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LGBT History Month: Celebrating Sappho

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As some of you may know, I’m a huge fan of poetry. So are a lot of people, actually, and for good reason. Poetry is beautiful and allows us to say what the heart and soul can’t. Some of the greatest declarations of love and longing have been poetic, and there’s one poet who deserves a little attention for LGBT History Month. This month I’m documenting five of the most iconic and world-changing woman-loving women (WLW), and it would be careless of me not to mention the poet considered by many to be the ultimate WLW:

“Whoever he is who opposite you
sits and listens close
to your sweet speaking
and lovely laughing – oh it
puts the heart in my chest on wings
for when I look at you, even a moment, no speaking
is left in me
no: tongue breaks and thin
fire is racing under skin
and in eyes no sight and drumming
fills ears
and cold sweat holds me and shaking
grips me all, greener than grass”
Sappho

The above lines are exactly what they sound like: Sappho confessing joy and admiration for a woman. Doesn’t that make you feel so gay (pun absolutely intended)?? Known for writing about her yearning and love for women, Sappho is a well-known figure in the “L” part of the LGBT community. Born on the Greek island of Lesbos, Sappho was a prolific writer, composing line after line of beautiful poetry, much of it on subjects of love and women.

Unfortunately, most of Sappho’s writing has been lost, and only one complete poem, “Ode to Aphrodite,” has ever been found. As a poet, this makes me want to sit down and cry for all the lost lesbian poems we’ll probably never see. But just because we only have fragments of some of her work, Sappho remains an iconic figure in LGBT history, for a couple of reasons.

First, you’re probably familiar with the term “lesbian.” This word didn’t come from just anywhere, and you’ve probably already figured out that it’s no coincidence that Sappho was born on the island of Lesbos. See the connection?

And second, there’s the more obvious allusion in phrases like “sapphic vibes” or “sapphic tendencies.” The term “sapphic” stems from the name “Sappho” and the belief that she expressed open homo-eroticism not just in her poetry but in life as well. Unfortunately, we will probably never know for sure, as little is known about Sappho’s life. To add to her mystery, the meaning and subjects of her poems are hotly debated, and over the centuries many have been intentionally heterosexualized by scholars.

Whatever her original intentions were, it’s clear that Sappho certainly idolized women, even if it wasn’t explicitly romantically or sexually motivated. And in the lesbian community, Sappho is widely accepted as one of the first openly homosexual women in literature. As for this lesbian, I’d like to believe that Sappho was loving ladies her whole life, and openly expressing that love to the world. After all, that’s the dream, isn’t it? To be open about our sexuality and not be ashamed to show it? It’s what the LGBTQ community is still working towards today, and why we celebrate LGBT History Month.

Thanks to Sappho’s inspiring poetry we have a name for WLW and a historical figure to study and admire. Which women do you admire? What’s your favorite sapphic poem? Tell us in the comments, and go here if you want to learn about last week’s featured lesbian, Barbara Gittings, and her influence in LGBTQ visibility. Next week I’ll be talking about Gladys Bentley, continuing my coverage of iconic lesbians who changed the world.  

Originally posted 2017-10-27 15:09:19.

A 22-year old poet and writer, Summer is the voice for Tell It Like A Lesbian and the features editor for TravelPRIDE. She loves horror movies, rock climbing, and is trying to start an herb garden in her spare time.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ellen Ricks

    October 28, 2017 at 11:26 pm

    Yasss! As a huge fan of Sappho, it warms my heart she being celebrated for LGBT history month. Great article!

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I Know Where I’ve Been: All Over The Place, As It Seems

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Travelogues are nothing new in the realm of literature. Ever since the dawn of the written word, there have been innumerable people who want to tell the stories of faraway places they may or may not have visited. Marco Polo was just only the most visible one; there was many who came before him, and many who sought to imitate him afterwards. In fact, one of the first modern satires, Gulliver’s Travels, was written under the thin veneer of being a parody of “traveller’s tales”. So in the age of social media, the concept of the travelogue might seem as dated as the rotary phone.

Which leads to Robert Coles’ I Know Where I’ve Been: A Year-Long Journey of Self-Discovery, a new type of spectrum-friendly travelogue. Though he notes of occasional trips to Mexico and Colombia, most of the travels documents are in the United States and Canada. More specifically, it detailed his travels throughout 2015 and the connections that he had made in the process of reaching his goal of visiting 30 cities by the end of the year. In between the stories about random adventures and quirky friends/lovers are a series of sober reflections on not only his life but also the lives of those around him.

It is in these reflections that one can find the emotional core of I Know Where I’ve Been, and certainly makes it stand out from the standard travelogue. These include stories of his family (specifically of his dad, who died of a heart attack at 53) as well as past lovers (such as “Josh”, with whom he had a fun but ill-fated relationship). It also informs the reader of Coles’ mentality about travel, as his family was not able to travel very much, save for the occasional trip to Disney World or a place like Yellowstone. In a household like that with a person like Coles turned out to be, it is no wonder that he turned out to be such a major traveler. And of course, his sexuality does play an important role at certain moments, including an experience with those with a homophobic bent. Specifically, it first comes to a head when a seemingly nice Christian family turns on him with a vengeance when one of its members catches him looking up certain explicit files downloaded from Limewire.  

Of course, the travel stories in I Know Where I’ve Been themselves do stand out in their own right, which is an important part of a work in this genre. And unlike many popular travelogues, there is a tinge of emotional honesty to most of them, which makes it akin to a mix of An Idiot Abroad and Michael Palin’s Around The World In 80 Days in literary form. Coles does not shy away from the horror stories, such as the Airbnb fiasco in Chicago or a miserable night on the bad side of Detroit. Nor does he leave out some of the stranger things, such as the night in Detroit being followed by a slightly unnerving passport check at the Canadian border. Nor does he gloss over several of the tales of him and his company going on full-blown benders, with the results akin to a remake of The Hangover on a college film fest budget.

However, the experiences throughout his 2015 in I Know Where I’ve Been come out as a net positive, especially with all of the people he met. Standouts include the “Denver Death Tour”, the visits to the Second City improv venue, and visiting Toronto ’s famous CN Tower. Perhaps the most accurate statement by Coles is the following: “While I certainly regret some of the behaviors and wish I could erase some of the memories, I wouldn’t change who I am today because of them.” It is likely the reader will share the same sentiment by the end.

Originally posted 2017-07-30 10:04:24.

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Relationships and Monogamy: Does Sexuality Play a Role in Monogamous Practices?

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Whatever your sexual orientation or gender may be, there’s one thing we can all collectively agree on: Monogamy seems a difficult practice for many people.

That is not to say there are not monogamous partners out there. There are, in fact, plenty of happily practicing monogamous partners who are satisfied with their current relationship situation.

According to the Journal of Sexuality and Social Psychology, men, considered the “fast sex,” tend to “maximize their mating opportunities” by increasing the number of sexual partners in their life. For women, a large number of partners holds no physiological benefits, and “would risk producing offspring of low quality if mated indiscriminately,” making it much more likely for men to cheat than women.

However, as we watch the world progress, we observe a greater tolerance of gender and sexual fluidity. With simplicity comes complexity, and, to state the very obvious: Relationships can be rather messy.

It’s been proven that men show, “a greater interest in uncommitted sex.” It’s also been proven that out of all couples, gay men are by far the least committed to staying faithful in a long term relationship (numbers change based on national averages.)

And while lesbian affairs are the least likely of all, let’s not forget emotional cheating, and how damaging the effects can be on a relationship. More importantly, over the past couple of decades, the percentage of women who have admitted to cheating has risen 40%, while the percentage of men has stayed the same.

We know these numbers also depend on different factors, such as socioeconomic conditions, lack of self-satisfaction, and poor emotional validation,   

Gender norms may have you believe that men are more likely to cheat, but in a 2016 study, statics show that while 57% of men are likely to cheat, this is just a small incline from the 54% of women who have admitted to some type of affair.

In a Psychology Today study, Dr. Elizabeth Sheff finds a common theme among cheating in monogamous relationships over two-decade study, “Some people become polyamorous, starting swinging, or attempt other forms of CNM after they have tried – sometimes for many years – to maintain monogamous relationships and found themselves cheating repeatedly.”

Thus, a question remains: Does your gender and sexual orientation play any type of role in your participation of monogamous relationships?

In short: The answer is no.

Your sexuality does not play a role in whether or not you are more inclined to monogamous practices, but a New York Times article explains that the answers may be found in your genes.

The culprit seems to be “vasopressin,” a “hormone that has powerful effects on social behaviors like trust, empathy and sexual bonding in humans and other animals,” which strongly affects your inclination to cheat.

In a study using prairie and montane voles, sexually monogamous and sexually promiscuous creatures, Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, noticed a change in the animal’s behavior when vasopressin receptors were induced and when they were blocked.

When blocked, the animals were disposed to monogamous sexual behaviors. When injected, “pair bonding,” the scientific term for infidelity, was promoted.

It seems vasopressin is the key to “social bonding” between animals and can be speculated that this is the reason such a large number of people are naturally against monogamy.

Although this research is not 100% proven and is still debatable, it seems that human’s polygamous nature comes naturally from within.

Of course, we are not set to one standard or one type of relationship with our partner(s). Relationships, much like sexuality, comes in all different shapes and sizes. Everyone should have the freedom to explore whatever they should so choose, but bear in mind that respect, honesty and mutual happiness are the most important factors of any relationship between partners.

Originally posted 2017-07-29 15:01:00.

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Trump’s Trans Military Ban

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The LGBTQ community has made significant progress in terms of equality. A person was not allowed to be openly gay in the US military until former president Obama repealed the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in September of 2011. Gay men and women are now allowed to be out, proud, and active members of the military. Unfortunately, this is not the case for transgender individuals. On Wednesday, July 26, 2017, president Donald Trump tweeted that transgender people are not allowed to serve in the armed forces “in any capacity.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images via goo.gl/mSw8hr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How alarming! This is a clear violation of human rights and extremely detrimental to the fight for equality for the LGBTQ community. (We also have to appreciate the irony of the tweets considering that on July 26, 1948, former president Truman desegregated the military).

What Trump is basically saying is that allowing transgender people in the military would be a financial detriment. I’m assuming that he is referring to the cost of hormones for transgender people. What he doesn’t realize that the cost of hormones is significantly less than what the military is paying for medications such as Viagra. According to the United Press International, the US military spends ten times more on erectile dysfunction medication than transgender care. 

So, what does this mean? Well, it may mean any number of things:

  1. Trump has no idea what he’s talking about
  2. He’s pandering to the conservative right
  3. He’s transphobic

Who really knows? Whatever the reason, it is definitely a step back for equality. However, hope is not lost as many people are taking a stand against Trump’s ban. Celebrities such as Lady Gaga had some things to say about this ban.

 

 

 

Images via goo.gl/JmdNo2

 

Lady Gaga is not the only person fighting against Trump’s un-American ban. The Human Rights Campaign, or HRC, is fighting for the rights of transgender people, saying that the ban is an “all-out assault on service members” and that the ban would affect approximately 15,000 currently serving troops. This will clearly have a negative impact on the US military as it consists of millions of brave men and women who fight for the freedom of the American citizens and losing even one soldier due to bigotry can cause the military to weaken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The American Civil Liberties Union, or UCLA, is also fighting against Trump’s ban.

Image via goo.gl/RxN1n9

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t give up hope! This ban is definitely a step in the wrong direction and it hopefully won’t spiral into something even more horrible which is why it is very important that we speak out against this hateful action. Voice your outrage anywhere where your voice can be heard and stand with the transgender community during this trying time, use the hashtag #protecttranstroops on Twitter, repeat the maxim “trans people are not a burden,” and fight for what is right. It may not be easy but as long as we fight, the rights of transgender individuals can and will be protected.

 

 

 

 

 

Originally posted 2017-07-28 21:19:21.


Also published on Medium.

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