Category Archives: LGBTQ

Kickstarter Project Info. Part I: The Novel

Our Own Mistress

I have always been a writer. I won’t bore you with the struggle I’ve had with my mind and imagination, but I have always been drawn to creative storytelling.

A few years ago I experienced some intimate interactions that left me with new discoveries about myself. I became fascinated with the ways in which power exchanges and pain affect not only our sexual lives, but our personal ones. I have also studied sexuality for over a decade, particularly “deviant” sexuality, and so I was able to explore these things in detail, thanks to academia.

My Kickstarter project, my novel Our Own Mistress, is a labor of love for me. Though it is a heavily erotic novel, it is not erotica. I poured a lot of myself and my understanding of certain sexuality and gender related taboos in this puritanical, patriarchal world. It is inspired by real people, real relationships, and a very real, misunderstood, and misrepresented culture.

The story revolves around a young woman who has always struggled with her submissiveness. To put it bluntly, she has always been a doormat. Due to choices she made under duress, she finds herself alone, and a foreigner in London. Then, just when things appear to be at their worst, she is subjected to violence. However, this violent encounter leads her to the people who, through some “unusual” means, help her realize her strength.

In this novel, I attempt to explore many things I have witnessed and experienced:

  • LGBTQA Relationships and Exploration
  • BDSM Relationships
  • Gender Roles and Identity
  • Social and Cultural Misrepresentation
  • Feminism
  • Surviving Abuse/Assault

Due to the nature of this story, the novel contains graphic sex and violence.

I know it is not easy to fund a work of fiction; there are many, many people out there with good ideas and the ability to bring them to life. It is also not easy to fund a novel with sexual content without it being considered erotica, or “fluff.” Ultimately, none of that matters. This story has filled my head for too long now; it needs to be told.

For glimpses of this novel’s content, visit the Fiction Samples page of this site. Or, email me via the Contact page. I also have an audio recording of the book’s introduction available.

Coming Soon: Kickstarter Project Info. Part II: London

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Photo property of Erin Dunbar. Copyright 2016.

Everyday Feminism

Do you like, as a woman, being able to own property? Do you like having a job, and the possibility of being in a lead position, or holding a position of major power? Do you like having the choice to marry and bear children, or not?

Everyday feminism allows these things. If you say you’re not a feminist, but you like all these things, you need to go back and take a good, long look at feminism again.

My Life Would Not Be Possible Without Feminism

So when Nicki Minaj, Shailene Woodley and Carrie Underwood are not sure if they are so “extreme” as to be feminists, I would suggest that they have another look at the string of diamonds, the mansion or the record contract that drives their privileged lifestyle and ask themselves if they would like to have all that freedom and independence transferred to their father or their brother, because women shouldn’t own property, they should be property. Your choice. And that alone, having the choice, is feminism.

When Women Dare Speak on Social Media

Identities.Mic: Actress Ashley Judd, who has been active in Hollywood for more than two decades, is also a die-hard University of Kentucky Wildcats fan. While watching her team play the University of Arkansas Razorbacks on Sunday, Judd posted a since-deleted tweet that suggested the Razorbacks were playing dirty — an act that apparently triggeredan avalanche of online abuse, much of which was sexual in nature.

It’s not new; we’ve seen this over and over, more and more light has been shed on this issue, and yet it still remains an issue.

Then again, I suppose that should be of no surprise. Feminism, off and on social media, is still up for debate, women are raped and abused daily (as are men who dare show any sign of femininity). So, if we haven’t fixed those problems over the centuries, why should we expect any less from social media?

We’re worried about when protecting people becomes pure policing, and restrictions on freedom of speech. I understand that. But, it becomes a cycle of pure hypocrisy; men want to feel free to say what they please about women and to women, and then complain about their freedom when someone objects. But, what they say about and to women is, in turn, doing to women what men don’t want done to them. These men are out to shut women up, but can’t handle it in return.

There has to be a way to define social media use, so that the difference between freedom of speech and useless, and potentially harmful, harassment become clear.

Some online forums have tried to do this by eliminating particular words. That never works. One possibility would be to observe how words are used; are they directed at someone, or used in general?

But, even then, you risk policing, and it’s hard to be objective.

You’ll always have people (mostly men) crying that women are too sensitive, and who will refuse to see that the greater amount of harassment, bullying, threats, and violence happens to women, no matter how much proof you show. Unfortunately, some of these people are in positions of power that allow them to crush any potential change.

So, what is to be done?

A dear friend of mine engaged in a debate recently about a transgender woman being removed from a gym bathroom after another woman complained, and her membership being revoked as a result. Just for expressing her opinion on the issue (and yes, she was being very reasonable in her debate), she was doxed. They even went so far as to anonymously e-mail her employer. I hated myself a little for telling her that, though I agree it was wrong of them to do that, she needed to be more careful about debating people on the internet. When she does that, she becomes a target (an undeserving one, obviously).

Unfortunately, there’s not much to be done at this point. Like the unfair way in which we’re expected to deal with rape culture, we must deal with online harassment. We have to be cautious. Until other, more broad and related things change, wave to tread carefully, lest we become the next tragic headline that arouses another short-lived, quickly-smothered cry for justice.

Speaking With A Woman Who Was Considered A Man

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L. was defined as “male” at birth.

I phrase things this way, and put suggestive quotations around “male,” because I’ve come to believe that gender, in many ways, is an imposed construct. And, for someone like L., that construct is largely false. Though she has spent the greater portion of her life to this point with the body of a man, she is, in fact, a woman.

I’ve long accepted that there are people in this world who cannot be happy and truly themselves in the lives and bodies into which they were born. I can fathom feeling displaced, like I don’t belong, in my own ways. Like many women, I’ve struggled with body image. I can’t, however, fully comprehend what it must have been like for L.

Like many, my understanding of a transgendered person’s struggle is limited to T.V. and film. I’m hoping that there are also many like me who want to understand better so that they may be more empathetic and supportive. So, I’ve asked L. to answer some questions for me, and she has graciously agreed.

First, thank you for being willing to do this. I hope at least a few people manage to see it and learn something, broaden their minds. 

Let’s start at the beginning. 

What’s the earliest memory you have of feeling, knowing you were meant to be someone other than who people said you were?

Hmm… So it was really from my first set of memories. Those memories of being a toddler can be fragmented and somewhat like looking at a movie through a strobe light. However, there were a few things:

   Firstly, I used to have recurring dreams where “fairies” in light white gowns would come and take me to play with them. Somehow when they did this, I became like them. As I got older, first-person dreams evolved more and more where I was either born with a female body or something in the dream ‘fixed’ me. But those fairy dreams were the beginning of those and are really about my earliest memories, period.
  It would be overstating to say I knew I was transgender or even “different” at that stage. The whole process was more akin to a confusing mosaic of experiences and instincts that gradually revealed an inescapable truth that bound it all together.
  When did I know I was “different” though? That would probably be around six years old. I was beginning to really socialize with other children and struggled to relate to boys. Not only that but I remember having these strange profound experiences every now and then. One such experience was playing soft tennis on the lawn of our backyard, with my brothers and some friends. I just recall finishing a game and then getting this sense that ‘everything’ was just wrong. It was very disconcerting…like this was not real and it was all kind of made up. I felt profoundly alone, in my own world.
   At the same time as these experiences, other things were going on that I just could not process at the time and realize were really different. An example would be my hair.. I hated getting it cut. I hated it. It was not because it hurt or I was afraid of the hairdresser but I always came out feeling very uncomfortable with a more boyish look. It was also around that time (about six) that I first started a regular habit of scouring through my mothers closet and playing with shoes or sometimes even a dress (but they were way to big to ever wear even for play). I initially did the same for my father but it had a scarier, cold feel to it and held no interest to me. I was fascinated with jewelry and even toiletries in the bathroom. I would go through these things again and again in a strange inquisitive compulsion but with no ulterior motive at the time. Finally, I definitely grew envious if that is the right term, for girls in my classes at school. It was the first time I felt any shame because I remember wanting to be one of the “princesses” in a play or to be one of the girls doing the dance of the Waltz of Flowers when the primary school did a version of the Nutcracker Suite. I was so sad watching them… Gosh I can recall that!
  So… without expanding too much further on the question, my earliest memories of being different were from when I was toddler. But actually “knowing” I was different probably took me about until I was six. Finally, knowing and accepting I was transgender is something that happened much, much later.
Did it come as a relief, when you acknowledged this about yourself?

That depends on what you mean. If you mean recognizing I was different as a child? That was disconcerting and confusing. However, once the full realization and acceptance came later on, it was nothing short of terrifying. I knew the way transgender people were treated and viewed. I knew the stigma I could face yet I also knew it was not something I could “choose” to ignore. So it was much more like feeling I had been diagnosed with a horrible disease with a very unknown prognosis and uncertain future ahead of me.

    In fact, I tried initially to rebuild the walls of mental suppression and denial to put everything “back in the box.” But it was useless. Once the clarity finally came, it could never be contained any longer.
Were the reactions what you feared they would be?

No, I would state given what I have observed happen to other transgender people after coming out, I was incredibly lucky.

I feared ridicule in public, losing friends, being stared at like a “freakshow” when doing mundane tasks in public and discrimination. I feared being considered a third-class citizen.
     It was particularly hard at first because my hair was still short, I had not yet done much electrolysis, and hormones had not yet had a chance to change my body. So, you end up wearing a wig, excessive make-up, and faking curves on your body. Thus, unfortunately, the first time you really explore is a time when far from feeling “authentic,” the artificial additions to your body, aside from making it easier for attention to be drawn from others, make you, yourself feel very low and “fake.”
   One of the first times I went out after acknowledging it, was to visit my first physician that would help me. She was in the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. This was a long, narrow  building akin to an airline terminal where you would walk past waiting area after waiting area to finally get to suite “G,” where she was based. It was like running a gauntlet and there was a constant battle of keeping your head up, concentrating on your gait to avoid attention versus putting your head down and avoiding eye contact which would draw attention.
   In the end, I felt the weight of several people staring at me from time to time, but after a while got used to that. Even that first experience was not as bad as I feared. None of my real friends abandoned me. Old friends from England send me various messages of support as did friends in California. I had always surrounded myself with generally Liberal people though so for the most part the deck was stacked in my favor. My family in England were cautiously supportive while being a little confused about what it all meant.
  I did lose male privilege and noticed this in a number of ways. When people did not know me at my employment, they would be more likely to technically challenge me or otherwise assumed I was less technically competent than I was. I have to be extra careful of my “moods.” Additionally, there were small things such as when I got my vehicle serviced, I found that while the service technicians were suddenly a lot nicer (albeit a little condescending), they have on more than one occasion tried to make me pay more for my service than I needed to. As an example, I have a Volkswagen minivan which is actually made by Chrysler and uses 100% American parts. Nevertheless, since I transitioned, I have had service techs try to tell me that because parts have to be “imported” it makes it much more expensive. I am not remotely mechanical so I have no idea of some the other attempted scams that have been tried on me. But I have caught them doing this more than once. Male privilege manifests itself in a number of ways and I have lost that.

I’m sorry, I shouldn’t chuckle at that last bit at all, but I can’t help it. It’s sort of sad laughter. Welcome to our class, Darlin’!

So, do you feel your experience would have differed if you had begun your transition back in England? 

In my experience the concept of male privilege is global. It could be much worse in an ultra-conservative, religious country like Saudi Arabia, but even in England with its rather secular, more liberal and less sexist society, the male privilege is still there. I would still face fleecing by a mechanic, and I would still be judged differently if I am assertive or opinionated. As for the rest of society, while England has made strides for transgender rights by streamlining the gender change process, even those laws are flawed. Additionally, it was only in 2013 that Lucy Meadows committed suicide. She was an elementary school teacher who transitioned on the job (with the support of her school) yet the vitriol and perceived right to vilify her from the British media (particularly Richard Littlejohn) drove her to kill herself not too long afterwards. It resonated with me… she could have been me. The British tabloid media can be absolutely brutal.

    So while I have transitioned in the American South, probably the worst place for LGBT people in the United States, the reality is that nowhere is perfect. I would face nearly as much ridicule even in England. I would just have stronger, longer support, which is a crucial part of surviving transition.
What about the positives? I mean, being able to finally be yourself seems like an obviously important one. But, what has been great about transitioning?
The positives… I think being authentic is everything. The freedom to be who you are, and express yourself completely and honestly, is priceless and everything else pales in comparison. But beyond that, “positives'”? I have been given insight that people rarely get. I have seen life from two different gender “roles” imposed by society. It is a positive because, while I can recognize the effects of privilege, it also makes me less likely to judge and be more tolerant. I can enjoy wearing a range of different outfits, shoes, boots, makeup, and jewelry without fear (though not without judgement). I get treated differently by strangers. If a mother is with a baby, she naturally smiles at me, rather than giving me a cautious look. People in general feel less threatened by me, and it is obvious that strangers are more relaxed and talkative to me (not necessarily a positive, though, to someone who hates chit-chat!). Men often instinctively want to help me carry heavy things. I was also going to add the transgender community, but on reflection this is a double-edged sword. The transgender community is full of caring, compassion, and understanding for their transgender brothers and sisters. But, it is also equally full to the brim with selfishness, resentment, and bitterness which often causes fractures and divisions within the community. So despite all the wonderful people I have met within that community, it is somewhat tenuous to label it exclusively positive.
Okay, last question. To people who don’t understand, or aren’t familiar with what it means to be transgender, what would you like to say?
This is a big question. Firstly, gender identity has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Secondly, the organ which determines one’s gender is the brain. Nothing else is relevant in determining your gender. In simple terms, “Gender Dysphoria” or “Gender Dissonance” is a medical condition in which the gender identity in the brain is non-congruent with the external physical characteristics of the body, where sexual differentiation takes place. It is not a “lifestyle”  and it is not something people “choose” to be.
    The only time “choice” is available is in how one handles the condition and chooses to treat it. One has to determine the right solution for dealing with the deep pain and distress of living in a gender role that is completely different to one’s gender identity. Sometimes, it may be possible to treat without surgery, sometimes even without hormones. What is true is that the condition generally does not improve and only gets worse without treatment, particular as the body further exhibits characteristics at odds with one’s gender identity.
    Living with gender dysphoria is a rare type of pain and distress. It is a very private prison that often goes years without being observed or acknowledged by anyone other than the person with the condition. Transgender people are not mentally ill, and are quite capable of functioning in society, once they treat the condition. The biggest tragedy today is not that Transgender people are incapable of dealing with their condition, but that many people in society are unwilling to recognize it exists.
   Whether you truly believe gender dysphoria is biological or purely a product of social environment, the fact is that in adults with the condition, it almost never goes away. The process of transition has a dramatically more successful treatment efficacy than any other approach.  So whether you accept the science or “believe” in something else, rejecting transgender people in society, and rejecting proven methods to relieve their distress and pain, is inhumane and immoral.
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Photo courtesy of torbakhopper on Flickr via the Attribution license. No changes have been made.

KXAN News: Austin’s Gender Neutral Bathrooms

“The city’s adoption of these new regulations are the result of a national campaign by the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) organization to bring attention to gendered restroom facilities which can present uncomfortable and dangerous situations for the gender non-conforming community,” the city said in a statement.

Texas and I have our differences. I was born and raised here, in a now-dying Texas tradition of genuine Western ranchers, cowboys, and cattlemen. God knows I’ve struggled, as I’m not anything like what I was raised to be. 

But I’m rooting for you Texas! I know Austin is very different from the rest of Texas, but I hope you, as a whole, will progress and become part of a diverse world, rather than separate from it. 

Huff. Post: Tiffany Ad Features Gay Couple

Tiffany & Co. is engaging new customers.

The venerable jeweler features a gay couple for the first time in an ad, according to Time.

The photogenic men, who are a real couple in New York City, are pictured on a stoop for Tiffany’s “Will You” campaign, next to a picture of two rings.

I don’t see marriage as a necessity for two people who want to spend their lives together.

But, I like the idea. I like knowing that there will be places in which people, like me, could propose, accept a proposal, and marry someone of the same gender. 

One state, one business, one step at a time.