a very particular way of looking at things and incredibly high standards for himself and those around him. This too was a testament to his integrity to his art and against those who would attempt to dim his starfire. He fought against the exploitation of record labels and refused projects that could have made money for personal discomfort.

Prince was one of my great role models. He effectively decoupled gender and sexuality in a way that made sense to me. He was one of the most talented musicians and composers of his generation, maybe ever. He was spiritual in a carnal way, one not tied down to the constraints of virginality. He took shit from nobody and largely kept his private life private.

It would be disingenuous to say that Prince did not grow in relevance to me after his death. He died from nearly the same ailment that killed my fiancé just three months before Prince died. Painkillers, both abused and taken as directed, are scourges on this planet. As someone who broke the hold of opiates on myself, losing two of my heroes in a matter of weeks to these drugs put things into perspective for me. As much as it hurts to live with both my fiancé and Prince. It could have just as easily been me.

Listen to some music. Make some art. Have sex. Go feel something. It’s the best and only way to honor Prince’s memory.

Beware the Bio-PIc

Later this year, a highly problematic film will hit cinemas around the world. It’s the newest film by the blockbuster director Roland Emmerich of The Patriot, Independence Day, and 2012 fame. Apparently, Emmerich is gay, and has taken it on himself to make a “fictionalized drama” about the Stonewall riots. Emmerich’s films are often picked up by huge production studios and millions of dollars are used in their casting, production, and distribution. (I mean, come on, have you seen Independence Day?)

This is very, very troubling.

To add insult to this Hollywood monstrosity of an injury, the story of Emmerich’s bio-pic centers around a fictional, cisgender, white gay male character from the Midwest. The trailer for the film makes it look like all of the film’s major characters are of the same persuasion as its Midwestern protagonist. This is fucked up on so many levels, I don’t know where to begin.

After some thought, it seems apparent that the historical context of the riots may be the best place to begin. Stonewall, as you all  know by this point, is located in what is now New York City’s West Village. This part of the city was not, unlike today, considered a desirable neighborhood to leave, work, and hang out. It was a gay ghetto, and as such, the moral squads of the New York City Police Department targeted bars, clubs, and other gathering spots in that neighborhood with much higher frequency and intensity than other parts of New York City.

By the 1960s, same-sex behavior was no longer illegal. It was considered taboo by the larger society, and there were no legal rights whatsoever, but the act of engaging in same-gender sex was not a crime. There were, however, several other laws on the books meant to target the queer community, to force us out of public spaces, and to pretend that we weren’t there. Many of these rules focused on those of us who were transgender or gender non-conforming. A law was created, both in New York, and in many places around the world in which queers sought refuge, that would allow the police to arrest anyone who was not wearing three articles of clothing that “corresponded to one’s birth sex.” These types of laws, of course, had a disparate impact on trans people of all stripes, on drag queens and kings, and butch lesbians.

It was those who were gender non-conforming that bore the brunt of police brutality: beatings, sexual assault, deprivation, even murder. It was they who had the most to gain from a full scale uprising.

It was, in fact, a black trans woman by the name of Marsha P. Johnson that threw the brick that launched a revolution. She does not appear in the trailer of “Stonewall,” neither does Sylvia Rivera. Historical revisionism is not ethical filmmaking. People are often under-informed by nature. People will see a film like this and believe that it represents truth, a fallacy that will inevitably be used to further erase trans people of color from our history. This cannot be permitted.

It is mind boggling to me that any filmmaker who wanted to make a film as important as this one would be so lazy as to need a stereotypical, fictional protagonist for a very real event. There are any number of so-called “Stonewall Veterans” still alive. I have had the distinct and utmost honor of knowing a few of them. How many of them were consulted on the accuracy or relevance of such a contrived protagonist?

It should come as no surprise that there is a growing movement among the queer community and the racial justice community to boycott this film for its whitewashing, historical revisionism. I am inclined to agree with their position. It is possible that you’ve seen the rallying cry to boycott “Stonewall” on your social media feeds, I know it’s nearly hit critical mass over here.

The director, having presumably seen the outrage about the film he’s dedicated however long to creating, “responded” to the criticism about the film over the weekend in such a way that was obviously meant to minimize the anger. Emmerich said that all of the historical figures, people like Sylvia and Marsha, are given “reverence” in the film, even though their characters are minor by comparison. He responded to the criticism about his film by fundamentally misunderstanding what Stonewall was really about. He said that the protagonist of his film is not anachronistic or out of place because he had been kicked out of his Midwestern home by his parents. He saw a Stonewall film as an opportunity to discuss the homelessness and familial excommunication of the LGBTQ community; not to discuss homelessness that leads to many queer children living and engaging in sex work for survival on Christopher Piers, but the homelessness of a well-off cis, white guy who can afford to move to NYC after he’s kicked out.  It’s noble that Emmerich wants to bring attention to the scourge of LGBTQ homelessness and the absolute tragedy of queer people being kicked out and disowned by their families, even at very early ages. It is. However, that’s not what Stonewall was about. Homelessness, financial and housing insecurity, and isolation from the mainstream may have been peripheral factors, but they were not why the riots happened. To say that this is the case is to say that the riots in Ferguson and Baltimore in recent months are about overwhelmingly European standards of beauty.

I think that the revision of history to imply that Stonewall was about people who have been disowned by their families is disgusting. It erases the very visceral, very ugly truth that queer people have been victims of violence at the hands of their fellow humans and by those who are supposed to protect and serve for a very long time.

I will probably see this movie, in all honesty, so that I can more thoroughly refute its points, and that, I believe is a responsibility we all have. We can boycott or we can refute, but we cannot abdicate our responsibility to tell the truth and to give credit where credit is due.


Bisexuals. The most misunderstood, ostracized, and, inexplicably, hated of all the sexual orientations. As gay and lesbian rights are strengthened and their relationships normalized, biphobia increases. There are a lot of reasons for this, I think, and the specific reason depends on the group the biphobia is coming from, and believe me, it’s coming from all directions. In this post, I hope to describe some of the types of and motivations behind various instances of biphobia, as well as how to recognize it when you see it.

Bisexuals get the short end of the stick in pretty much every sexual grouping in terms of being judged or invalidated from the outside. In the context of our culture, most of us aren’t “allowed” to be bi at all. Think of the first bi person you ever met, or heard about, or read about, or saw on TV. What was this person like? I’d bet you ninety-nine cents that that person was female, white, and traditionally attractive. Society tells us that the only people who are “allowed” to be bi are pretty girls. Ugly girls are seen as not “truly bi,” but desperate. Boys are held to the most rigorous standards of the sexual binary. Trans and non-binary people are thought of by the greater society as exclusively gay, no questions asked.

So, let’s imagine for a moment that you are hypothetically this traditionally attractive girl. Congratulations, you can be bi! You’re bi, and enjoy getting your groove on with any human that you’ve got the feeling for. You’ve been out and proud for five years. Out of nowhere, you learn that your societal bi-pass has been revoked. WTF? Society views bisexuality as a “phase.” I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Bi girls, who society welcomes as beacons of “true bi” and “hotness,” are expected to go back to being straight after they’ve had their fun. A good popular culture example of this is Katy Perry’s breakout hit “I Kissed a Girl.” In the song, the narrator (who may or may not be Katy Perry, who knows—and, quite frankly, who cares?) kisses a girl—and likes it—even though she has a boyfriend. The song is clearly coded to convey that kissing a girl and being bi-curious is cool if you’re pretty, but you better beg your boyfriend’s forgiveness afterward and continue on that train to straighthood.

For bi boys, things can be even worse. Bisexual girls are validated in that their feelings are acceptable, if only temporarily. Bisexual boys are seen as jokes, as weak, lesser men because there is a perception that they are somehow refusing to come to grips with their “true” sexuality. Bisexual boys are, in the minds of our culture, gay boys who are too afraid to really come out. Sex in the City has made light of bisexual men by saying “bisexuality is a layover on the way to gay town.” Bisexual boys are routinely told that they cannot be attracted to members of both sexes, and that if they have even the smallest inkling of an attraction to other males, they’re gay.

Another incredibly damaging stereotype is that all bi people, want, more than anything, to engage in group sex. Look at all mixed-gender, mainstream, group sex porn. Ninety-eight percent of the time, there are two traditionally attractive girls and one dapper lad. Oftentimes, the male actor will sit back and watch the girls go at each other. It’s only okay to be bi if you’re doing it for the straight people, right? However, this phenomenon of misperception is not exclusive to straight dudes. I’ve seen many, many straight women who ask bisexual males to engage in threesomes with her and her husband/boyfriend/partner. This is no more acceptable than the other way around. I will never understand why straight people find it acceptable to view bisexual people as sentient sex toys, but they do.

If you’re bi, and you came out as bi in middle school, high school, or even college, you’ve fallen victim to this next misperception/foray into biphobia: the idea that bi people are easy. The stereotype goes that if you’re bisexual, you must really be desperate for a bone that you’ll take anybody. God forbid you try to turn down Mr. Downing His Eleventh Beer Fuckboy over there, he’ll respond, almost as if scripted, that he “thought you were bi.” Bisexuals do, by strictly a body count, have more options than monosexuals when it comes to selecting a sexual partner. Why, oh, why would that possibly make people think we can’t get any? That doesn’t make any logical sense.

There are two other derivations of the bi = easy fallacy. One is that bisexuals are greedy and unfaithful. The other is that bisexuals are kinkier than your average bear—well, um, person. The infidelity fallacy is probably the most universally dangerous one that bi people face. Sure, it can be annoying that straight boys think you want to have threesomes, but an intimate partner who believes you’re cheating with someone of another gender can get you killed. I really don’t know where this flawed logic came from, maybe it’s some kind of misunderstanding about the difference between polysexuals and polyamorists? It could be related to the idea that all bisexuals are down for group sex, which, in the larger society, is viewed as shaky morality at best. Either way, it exists, and it is dangerous. Just like in all of the facets of the monosexual community, there are some bisexuals who enjoy casual relationships, committed monogamous relationships, and polyamorous relationships. Not all of us want to date everyone or sleep with everyone. If we tell you we’re committed to you, believe us.

The other side of that coin is the completely false belief that all bisexual people are the kinkiest in the world. So, we’re attracted to all genders, does that inherently mean we like actually having sex in different ways than our monosexual peers? Not necessarily. I’m sure there are many bisexuals who are into kink, but I know just as many straight, gay, and lesbian kinksters.

Even the LGBT Q community is rough on bisexuals. These societal misperceptions have polluted even the queerest of the queer, which is both tragic and unfortunate, given that the whole idea of queerness is to rage against our socially constructed and divisive oppressors. Neither monosexual group in the queer community is guiltless on this. There are many lesbians who refuse to date and condescend to bisexual women. They back up this biphobia with empty statements about not wanting to touch a body a penis has touched. Some lesbians would even find dating a virginal bi girl anathema, as the idea of said girl leaving them for a man would be too distasteful. This is ridiculous.

Gay men take a somewhat different approach in biphobia toward other men. Many seek to convince a bisexual man that he isn’t actually bisexual; that social conditioning that attraction to a male body by another man, even if it isn’t exclusive, automatically equals gayness. This is, in the long run, less damaging than the scarlet-letter effect described above, but it is nonetheless unfair and damaging.

And now, we have arrived at the pinnacle of biphobia: semantics. Yes. I know that the Greek prefix ‘bi’ means two. I know that there are more than two genders. But you know what? Words, like humans, are malleable things. The meanings we give to words change over time. You wouldn’t be calling the very tasty grilled cheese you just had ‘awesome,’ if you were maintaining its original meaning (which would be literally in awe, like you’ve just seen the actual literal face of God or something). What’s more, the vast majority of humans fall into the dyadic sexual paradigm, and that’s really what we’re talking about when we’re talking about sexuality—although, there are, of course, many exceptions to that rule. About one out of every 2,000 births, in fact. But I’m guessing the Greeks didn’t have the capacity to do that kind of statistical analysis. It’s important to understand why our words originally meant what they did so that we can more easily fight back against those who would throw their dictionaries or etymology books at us. Words change, just as society and everyone in it does. To imply that because ‘bi’ means two that bisexuals cannot be attracted to, or aren’t attracted to, or hate transgender people is all out lunacy. And this is coming from someone who’s both proudly bi and proudly trans. When I, speaking in my capacity as a bisexual person, am lambasted for my perceived transphobia, I shake my head at how much semantics can derail discourse. (I’ll be writing an entire post, coming soon, on the discourse between bi-, pan-, and polysexual as orientations).

So there you have it, some common, pervasive myths about bisexuality that confidently hop over the line into full-blown biphobia. If you see something, say something.


This weekend is Pride Weekend in New York City, and in many places around the world. We’re looking forward to marching, to standing under a sweltering sun and watching the revelers pass by. We’re looking forward to the inevitably steeply discounted prices on booze in post-pride happy hours in bars both gay and straight. We’re looking forward to celebrating the victory that is probably the most monumental in our lifetime, marriage equality. All of that will undoubtedly happen. All of us will certainly eat, drink, and be merry. We’ll be decked out in our rainbows, pride flags, drag.

The Supreme Court of the United States has legalized same-gender marriage throughout the United States. There will be many who believe and express the view that the struggle for queer rights officially ended on that fateful Friday in June, two days before the 46th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. They are wrong. The two have nothing to do with one another.

The Stonewall Riots are often lauded as the birth of the gay liberation movement. The Stonewall Inn is a bar on Christopher Street in New York City. During the late 60s, it was one of the very few bars that allowed—let alone catered to—the LGBT community. During this period, there were several laws on the books that criminalized queer behavior (the most famous of these laws dictated that an individual must wear at least three pieces of clothing “befitting” their assigned sex); many urban police departments deployed moral squads to enforce them.

The owners of The Stonewall—there are rumors it was owned by the mob, but that’s disputed—were required to pay off the extremely corrupt New York City Police Department. As long as the owners paid up, the cops left the place alone. This particular fateful weekend, the owners of the bar did not pay the police.

NYPD stormed the bar, roughing up transwomen, drag queens, butch lesbians, and gay men. Usually, our community would take it and be carted off to jail with minimal fight. Not this time. The queer patrons of the Stonewall Inn had had enough. They fought back. They forced the police out of the bar, ripped up parking meters as weapons, used the liquor to make Molotov cocktails, and fought with all their might. The riots went on for three nights.

Contrary to popular belief, however, the riots at Stonewall were not the first of their kind. There had been several, smaller riots in California in the years leading up to Stonewall. Of these, the Compton Cafeteria Riot in San Francisco in 1966 and the Cooper’s Donuts Riot in Los Angeles in 1959 are the most famous.

At the time of Stonewall, same-gender marriage was only a secondary blip on the participants’ collective radar. The big push for same-gender marriage would come some fifteen to twenty years later, during the AIDS epidemic. What the rioters at Stonewall wanted, more than anything, was to be free. Homosexuality, transvestitism, and transgenderism were all considered mental illnesses by the American Psychiatric Association. The police routinely committed acts of brutality—often sexual brutality—against queer people. Queer people were ghettoized, refused decent housing, employment, and health care. Violence, homelessness, and true inequality were rampant.

Leading the charge at Stonewall were trans women, drag queens, butch lesbians, and gay men of all races and social classes. Unlike the LGBT movement of today, it wasn’t driven solely by white, cis, homonormative gay men. We can get back to that. You will have to educate those who say LGBTQ rights are over. You will be discouraged. We will eventually prevail.


The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that same-gender marriage is not only legal in every state in the US but a Constitutional right.

Read the decision here.

This is not the end of LGBTQ rights. We must continue the fight. Celebrate today, but continue the fight.

God bless America.

Clarifying the Non-Monosexual Terms

Bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, omnisexual, oh my! There are quite a few different terms to describe sexual attraction to members of more than one gender. If you don’t have your finger on the pulse of the queer community twenty-four hours a day, it is, inevitably, difficult to keep track of all the blasted terms used to describe those who practice non-monosexuality.

Which brings us to the first and perhaps most important of the many terms, monosexuality. Monosexuality is a word that is used to describe individuals who are only sexually attracted to members of one gender (i.e. straight people, gay men, and lesbians). Non-monosexuals are those who are not monosexual, and are attracted to more than one gender. This term is used very often in queer theory, sexuality studies, and other academic pursuits. I’ve only ever seen in it popular usage on Tumblr. Even though some immature individuals on the internet will use neutral and benign words like monosexual like an insult, which is far from its original intention. The word is only a benign moniker to describe those who experience sexual attraction to more than one gender.

The most commonly known of all terms describing non-monosexuals is ‘bisexual.’ The ‘B’ in LGBT stands for bisexual, as much as people will joke that it does not. There is something of a controversy surrounding the term bisexual, as it comes from the Greek word meaning ‘two.’ However, many bisexuals affirm that their sexual attraction is not limited to only two genders, regardless of what the word means etymologically, as language—like sexuality—is fluid. The term bisexual has been in academic use since the nineteenth century, and it was coined in the same academic setting as ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual.’ It has been in common usage since the mid-twentieth century. The bisexual pride flag, consisting of pink, blue, and purple horizontal stripes, was designed in 1999.

The only other term with the same historical reach in an academic space is ‘omnisexual.’ Superstar sexologist Alfred Kinsey used this term to describe the sexual desire that focuses on pleasure above anything else. Kinsey wrote extensively about how humans were born with sexuality pre-installed. He had observed that even small babies, who would be incapable of engaging in sexual activity, still masturbated, seeking pleasure. He concluded that humans, upon birth, are omnisexual, sexually desiring pleasure, and can remain that way into adulthood. Kinsey also theorized that our omnisexual desire for pleasure may make us naturally bisexual, seeking pleasure rather than a specific sexual partner. This is consistent with the socially constructed nature of sexual orientation.

Other terms to describe non-monosexuality are much more recent inventions. Perhaps the best known newer terms, ‘pansexual’ broke out onto the scene in the mid-to-late 2000s. The creators of the term argued that bisexuality, as a term, was limiting and reinforcing of the gender binary. They used the same basic model that the word bisexual employs, swapping bi (Greek for two) with pan (Greek for all). There has been a fair bit of controversy between the bi and pan communities, surrounding literal translations of familiar words, which I will write about in another post. Pansexuals, to draw distinction from poly- and bisexuals, often say that they experience sexual attraction regardless of gender; gender plays no role in sexual orientation.

Largely born out of the strife between bisexuals and pansexuals, polysexuals continued to interpret the words literally (rather than, I don’t know, listening to actual bisexuals). Essentially, polysexuality, which is another sexual orientation of entirely twenty-first century creation, is the sexual attraction to more than two, but less than all, genders. As someone who isn’t polysexual, it seems that polysexuality is a bit too specific for my taste.

Unfortunately—at least for the sake of clarity—there is another word in the realm of sexuality that begins with the prefix poly-. Polyamory differs from polysexuality (even though they are sometimes used interchangeably to mean polyamory) in that instead of being representative of being attracted to multiple genders, it is the proclivity to being in sexual and/or romantic relationships with multiple people at one time. Open relationships and multiple romantic partner relationships are both types of polyamory.

So, there you have it. A short primer on all things non-monosexual. I hope this helps cut through the confusion with the various terms that exist and often sound as if they mean almost the same thing. Because they do. Almost.

What You Can Do

Since my graduation at the end of last month, I’ve been scrambling to find work. I haven’t been able to find any yet, and I’m growing more than a little disheartened. The work I’ve applied for has not yet been what I’m looking for. I want, more than anything, to be able to help my community thrive. Helping others, preventing others from sabotaging or injuring themselves, building up their confidence in a way that very few people ever did for me, makes me feel extremely fulfilled. It does not seem as if I’ll be able to land a job like that, at least not yet.

I was determined to find a way to continue helping people, even while working in a job I may not love yet. During college, I was lucky enough to have been elected to the presidency of an LGBTQ organization, which, while being very challenging, was extremely fulfilling. The lack of that fulfillment has been very difficult for me.

In the interim, I’ve joined a site called 7 Cups of Tea as an active listener. During the two or more hours I commit to the site every week, people come to me for help. Because my profile is obviously very queer, many come to ask me about being transgender, accidental gay encounters, and how to deal with the crippling pain of parental rejection. It’s an incredible feeling. It’s all anonymous too, which is both really great and sort of disappointing, considering I’d like to know where the people I help are from, how wide my impact has been. At the same time, I’ve been down that stalker road before.

7 Cups chats take place on the site’s instant messaging feature. The person seeking help, referred to as the “Member,” has a randomly generated username. They are instructed to refrain from giving out personal information, though many will use their first names. “Listeners” are allowed to break our anonymity at any time, we just cannot ask a Member to do the same. Listeners over the age of eighteen automatically only listen to others over the age of 18. Teens who sign up to be listeners only listen to teens. Different accreditation can be gained on the site to listen to everyone, but I feel most comfortable speaking only with adults. There are forums on the site for Listeners to discuss their feelings after particularly traumatic chat. There all kinds of really great mental health resource guides.

If you have a few extra hours a week to devote to listen to the problems of needy people online, I urge you to give 7Cups a try.

What Makes Identity?

This post is going to serve, at least for now, for several of the Pride Month blogs. I have written, rewritten, unwritten, and rewritten this post over and over. I have been searching for the reason that this incredibly disturbing story crossed my desk, and I have been searching for the words to describe how I feel about it. I’ve been forced to simmer in my feelings of this, and it feels as if there are monumental updates every day. Here are my views on it as of now.

The internet and the collective consciousness of the United States has been in a tizzy all weekend thanks to the president of the Spokane chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Well, really, her parents. If you somehow read this blog but have no other interaction with the internet, this NAACP president is a woman by the name of Rachel Dolezal. Ms. Dolezal separated herself from her family and moved to Spokane almost a decade ago. When she got there, she decided to change her identity. She began identifying as a black woman: she darkened her skin, wore wigs, constructed an entirely different personal history for herself, and faked very public acts of racial discrimination.

Admittedly, the United States has a very complicated concept of and rhetoric surrounding race. Our history with race is long and extremely complicated, especially when looking in from the outside. We participated, like many of our European cousins, in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. We were one of the last nations to outlaw such heinousness as slavery and the trafficking of humans. We did not simply outlaw it, though. We had to fight a war to end slavery. Millions of our own people killed each other for the “right” to own other humans to do the work they could have done themselves. Those African-Americans who did not flee north during Reconstruction faced discrimination and violence on a truly appalling scale. Lynchings, legal discrimination, unemployment, rapes, murders, police who would refuse to investigate crimes against the black community existed all over this country. While African Americans were technically given the right to vote in the 1870s, states and local voting precincts placed undue burdens on African-Americans with the express purpose of disenfranchising them.

Dolezal’s outing sent the internet into a tizzy. People were smearing her, defending her, and, most disturbingly, comparing her story of racial deception to the lived experiences of trans people. The hash tag #transracial was created in support of Ms. Dolezal’s alleged predicament.

Ms. Dolezal has recently resigned from her post as local NAACP president and done interviews with Matt Lauer and Melissa Harris-Perry on NBC and MSNBC, respectively. In these interviews, she has neglected to apologize for the controversy she has created, even to the well-respected and long-standing organization her behavior has now damaged. She has adopted the label of trans-racial for herself and asks that it be accepted as as equally valid as a transgender identity.

This thought creates a rabbit hole in discourse that, if left unchecked, could be irreparably damaging to both the transgender movement and the various black civil rights movements.

Yes, both race and gender are both socially constructed. In fact, there are more biological differences between members of different sexes than there are of different races. This is a strictly intellectual view of the social construct theory. It has no meaning in the debate over transracialism or transgenderism. We don’t live in a vacuum. Theory and practicality are two very different things. Theoretically, because gender is a social construct, trans people should be able to live as they want with no repercussions. A dark-skinned person should be afforded white privilege upon request. We all know nothing works that way.

It is not uncommon that a person has a particular attachment to a culture into which one was not born. It is not uncommon that a person feels disconnected from the people, culture, or role into which one was born. This probably happens every day. I myself have always felt disconnected from the family I was born into. This does not give one the right to choose on one’s own to change cultures or families. Gender is malleable. Roles, careers, relationships are malleable. Cultures and families are much, much less so.

Trans-racialism is not a thing. I, as a white human who often advocates for immigration reform, cannot decide tomorrow to wake up and declare to the world that I am Latino. Aside from the fact that I am unable to speak Spanish, there is nothing in my lineage to indicate that I am Latino. I have never been discriminated against on the basis of my skin color, language, or ethnic origin.

To make the comparison between trans-racialism and transgenderism is flawed on either a theoretical or practical front. From a theoretical perspective, concepts of race are extremely narrow and restricted to a specific culture. Since there is no biological basis of race other than skin pigmentation, each culture determines what this means for themselves. The American concept of race is steeped in a bloody, violent, disturbing history that is almost entirely exclusive to us. South Africans have their own violent history with race, but it is very different from our own.

Gender, on the other hand, is more or less the same. Many cultures seek to understand gender from a biological sex perspective. The roles of various genders differ, the methods of determining whether or a person belongs to a non-binary gender differs, but there are far more congruous aspects of gender to us as a species than there is race. It would be impossible to compare the way Americans understand the differences between “white” and “black” as it would to compare those same principles to those understandings in, say, India.

From a practical standpoint, the lived experiences of black and white bodies in the United States are very different, just as the lived experiences of trans- and cisgender people are different. Black bodies, like trans bodies, are subjected to heightened scrutiny, viewed as lesser beings than their white/cis counterparts, and subjected to violence that would be anathema to the dominant cultures. Neither black nor trans bodies have any say as to how they are. One cannot choose to be black any more than one can choose to be trans. They are experiences from which there is no escape or choice.

Race is a social construct, and that fact alone is what has everyone so confused regarding Rachel Dolezal. If it’s a social construct, why can’t someone be trans-racial? It’s not that kind of construct. Race is constructed insofar as our understanding about what our features or skin pigmentation mean. Our features and skin color are not constructed, they are there. They are unavoidable, in most cases. Ms. Dolezal has attempted to gain something by “identifying” as black. What it is, I’m not sure. I’m not sure anyone’s sure. She has made an ass out of herself. She has made a mockery of the black community and the trans community alike. “Transracial” and “transgender” are not synonyms. Let’s stop that kind of discourse right now.

I want to apologize again for my silence. I’m not even sure this post makes any sense. I wanted so badly to write something on this subject and hit roadblock after roadblock in my mind. Sorry. I’ll be back to normal tomorrow, I swear.

Pride Day 12: Queer Fairytales

As in all minority communities, the LGBT community has access to very few stories that represent our individual struggle in the world. We have very few major characters that we can identify with and love when queer characters are so-often presented in a negative light. While LGBT fiction and memoir are finally starting to pick up steam, we have historically had to change the nature of stories to add queer elements where they once did not exist, usually only in our own minds. I’d like to share one of the stories that I revere as my own queer fairytale.

My favorite film as a very small child was Disney’s reimagining of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Released in October of 1996, it was one of the first movies my parents took me to see in theaters. I was hooked. I owned a plush Quasimodo, the film on VHS, the soundtrack on CD, an Esmeralda Barbie doll, and a plush Jolly. Most of these objects did not survive into my adulthood, but that Quasimodo plush is on my bedside table and the soundtrack is saved—in mp3 format—on my cell phone.

I’ve seen the film a couple of times as an adult, most recently a couple of months ago after it was added to Netflix’s streaming library. The film has exceptional cinematic quality, both as a musical and as one of the most visually striking of Disney’s hand-drawn animations. It was, of course, a very odd choice as a novel-turned-film for Disney, but they found a very fascinating balance between the darkness of Hugo’s original nineteenth-century work and the innocence required of Disney.

Watching this film again as an adult made me realize just how much I could still identify with the character of Quasimodo. I was raised in a very strict Roman Catholic household in the southern part of the Midwest, where conservative politics was inextricably linked with a belief in God. I was forced to undergo full confirmation into the Catholic church, even after I had lost my religion as a queer person. I related to Quasimodo’s being trapped in the bell tower of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Quasi grows up in almost total isolation. His primary caretaker, Judge Frollo, represents traditionalism, the law, and oppression; he constantly reminds Quasimodo that he is a monster and unworthy of love. This experience and the feelings of despair that Quasimodo embodies are unfortunately very relatable to me as a queer person growing up in a conservative place.

Quasi also symbolizes an atypical form of masculinity that I find very appealing. His atypical masculinity comes at a cost, however, as he loses the love of Esmeralda to the more traditionally masculine Phoebus. Quasi’s masculinity is not founded on violence the way that many male characters in the film are. Quasimodo is gentle, loving, artistic, naive, and optimistic. He rarely uses force and routinely underestimates his own resolve. He is a protector, but one that refuses to demean those who society would place beneath him.

Quasimodo’s physical deformity can also be seen as allegorical to mental illness, something that is rampant in the queer community. His life trajectory would also indicate that he would also suffer from some amount of anxiety and depression, the way the two thirds of American adults are.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is, for me, a queer fairytale, as Quasimodo symbolizes so much and a more equal society is born in the aftermath of the climax.

What are some non-queer queer Fairytales that are meaningful to you?