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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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The Coward: A Look into Homophobia in Queer Spaces

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Theatre has always been a safe space for the LGBT+ community. It has given people of any sexuality and gender identity a platform to explore themselves and their relationships, as well as their fears and trauma, and share those experiences with everyone. LGBT+ theatre shows the truth, but sometimes it’s a hard truth, meant to make audiences uncomfortable but aware of the hardships that the queer community faces.

In her play The Coward, playwright Kati Schwartz explores the effects of homophobia in the queer community. The show focuses on a young actress named Jill, who spends the summer at an isolated summer stock theater company with a small group of actors. This group includes a man named Christopher, who claims to be straight despite his obvious attraction to a male castmate. His homophobia, fueled by his strong religious beliefs, clashes constantly against Jill’s questioning of her own sexuality, leading to a tension-filled show.

Schwartz is incredible at mixing realism and fantasy in her shows, and The Coward is no exception. Jill carries a wand and casts spells throughout the play, though it is unclear whether her castmates can see the spells’ effects or not. However, the plot of the show itself is very much based in reality.

The Coward, as with most of the plays I write, is based off a real life experience,” said Schwartz. “What you see is my interpretation of that experience with some witchcraft and magical realism sprinkled in.” Schwartz is adept at mixing fantasy and reality while still keeping the focus on such a heavy subject matter. She is able to transform her experience with an aggressive person into a story that balances the inherent tension and sadness with the surreal.

Schwartz attempts to figure out Christopher’s homophobia in the face of his own sexuality along with Jill and the audience, and it certainly is not always easy.

“In the first draft, the Christopher character was a female, and the story was much simpler,” said Schwartz. “Once I switched that character to a closeted, self loathing gay man, the themes of the play became a little more challenging for me to explore.” With this switch, Schwartz dove into an exploration of internal homophobia within the LGBTQ+ community and its effects.

“The resulting changes to the script offer more equality between Jill and Christopher, and more opportunity for discussion on who the true coward is,” said Schwartz.   

Though the focus of the show is on issues within the LGBT+ community, Schwartz knows that this show is important for people of any sexuality to see and understand.

“Rifts and prejudice exist within any community,” said Schwartz. “Something I hope that people of any sexual orientation can take away is a keener sense of one’s responsibility to speak up when someone is being mistreated regardless of the immediate social ramifications.”

The Coward is playing at the Duke on 42nd Street on October 9th in New York City, as part of the New York New Works Festival. It is an important piece of theater, that should be seen by many. Share this with the theater lover in your life, and be on the lookout for more from Schwartz soon.

Originally posted 2017-10-10 15:42:41.

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How to Travel to This Gorgeous Liberal European Town With No Roads

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This town is called the land of water, and is also known as the venice of Holland. It is Giethoorn, located in the National Park Weerribben-Wieden in the Netherlands. There are no roads here, and the visitor can view beautiful thatched farms, lakes, reed beds, forests, wooden bridges, and greenery. This town is also gay-friendly, because it is located in the first country to recognize gay marriage in 2001.

Here is a step-by-step guide for travel to Giethoorn, and how to explore its beauty, culture, and community:

Book Your Flight to Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Plan your trip to Amsterdam, because from there, you can travel to Giethoorn.  There are numerous flights that go to Amsterdam, and here are cheap flights that were recently found by travelers. The flight will arrive at Amsterdam Airport Schipol, which has shopping and dining to occupy your time. If you decide you want to stay in Amsterdam for a while before traveling to Giethoorn and have booked a hotel, then the Schipol Hotel Shuffle can take you there.  

Once you are ready to travel, then from Amsterdam Airport Schipol, you can take the bus or boat to travel to Giethoorn.  You can also travel by train, if you wish, and you can use 9292 to plan your trip.  

Plan Your Stay in Giethoorn

Hotel de Pergola. Source: Booking.com

If you plan to stay in Giethoorn for longer than a day, then book your stay in the hotel of your choice. Above is a photo of the Hotel de Pergola, which is situated on the waterfront, but there are also other great options. There are some reasonably priced places to stay, such as the Fletcher Hotel Restaurant de Eese-Giethoorn, which has an outdoor tennis court, a national park, restaurant, and indoor pool. One traveler recommended another place, the Hotel Giethoorn because it was super cozy.  

Day 1: Travel on a Boat in the Town with No Roads

Travelers on boats. Source: A Wanderlust for Life

There are many things you can do on your first day here, and one option is to travel on a boat, because after all, this charming town has no roads, but it does have water. Canoe trails are 90 kilometers long!  In fact, the postman has to travel by punt boat, to deliver mail.  

You can rent kayaks, sailboats, and rowboats. If you want to boat by yourself, consider renting a whisperboat, which are open punter boats equipped with a silent electric motor (why it’s been given the name ‘whisper’). You can book your boat in advance, and you can even book a day tour which includes the whisperboat, coffee, sandwiches, drinks and dinner.  

Day 2: Go Cycling

The Giethoorn Weerribben cycling route. Source: Holland-Cycling.com

Another popular activity here is cycling. The Giethoorn Weeribben cycling route is 46 kilometers long, and there are thatched cottages, narrow bridges and wetlands on the way! You will see these at the farming village of Giethoorn. The route will also take you through the historic town of Blokzijl, the National Park De Wieden, and the villages of Jonen and Dwarsgracht.  

Day 3: Hike and Explore

Giethoorn. Source: Holland.com

If you want to explore Giethoorn more, and are a hiking enthusiast, then consider the 15.3 kilometer walking route, which starts at Eendrachtsplein, and then follows the green route.  There is a walking network which guides you, so follow the colored arrows. Sights to watch out for are canals, thatched farmhouses, and the largest lake of the Kop van Overikssel, the Beulakerwijde.  

Before You Go: What to Bring With You

Sunscreen

As you plan your trip, including flight, accommodation, and activities, consider what to bring with you.  Expect warm weather here, so bring sunscreen, lip balm and a hat.  But it can rain, so be sure to bring a raincoat and umbrella, so that you’re on the safe side.  Other items to include in your backpack are a camera, first aid kit, hiking boots, a torchlight, SD card, and shorts or pants with pockets.   

Where do you plan on vacationing this year?  If this European destination sounds good to you, then consider planning a trip.

 

Originally posted 2017-10-09 17:23:57.

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Love It, Leave It: The NYC (Pizza) Edition

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You’re beautiful, saucy, and sometimes too hot to hold. Aside from my family and friends, you’re the most important thing in the world to me. We could hang out every night of the week and I wouldn’t get sick of you. I love you (don’t tell my girlfriend). Oh boy — it’s a bit weird saying that aloud for the first time — especially in such a public forum. But, it just feels so right. The two of us were made for each other. You complete me, pizza.

I’m an Italian girl from Staten Island–what did you expect? :: insert stereotypical phrases like fuhggedaboudit and ay oh! here :: Eating pizza is one of my favorite pastimes and I’ve got plenty of favorites in NYC; this list will give you a feel for my top three joints.

Love It: Roberta’s. Denino’s. Rubirosa.

Roberta’s: A pie I’m willing to trek to Brooklyn for. This wood-fired pizza has been a Bushwick staple since before Bushwick was the hipster mecca it is today; it’s nearly a decade old. You’ll most likely have a hearty wait to fold (please don’t use a fork and knife) a slice here, but don’t give up. Once you get a spot, the bee sting is an inventive (soppressata, chili, honey), go-to order. I bet 10 pepperonis that you’ll be back.

Denino’s: Ah, puppy love. Denino’s and I have been in a long-term relationship since I had enough teeth to physically chew a slice. (Who are we kidding, I would’ve gummed it.) IMO, this is the OG pizza parlor from Staten Island — cash only, surly career waitresses, and no ambiance or dessert menu. If you want the authentic experience, take the ferry over and grab a cab here. But you lazy folk are in luck, because a new outpost opened up on MacDougal street this year. Despite getting asked without fail: “sauce on the whole pie?” I always order sausage and broccoli rabe, red. Never disappoints.

Rubirosa: This trendy, dimly-lit Italian spot is thankfully only a few blocks away from my apartment in NoLita. Coincidence? #nope. The iconic, thin-crust pizza has a sweet spot in my heart, as it happens to be crafted with the same recipe that has been around for decades at Joe & Pat’s (another must-try spot) in Staten Island. I maybe worked there in high school simply so I could eat slices on my break.

Leave It: Anything that says “99¢ or $1 pizza”‘

RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN. Unless you have consumed enough drinks to knock out Floyd Mayweather, this is a terrible, horrible, unforgivable decision. You’ll have more regrets than that guy who got the “no regerts” tattoo. People who may love Domino’s or Pizza Hut might find nothing wrong with a cheap slice slathered in Prego-style sauce and an ambiguous Sargento cheese blend. But, any sensible ‘za lover will walk spritely by these unrefined joints with interrogation room lighting and never look back.

Originally posted 2017-10-09 16:45:50.

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