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Growing Up with Gender Neutrality

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Even before we are born, gender seeps through the womb like a glaze on a cake: very slowly, but all-encompassing, soaking what was a blank slate with gender norms and heterosexual expectations. From then on we slowly become more and more conscious of societal expectations, and unwritten rules and consequences. Whether they be intentional or not, the impact can be substantial.

Equality at Egalia

When people are young, they are malleable. The surroundings they are subjected to and the individuals that interact with them are instrumental in forming their first viewpoints of the world. Egalia, a preschool in Sweden, is a prime example of a safe learning environment that provides space to explore interests and activities that might be frowned upon or not offered in other preschools. “We don’t say, ‘Come on boys, let’s go and play football,’ because there might be girls who want to play football,” says Frida Wikström, the schools’ coordinator.  

Keeping the Ball Rolling

How does one continue the example of a safe environment shown at Egalia at home? It can actually be more difficult due to our own personal ingrained ideas about gender and what they look like. The first place to start in creating a freeing environment is the toy chest. Here are my top 10 picks for gender neutral toys:

  1. Stuffed animals – Who doesn’t love something soft and cuddly to carry around?
  2. Doctor Kit – I remember growing up with a Sesame Street doctor kit, and loving it.
  3. Building Toys – Legos, Lincoln Logs, blocks, etc.
  4. Appliances – Kitchen sets have always been a favorite of mine; cooking is a great skill to have, especially when you’re hungry!
  5. Play Food – A kitchen isn’t much good without some food to cook with!
  6. Tools – Fixing your vacuum cleaner, or changing a tire are skills everyone could benefit from learning.
  7. Bike or Trike – Once you learn, you never forget!
  8. Bath Toys – I was never a fan of bathing growing up, but having bath toys always made it much more bearable.
  9. Outdoor Games – Balls, frisbees, and hula hoops are all classics.
  10. Musical Toys – Who knows – maybe a toy xylophone will be the catalyst of creating a great percussionist!

Gender Neutral Clothes for Kids

Whether one is at Egalia, or at home, play clothes are a necessity. Here are my top 3 gender neutral kids clothing stores:

  1. Quirkie Kids – I adore how the majority of the clothes are images of cool things! Who doesn’t want a shark on a shirt?! Some shirts don’t resonate with me as much (“Still a boy” / “Still a girl”) but I can see how they could be validating for someone who is often told they are not behaving masc or femme enough for the gender they identify with.
  2. Baby Blastoff! – I am a VERY big fan of this company. Tabs are divided into shirts, pants, and bodysuits. Again, they are screenprinted with super cool images (trees, birds, dinosaurs). What captured my heart was seeing a child in a wheelchair sporting one of these awesome t shirts on the homepage – showing that ALL KIDS deserve awesome clothes. Representation of all types of kiddos is important, validating, and beautiful.
  3. Target – Target is setting an example by offering a ‘neutral’ setting under filters when looking at clothes. Supporting independent and local businesses is important and ideal. However, when we are in need of something affordable and closeby, it is wonderful to have validating and inclusive options.

Gender isn’t Garbage

I was raised very gender neutrally. Solid colored shirts and pants, not a lot of Barbies, and a whole lot of blocks and crayons. Even when I took ballet lessons from 4th – 6th grade, there were very few pink and frilly garments. There were times growing up where I wanted to present more femme. I wanted to wear clothes with some sparkle and sequins. I wanted to play around with makeup. There was a forbidden aspect that made it even more intriguing. This also applied to toys. The “boy” toy aisle in Walmart always looked more fun. There was action, adventure, variety, and more.

Egalia is more than just a preschool – it is an example of what all humans desire and deserve: “a space to feel security, joy and a desire to learn and develop many rich expressions, where everyone feels involved and where learning is for life!” Gender is not bad. Being assigned female at birth (AFAB) and loving dresses and dolls is not bad. Being assigned male at birth (AMAB) and loving trucks and pants is not bad. Eliminating gender isn’t the answer to creating a safe and fun environment to grow and play. Egalia acknowledges and embraces that. Critics have labelled the project as “gender-madness,” accusing the school of trying to brainwash the kids into a genderless homogeneity. Egalia’s not trying to do that. Gender is an important part of people’s identities, and the kids are free to embrace those differences.

Sara Whittington is a genderqueer artist raised in Central Louisiana, but currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. They have had the good fortune to be able to travel across the country, as well as abroad. Some of their favorite trips thus far have been adventuring across Iceland, spending summers on Lake Michigan, and a family celebration in Mundesley, England. In their spare time, Sara enjoys writing letters to loved ones.

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Danica Roem Earns Seat in Virginia’s State Legislature

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I’ve previously written about Danica Roem and how she, a transgender woman, made history by winning Virginia’s Democratic primary in June. She’s done it again! On November 7th, Roem defeated Bob Marshall, a man who once referred to himself as “chief homophobe,” in Virginia’s House of Delegates election.

Who is Danica Roem?

Danica Roem was born in 1984 at Prince William Hospital in Manassas and went to Catholic school for thirteen years of her life. She attended St. Bonaventure University where she majored in journalism. She graduated in 2006 and reported for the Gainesville Times and eventually for the Prince William Times. Danica also wrote about schools, development, business, and transportation. In 2012, she started her transition and in December of 2013, she began hormone replacement therapy. Her name changed occurred in 2015 and her coworkers were supportive of her. She was eventually hired as the news editor of the Montgomery County Sentinel in Rockville Maryland, where she worked from August 2015 until the end of 2016. After, she left her position at the newspaper to run for office.

A major victory for trans rights

By defeating long-standing Republican and firm social conservative Bob Marshall, Danica Roem became the first openly transgender official to be elected in Virginia and made history by being the first transgender person to be seated in a state legislature. This is a huge step for LGBTQ rights, as transgender individuals are heavily discriminated against in many forms, such as workplace discrimination and discrimination in regard to using public bathrooms. By electing Roem and ousting Marshall, Virginia, a traditionally conservative state, is showing that more and more Virginians are moving toward positive change.

So who exactly is Bob Marshall, the man that Roem defeated? Marshall was elected to the House of Delegates in the early 1990s and has run and won every single election until this year. He authored Virginia’s 2006 “One man, one woman” bill that supports the idea that marriage is defined as a union between one man and one woman, is anti-abortion and opposes tax funding of Planned Parenthood, purposely uses disingenuous language to undermine the struggles of the LGBTQ community, is against gay men from serving in Virginia’s National Guard because he believes that there would be an increase in the spreading of STDs, and is in favor of legal discrimination against LGBTQ people. He is very clearly anti-LGBTQ and holds views that go counter to the direction that this country is heading in.

A way forward for Virginians

In contrast, Roem is in favor of raising the minimum wage in Virginia, making preschool more accessible, vows to increase teacher pay, wants to decrease bullying and discrimination in schools and promises to create a more inclusive Virginia by making sure people do not get singled out based on sexual orientation, race, gender, or disability. Her experience as a journalist helped her gain excellent listening skills. Because of that, Roem is able to listen to the residents of Prince William County and help achieve what needs to be done. According to her bio page, she promises to tackle public issues the way she wrote news stories: by researching, questioning, listening, and reporting. By electing her, the residents of Virginia showed that they were tired of Marshall’s antiquated (and frankly) bigoted views and wanted a real change. Bob Marshall won fourteen consecutive general elections which definitely displayed Virginia’s views but this year created a huge change. In the wake of all of the tension within the United States government, Danica Roem offers a much-needed and refreshing perspective on how people view transgender people. Hopefully, this will be a crucial catalyst in the fight for transgender and LGBTQ rights and an important stepping stone in the fight for equality.  

Originally posted 2017-11-14 15:36:41.

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#FiveFilms4Freedom LGBT+ Film Festival

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The #FiveFilms4Freedom 2017 film festival is travelling across the pond this November. Originally hosted in Britain this past March, it is the first and largest LGBT+ film festival, and has featured independent LGBT+ short films from around the globe.

The film festival began in 2014 in Britain, sponsored by the British Council and the British Film Institute. It is a part of the larger BFI Flare film festival, which began in 1986, and is sponsored by the Love is GREAT Britain Campaign. .

This year’s #FiveFilms4Freedom festival marked 50 years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in Britain. As such, all five films were created by UK filmmakers.

After the films premiered in the UK in March, they were brought to Washington, D.C. on November 1, and will be shown in Los Angeles on November 13 and in New York City on November 16. The festival will also feature a panel of prominent LGBT+  rights advocates from the US and the UK, as well as two participating directors.  

The films focus on a range of LGBT+ relationships and issues. The majority of them are love stories; Crush tells the story of a young girl who finds herself smitten with another girl she sees at a train station, Heavy Weight deals with a young male boxer and his reaction to the arrival of a new fighter, and Jamie is a very modern story about a man who bravely decides to meet with the man he has been talking to on a dating site. The other two films explore very different experiences in the LGBT+ community. Still Burning is about a young migrant living in Paris who shows his brother the exciting and freeing voguing movement. The title is taken from the film Paris is Burning, a documentary about the voguing movement in New York City and its effect on the African American, Latino, gay and transgender communities. The final film is a documentary set in Scotland, entitled Where We Are Now, and focuses on a transgender parent and her bisexual daughter.

The BFI Flare festival as well as #FiveFilms4Freedom have given the LGBT+ community an excellent place for celebration and representation, especially in the UK. With the decriminalization of homosexuality 31 years ago, British LGBT+ representation is extremely important because it has only been able to exist for a short amount of time. The festival allows filmmakers to make LGBT+ people and relationships extremely public, and continues to encourage and support the idea that LGBT+ people can make and star in incredible pieces of media. The move from showing the films in Britain alone to showing them in the US will hopefully continue to encourage the rise of LGBT+ relationships in mainstream media as well as in independent media.

Tickets for the festival in New York City are still available for reservation here. The festival is on November 16 from 6 – 9 PM at the Barclays-ASK Auditorium on Seventh Avenue. The festival is also currently accepting submissions for next year’s festival here.

Originally posted 2017-11-13 21:00:23.

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Online Dating While Genderqueer #notokcupid

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Anatomy, pronouns, sexual orientation. These suddenly become much more important when talking to cis men online. I often don’t disclose my gender identity or pronouns in conversation because I don’t want to scare folks away. I also figure it’s more of a 2nd date conversation. I do mention my pronouns in my bios, though. I don’t want to hide my gender identity, but I also don’t want to talk about it a lot. There’s more to me than just my gender (or lack thereof), and I’m not interested in teaching Queer Theory 101 courses when we could be talking about movies, or where we grew up, or which Disney Princess is our favorite. It’s an exhausting thing to talk about – there’s a lot of emotional energy and work involved, often met with even more invasive questions, a sense of entitlement, and arguments.

Living in Brooklyn, dating can be exhausting. A major pro is the seemingly endless amount of options/available folks. At the same time, a major con is the seemingly endless amount of options/available folks. There is a lot of sifting and sorting that needs to be done before even meeting someone in real life. Here are three dating apps I’ve used, and my experiences with each.

OKCupid

OKCupid is one of my favorite dating platforms thus far. The expansive options for gender identity/sexual orientation, and the option to not be seen by straight people, is validating and creates a safer space for an already vulnerable venture. OKCupid does require a bit more work – not only in filling out your profile, but when looking for cuties. There is a swipe feature, just like Tinder and Bumble, but OKC is a better platform for folks interested in dating, not just hookups.

Bumble

Bumble has been a recent favorite of mine, simply because of fast results. I get to know within seconds of a swipe if someone also likes me, and I have to message first within 24 hours, giving me the power to initiate conversation. If the other person doesn’t reply within 24 hours, then the connection is lost. I enjoy this feature because I get to set the tone. Getting a dick pic instead of “Hello, I also adore the film ‘Nacho Libre’” is a much less successful and appealing opener. Bumble is not as trans or queer friendly. There are two gender options for your identity and who you are looking to talk to, and you must select one for each. You can also only change your gender once – so you better decide which end of the binary you’d like to claim, and stick with it!

Side note: I’ve also heard that Michael Che is on Bumble. Michael – if you’re reading this, let’s get coffee?

Tinder

OH GEEZ. I had a tinder account for quite a while, and haven’t been back on it in over a year. Apparently, it has gotten more trans inclusive, with a total of 37 gender identity choices. Tinder is the ultimate hookup app. That doesn’t mean one couldn’t find folks seeking other types of interactions, the likelihood might just be slimmer. To me, Tinder feels like a frat party, and I’m not in Greek Life.

When Life Gives You Interactions with Dumb Bois, Make a Hashtag

On any dating platform, you’re bound to have some … interesting conversations. The internet is powerful – it makes people braver, ruder, and sometimes dumber. When I’m getting harassing messages from dumb bois, I feel safer telling them off than I do in real life. I’m less likely to get assaulted, physically and/or emotionally. I also screenshot EVERYTHING. If you feel comfortable talking to me that way, then I’m sure you won’t mind me sharing that with the entire world. Here are some memorable interactions I’ve had that I’ve posted to my personal Instagram:

Notice how he doesn’t deny it… #notokcupid #smelly

A post shared by Sara W (@swhitt17) on

So greedy. #notokcupid

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When he’s a dumb boy but also loves @rupaulofficial ? #notokcupid

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LET THE GAMES BEGIN!! #notokcupid

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… but you're not a feminist? #thingsthatmakeyougohmmm #notokcupid

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Boy, can I relate. #notokcupid

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Originally posted 2017-11-13 18:58:09.

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