Happy Holidays!

As final exams are finishing up, I would like to wish everyone a happy holiday season! I hope you travel home safely and are able to avoid the snow storm coming our way. Enjoy your well-deserved break, and I look forward to seeing everyone next semester.

This blog will be taking a break until the first week of January. After the new year, check back periodically for updates and posts over the break!

Reader's Comments

Earlier this month, I wrote a blog post referencing a NY Times article about a community of "men who consider themselves women" in Mexico who are called Muxes (pronounced moo-shays) and are accepted in their society as a third gender. This blogpost was found offensive to some, and for that I apologize. One person left a great comment about why this was offensive, and what her views are about genderqueer vs. transgender issues. I want to share this with everyone incase you missed the comment on the original post:

So according to the article, Muxes are considered "men who consider themselves women." That, quite literally, indicates that many Muxes are probably transwomen (some might be crossdressers), and also that they are not accepted as women. In other words, it's akin to calling a transwoman a "man in a dress" or calling a transman a "woman with a beard". This is what we call transphobia, or, to use a more specific term, "cissexism": The belief that transpeople have a less 'authentic' or 'real' gender than cispeople.

It's a pattern that seems to emerge mostly in countries or communities with no or little access to medical resources for transpeople: Transwomen don't pass well and (hence) are not accepted as women, and instead get grouped into a "third gender" category. Other comparable instances besides Muxes include Kathoeys in Thailand or Hijras in India; I'm sure there are plenty more. Of course, it is preferable for transwomen, who might otherwise be considered men, to be labeled a third gender. However, this shouldn't mislead us into thinking that what's going on there is anything else than plain cissexism.

To be honest, as an apolitical person, I'm not making it my problem if some communities somewhere don't get trans-acceptance right. However, what I do take issue with is the general pattern that this blog-post seems to be a part of:

People in the genderqueer/genderqueer-allied community seem to be fond of anything that supports the prevalent ('progressive') ideologies that (a) "gender and sex are independent" and (b) "there are more than two genders". Note that both ideologies can be highly threatening to transwomen (and I assume also transmen, but I don't know enough to speak for them). Feel free to talk to me in person for examples of why and where notion (a) can be harmful. Notion (b) can easily cause transpeople to be grouped into some "third-gender" category -- for instance, I suspect that the "male / female / transgender" checkboxes that I've seen on several surveys before are a result of badly-done (= miscommunicated) gender-spectrum advocacy.

This doesn't mean that the ideologies are wrong (well, (a) does need some qalification to be factually correct), but I'm politely asking to please consider the effects on transwomen when you push any of these things. I am not saying here that genderqueer people's interest necessarily conflict with transwomen's interests, but that people in the genderqueer community seem to have a tendency to not be mindful of transpeople's (or maybe just transwomen's) interests. In this particular case, I find it remarkable (and ironic) how a probable instance of transphobia gets relabeled as "transgender acceptance" (in the title), simply because it fits with the prevalent ideologies.

Study Hours at LGBTQ Center!

Finals week is upon us! We would like to offer the LGBTQ Center as an alternative study space since this is the busiest week of the semester in the library. Instead of our usual drop-in hours, here is our schedule for this week:

Monday, 12/15: 4-8pm
Tuesday, 12/16: 4-10pm
Wednesday, 12/17: 5-10pm
Thursday, 12/18: 4-8pm

Good luck to everyone!

"Bottom Monologues" Organizers Seek Men's Narratives

A new play being developed entitled Bottom Monologues will reflect diversity of gay, bi, trans, and queer men's lived experiences as bottoms.

The organizers of The Bottom Monologues invite gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer men to log-on to this website, where they can submit their stories to be used in the production of a groundbreaking play about –you guessed it -- bottoms. In the spirit of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, The Bottom Monologues will feature provocative and challenging stories from GBTQ men about sex, desire, identity, and the politics of men proudly proclaiming their desire to get fucked.

To bring the play to life, The Bottom Monologues is asking GBQT men from around the world to log-on to and submit their thoughts through an anonymous online questionnaire. "We're hoping to get stories from men who identity as top, bottom, versatile – or not at all. Any queer man who has something to say about bottoms is welcome and wanted,"says one of the project's organizers, Trevor Hoppe. Questions range from the basic ("So… what's a bottom?") to the more complex ("Are tops, bottoms, and versatile guys all that different?"). Guys who log-on can choose to respond to the questions as-is, or step outside the box and develop their own prompts.

The Bottom Monologues began at the recent 2008 Gay Men's Health Summit in Seattle, where the project's three organizers – Alex Garner, Trevor Hoppe, and Erik Libey – met for the first time. In Seattle, Garner organized a reading of the late Eric Rofes' screenplay, Test / Positive / Now, a beautiful collection of stories from gay men who have recently tested HIV-positive. The next day, Hoppe presented his research findings on bottom identity in a session title, "What Makes a Bottom?" During the Q&A, Garner commented that bringing the narratives described in Hoppe's research to the stage would be a much needed public proclamation of bottom desire – a topic typically seen as taboo even for many GBTQ men. With some encouragement from Libey after the summit wrapped, the project was born.

Once the stories are collected, the organizers will sift through the submissions to look for common themes, major differences, and particularly exciting stories. "We're basically going to take a few hundred submissions and distill them into a handful of composite characters," Hoppe says. "In this way, guys who log on and submit their story will have a direct hand in the stories well tell on stage." The deadline for submissions is March 31, 2009. Those interested can log on to the project website for more information about the project and to submit their story.

Organizer bios can be found here.

Yet Another Face of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

(Posted by Eva, '12)
I read an article on 365gay today about Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) and the holidays.  The article discusses an aspect of DADT that isn't usually discussed: queer service members who have partners at home.  Not only are their partners unable to receive resources that the Army provides to opposite sex partners such as counseling and support groups, but also their communication with their partner is limited.  

The article describes one woman in the Navy who was unable to record a holiday message for her partner, even though all of her fellow comrades were.  She couldn't record one for fear of outing herself.  Another woman couldn't call her partner because calls off of Navy ships are monitored.  

While these situations arise all throughout the year, they become even more prevalent and even harder to deal with during the holidays.  Queer service members can't join in conversations about their significant others or if they do, they have to use gender-neutral pronouns or invent an opposite gender partner.  This makes it difficult for them to bond with other service members and create that camaraderie that some people ironically claim will be destroyed by having queer people serve openly in the military.  Just imagine trying to create a close bond with someone - close enough that you would trust them with you life - and not being able to mention the one person that means the most to you.

Point Foundation Offers Higher Education Scholarships for LGBT Students

The Point Foundation, a scholarship-granting organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students of merit, has announced the opening of its 2009 application season.  Students who will be enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs for the 2009-2010 school year are eligible to apply for the multi-year scholarships.

The scholarship program's selection criteria include academic excellence, leadership skills, community involvement, and financial need.  Particular attention is paid to students who have lost the financial support of their families and/or communities as a result of revealing their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

On average, a Point Scholarship awards $13,200 in direct financial support, in addition to programmatic support in leadership training and mentoring.  The average amount of annual support devoted to each scholar is between $26,000 and $31,000.  Point Scholars agree to maintain a high level of academic performance and to give back to the LGBT community through the completion of an individual community service project each year.  In addition, scholars are matched with mentors from the professional world who lend their expertise and career guidance and serve as role models for scholars.

For further information and application guidelines, visit the foundation's website

**The above was taken directly from an e-mail I received from the Point Foundation.

A Day Without a Gay - One Man's Story

This article gives a personal account of what "A Day Without a Gay" means, and why it's important.

David mostly focuses on same-sex marriage rights, but don't forget about employment non-discrimination and bullying protections that are important as well!

A Day Without a Gay

Today, December 10, has been named "A Day Without a Gay" by many in the queer community. Queer people, and their allies, have been encouraged to go on strike by "calling in gay" - meaning not go to work or school and not contribute anything to the economy for the day. Instead, we should volunteer our time to helping others and our surrounding communities. The goal of this is to raise awareness about the LGBT workers, business owners, consumers, and taxpayers who contribute over $700 billion to the U.S. economy each year, yet are still treated as second class citizens when it comes to legal rights and protections. Being absent from our jobs/classes help to show what would be lost if were not here to begin with, and volunteering for the day helps to show the message is about love, not discrimination.

This day of activism was inspired by the film A Day Without A Mexican and the nationwide strike in 2006 called "A Day Without Immigrants" which were attempts by Latinos and other immigrants for equal rights and employment non-discrimination. December 10 was selected because it is International Human Rights Day.

Word was spread about this day largely via the internet. The official facebook group about it has over 9,000 members, and there have been countless e-mails about it. The official website is www.daywithoutagay.org, and from there you can search or post volunteer opportunities for various geographical areas.

For full disclosure, I must admit that I am at work today. Unfortunately, I heard about "calling in gay" after I had scheduled a couple important meetings for the day. Working on a college campus makes it difficult to rearrange my schedule during the last week of classes. Though, the objective for the day is to raise awareness about the issues presented above, so hopefully this blogpost will do so. And there's always next year...

Vassar is a Desert

(Posted by Nick, '11)
I'm going to admit it: I'm in a romantic rut. I haven't had any substantial hookups this semester, much less any kind of romantic relationship with anyone. I just find the whole concept of going up to some random guy on the dance floor at an event and making out with him, seducing him with my admittedly awkward dance "moves," unappealing. I want to feel EMOTION if I'm making out with someone - I want it to be with someone whom I know has likes and dislikes similar to mine, whom I know something would likely continue with after the first hookup.

Call me old-fashioned, but I want a relationship.

And I seriously chose the wrong school for that. The dating scape at Vassar is like a desert. You wander in it aimlessly for a while, and all of a sudden you get hungry or thirsty. You search and search, and you might find something that satisfies your immediate needs, like a leafy plant or a small iguana, but it doesn't last long. What you're looking for is something that you can find shelter in against the storm of life, something that will provide nourishment for a long time, like the leafy shade and never ending water of an oasis. The problem with Vassar is the oases are few and far between - you're more likely to encounter small lizards lying around.

Add that to the fact that there's a "gay elite" here at Vassar. It's not often talked about, nor is it generally called the "gay elite" but frankly that's what it seems like to me. They travel in a group, always hang out, and are completely undateable. Not to mention if you're not one of their close friends, you'll be lucky if they acknowledge your existence. My belief in the essential goodness and likeability of human beings makes me want to believe they're the cacti in the desert, things you'd rather avoid touching if at all possible, but if you do end up getting close to them and really find out what they are on the inside, they can provide the nourishment you seek. One can dream.

So I've given up on romance at Vassar, at least for the remainder of the semester. The end.

LGBTV - Tonight!

LGBTV Presents the Last Movie of the Semester:
The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love
TONIGHT - Wednesday, December 10
8pm @ LGBTQ Center (CC 235)A sweet story of two high school girls from opposite sides of the tracks who fall in love. Randy works at the gas station and lives with her lesbian aunt and her lover. Evie drives a Range Rover and is one of the most popular girls in school. When they fall in love, all hell breaks loose.

Iowa Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments in Gay Marriage Case

That's right, Iowa might be the next state to legalize gay marriage! Check out the Advocate article here.

Blegen House Update

As promised, I want to use this blog as a way to be transparent about the LGBTQ Center and Blegen House situation.

A decision was made recently that I would like to share with everyone - the LGBTQ Center will not be moving back to Blegen House. This was decided mostly because of the college's financial situation right now. Like most of America, we have been hit hard by this recession, and the college needs to cut back on many of the capital projects that were originally planned. The Blegen House upgrades to make the house wheelchair accessible is just one of those projects that was cut. Also - we have received much positive feedback from students about our current location. Being in the college center has made this a more convenient place for students to visit and attend programs.

So what will happen to the LGBTQ Center? As of now, we will remain where we are indefinitely. This is not a permanent solution for us, since we still have many materials that can not fit in CC 235 (especially our 1700+ book library collection). We will be using storage places accross campus for the time being, and will work towards a more permanent larger space that remains in a central location on campus. (This will probably happen once the bookstore moves out of the college center and many offices get moved around.) We will do our best to continue computer access to our library until we find our permanent location.

What will happen to Blegen House? Blegen House will go back to being a single-family residence for faculty, staff, or administrators of Vassar. Details are still being worked out for how quickly this will happen, but we will most likely be moving all our stuff out of there over winter break.

In general, I think this is great news! Most students seem very happy about our current location, and our attendance at events and the center in general has drastically improved since last year. Feel free to leave comments to let us know what you think about our current location!

Transgender Acceptance in Mexico

I've been hearing about this lately, and wanted to share this article from the NY Times called A Lifestyle Distinct - The Muxe of Mexico.

The “muxes” (pronounced MOO-shays) live in the town of Juchit├ín in the southern state of Oaxaca. They are a community of men who consider themselves women and live in a socially sanctioned netherworld between the two genders.

This is just another example of a third gender recognized in cultures outside of the U.S.

For more pictures of this community, click here.

LGBTV - Tonight!

LGBTV Presents:
The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green
TODAY - Friday, December 5
7pm at the LGBTQ Center (CC 235)

Based on the underground hit comic strip, this hilarious, gay romantic comedy follows the story of Ethan Green, and adorable 26 year old professional 'assistant' looking for love in all the wrong places.

If you are not familiar with the LGBTV series of movies we offer - join the facebook group here!

There's Only Two Types of People in this World...

(Posted by Nick, '11)
The ones that entertain, and the ones that observe.

Or so says Britney Spears, whose performance on Good Morning America I went to see on Tuesday! It. Was. FANTASTIC. TRULY beyond words. It was possibly the defining moment of my life thus far. Sounds silly, I know, but I've loved her music for a loooooooooong time (like since my sister got "Oops... I Did It Again" for her birthday one year) and the energy in the tent (it was appropriately at the Big Apple Circus in Lincoln Center) was out of control! At 7:00am! I know! Crazy!

I won tix last week through her website, in case you were wondering.

But though the performance was astoundingly awesome, that's not what this post is about. What struck me as intriguing was the composition of the crowd. Though there were exceptions to this generalization, the audience was mostly composed of teenage to twenties-age girls/women and gay men. Here at Vassar, it's no secret that Britney is a superstar among those of the homosexual male persuasion. Why?

I mean, sitting about 3 seats down from me were two adorable gay guys - one of them was critiquing Lynne Spears' outfit (Brit's entire fam except Jamie Lynn was there), saying that she looked GREAT. The other responded "WELL she better look good - she gave birth to GOD!"

What is it that makes female pop stars so appealing to gay men? Britney is perhaps the ultimate for my generation - but let's not forget Madonna, Cher, and (dare I say it) the up-and-coming Miley Cyrus. I honestly don't have an answer for this - what are your thoughts??

Personally, the reason I love Britney is her songs are infectious, and she's so widely renowned and famous that I find her star power very appealing and attractive. How 'bout you?

Prop 8 - The Musical

If you have not seen this yet, take a peek. Totally worth 3 minutes of your time!

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Free HIV Testing

FREE HIV Testing
Today - Thursday, December 4
10am-2pm in Baldwin Parking Lot
This test is done with a quick and easy mouth swab - no needles! You will receive the results in about 20 minutes. And did I mention it's FREE?!
Sponsored by Health Services

More AIDS Day Events Tonight!

TODAY - Wednesday, December 3:

Guest Speaker - Randy Baron, MD
5pm at Rose Parlor
Pro-Health and the Office of Health Education are sponsoring this event with Randy Baron, MD who will be sharing his experience of living with HIV.

Film Screening & Discussion - RENT
8pm at the LGBTQ Center (CC 235)
Come see the movie adaptation of the broadway musical about modern Bohemians in the East Village of NYC struggling with life, love, and AIDS.
Co-sponsored by TransMission and the LGBTQ Center

It's that time of year again...

(Posted by Loghann, '10)
With Thanksgiving over we've reached the time of the year when it's actually morally ok to play Christmas music 24/7. If you're anything like me, what this season is really about trying to figure out just how much damage you can do with your credit card buying gifts for friends and family and still make it to January (note to self: not a heck of a lot).

To help me in this consumerist endeavor, the folks over at the HRC annually put together a buyer's guide for shoppers looking to spend their money at companies that treat their LGBTQ employees with fairness. While on the surface this seems an incredibly helpful undertaking, like many things the HRC does, it is lacking when it comes to the "T" part of LGBTQ.

This link is to a blog I regularly read that covers many issues of interest to the queer community. A blogger there recently wrote about trying to find accurate information in the HRC Buyer's Guide regarding trans policies. Check it out!

I am, of course, not saying not to use the Buyer's Guide, there's a lot of helpful stuff in there. However, this is only another instance of the HRC leaving out the "T" in our community.

[Side note from Julie: Keep the above in mind, but here is the 2009 buyers guide if you are interested.]

World AIDS Day Event Today

TODAY - Tuesday, December 2
6pm @ ALANA Center
Film Screening & Discussion: Life Support
A woman of color faced with the challenges of raising her family, educating her community, and living with AIDS.

World AIDS Day!

Today - December 1st - is World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day is the day when individuals and organizations from around the world come together to bring attention to the global AIDS epidemic. 2008 marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. We have come a long ways since 1988, but there is still much more to be done.

Join us TODAY for the Vassar World AIDS Day Kick-Off event from 3-7pm in the Villard Room. Here's the run-down of events:

-- Reinstallation ceremony of the Vassar AIDS memorial plaque. (hear from family members of alumni whose names were recently added to our AIDS memorial plaque)
3:30-5pm -- Open mic. // Tabling from relevant student organizations and offices // See the Vassar AIDS quilt on display // Make a square for an AIDS quilt to honor someone you know.
5-7pm -- Panel discussion about the effects of AIDS on the Vassar community and worldwide. Moderated by Eric Marcus '80; Panel members include other alumni, Professor Diane Harriford, and others.

Did I mention there would be free food?? Yummy food.

Check back later for the schedule of AIDS Day events throughout the week.