On Being The Only One In The Room (Updated)

December 4, 2008 at 3:25 pm (LGBT, stupidity) ()

So in about half my classes this semester, I’m the only visibly queer person. I noticed this right away; the first few weeks of school were marked by near-constant nightmares that I somehow had long hair again. I had to cut my hair even shorter than I usually keep it just to feel like I can breathe.

This makes me feel isolated and freakish. (And it really doesn’t help that my classmates have occasionally directly pointed out that I’m, um, a deviation from the statistical norm.) There’s also the fact that I don’t feel like I have very many friends at school anyway, which is my own fault for being misanthropic, I guess. Not that I can help it, but whatever.

Anyway, all this came to a head at my midterm critique some weeks ago. I put a up a few portraits of my girlfriend — in addition to a bunch of other stuff — and in introducing my work, I mentioned that she’s my girlfriend and said some things that I think made it pretty damn obvious that she’s my girlfriend. Not to mention how plainly gay I am anyway. But my professor referred to her as my “friend” throughout the presentation, saying stuff to make it clear he understood the relationship as totally trivial (saying, basically, that I don’t really know her). I was fuming and I felt like someone had stepped on my throat, but I couldn’t say anything because I didn’t have any allies — I don’t think anyone else even noticed. I wrote him a note about it, explaining that I knew it was just a mistake but that it hurt my feelings. Of course he never said anything.

Today, in our final critique, my professor misgendered one of the people I’d made a portrait of. This picture is of a pretty young woman who has short hair. Though you can only see her face, her gender is very obvious — she’s wearing earrings and make-up, and has clearly feminine facial features. What the hell.

This is starting to wear down and me and make me depressed. I am so fucking glad I will be out of that class after Tuesday. I’m sick of feeling like a freak everyday. And it’s not that everyone there is apparently cisgender and heterosexual — it’s the creeping sensation that, when these weird, unintentional insults happen, I’m the only one who sees them. I would never, ever let something like that just pass if it happened to someone else. That is, provided I could see it happening; that’s the worst part — that they’re on such a different planet from me that they can’t even see me. My feelings are so foreign they’re invisible.

These are just the two things that are on my mind today; they’re part of a collection of dozens of similar things this semester, all of which have built up into the sense of alienation that’s starting to overwhelm me. If the pattern continues I might seriously consider leaving school. It’s toxic. It’s heartbreaking. It’s fucking unnecessary. And I do not have the resources to go at it alone.

UPDATE: I talked to some of my schoolmates about this in my class this evening, and they were very kind to me, which was tremendously heartening. I also learned that this professor has said similarly stupid things to several other people; I guess that should annoy me even more, but actually, it was a relief. I’ve concluded that the problem is, in fact, almost entirely the bad behavior of a single person.

I’ll take this as a sign that’s it’s time to write a post I’ve been sitting on for awhile about power dynamics in the classroom.

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The Bottomless Abyss of Formal Schooling, Part III

November 19, 2008 at 12:18 pm (injustice, stupidity) ()

The final segment of my series of posts on the school system is now up at Revolutionary Act.

It seems to me that the foundational assumptions of traditional school are: that children, left to their own devices, cannot and will not learn; that children are basically helpless and stupid and deficient in curiosity; that children must therefore be taught, by a competent authority, or they will fail to grasp concepts and gain skills.

I think anyone who has ever spent any time with a child can attest that all of these ideas are patently false. Anyone who was ever spent time around a child who is learning to talk can attest as much with even greater confidence — tiny babies, unable even to feed themselves, crack the code of language with a speed and an enthusiasm most adults could envy. The reality, as far as I can tell, could not be farther from those assumptions.

And I do believe those are the underlying ideas. We would have to believe that children must be forced to learn in order to ask ourselves, “Is our children learning?”

That is an insane question. I know it’s also a much-mocked one, but no one would have laughed at it if our Ivy Leagued-educated* soon-to-be-former President had managed to formulate it correctly. And that’s absurd. There is no such thing as a child who isn’t learning. The only questions is, “Are our children learning things in the arbitrary order and at the arbitrary pace the school system requires?” If that’s more important to us than whether children are happy, healthy, curious, and engaged — and it certainly seems to be — we have our priorities precisely backward.

Keep reading.

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On “Learning How To Learn”

November 12, 2008 at 12:22 pm (injustice, stupidity) ()

The next post in my “Bottomless Abyss Of Formal Schooling” series is now up at Revolutionary Act. Part I is here.

When I was in 10th grade, Emily and I started going to the bookstore during our free periods. We’d get coffee, and then just wander, reading title after title, picking up anything that interested us. We often read whole books in a single sitting, crouched on the carpet at the back of one aisle or another, sometimes reading silently to ourselves and sometimes out loud to one another. We read novels, collections of poetry, nonfiction volumes about science and history and feminism. This was fun — it was great, unadulterated fun, and the things we learned are immeasurable. I would learn more in ninety minutes, exploring an interesting topic with my best friend, than I did in an entire semester in any of my classes. Overall I’m sure I’ve learned significantly more reading with Emily — in bookstores, bedrooms and the blogosphere — than I did in my three* years of high school combined.

Being forced back into class every day after this was incredibly demoralizing. I’ve always been an A student and liked school more than most, but this exposed the great hypocrisy of what I was being forced to do. I was learning, passionately — and it felt nothing like sitting in those classrooms.

Keep reading.

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The Bottomless Abyss Of Formal Schooling, Part I

October 29, 2008 at 10:50 am (injustice, stupidity) ()

Sorry for the light posting, everybody! I’m very busy in school.

And speaking of school, over at Revolutionary Act, I’m doing a series of posts on formal education. Part I just when up…

I’m at my high school, sitting in the gathering space — the hall where we had our weekly, school-wide assemblies. All my friends are there, and all my teachers. Guest speakers have come in. They are talking and talking, lecturing us about some subject, passing a microphone back and forth. They are saying something that infuriates me — some lie, some bigoted untruth that the teachers and administrators are nodding along to. I’m exchanging glances with my friends, my classmates, uneasy sideways glances as we slowly realize how wrong these lecturers are. They talk on and on and it gets only worse, I get angrier and angrier. I raise my hand to speak but they ignore it. My hand is up for what feels like hours, until my arm is shaking and exhausted and my face contorted. I start to yell, begging to be allowed to speak. I need to speak. I know that no one will correct these liars if I don’t and I can’t let them talk like that to my friends, to all these kids. I love these kids and I can’t let them do this. But they ignore me. I start screaming, and I’m crying, choking around my sentences, my pathetic little points that I need to make so badly. I need only to say them, to be heard.

Keep reading.

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SOPP Erotica (Explicit)

May 9, 2008 at 1:38 pm (funny things, sex) (, )

Note! This post contains graphic depictions of sex, beyond the “Read the rest” link. Click on at your discretion.

For this to make the best kind of sense, please refer to back to SOPP and the guidelines therein.

This is Via the Hookah smoking and infinitely creative ways of Tayzer Carrotsauce, Staceysaurus, and Kelsa.

There are a few Antioch-specific references, but I hope that won’t throw anyone off to far.

Here goes:

Emerson and Libby shared a glance across the smoky dorm room, the sweet scent of melon shish curling delicately through the air. It was nearing the end of the second term, and with Antioch College closing for good within a few short weeks, Libby felt the pressure of her secret desires closing in. It was tonight, or never.

Libby and Emerson had become close within the first few weeks of school, but strictly within a friendly sense. Libby had entertained numerous open relationships with the boys on campus, and presented herself as strictly identifying as straight. Libby had shared details of all of her sexual encounters with Emerson, but had kept one big secret from him. She wanted him. Bad.

As friends slowly filed out as the hookah ran out, Libby worked up the courage to make the move she had been dreaming of. She took a deep breath as she struggled to finally ask him, “do you want to take a walk in the glen?” Emerson, used to these late night walks, where they talked about everything, from future plans to crushes, did not realize that tonight was a night unlike any other.

“Of course,” he said, smiling his usual roguish grin. They set off, and soon found themselves along amongst the trees. It was a pleasantly warm night in mid April, the full moon showing full and bright, illuminating the rocky steps they walked on.

“Emerson,” Libby finally broke the silence they had been walking in, “I have something to tell you.” She sat down on one of the large boulders close to them. “I’ve always wanted you. From the first day I met you, at propsp. weekend.” Emerson looked stunned.

“I’m flattered, Libby,” he replied, pressing a hand to his tightly bound chest, “but I thought you were only interested in male bodied people.”

“Well, Emerson,” Libby began, “After taking queer theory with Isabella Winkler last term, I realized that I should stop limiting my desires into the box the society creates. I realized that want you and what I want to do with you, and that is that.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Sexual Offense Prevention Policy

April 6, 2008 at 2:47 pm (amazing things, feminism, injustice, LGBT, sex) (, , , )

In honor of the Gender-shenanigans that went down last night, and of course to afford Daisy and Emily more time to watch Lost, I am going to post briefly on something called the Sexual Offense Prevention Policy, or SOPP. It is a policy at my school designed to combat Rape Culture and make everyone feel a little more safe and secure about their sexual and gender identities, and the likelihood of harassment.

The main point of SOPP is consent. The two or more parties involved in physical activity of ANY kind, from hugging to making-out to fighting to naked jello wrestling, must VOICE explicit consent at every level of said activity. Basically, you have to hear the word “Yes” before you can throw your partner down and rub jelly in their face.

Obviously SOPP gets fudged a lot if you’re in a long term relationship, and its pretty darn ineffective against rape or any sort of real sexual harassment. But if something out of line does occur, under SOPP a complaint can be filed, and that person will be kicked out of school/banned from campus/reported to the police, etc.

But what does SOPP really do? It doesn’t stop harassment. My first month at Antioch I was verbally harassed very badly, in the form of questions. I would say no to one sexual position and I would quickly be asked if I was open to another, and this would go on and on and on. There is also definitely rape, fighting, and child abuse on this campus. Although I have seen some pretty bad situations, such as fights, adverted because of SOPP.

What SOPP does manage to achieve is an open dialogue. Some people have already gotten to this place on their own, and for that, I applaud you. But partly because of SOPP and partly because Antioch is a sex-positive campus, the conversations about sex are never-ceasing. In a society where you are forced to talk about what feels good to you sexually, how you identify, even what diseases you have, all before you actually sleep with someone, misunderstandings and some bad situations are avoided.

The SOPP: talking is good. Consent is good. Dialogue about important issues, such as sex, is very, very good. And I live in a community where if you don’t follow these guidelines, then you lose the right to be a community member. Because it’s that important.

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Genderfuck

April 4, 2008 at 1:11 pm (amazing things, art, feminism, LGBT, sex) (, , )

Daisy asked me to blog a little about my school, so here goes. I go to Antioch College, in a tiny itsy town called Yellow Springs. Antioch, as a collective, has currently gone mad.

Because this week is Sex Week.

Which is pretty much the best week ever, if you couldn’t already tell.

Genderfuck happens once a semester, and is an entire week devoted to workshops, seminars, field trips and dance parties concerning sex, gender-bending, and exploration of identity. To give you an idea of the schedule, here are a few of the activities posted:

Reproductive Justice, a seminar on Adoption (for Gay couples, etc.)
A Survivor/Ally Workshop
A porn and cigarettes party (free cigarettes!)
Porn 101- The new wave of porn, Sex 101, and Kink 101, Bottoming Workshop, Topping Workshop (all but on by our local Queer Center)
A trip to the Sex Shop
Love Your Body Night (open to female-body-identified people)
An SOPP (Sexual Offense Prevention Policy) Dance Party
Non-normative Masculinities Panel
Erotic Art Party
and of course, the grand finale, the GENDERFUCK dance itself.

The end of Sex Week is the Genderfuck dance. To illustrate a snapshot of what people usually look like at Genderfuck: a friend of mine will be dressing like Liz Vicious, a gothic porn star. I believe my friend plans to add a thong to Liz Vicious’ general ensemble, but still. Another friend is going as a broken marionette doll, and a third is going as Rainbow Bright. People will “perform”, and usually there’s at least one performance set to the Dresden Dolls, who I love.

Haha!

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CitiBank and Big Coal have declared war on the world.

November 18, 2007 at 5:47 pm (environment, injustice) (, , , , )

Education should be free and easily accessible. People should be able to access it without funding global warming and death. And they should be able to participate in an economy without funding the same, too.

These convictions should be the status quo.

Via brownfemipower.

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Girl beaten and arrested at school for dropping cake.

September 30, 2007 at 3:55 pm (frightening things, injustice, movies/video/clips, racism) (, , , )

It pains me deeply to intentionally expose any readers to a product of the Fox News corporation, but, uh, it seems as though no other mainstream news source has provided video coverage of this story.

To recap: a young girl dropped a piece of cake at school during a birthday celebration, and a security guard called her “nappy-headed” and broke her arm for not cleaning it up well enough. She was expelled, arrested, and charged with assault and littering. The students who captured the incident on film with their cell phones were also arrested and, when she protested the abuse of her daughter, the girl’s mother was arrested too.

Via Oh No a WoC PhD, contact the school and make sure they know that this display of institutionalized racial violence is unacceptable and deserving of punishment.

Story via Women of Color Blog.

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Children Build Their Teacher a Coffin

September 27, 2007 at 8:25 pm (frightening things) (, , )

This story reads like an Onion piece…but it’s not satire.

Although Miss van den Biggelaar can no longer teach, she has looked at sketches of the coffin and is being kept up to date about it by pupils, aged between four and 11, who visit her at home.

“Life and death belong together,” she said. “The children realised that when I explained it to them. I didn’t want to be morbid about it, I wanted them to help me. I told them: ‘Where I will go is much nicer than this world.’ “

None of the children considered it creepy or was afraid and nobody felt traumatised, she said. Parents of the children involved all gave their consent.

Um…boundaries? Anyone?

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