Monday, October 19, 2015

The Endless Struggle for Social Acceptance and Sexual Liberation: A Bisexual Lament

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about why bisexuality matters and what it means to be a part of a community in that context.  As someone who identifies as bisexual, I've found myself wedged in between two different groups, both of which refuse to claim me as their own.  What seems like it should be the happy middle of a Venn diagram is actually a rock and a hard place, and I think this is the result, partly, of the social/legal requirement that sexuality be defined, categorized, and placed in a neat little box that never changes.  However, the reality of sexuality as far as I've experienced it, as far as many people I know have experienced it, and as far as Kinsey describes it, is that it is fluid and changeable.  In fact, the very reason it cannot qualify as a suspect class to trigger the strict judicial scrutiny required for equal rights recognition is its lack of immutability.  But legal jargon aside, society itself has, according to Aristotle, an interest in categorization.  In order for us to understand something, we must first explain it, which necessitates some sort of definition.  Definitions, by their very etymology, necessitate finite explanations, or limitations.  Thus, it has become socially and legally vital that sexual identity be defined in order for it to receive de facto and de jure equal protection.

I joke sometimes about how bisexuals are the middle child of the LGBTI community--often forgotten.  However, I also see all of the inherent problems with identifying as bisexual in terms of social constructivism arguments, including its reinforcement of a gender binary.  I am all about breaking the dichotomy, which means, on a technical level, I guess one could say I'm "pansexual" more than anything else.  Maybe you're starting to see the problem?  Even I can't decide on a single definition of my own sexuality.  Therefore, the problem, as far as I see it, involves legally defining a group that refuses any sort of social definition.

It would then follow that the solution either involves defining sexuality once and for all as either a social construct or a biological trait.  Unfortunately, I'm not sure if I like that answer.  No, I don't think sexuality is a choice, but I also don't think it's an entirely biological trait that can be traced back to a particular strand of DNA or something specific like that.  In the debate between nature and nurture, I would have to argue that sexuality lies somewhere in the middle, influenced by both.  At least, that's how I've experienced it thus far in my life, and I don't intend to say that is the way it is for everyone.  However, I think the very fact that sexuality has yet to qualify as a suspect class for legal classification/Equal Protection analysis purposes might speak to the fact that I'm probably not the only one whose sexuality is confusingly fluid and denies definition.

Thus, I think a better answer to the debate would be to argue for the right to self-identify in general, as opposed to self-identifying as gay, specifically.  However, as history has taught us, Equal Protection arguments go much farther than privacy ones in the courtroom.  Also, if Obergefell v. Hodges is any indication of social change, I suppose one could argue that I now have the right to marry whomever I want so why am I even complaining.  I guess this post/rant is less about the right to marry, because I'm still not even sure how I feel about that kind of assimilation, as it is about the right to be recognized, validated, and legitimized by my own communities, especially the LBTI one, and even more importantly to me, the lesbian one.

I'm going to focus here on the lesbian community for a few reasons, one of which being the gay male community has never questioned my sexuality as much as the lesbian community has.  Thus, I want to be very specific with my words.  I'm not asking to be considered a lesbian, because I'm not, but I am asking for my preference toward women to be taken seriously by the lesbian community.  The fact that I hesitate to tell any lesbian I meet that I'm bisexual because I worry they'll (literally or figuratively) roll their eyes and write me off as straight is a problem.  The fact that the straight community accepts me more than the lesbian community is a problem.  The fact that I came out to myself, my friends, and my family in a very brutal, honest, and vulnerable process, only to be shoved right back into the closet by the lesbian community because I also like men, is a problem.

I know I'm obnoxiously vocal about my bisexuality, and I'm sure I get on a lot of people's nerves when I talk about it all the time.  Honestly, I'm usually perfectly happy being accepted by the straight community and shunned by the LGBTI communities because at least I've found people who will accept me for me.  However, as Pride approaches, I find myself more and more insecure about whether or not I should even be participating in the events.  For example, two years ago at a Pride in Charlotte, North Carolina, they were passing out stickers that said "I [heart] Boys" and "I [heart] Girls," so I took one of each.  I put them both on my shirt and went to my volunteer station, where the lesbian woman with whom I was volunteering asked me, "What is your sexual orientation?  Are you just greedy?"  I may be wrong, but I don't think that's an appropriate question to ask someone.  However, this was not an isolate incident, nor is it the only time I've been asked that question.  Thus, I have spent a lot of my adult life outside of the LGBTI community, which is incredibly isolating for someone who also doesn't quite fit into the straight community, however accepted I may be by them.  Plus, none of my straight friends, try as they might, understand what it's like to come out.  Thus, as much as I love my straight friends, I don't belong, and I can't help feeling like something is missing.  I want to be accepted by the very people who have gone through similar struggles as I have, and I don't think that's too much to ask.

This is not to say that there haven't been lesbians who have totally accepted my sexuality.  There has, and to those of you who have, I cannot adequately express my gratitude for making me feel comfortable in myself; your acceptance has been paramount in my growth.  However, in general, I find it very unfortunate, as Pride approaches, that I have to question whether or not I actually even belong there.  To end this on a positive note, though, because this post has gone on long enough and is overly negative, I will be at Pride, and I will be proudly marching with my law school's LGBTI community (OutLaw), who has unquestioningly embraced me for me in a beautiful way, and I will be prepared to thwart any biphobia that comes my way.  And I do think one day we'll stop asking people to define themselves based on who they let into their bedroom in order to be treated equally in the law and in society.  That'll be a good day.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Seeds of Thought

School has devoured my free time yet again, and the first thing to go, as usual, has been my blog.  I constantly think of things I want to sit down and hash out via post, and it's not even like I don't have a few minutes to just do it.  But the problem with law school is it turns free time into a precious jewel you only find every once in a while, and when you do stumble upon it, you don't have any fucking clue what to do with it so you just sit and bask in the moment.  That's what it's like to have free time in law school, so the last thing I'm usually thinking about when I'm enjoying a few minutes of resting here and there is organizing my thoughts into a blog post worth anyone's time.  So instead, I'm just going to plant some seeds of thought here and see if they don't grow into anything.  Here are the issues I've been thinking about recently:

- What is the difference between reproductive justice (RJ) and reproductive rights and why does it matter?

This is something I'm learning about in my Social Justice Lawyering class at the moment and find really fascinating.  Reproductive rights deal with the legal aspect of access to reproductive health care, while RJ encompasses all of the socioeconomic factors that play into abortion rights and women's health care.  At the heart of RJ is intersectionality because RJ takes into account how things like abortion regulations, for example, disproportionately affect minority women.  I guess there's really nothing else to say about it.  I just find the distinction interesting.

- Is it Mercury retrograde or just my luck?

Regardless of the validity you ascribe to astrology, it certainly can serve as a bonding agent in social interactions.  I was talking to a friend yesterday about how at the heart of most astrological affinities is a desire to understand other people better.  Astrology helps people at least try to understand where others are coming from, and it creates a sense of empathy and camaraderie among friends.  Thus, Mercury being in retrograde or going direct is so much less about believing in astrology and following the planets than it is about having patience, forgiving misunderstandings, not taking things personally, and giving people a break.  And my celebration of it going direct last night was not so much a pagan event as it was a time to appreciate and honor my friends.

- Why do I care about my high school reunion?

It was last week, and I didn't go.  I had too much work to do and too much anxiety about being judged.  I never expected to even want to go to my 10 year reunion until I got invited to it not that long ago.  For the first time in 10 years I thought it might not be a horrible idea, and then I spent the next few weeks reminding myself of why I actually feared it was a horrible idea.  I'm still not sure what the best route would've been, but I will say I'm glad the reunion came around because it got me in touch with some great people I've been missing.  Isn't that the point, anyway?

- Why can't I internalize body positivity?

My failure to actually be, live, and feel body positive makes me feel like a horrible feminist.  It also greatly hinders my ability to enjoy myself.  Lately, I've been on a body positive kick, and I've been trying to surround myself with positive affirmations.  I had an eating disorder in college, and I would argue that while the habits involved in an eating disorder go away with work and effort, the mentality always sort of lingers.  For example, I lost a lot of weight after C died because I was too nauseous to eat for quite a long time, and the worst part about that was all the compliments I got about how good I looked from everyone around me.  While I know this was certainly well-intentioned, this is why I never tell someone they look like they've lost weight.  You never know what they're struggling with, and I know for me, all those compliments turned into validation of the fear that I look best when sickly skinny.  Every time someone told me I looked great because I'd lost weight, the part of my brain that tells me that my healthy body weight isn't skinny enough was reaffirmed until my biggest fear during my mourning process was not never healing, but gaining back all the weight I had lost.  This is not okay.  I am too much of a feminist to want to be skinny, right?  Wrong.  I've spent years studying what social conditioning does to women's body image, yet I can't seem to shake the negativity.  I'm just going to have to keep chugging along on this body positivity train and fake it 'til I make it, so to speak.  Basically, it just makes me angry at society, which is fine for a bit but is an incredibly ineffective way to live.

- Will I ever find a job?

I wish I could stop thinking about this.  I wish I had an answer.  I wish I didn't spend my present worrying about my future, but where is the line between planning ahead and worrying about the uncontrollable?

- How can I be a white feminist within intersectional feminism?

Am I even allowed to ask that question?

- What does it mean to be an ally?

Listen.  Respect.  Be humble.

That's all I have the energy to unpack right now.  Until next time, whenever that will be, this is a great video:

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Anxiety pays no heed to time or reason

One week of school has passed, and I'm already starting to panic about what I'm going to do when I graduate next year.  I just feel so unaccomplished at this age of my life, and I feel like I should no longer be still doubting the fact that I can get an adult job and prove to the world that I finally actually am an adult instead of just a perpetual student, locked in a refusal to leave academia in my past.  But academia doesn't pay my bills, and when I graduate, I will have to find a real job.  Dreaming about working at the ACLU just seems silly, but maybe it's not bad to dream?  I think I'm just so afraid to dream, even when it comes to my legal career, because I spent so much of my life naively believing in my ability to survive as an artist, and I don't want to give up yet another dream.  I don't want to disappoint myself again.  I don't want to disappoint anyone else either, but my standards have always been the highest.  I fear failure so much I walk right into it because I was staring at it instead of the goal for which I should've been aiming.  I cannot let my fear of failure bring me down this time.  I have to make it.  Make it or break it; right?  I don't know.  I just wish my path were a little smoother because I don't have anything with which to clear the brush, and I am tired of falling into bushes of thorns.  I hope I've finally acquired the proper tools to clear some land and build a figurative house.

Here's some prose poetry I wrote based on a dream I had a little while back--

I sit at the bail hearing in my subconscious and stare into the space before them.  He sits next to me in ghost form, and only I can see him.  He is laughing, and his wound has healed without a sign of damage.  He shows me how he doesn't hurt, and we laugh together like Medusa finally free from the real monsters, and I realize I was never really a pillar of salt, frozen in the past.  When I die and they cut me open, they will find his name engraved upon my heart, but I haven't died yet and still have heart left to give yet, and no one ever said those we keep in our hearts have to be like jealous gods.  There can be more than one.  There has to be more than one, because my heart has been doing yoga, and all these sun salutations have to be good for something.  My heart is limber and open and making space for everyone.  If I love the feeling of loving so much, I might as well indulge because no dragon will ever compare to that first hit of love, and addicts need fixes while people need love.  I can kill two birds with one stone, although I never really liked that metaphor.  Why compare innocent, convenient brevity with such violence?  When did I get this shotgun?  And why would I ever shoot birds?  I'm a vegetarian; that makes no sense.

So I'll unlock two cars with one key and take you for a ride on the highways of my subconscious so you can see the vacillations I experience on a daily basis, when I struggle to keep it together, between who I was and who I am, what I miss and what I want, where I've been and where I'm going.  You can see the flashes of my past that invade my present and threaten my future with tears and internal screams.  You can see the determination in my depths--to do more than merely survive--that crawls out through my eyes when I think I might cry about him, about us, about then; what a fuss.  But fussing gets tiring, and no one wants to hear it.

So then, you can see me pull up my proverbial big girl panties and deal with the hand life has dealt me this round with ease and calm and a flare of the comic because if we don't laugh, we cry, and laughter offers a far more socially palatable release.  So I will laugh all the way to hell, if that is where I'm destined, but I will not go quietly.  I will tug and pull on my way down at every imperfection in myself and in my society until we've gained enough momentum to evolve like the smart species we are, and at least now I know for sure nothing can stop me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Electric Culture Shock Therapy

Yesterday was my first day of my last day of school for what might likely be the rest of my life, which means a lot to me considering I've been in school for over two decades.  But I think I've finally reached my schooling limit and after this year can no longer get away with escaping the inevitable haze of joining the drone workforce by running into the judgmental, cutthroat arms of the refreshingly challenging academia.  But at least I have this year to savor between my tongue and my teeth before the institution of education spits me out into the gutters of minimum wage and "overqualified."

I have gotten two questions a lot since being back that are perfectly normal questions but I don't know how to answer--How was India? and How does it feel to be back?  To answer the first question in anything but an hour long presentation complete with a slide show, some Bollywood clips, and my tears feels like a dishonesty to the experience, but nobody has the time even if I had the energy.  So instead, I just say "Amazing" with a sigh and stare into the distance, getting trapped in memories of turmeric staining my fingernails as I eat with my hands or chai tea burning my tongue as I try to chug it as quickly as the Indians do or that cab rushing up the side of the mountain as I photographed the horizon to avoid looking down at the steep cliff below.  How was India?  I'll never be the same.  How was India?  Exactly and nothing like what you'd expect.  How was India?  I buried pieces of my heart under a tree in a forest behind my apartment there, and now my soul stretches across oceans in search of home.  How was India?  Amazing.

How does it feel to be back?  Weird.  The closest comparison I can contrive would be like returning to "the matrix" but if the outside world were full of beautiful silks and spices, and the matrix with manicured lawns and shiny, happy people holding hands to keep from stabbing each other in the back.  In Delhi, people embrace the imperfections of life, but in America, we slap some Minecraft squares of fake grass on top of them like an old bandage.  But the blood of our capitalistic wound is seeping through the cloth and onto the tips of the sharp, green blades, and soon everyone will know that even though this house may look like a home, it's more like one of those model homes in the suburbs where all the fruit in the baskets is plastic and all of the furniture is hollow.  Empty houses full of empty people having empty conversations with their ghosts.  Delhi was alive.  In contrast, America feels dead.  Maybe I need to move to New York or something now, but I don't think even that concrete jungle would feed me the way the Indian energy did.  I don't know where I'll go after I graduate, but I just don't want to waste away inside this matrix.

Anyway, here's a little verse of purple prose I wrote:

Weave your fingers between mine, and brush your thumb across the pressure point between my thumb and my index finger.  Press the palm of your hand against my jaw, and kiss my cheek first before your lips crawl down my face to meet mine.  Rest your arm touching my thigh ever so slightly when we sit next to one another, and leave it there long enough to make clear your intentions.  Give me room to fall, and hold my hand as I pick myself up.  Do these things, and I will love you forever so make sure you know what you’re doing.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

I'm not sure what to do with this now

I've been back home from Delhi for a few days now, and I miss blogging but am not quite sure what the purpose of this blog should be anymore so I'll just talk about what it's been like coming back to the States.  Short answer--it's been weirdly normal.  Long answer--

I went to Target the morning after I got back and just went to Publix and CVS this morning, and all I did was wander through the stores, wide-eyed and conflicted.  As I stood in the aisle of Publix, staring at shelves upon shelves of too many choices of bread, flashbacks of the Delhi market kept popping into my mind, and I cannot even begin to describe the contrast.  On the one hand, there weren't any flies buzzing around the snacks as I tried to listen to my appetite, but on the other hand, I have no idea where my eggs came from or what kind of shit they were fed.  I got in a heated debate with my psychiatrist yesterday about cultural relativity versus universality in human rights.  Capitalism has become a slightly more foreign concept, and I keep expecting everyone to share everything.  But yet, there I was in CVS, buying lipstick and nail polish and marveling at America, the land of consumer choices, or driving to the store when I could've ridden my bike or possibly even walked.  The heat feels like nothing, and I even had to buy a cardigan the other day because I was so cold in my dress.  The traffic makes too much sense, and the buildings are too clean.  I dyed the tips of my hair neon yellow, and I've been wearing shorts every chance I get.  I missed walking into a bar and knowing many of the people there, and I am bathing in the warmth of all the familiar faces.

Yet, at the same time, small towns make it hard to interpret whether the eyes on me warmly welcome me or watch and wait for me to make the same mistakes, slip into the same old self-destructive patterns, be the same, masochistic me they knew three months ago.  Eyes literally followed me down the street in India, and I'm beginning to think, metaphorically, there actually isn't much difference between that and living in a small town.  Delhi gave me the space and the freedom to be me, which is ironic considering how crowded it is, but here, I think I'm going to have to fight for that space and that freedom.  Maybe my experience was unique, but for me, Delhi lacked something only the charm of a small town can carry with it--judgment.  And as much as I have grown in many ways, dealing with judgment is not one of them because I grew unaccustomed to it in Delhi.  I guess it's time to truly internalize my favorite thing about India, the land where zero fucks are given.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Day 94 in Delhi: See you later, Delhi

10 August 2015:  I can't believe today was my last day in Delhi.  I'm waiting to leave for the airport in a bit now just reminiscing on all the amazing times I had and people I met here.  I could not be more thankful for these past three months, which have taught me more about my self-worth, independence, creativity, passion, and strength than anything has in a long time.  I came here still struggling, unbeknownst to me, with death and loss and heartbreak, which I finally had the opportunity to fully experience on my own, alone, in a foreign place, where I couldn't help but face all my fears and anxieties.  If I thought I was strong before I got to India, I know I am now.  I have overcome an immense amount of grief and sadness throughout my time here, and I have rekindled my creativity and imagination.  I don't know if it was Delhi, or the people I met here, or just the timing in my life, or all three, but I have found a home inside myself here, I have found my own sense of comfort and belonging, and I have really grown into more of myself during my time here.  I'm so thankful to all the amazing friends I have made here, you all know who you are, and I wish I could put you all in my pocket and take you all home with me, but you're much bigger than my pocket is so instead, I'll carry you in my heart, which has managed to stretch across oceans and continents in the past three months.

I just looked back at day 1 of my blog, and I cannot believe how much has happened since that day.  I have made lifetime connections, I have learned how to use my shower properly, my AC has not caught on fire at all since that first day, and finding the market as well as my office became the least of my directional worries.  What an odd feeling it is to look back on myself not that long ago and feel like a totally different person.  I am so grateful for this experience, and I still cannot believe it is ending.

But also I cannot wait to see my family and friends (and cat, duh) back home, and bittersweet does not even begin to describe the emotion I am currently having.  I have fallen in love with Delhi, and I have fallen in love with myself.  I have fallen in love with the people I have met too, and I will always think of this place fondly and hopefully return very soon.  And because no goodbye ever suffices, and I dislike the finality of goodbye so much anyway, I will see you later, Delhi, and all the lovely people in this amazing city and country.  I love you all so much.

P.S. Because everything comes full circle, just like the new ouroboros I have on my shoulder, as I'm writing this, my AC just sparked and caught on fire again.  But don't worry; all is well.  :)

Day 93 in Delhi: Married to India

9 August 2015:  Today I slept in super late and then went to my friend's house to prepare for my wedding.  Then we had a wedding ceremony in Jahanpanah Forest, and it was beautiful.  There are a couple of reasons I had this wedding--1. I never got to see an Indian wedding while I was here so my friends said they'd throw me one; 2. I'm "manglik" in Hindu astrology, which basically means bad things will happen to my husband unless I first marry a tree or a dog, and a tree was obviously a better choice; and 3. If I'm married to India, I'll be sure to come back!  So yes, some of it was playing into superstition, but some of it was just for fun and some was more of a ceremonial ritual for myself to give thanks to India for providing me with such an amazing experience and possibly plant a seed that will grow into my return in the future.

After the ceremony, we had delicious South Indian food and a goodbye party at my friend's house.  I felt so loved, and it was so nice to be around such amazing people.  I have made such valuable, wonderful, genuine friends here for which I am so terribly grateful.  I am very blessed to have had this summer experience.