Author Archives: Acceptance Revolution

Personal Experience Spotlight: TylerJaik

Evolution Revolution: From Finding Acceptance Within Myself to
Finding Compassion For All Living Beings Without

Growing up, as soon as I had a say in what I wanted to wear, I chose the gender-neutral or more masculine options. This was accepted as I was considered a tomboy. But it didn’t change the fact that, throughout my childhood, I was made more uncomfortable with the regretful apologies from strangers who made the “mistake” in referring to me as a boy. “Oh, I’m sorry… It’s the hat you have on, but now that I can see your face, there’s no way I could ever mistake you for a boy! Such a beautiful face you have!” There was also the insistence that I would grow out of it. I never thought I would. I never wanted to. I never did. Sexual orientation was unknown to me. Since I was a girl, I thought my only option was an attraction to boys. I dated a few and had a relationship with someone who was 6 years older than I was. He was my older brother’s friend and paid attention to me. I liked him. I was interested in these boys, but not in the “attracted to” way. It was more a longing to be like them. Things between us ended after 2 years dating on and off. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that someone presented me with the possibility that my lack of romantic interest in boys was due to the fact that I was attracted to girls. My entire world opened up, and my body responded in ways I had never experienced when looking at boys.

It was the summer of 1996 when I came out to my family as lesbian. I was 16 and decided to break the news at a family reunion. First, I told my cousins individually and without incident. Then my Aunt Katherine, who knew I had something I wanted to talk to her about, asked me about it in front of everyone. I figured since I had already told everyone but her that it wasn’t a big deal to just come out to her right there. She wasn’t exactly closed-minded, but made sure I knew she didn’t believe that I was old enough to make such a “decision.”

About a week after the reunion, I received a letter from my other aunt, Amy, who was unable to attend the reunion. Katherine had filled her in, and Amy felt it necessary to express her opinion of my “inappropriate” announcement and make a point to say that, even though she knows gay people, none of them ever go around announcing their sexual orientation. Not to mention, of course, neither has she. Being heterosexual is assumed to be the norm. The only reason for coming out is if you don’t “fit” the norm. She wasn’t even there to truly know how my coming out to the family played out. Over the next few years, she’d make comments about my fear of men due to my having been in a relationship with a 19-year old when I was just 13. Yes, he did take advantage of me and it was not a healthy relationship. It wasn’t until 10 years after the fact that I realized he did, in fact, abuse me.

Over the last few years of high school and well into college, I struggled with the loss of my parents. My mother died suddenly, but not unexpectedly, from a prescription drug overdose when I was 14. Three years later, my father died of pancreatic cancer right before I started college. After my mother was gone, my aunts (my mother’s sisters) tried to provide guidance as they thought my father was unfit to raise us properly. He proved them wrong in time, but it was a tough road for him to raise three kids alone. My aunts’ guidance did not go well as they saw my behavior, lack of social grace, and not fitting in as a problem. I didn’t want to fit in. I wanted to be ME, and if they couldn’t accept that, then that was their problem. Not mine.

My father’s side of the family is more old-fashioned, and my Uncle John almost insisted I wear a skirt to my father’s funeral out of respect for my father. I refused and wore a shirt and tie, which I tied myself, just like my father taught me a couple years earlier when I was 15 and he took me to buy my first suit.

Once I was in college, my aunts eased up on me and saw that being in lesbian relationships was where I fit and that I wasn’t going to change. They even welcomed the few girlfriends I brought around once in a while to family gatherings. Everything was going well on the outside. Within me, another battle ensued.

For 4 out of the 5 ½ years I spent in college and living with my grandmother during breaks from school, I was a complete mess. I didn’t fit in anywhere, and my body was a prison. My involvements with women went on, but at some point, I shut down. I didn’t want to be touched or viewed as a woman. It felt so foreign. I felt like a freak. An unlovable freak. Gender expression for me had always been masculine. Always. At work, I was consistently referred to as “Sir” and with masculine pronouns. Of course, once I would turn around, half the people would profusely apologize as I rolled my eyes and tried to shrug it off. Most of the time I didn’t care, and I actually came to prefer the masculine pronouns. My name tags always had a shortened version of my name which made it gender-neutral. It would be whenever I went home to be around family that the deeper issues came to light. With each use of my full given name, I would cringe. Any reference to me as a girl, woman, she, her… it all didn’t fit. It was as though everyone saw something else when they looked at me. I saw something else too. It took me 2 ½ years to come out to myself as trans. It would be at least another year before I came out to my family.

Once I graduated from college, moved out on my own, and had a job with health insurance, I took the necessary steps to make me feel more comfortable living in this skin. I started testosterone in April 2003. My name change was finalized the following August. It was in October that I sent a letter to every member of my family. They all received it the week before a family gathering celebrating my grandmother’s 80th birthday. To my surprise, nearly everyone came up to me with open arms and acceptance, and a few even had no trouble calling me by my chosen name and referring to me as their nephew and using masculine pronouns. It was incredible! I felt more a part of a family unit and felt genuine love and support from nearly everyone. My aunts asked me about my transition and wanted to be reassured of my physical and mental health. Of course, my grandmother and a couple uncles couldn’t see past my past and break their habits. I tried to be patient, but after so many years, it felt like they never cared to try. One year, one of my uncles gave everyone cell phone charms. Mine was a very feminine butterfly. After seeing my reaction to it, he explained that the butterfly was a symbol of metamorphosis. I politely thanked him and never spoke of it again. Some people aren’t worth the energy.

Since my grandmother passed away a couple years ago, the pronoun and name slips have nearly vanished. Her insistence on using my given name and assigned pronouns were most likely the influencing factor.

Fast forward a bit to 2010. With my new comfort in my own skin, I found myself curious to explore my sexual desire to be with male-born men. After a time of getting used to the unfamiliar territory of being social with gay men, I found myself in a relationship. I mentioned the possibility of my dating men, and no one in my family that I shared this with batted an eye. I felt safe knowing my family is incredibly supportive and open-minded… but are they as open-minded when it comes to something outside of gender and sexuality?veganboy

I had been vegetarian since before coming out as lesbian, and this was never an issue. There was always food prepared that I could eat whenever a family party came around. In November 2010, I began volunteering for a sanctuary that rescues farmed animals from the food farming trade/industry. It wasn’t but a few weeks when I made the compassionate choice to no longer contribute to such unnecessary suffering and went vegan. I expressed in a blog post on Facebook that, on December 1st, I was going vegan. It was shortly before Thanksgiving, and I knew I had my family dinner to attend and wasn’t going to make anyone go out of their way for me. Again, to my surprise, they had prepared a Tofurky Roast dinner just for me with veggie sides without any butter. It was amazing! I couldn’t thank them enough for making the effort to include me, and I again felt support and love.

Over the past year, my involvements in veganism, activism, outreach, and animal rights have increased since I first went vegan, and my posts on Facebook have been a little hard to swallow for my meat-eating family members. Not once have I invited a debate. My only intention is to spread awareness of the plight of animals raised for food and what people actually pay for when they choose to eat animal products, all for the purpose of enabling them to make their own informed choices. It didn’t take long before the arguments, confrontation, and blaming me for making them feel like “a soulless bastard” for eating animals were expressed. Their denial and defensiveness for their choices only bring to light the questions they should ask themselves: Why do they feel this way when they see the truth of where their food comes from? What is it within themselves that makes them feel like “a soulless bastard?” And so the blocking of my posts from Facebook newfeeds and retaliatory posts ensued. Relatives I felt close to were now pitting themselves and their immediate family members against me in online debates. Family parties became awkward as people would hesitate to talk to me. What are they afraid of? I have also noticed the increasing lack of options for me to eat with each party I attend. Before going vegan, there were always 3-4 options that just happened to be vegan. These options continued to be a staple at these gatherings. I never went hungry. It was after the debates on Facebook and my “militant activist” posts that things changed. A baby shower called “Beach Babyque” in August had a large spread with only one vegan dish along with cut up raw veggies and chips. I was in a dark place emotionally, and my Aunt Amy noticed. When she asked me about it, she said it was good that I forced myself to come out and that she was happy to see me, but she couldn’t leave it at that. She had to make a comment about me needing more dairy in my diet to help with the emotional darkness. She laughed and again told me she “isn’t on board with the whole vegan thing.” I know she isn’t. She doesn’t have to make it a point to tell me numerous times.

Just last December at the annual holiday party, even vegetarian options were scarce. All they had for me was cut up celery, carrots, radishes, orange slices and grapes, and tortilla chips. The always-safe quinoa salad had feta cheese in it this time. Also, when talking to my vegetarian friend who I asked to come with me as a buffer, Amy talked about a friend who is a chef and made a phenomenal meat-based meal. Amy considers herself a non-meat-eater. She stopped eating red meat decades ago. She doesn’t equate meat with poultry and fish and calls herself vegetarian. Last I checked, neither fish nor chicken and turkey are vegetables.

So, my family has been able to accept and support me through coming to terms with my sexual orientation, to my transition from female to male, to my recent dating history with men… but when it comes to my vegan lifestyle and beliefs, they scoff and avoid conversation with me. Never have I felt so ostracized and alone among those I love and who claim to love me. I feel like I am the 500 lb purple gorilla in the room no one is supposed to acknowledge.

With all the horror stories I’ve heard about people being disowned and disrespected for their “choices” in terms of gender and sexuality, I considered myself extremely lucky to have a family so supportive and without judgment. It never occurred to me that my choice to abstain from the eating, wearing, and exploiting animals would outcast me farther than I have ever been from a group that is so open and accepting of everything else. No one can choose their relatives, but everyone can have a chosen family, and I have found the most acceptance and support within the animal rights and ethical vegan communities.

© TylerJaik for Acceptance Revolution, 2013

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Personal Experience Spotlight: Lauren Dobo/Eric Ryan

My Poor Mother: Dichotomy of a Denomination

My mother grew up as a pretty, pretty princess. She wasn’t the obnoxious, bratty princess, but rather the daughter that every father dreams of having. Even as a toddler, my mother was such a proper little lady: always in an appropriate dress with stockings and carrying a small version of a woman’s purse. Tea parties with her dollies and fancy china set were common, and etiquette was always a priority. She had dreams of marrying her own handsome ‘prince’ and having a daughter who she could dress up in frilly, pink outfits, brush her long hair, and have little tea parties with her. How happy she was when the doctor told her and my father that in May, when all the pretty flowers bloom, they would be having a little girl….Then I came along. (I say that last line with great pride, a giant smile on my face, and deviance in my eyes, as well as a tiny bit of guilt for my poor mother.)
Everything in my room was pink, and whatever dolls weren’t filling up my crib were lined around the walls. My mother would take me to my paternal grandmother’s house every day to dress me in a wide assortment of dresses and take pictures. Everything was perfect for her. Well, it was perfect until my little baby brain began associating colors with gender. I didn’t want to wear light, feminine colors like my mother wore. My father always had dark color clothing like blue, green, and black, which was what I had wanted to wear. So, around the age of eighteen months, I began throwing temper-tantrums if my mother put me in a dress or anything light colored until she changed me into something more masculine or gender neutral. It was at approximately this time that my secretly gay uncle hypothesized to himself that I would be taking a girl to the prom.
Later on, I developed my first crush on the girl next door to my maternal grandparents’ house. Her name was Brandi, which I thought was adorable spelled with an ‘i’. She had beautiful blue eyes and long blonde hair. Her smile just lit up my world. She was four-years-old. I was three. (I continued to always have a thing for older women.) During the winter, she would always bring her little dolls over and we would give them rides on my favorite collection of Hotwheels cars. (Those cars used to be my brother’s until he mysteriously ‘lost’ them.) During the summer, she would sit outside while I performed tricks on my tricycle and rolled my sleeves into a muscle shirt to show off my ‘manly physique’. Oh, those were the fun days.
One of those summer days in particular, my grandmother called me in for the usual peanut butter and jelly lunch. She had made an extra sandwich and asked me, “Isn’t your girlfriend coming over?” Back then, I didn’t realize that women, especially in my grandmother’s generation, referred to their female friends as ‘girlfriends’. I had thought the term was only used to describe a member in a romantic relationship. So, being the typical little boy in denial of his feelings for a girl, my face got beat red as I informed her, “She’s not my girlfriend, grandma!” and ran off to the backroom to hide for the rest of the day. Since that moment, I have wondered if my grandmother knew I liked women. Brandi was in the picture for most of my very early life until she broke my heart when I was seven by telling me that she was moving to another town.
Shortly after, I became close with Melissa, the girl next door to my parents’ house. Melissa, my brother, and I used play our favorite game: Power Rangers. My brother was the Blue Ranger (Billy), and Melissa was the Pink Ranger (Kimberly). Of course, I was the Green Ranger (Tommy) because he was the coolest, the toughest, and the most handsome, and I wanted to be just like him. In the show, Tommy won the affections of Kimberly. I wasn’t attracted to Melissa, but I used her and the situation to develop a prime value: chivalry. My parents weren’t going to teach their little girl how to be man, so I had to teach myself from the cues of Tommy and use them on Melissa. After a while, I began thinking of chivalrous actions on my own. It was perfect because I could always use the excuse that I was just playing the Power Rangers game, and that’s what the characters did in the show. I began learning how to be a gentleman by holding the door and doing sweet little things like picking flowers from the park and giving them to her.
There was one time in specific that I gave her one of my ‘bouquets’ that became very significant. After I handed them to her, she said, “Thank you, Lauren.” Then it struck me. Despite what everyone else thought, I knew that I was a boy. I felt like a boy, I played like a boy, and now I was treating girls like a boy. I needed a boy’s name. Without thinking it through thoroughly, I ran inside to where my mother was doing laundry. Looking her dead in the eye, I said, “Mom, I don’t want to be called Lauren anymore. I want everyone to start calling me Ryan.” After spending a good twenty long seconds of silence while my mother gave me the ‘deer in headlights’ look, I realized that it probably wasn’t the best thing to say to her, so I ran back outside, and it was never spoken of again. I’m quite sure that it was at this moment that my mother realized I wasn’t just a tomboy. I was different, very different.
My mother stopped giving me dolls every Christmas in the hopes that I would want to play with them one day. Those presents were replaced with footballs, Batman toys, and my own set of Hotwheels. I started Martial Arts so I could fight like Tommy, and that was followed by joining a basketball team and a softball league. I really wanted to play hockey and football, but that’s where my mother drew the line. During the summer, I would go to work with my father, who was a plumber. I became engrossed with construction and manual labor. The guys on the jobsites and my father were all idols to me. I hoped that one day I could be one of them. I quickly started becoming the typical sport-loving boy who wanted to be like his dad and a chip off the old block.
My body started changing, too. I started developing muscles and got really excited when my voice slightly deepened as a laryngeal prominence began appearing on my neck. I thought that by the time I was an adult, I would develop into being a physical man. I started working out and trained like a Marine in Martial Arts because I thought it would help my mind and body develop into a man’s mind and body. However, the world came to an abrupt end a couple months before high school when I reached puberty. I was crushed.

Throughout my athletic era, my father became involved in everything I did and even played football with me since my mother wouldn’t let me join a team. I’m not saying that he isn’t intelligent, but it does take a little more time and effort for the mice in his head to get the wheel turning. My mother knew when I was seven. My father became suspicious when I was nineteen. It took a lot of cross-dressing and a constant playing of a music playlist that I titled ‘Gay Songs’. He started getting the hint and did something that I thought was really cute. The song Dear Mr. President by P!nk was on and after the line “What kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay?” played, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Any father that would hate his daughter for being gay is a horrible father.” I became very nervous, so I shook my head in agreement and let it go.
About a week later, he stopped me as I was on my way to school. He was trying so hard to be polite, and he always has a tendency to try to sound a little more sophisticated than necessary. I really feel like he should’ve been sitting in a therapist’s chair, wearing a monocle and a top hat while stroking a long beard when he asked in a deepened voice, “Have you—ever thought about—your—-sexual orientation?” Up until that point, I had never thought it was possible to be stricken with such terror while wanting to burst out laughing hysterically at the same time. I finally let out, “Yes dad, I’m gay.” Unfortunately, he still thinks it’s a phase.
At that time, I used the word gay because I didn’t know there was such a thing as being transgendered. Coming from a Catholic household, I was sheltered from many things including cursing, arguing, drinking, partying, and sexual topics. It was like living on Sesame Street. I had only learned that a gay community existed when I was thirteen because my Catholic school wanted to protest the political topic of gay marriage. Although I was able to mildly associate with gays, I didn’t really fit in that group either. Yes, I was a girl who preferred girls, but I didn’t identify as a girl. It wasn’t until I turned twenty that I discovered the trans-community.
When I turned twenty-one, I moved an hour and a half north from my parents. It was the perfect opportunity to develop my personality. The name Eric would have been my name if I was physically born a boy, and the name Ryan was the name I had chosen for myself. I put the two together, and my new identity became Eric Ryan. I lived in a new home, a new community, and had a new life. I began making plans on the possibility of a mastectomy. I did research on bottom surgery, and I just could not bring myself into undergoing a surgery that hasn’t been performed often. The reviews I read were pretty negative, and they scared me away from the thought of that surgery. Depression started taking over because I thought I would never get to be the man I felt I was. After many long meditations, I decided to try to embrace my female body. At first, I despised it. I had a very hard time with the feminine look. After many attempts, I finally got used to it, and then I started liking it.
Gender fluidity became my new identification. I don’t fall into either polar gender, and I don’t identify as either one unless I dress in a polar fashion. If I’m in a dress, I’m a girl. If I have facial hair, I’m Eric Ryan. Usually, I’m somewhere between, but typically closer to the male pole. Living gender-fluid is amazing because I don’t have to confine myself to societal rules and guidelines. I can be who I want, when I want, and how I want with the sole definition of being ‘me’.

© Lauren Dobo/Eric Ryan for Acceptance Revolution, 2013


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Rearrange Again: Thoughts on Sexual Renegotiation and Privilege or “I’m Coming Out…But DO I Want the World to Know?”

I remember watching Luminous (the seventh episode of Showtime’s The L Word, circa season two) and really relating to this one particular scene where the character Jenny Schecter goes off on an impassioned diatribe over the way a guy in her creative writing class has portrayed women in his latest piece: “Because … you basically turn them into these nameless, faceless, body part whores… Your main character, Jasmine, she, like, opens up Madelaine’s world by giving her the best fucking orgasm she’s ever had, which, I don’t know if you know this, is the primary sex act that two women can actually have! And then you go ahead, and you belittle it by turning it into pornography, and I think that the reason why you’re doing this is because men can’t handle it, the fact that these women can have this amazing, fucking, beautiful, mind-blowing orgasm, without a fucking cock!”

This is the season where Jenny’s character is first coming out, and – as clearly evidenced in that monologue – she does so in a completely balls to the wall, in-your-face manner… and it made me smile, because when I first started exploring my own attraction to women in my late teens, I was exactly the same way. Growing up with my hardcore religious mom and feeling like I already fell short of her expectations anyway, just by being me, I went the rebellion route with a lot of things, and my coming out was very much that in-your-face display of defiance against both the pain of that rejection and my upbringing in general. I talked about it constantly, read every piece of lesbian literature I could get my hands on, and engaged in mixed company PDA’s with my girlfriend for the sole purpose of sparking double takes and reactions. And of course, eventually I outgrew that behavior… but in the interim, when I was so defiantly focused on inciting the response, it either left me immune to or, perhaps, simply didn’t leave room for the feeling of being on the receiving end of those outside perceptions and judgments that I think many people struggle with during their coming out years.

Later on, I experienced outside perceptions and judgments to a degree when I initially felt the need to justify to a couple of girls who asked me why my ex and I were at the gay bar if we were “straight” that we were cool and still “belonged” there because he was FtM . But with the exception of that one incident, the majority of outside perception and judgment was pretty nonexistent when I was with him. I was still open about who I was and who I loved to a certain extent, researching and writing on trans issues for several school assignments, and sometimes (though not quite with Jenny Schecter level flair, force, and fire) taking it upon myself to put makers of exceptionally ignorant or intolerant remarks during class discussions in their place or to provide mini sex and gender education 101 lessons to the occasional, curious cisgendered guy who wanted to know what I had against “regular” dudes like them.
One subject that came up a lot in my research were stories of partners of transpeople struggling to renegotiate their own sexual identities after their partner’s transition – and true, maybe I would have felt differently had my ex transitioned during our relationship rather than the several years prior to our having met, or had I been exceptionally attached to a lesbian identity – but renegotiation wasn’t an issue for me. Though I wasn’t in-your-face about it this time around, the incident with those girls in the gay club solidified for me that I had nothing to apologize for or justify to anyone; this was who I loved, that love came by sheer merit of who he was as a human being, and I was proud to have him by my side… and at the end of the day, that was all that mattered. And at the end of the day, having him by my side also meant that I became a recipient of heterosexual privilege… and I think privilege in general is a really easy thing to get used to. Soon enough, I hardly gave it a second thought, quietly blending in, privately enjoying my favorite dichotomy of appearing one thing and being another, yet no longer feeling the need to broadcast it to anyone and everyone within earshot.
The other thing about getting comfy with privilege is that, in a way (or at least for me), I think it can sometimes negate the need to really think too deeply into things (or at least the need to think about them as they apply to you personally)… and there’s a world of difference between feeling empathy and compassion over seeing someone else coming up against adversity and facing it head on yourself. Because I never directly felt the impact of any negative repercussions as far as how I was perceived by the outside world, I simply never thought about it beyond this abstract thing that happens to other people… and while I feel for them and speak out on their behalf, I realize it’s still never really touched me. One ex-girlfriend of mine blogged about an experience we had where a random woman came up to us in Target to tell us how cute we were together, and where I had simply smiled and thanked her, my ex described a very different experience of tensing up in anticipation of a confrontation when the woman initially approached us before exhaling in relief when her comment wound up being positive. Add to that the fact that, with all the strides made towards equality, it can be easy to get lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that things have gotten so much better, that maybe society is finally progressing, becoming more open and accepting over time… and I was legitimately thrown by the ignorant comments of my classmates during my undergrad (not to mention learning that my knowledge of gender and sexuality was more current than that of a few of my professors, a couple of whom I wound up filling in on the stigmatizing nature of the word “hermaphrodite” for intersex people).

To an extent, yes, we have made strides toward equality… but there’s still just as much hate and intolerance to be found too, and I sometimes forget that until it smacks me in the face. And, fast-forwarding to present day, the fact that I’ve been primarily dating transmen for the better part of the last four years also means I’ve now enjoyed the appearance of heteronormativity for as long, strolling hand in hand with my man of the moment with no one around us batting an eyelash. So when I found myself on a date with a woman again not too long ago (and wasn’t incorporating the shock value factor this time around when we held hands or shared a kiss in public) for the first time ever, I was fully aware of the stares and double takes from the people around us… and I wasn’t really prepared for it, honestly. I mean, it wasn’t like we were out in the Midwest somewhere; this is a North Jersey town about a half hour outside of New York City, and last I checked, it was the twenty-first century. But apparently some of the passersby in the park where we were walking hadn’t gotten that memo. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like people were throwing rocks or admonishing us because their children were present or anything like that… but it’s also not like we were engaging in any sort of heavy PDA either, and had I been enjoying those initial “getting-to-know-you” moments with a male, no one would have given us a second glance. As someone who’s always been so matter-of-factly open and outspoken about such things, that sensation of “don’t look at me!” discomfort was a brand new one for me. All of a sudden, I was experiencing that hyper-awareness and self-consciousness that just about everyone else confronts when they first come out… and while it’s certainly not something that would ultimately deter me from exploring a connection with someone, it was enough to make me feel a little of that discomfort that I had initially escaped.
As a result, I started really noticing and becoming sensitive to a lot more; a few weeks later at a Halloween party, I overheard a guy commenting on how “freaky” it was “not being able to tell who’s a guy and who’s a girl” as I passed him with an adorable gender fluid friend of mine (she happened to be dressed in boy’s clothes that night, but all he really had to do was look at her delicate-featured, obviously feminine face in order to render his irritating and ignorant remark completely unnecessary). I settled for shooting him a dirty look over confronting him, but I was pretty pissed off on her behalf until she shrugged it off and talked me down, pointing out that, as far as she was concerned, his insecurities were his and obviously had nothing to do with her… pretty much, if she wasn’t losing sleep over it, why should I? And yeah, it’s awesome that that was her attitude about it. It used to be mine, too, if I really thought about it… but apparently feeling suddenly conspicuous after all these years had put me on the defensive… and even as I’m writing this, I can feel the residual defensiveness coming through in portions of the retelling. However, it also helped me cultivate a whole new level of awareness and understanding… as well as a renewed appreciation for how fortunate I’ve actually been to walk through the world feeling as safe and comfortable in my own skin as I do overall; I know not everyone is as lucky. But I also have to acknowledge that these challenges are real and they’re mine, too… I’m not just here to empathize with and ease things for other people. If I should, at some point, happen to connect with a woman on a deep, significant level again, there’s a very real possibility I’ll also eventually wind up having to revisit all that “mama drama” a second time around… and while I can hope my mother may have mellowed with time all I want, I can’t know for sure unless or until that happens, and the uncertainty is a scary thing to sit with; she’s gotten as used to my heterosexual privilege as I have, if not more so. The one thing I can be sure of, though, is that, whatever obstacles and challenges may be part and parcel of it, whatever rearranging and renegotiating might need to take place, as long as where any of us ultimately end up is in a place of being true to ourselves and our own hearts… that’s what makes it all worthwhile.

© Kristin Despina for Acceptance Revolution, 2012

Personal Experience Spotlight: Jennifer

True Friend in “Plastic’s” Clothing:
Self Defense Against Bullying Can Be a Lifelong Lesson 

I can watch the movie Mean Girls and relate to the character Regina George because of how, underneath all her meanness, she just wants to be liked and accepted. Who doesn’t feel that way? But I would never take it to the extent of being liked at someone else’s expense. Sure, it’s easy enough to get sucked into gossiping and laughing along with the crowd, but is it the right thing to do? I am also tall and lean with the body of a “plastic” but the heart of a true friend. I never really fit into any clique; my personality is more multi-dimensional than that, so I have always been an outsider who sided with the underdog. I would defend other victims of bullying but still find it difficult to defend myself. For example, I would defend my best friend if I saw her being bullied by saying, “That’s my best friend; don’t talk to her like that,” but felt awkward speaking up for myself. Although girls have a reputation for being mean to one another, I also had a lot of problems with guys. People can be cruel; it doesn’t matter who they are. I can remember being bulled in the 5thgrade. It couldn’t even wait until middle school, could it? Of course not, kids are cruel. Up until then, I’d encountered the occasional mean kid and I’d have my feelings hurt, but this was different. It just wouldn’t stop, and I remember them laughing at me, pushing me on the playground, and excluding me from their cliques.

I went to guidance counselors and teachers for help when I was being bullied, all to no avail. I was told to ignore it or that the other kids were just being kids. I’d also get an insincere apology when the authority figures forced them to do so. This was just the beginning, because contrary to popular belief, kids do not change. They might grow and mature, but all ages have a mean streak. In middle school, I was the target for spit balls and locker pranks. Other students would take advantage of my hard work and copy my homework. In high school, I cut class to avoid my classmates and teachers.

Bullying and discrimination are going to happen, and probably all a person’s life. According to the media a lot of students thought suicide was the answer. But the only way to survive is to learn how to handle bullies in an intelligent manner.  It is important for the victims to have psychological comebacks for the bullies. For example, never to defend yourself because this gives the impression that you need to argue the bully’s point. Let’s assume someone is picking on someone for being a nerd. The correct response would be to agree with him or her and say that it’s great to be smart and that he or she is probably just jealous. A quick comeback shocks the bully and will lessen the chance he or she will mess with you again. After making your comeback, leave the scene immediately to avoid escalating the situation. The most important defense is to build self-confidence and be assertive. Bullies only choose victims that they think won’t defend themselves. By being prepared, you can make sure you won’t be another victim. And finally, as the famous Beatles song tells us, all we need is love… so remember to treat others how you want to be treated.

© Jennifer for Acceptance Revolution, 2012

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Self-Acceptance 101

I debated back and forth for awhile as to whether or not I should share this story, and if so, whether or not it technically belonged on here. It’s an acceptance-related personal experience, to be sure. I’m not sure if it may be too specific to just me and my life, but if it can do some good and resonate with someone else out there, helping them out in the self-acceptance department in some small way, I think it may be a story that needs to be told. And now that I’ve disclaimered myself to death …

Surprisingly enough, self-acceptance is still a yet-to-be-touched-upon topic on Acceptance Revolution, but I was reminded recently just how important it is, not only to always try to meet others within our community where they are, but also to meet ourselves where we are and to recognize the positive qualities we have to offer… particularly when we are feeling attacked or judged in some way.

I’m going to try to stick to bare bones facts as much as possible here, in the interest of not turning this story into a “he said, she said” scenario. Without (hopefully) airing too much dirty laundry, I’ll just say that I recently learned that someone I had connected with on a pretty deep emotional and spiritual level was apparently (and completely unbeknownst to me, although, had I known, I would have been more than open to possibilities… but that’s neither here nor there at this point) “considering” me as a potential dating/relationship prospect. What with that whole not knowing about this factor element at play, I continued along in my blissfully ignorant single girl’s mindset, coming and going as I pleased… until a gossipy instigation by a mutual acquaintance brought everything that had been previously left unspoken out in the open. The interference by this third party apparently also served to bring out a second-guessing in regards to the aforementioned “consideration.” The verdict – or the gist of it, anyway – was that I’m apparently too social. When I think of how many nights I end up either staying in with Redbox  or wondering an hour into an evening out at a club why the hell I decided going there was a good idea in the first place, this is definitely news to me. As further evidence, the following example of two hypothetical couples was submitted to me: Couple A are well-adjusted individuals in a happy, healthy, loving, and faithful committed relationship. Couple B are an utterly dysfunctional pair who habitually lie to and cheat on each other and then cry to their friends about the inevitable, ensuing drama that results from such behavior. The judgment was that, given a choice between which of these two couples to choose as friends, I wouldn’t choose; I would keep them both around because “everyone is just a-ok with [me].”

Upon reflection, this is likely a true and accurate statement. The part that’s not sitting right with me, however, is that – at least as it was presented to me – this is something I’m meant to feel bad about and recognize as a fatal character flaw within myself. Now don’t get me wrong, I can certainly recognize where problems could arise, and I’ve done my share of wrestling with them in the past… but, through that struggle, I’ve also learned to compartmentalize really well. I have (and still do) worked hard to cultivate the important skill of defining clear boundaries for myself and honoring those boundaries. When I found myself sobbing hysterically to a room full of strangers in an N.A. meeting a few years back because my ex refused to recognize her addiction problem and I didn’t know how to help her and had no one to call in for backup to help me, that was pretty much as good a wakeup call as any for me to decide to sit down and figure out the precise method of how I could go about flipping my own mental scripts in order to make damn sure I could prevent ever allowing another person’s issues to impact me, my life, and how I showed up in the world ever again. And I did it. I now know how to differentiate between simply bearing witness to another person’s trials and tribulations versus feeling the need to also bear the responsibility for them. I know how to be compassionate towards a fellow human being who’s creating suffering in his or her life without condoning the negative behaviors they engage in that contribute to the creation of that suffering. It wasn’t easy to achieve, and now that I’ve been made to really examine and think about it all, I’m actually damn proud of the fact that I’ve managed to do so. Like many people, I’m my own toughest critic, and as such, I almost never stop to notice the good in myself or feel pride in my accomplishments. And I need to. We all do.

I’m a yogi. I run a website called Acceptance Revolution. If I didn’t display this capacity for acceptance and compassion to some extent, I’d be a hypocrite. And I’d be doing my authentic self a massive disservice in the acceptance department to boot. Whether or not I’ve given myself credit where it’s due, I’ve worked hard to get to this point, and by the way, no, it doesn’t always come as naturally as breathing. But I work at it because I believe it matters. Because it’s a capacity I have strived to develop, and I believe it’s an asset. I don’t believe that it’s something everyone in the world absolutely must cultivate, and I don’t believe that I’m any better than anyone who hasn’t done so; we all have different strengths and bring different things to the table. And yes, of course, my personal boundaries may differ from those of others… that’s the point: we all find what works for us and conduct ourselves in accordance with our own individual capacity. However, in the case of anyone in my life whom I might take into “consideration,” I would hope that – while, of course, they would look out for me if they saw me start to be negatively impacted by someone else’s problems – they would also recognize and accept and appreciate that attribute of compassion and acceptance in me… even if it was just in the form of an eye roll and a declaration that, “Wow, Couple B is too much; I don’t know how you put up with them… but I love that about you. That’s such a beautiful quality in you.” Because there isn’t a whole lot that I naturally notice and appreciate about myself, so it’s nice to hear that acknowledgement every now and then. In fact, I’m not even sure what it was this time around that helped me to stop and think about it and recognize this trait as a positive one in myself rather than immediately going into internalized criticism mode (particularly since it was a criticism from someone whose opinion I value)… but whatever it was, I’m beyond grateful that I’ve somehow managed to go against the grain and accept myself this time around. That is something I believe everyone in the world absolutely must cultivate: meet others where they are, but don’t forget yourself. Don’t ever forget to recognize and appreciate your own innate goodness and attributes, and to give yourself due credit for them. After all – to paraphrase a Buddha quote – you yourself deserve your love and acceptance just as much as anyone else.

© Kristin Despina for Acceptance Revolution, 2012

Personal Experience Spotlight: Tara Viceconte

The Elephant in the Yoga Room is not Ganesha

    “So, do you have a lot of brothers?” It was an odd question, seemingly coming out of nowhere.  We had just finished a quite small yoga class, and this is what the substitute teacher asked me, as I was re-layering to face the winter weather.
“No, just a sister.”
“Oh.  No brothers?  Did you spend a lot of time with your Dad or Uncles?”  More odd, invasive questions.
“Well, no, I’m not close to my father, but I did have uncles around.  Why?” Now I’m confused.  And honestly, a bit irritated.
“I wanted to know why you are this way.”  To this teacher, “this way” is clearly something she doesn’t have an understanding of.  “This way”, by the way, is her referring to coming face to face with a female student with a masculine appearance, not celebrating a Lady Gaga song. A chubby, square jawed, men’s-clothes-wearing, tattooed (although, might I add, adorable) butch woman just spent an hour and a half folding, balancing, and back bending with a small pack of the more traditional feminine appearing women one might expect to find at an evening yoga class.  And it scared the shit out of her.
I have noticed when I am in a yoga class and there are no men, I become the guy in the room by default.  I am hyper aware that I am spoken to, adjusted, treated in partner yoga, and referenced (by default, my queerness is also quite clear) by my butchness and sexuality.  If there is a spider in the room, it will be my job to hunt it down and ignore the yogic credo of non-violence (yes, this has happened more than once).


            “That’s so gay.  That is the gayest thing I’ve ever seen.  Who would want to wear that?  It’s disgusting.  Ugh, gay.”  This is coming from another student who is sitting across from me as we wait in the hallway to be let into a women only yoga class.  After each “that’s so gay” repetition, she pauses and looks at me to see if she can engage me in an argument.  This dredlocked, vegan, essential oil wearing, hyper-feminine yogini is already disgusted by my presence at the women only yoga class.  I don’t bite.  I’m not there to argue.
Later in that class, when we end up by random chance paired together for partner yoga, I do not drop her in her backbend, even though I really, really want to.  I rallied up enough negative karma killing the spider.


            During a weeklong yoga retreat with a well-known yoga teacher, I noticed halfway through that every conversation with said teacher ended with, “whew—you have a lot of masculinity!”  The first time it was amusing.  The second time confusing and forcing me to question just how butch and scary I am to the general population.
After the third time, we had afternoon workshop with a question and answer period.  I had a question.  During this time, my hand was up for over 30 minutes.  People were picked who were not waiting so long, and eventually I was completely ignored and we had to cut off for time.  Normally, my yogic-centered self would just think that we were out of time, and that I should appreciate the workshop itself, even if I didn’t get to ask a question.  Not this time.
I spent a good 2 hours crying alone in a tent in the middle of a forrest-y nowhere because I think there is a possibility that I am being ignored because my appearance is so off-putting that I can’t be allowed to speak—or speak too much.  Further, a group of teachers who I have spent years respecting, admiring, and dreaming of working with are ignoring me.  Am I really this frightening presence that is so manly that it surprises people when I have a pretty looking vinyasa flow going? Is there a beard growing on here that I am unaware of?  If there were, should that matter to them? I know it seems unlikely that I was not called on because of my queerness, and I now don’t believe that was the case, but after hearing all week about my “masculinity”, at the time it felt like I was out of place.  At the time, it was a very real possibility that ripped out my core. I needed a hug, or at least to talk about it.  At that point I was too ashamed of myself to ask even the friends I had made at the retreat.  Who would want to hug this?


        I am a part of the yoga community, yet a chunk of the yoga community can’t handle me.  There are teachers and students who will preach acceptance and non-violence until their “OM” chanting faces turn blue, but my choice of wearing men’s athletic shorts instead of women’s can throw them off for the entire class.  It’s disheartening.  I want to teach yoga.  Now I have to wonder, am I too masculine to be accepted as a teacher?  What if this package turns off too many students?  Should I maybe go back to wearing some earrings and hope this is some type of balance?  How deep is my voice?  Do I walk differently when I think I’m being watched?
I don’t have any answers right now.  Suggestions are welcome.  For now, I will continue the quest for the perfect arm balance, and I will do this in my sleeveless T-shirt from the men’s section that shows off my arms and tattoo.  I will accept that right now I will be the focus of comments, but that the people that they are coming from need to see me being “this way”, and doing yoga just like they do.  I will get on my mat, smile at them, and take practice.  That’s my revolution.

© Tara Viceconte for Acceptance Revolution, 2012

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Personal Experience Spotlight: Kristin Despina

Fringe Benefits

I was out at a club last night. Two groups of my friends who no longer interact with one another were also there, and there were a couple points during the evening when I was literally “in the middle” of the two aforementioned groups on the dance floor. Or, as an impartial third party who was there with one of my groups of friends and unaware of the dynamics of the situation observed, I was “always off to the edge of the group,” on the fringes of things. I responded that that was pretty much the story of my life, and it reminded me of my poor, neglected little website here and the way that – when I first set it up and began promoting it – I was encouraging people to share their own stories to be posted on the site, yet hadn’t shared my own.

The main reason why I started this site in the first place, and why an all-inclusive revolution of acceptance that provides a sense of belonging to anyone who’s ever lacked in that department is so vitally important to me is because I’ve personally never felt that I really “fit” anywhere. While I’m fortunate enough to be comfortable in my own skin, content with the physical body I was born into, any kind of “perfect fit” has ended there for me. And the thing is… I also don’t even really fit into a hard-knock life of serious struggle either. As I’ve told every therapist I’ve ever had (not a ton of ’em… I can count them on one hand), I really didn’t have it all that bad growing up: I wasn’t abused; nothing seriously traumatic ever happened to me; my siblings are awesome, I consider them to be two of my best friends, and we have each other’s backs unconditionally. As said therapists pointed out to me, however, I also grew up in an environment where my thoughts, opinions, and feelings weren’t always validated; even as a little kid, I remember my mother scoffing at me and nicknaming me “Sara Heartburn” whenever I would get upset over the silly little things that seem like such a big deal when you’re small. In addition – regardless of whether or not it was actually the case – I grew up feeling like the “black sheep” of the family, starting from a very young age when I couldn’t yet grasp the subtle nuances between black and white, good and bad. My mom always had this little thing she’d say about how – if she were to draw a literal line in the sand and tell all three of us that we had to stay behind said line – my sister would have been a foot behind it, my brother would have had his toes just touching the edge, and I would have been five feet away on the other side with my hands on my hips waiting to see what she was going to do about it. Between that and her fond ruffling of my sister’s hair coupled with explanations that my sister was “[her] compliant one,” I believed that my being strong-willed was a negative thing, when in reality, it was actually the primary thing I was born with that would help me to go beyond surviving to thriving; I came with what I needed already in hand in that department, stuffed it way down inside, and have been on my uphill climb to rediscover and retrieve it ever since… funny how life works out that way. And, probably like many children, I began my quest to do just that by rebelling in pretty much every way I could think of, proudly rocking the “black sheep” mantle I felt had been bestowed upon me, figuring – as I’m often apt to do – that if I was doing time anyway, I may as well at least commit the crime.

I began – according to my mother’s retelling – with displaying the black “X’s” from when I had missed days on my childhood “good behavior chart” to my grandmother as my “black stars” with every bit as much pride as that with which  I displayed the gold star stickers I had earned for the days I had behaved. I questioned everything, bucked the envelope in every way I could possibly think of, and it all came to a head where my mom was concerned when she found out about my having a serious girlfriend when I was in my early twenties. I wasn’t an innocent party in that scenario, mouthing off at her for being a hypocrite because she had criticized the parents of a friend of mine from church who had kicked him out upon discovering he was gay, saying, “How can they call themselves Christians and then turn around and treat their own child that way?” I pointed out all the ways in which I felt she was doing the exact same thing until she lost it, lunging across the room at me and escalating our verbal altercation to a physical one that resulted in our not speaking for almost a year, finally burying the hatchet when my grandmother’s then-in-remission breast cancer came back and metastasized, taking her from us in a matter of months. Truth be told, I don’t know how long reconciliation between us would have taken otherwise, and it was a good year and change after that before I started responding with more than an “uh huh” or “you too” again when my mom told me she loved me.

I didn’t really fit in with my peers either. Again, it wasn’t any kind of extreme level stuff like a lot of people experience, but I remember spending recess sitting on the playground by myself reading a book (I’ve never been the most athletically inclined) in elementary school. My mom home-schooled me through junior high, and when I went back to public school for high school – naively anticipating that it would be like high school on TV – I was in for the rudest of awakenings. This came in the form of a group of “mean girls” who adopted me and then turned on me to the point where I began hiding out in the bathroom during sophomore year lunch period. It was all very strategic; the night before I would freeze a McDonald’s soda cup, which I would leave to thaw in my locker during my morning classes. I had a Spanish class  where an alphabetical seating chart placed me next to the “mean girls'” ringleader right after lunch period, so I took to waltzing into class armed with that soda cup and an explanation that I had gone off campus for lunch so as not to raise suspicion or let her see that she was impacting me. I fared a little better when I transferred to a tiny private Christian high school for my junior and senior years; the school was so small that there wasn’t really any room for cliques, so it was all-inclusive in that respect, but the stereotypical staunchly religious and narrow viewpoints that were perpetuated there never really resonated with me.

And, in college, when I finally began exploring the notion that had cropped up during my senior year that maybe the reason I was never really here nor there with boyfriends in high school was because I was into girls, I found I didn’t really feel I “fit” in the gay community either. People knew me and liked me at the local stomping grounds, but even there, I was always on the fringes, never really finding any genuine connection or sense of community and belonging with any one particular group. I was everyone’s “go-to” when there were tensions and drama between various individuals and groups that required an objective, third party listening ear (and, in fact, I’m still that “go-to” when my friends are in need of advice).  Sometimes, yeah, I would get caught up in whatever was going on and that whole phenomenon of being unable to see the proverbial forest for the trees would take hold, but nine times out of ten, I would ultimately realize it really had nothing to do with me. So, in a way, I guess I was kind of a part of, yet separate at the same time. While it’s an entirely different level of experience, of course, I think this is one of the most primary things that has helped me relate to the transmen I’ve dated, several of whom have also expressed to me never really fully feeling a sense of belonging within the gay community. It’s also the reason why, last night, when one of my friends who was part of the falling out between my two groups of friends wasn’t sure if I’d want to talk to her as a show of loyalty to the other group, I made a point to inform her in no uncertain terms that that’s simply not how I roll: “I’m your friend, regardless of who may or may not be here,” I told her.

I guess, for me, that’s the real benefit of being on the fringes, of fitting in everywhere but nowhere at the same time. I’m not going to lie, there are definitely times when it can get a little lonely out on the edges, but  (at least when I’m able to regain my bearings in those moments when – being only human and all – I find myself getting momentarily swept away or drawn into things that I’m not completely a part of), I think it gives me a clearer overall picture in the long run. As firmly as I believe that everyone deserves that place to belong, I also believe that it would be so much easier to achieve that and that we would all be so much better off if we could only learn to see the forest for the trees.

© Kristin Despina for Acceptance Revolution, 2012

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Personal Experience Spotlight: Jamie


Recently, in an attempt to make new friends, I started a group on  These groups need to have a centrality about them, a common factor among members.  I named my group: Bisexual/Bi-Curious Women of Central NJ, in hopes of meeting ladies around my age who are bisexual or bi-curious.  And no, it was not with the intent of meeting ladies for sexual and/or dating purposes. I am a faithful woman married to a man, a dedicated stay at home mother of one, a not-currently-teaching certified teacher, a daughter, a sister, a dreamer … among many other things.  I have been attracted to both men and women since the age of about 13-15, when I precociously lost my virginity to both… in case you were wondering.

I have lost many friends/acquaintances over the years, essentially due to deciding I’d rather be with a man for the long term: no longer needing to prowl the bars/clubs in search of a partner, no longer wanting to join in with friends from the LGBTIQA community out of fear of no longer being accepted, refusing to conform to others’ ideas of who they thought I was or wanted me to be, and eventually acquiring a whole new domestic lifestyle.

So… back to ‘my group.’  I was hoping to find some open-minded, mature, intellectual, active women.  Just to revamp my social life.  If you have a baby, you probably understand.  Especially if most, if not all, of your friends are single and baby-less.  I figured if I made friends who were bisexual, or at least open-minded, I wouldn’t feel so out of place or misunderstood as I have in the past.  I wanted this group to be more of a support group.  But no, not where we just sit around and discuss our sexualities… but to get up, get out, and get active; meet on the beach, play football, and discuss our sexuality, among many other things; meet at my house, sit in my back yard, sip some wine, roast some marshmallows over a fire, and discuss our sexuality among many other things; meet at a local bowling alley, get competitive, have fun, and discuss our sexuality among many other things.  Get it?

Instead, the first day that my group was up and running, almost everyone who joined fit into the ‘party animal,’ ‘sex obsessed,’ ‘swinger status,’ ‘playmate searching,’ ‘slut’ clichés!  The kind of women who use their ‘wanna-be porn star’ photos as their profile picture.  The kind of women who were also members of ‘Kinky Women of NYC,’ ‘Group Sex,’ and ‘Big, Sexy Women of Color’ kinds of groups.  Yeah, you get the picture.  I then changed my settings to only allow membership after my approval.  I started getting membership requests from ladies in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.  I approved them, of course.  They seemed mature and genuinely in need of like-minded friends, as was the point of the group.  But, with me being in my 20’s, I didn’t feel so comfortable ‘leading’ the kind of group my group was turning into.   And so I decided to step down.  The group may even be canceled altogether, and that’s okay with me.   All of this started and ended within four days.  But hey, I’m an impulsive, impatient Sagittarius – what can I say?

Since canceling my group, I’ve been doing a bit of speculating.  Yes, there are many ‘bisexuals’ who are sex freaks, who can’t remain loyal and faithful, who might be going through a ‘phase’ for one reason or another, who are actually confused, or who are grossly immature.  And those are the kind of bisexuals who give other bisexuals a bad name.  A phenomena that is quite common among many groups of people.

I personally know quite a few ladies who are bisexual – truly bisexual – have dated men and women, could settle down with either a man or a woman, can remain faithful to one partner only, and are quite comfortable with themselves.  (I, myself, fit into this category.)  I also personally know quite a few ladies that label themselves as ‘straight’ but have slept with women, like to make out with women, like to flirt with women, find certain women attractive, etc. (Or have at least dreamt about it.)  I also personally know quite a few ladies who label themselves as ‘lesbian’ but have slept with men in the past, sleep with men in the present, and contemplate maybe even settling down with a man in the future.  I also personally know quite a few ladies who would label themselves ‘bisexual’ but don’t feel quite so comfortable doing so, due to clichés, rejection, and other means of biphobia.  I also personally know quite a few ladies who are interested in threesomes, which is fine, normal, and quite common.

I’ve never felt comfortable with divulging my sexuality in the past, afraid of labels others would throw at me.  And now that I have settled down and chosen a man to spend my life with, I feel others will judge me if I don’t plead ‘straight.’  But I refuse to be a victim of biphobia in that regard.  If you don’t understand me, oh well.  I’m at the point in my life now where I really don’t care what other people think anymore.  I will always be irreversibly bisexual.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t be faithful to my husband or that I ever have to ‘hook up’ with a female again in my life.  Once you’ve come to terms with yourself, your sexual identity doesn’t just disappear or change because of circumstance.  Get it?

So, after contemplating segregating myself, getting uber frustrated at the intention of members joining my group, and giving up on yet another endeavor, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t want to make friends with people solely on the commonality of our sexuality.  After all, I am an eclectic person.  I’ve always desisted labels and detested cliques.  Instead of trying to create an oligarchic group of friends around the topic/label/interest of bisexuality I’d rather, instead, continue to reach out to people of all walks of life, and in turn maintain my multi-faceted identity.

© Jamie for Acceptance Revolution, 2012

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Personal Experience Spotlight: Kristi Mulqueen

Unconventional Love: Rumor Has It

My life has been something like a big game of “Telephone”:  a complicated story with lots of details, involving people and places. The more detailed my story gets, the more likely the message has been changed as it makes its way through the telephone line of people in my life.

As 30 knocks on my door, I am very aware that I have grown into a woman who is confident and comfortable with herself. My early 20’s were a little confusing, but nonetheless fun, for  lack of a better word. I explored my sexuality often and enjoyed every minute of it. Not everyone understood; I guess it was a complicated situation to understand for most people. I was in a relationship with a man, but was openly bisexual. At times we had “friends with benefits” and there was even a live-in girlfriend at one point. Most strangers, family members, and friends were confused. They told me to choose. They said, if you like women, just be with them. They believed that there was no way that you could love someone and let them “be” with someone else physically. But I explained to them that I was attracted to women but liked having my relationship with my boyfriend, and I was in love with him. With that being said, from then on, people assumed that every friend that was a girl was a lover. They assumed that every girl that hung out with my man and I was having a threesome with us. There were many situations like this that were absolutely true, but there were more that were false. I noticed that everyone around me loved to tell stories, twisting my words and actions into manipulated fairytales created solely for their own entertainment. It’s not my fault their sex life was so boring that they fantasized about mine. They said we would never last…

So here I am, about to celebrate my 11 year anniversary with my boyfriend, the same man that I explored my sexuality with, my lover, my best friend. We are not as “crazy” as we were in our early 20’s, but we haven’t changed much. We still have the same theories about relationships. We still have people who question our actions and assume things. All that matters is that we love each other, and what works for one doesn’t always work for another. All I know is that my relationship has lasted more than most marriages. So as unconventional as it may be, for us, it works, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am so grateful to find a partner who I can be myself with unconditionally.

© Kristi Mulqueen for Acceptance Revolution, 2012

Interested in sharing your own experience? Click here for details!

Human Connection: “Straight,” No Chaser

My good friend and partner-in-crime Jess Farris (whose name you may recognize from the first featured personal experience spotlight on this site) describes her new blog But I Thought You Were… as, “The misadventures of a girl just living life and yearning to find a genuine connection to another human being. And not worrying so much anymore what kind of equipment they’re packing!” Amen, and I’ll drink to that! And this description – in particular, the latter portion – is a fantastic segue into what I want to touch on  today.

There’s a particular double-standard that exists, with which I think most people who don’t fall into hetero-normative categories are at least somewhat familiar. It goes a little something like: “Ooh! I should set you up with my friend because you’re both gay/lesbian.” Heterosexual set-ups, on the other hand, are more likely to be based on – if you can believe it – the  crazy phenomenon of actual common ground between the two people in question. And, as recently as last week – though it’s not the first time it’s happened, and probably won’t be the last – I’ve had well-meaning friends who’ve wanted to introduce me to their FTM friends simply because they know I’ve dated transguys before. On the heels of this most recent event not sparking into a love connection (the guy was a sweetheart, but I wasn’t really looking for anything, and even if I had been, we met at a friend’s birthday celebration at a club… so not exactly conducive to any kind of deep connection), the birthday girl (who, by the way, was not even the friend responsible for the forced, awkward set-up) commented, “Wow, I guess you’re really not a tranny chaser then.” Um, yeah, thank you. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell everyone.

For my own convenience purposes earlier, the easiest place I was able to find a definition of the term “tranny chaser” was on Urban Dictionary… not the most professional reference, I know, but it will suffice to illustrate my point (and, frankly, I think there’s a damn good reason that particular search term doesn’t pop up in a more professional source). According to most of what’s on there,  the most common definition is something along the lines of “a straight male who is sexually obsessed with/turned on by male to female transsexuals.” Well, I’m pretty sure that one lets me out right off the bat.

Apparently, the term can also refer to “dykes who fetishize trans men as ‘really butch’ and thus keep dyke cred by not admitting they might be attracted to a man.” First off, I’ve never looked at any of the transguys I’ve dated as “really butch” lesbians; that’s why they’re called “transguys,” not “trans really butch lesbians.” Secondly, I’m also willing to state for the record here on my public site that I’ve been attracted to a few cisgender guys in my time as well, with little regard for what it might mean for my “dyke cred…” so I guess I don’t fit that second definition either.

Urban Dictionary also claims that, “A queer-identified woman who lusts after FTMs may be identified as a tranny-chaser if she outs her lovers as trans, particularly to acquaintances and strangers, so that she won’t be taken for straight,” and I’ll admit that – though it certainly was not my finest hour –  the first time I got the “why are you here if you’re straight?” question in a gay bar, I did feel the need to explain why, despite outward appearances,  I still “belonged” there… but, thankfully, that didn’t last long either.

So while, yes, I do happen to like – as Jess put it – “what kind of equipment they’re packing,” in regard to transguys, I don’t fetishize them, and I’m not going to date someone solely based on that. I’m not just about what they’re “packing,” and in fact, even their trans-ness has only ever been a tiny portion of the equation for me; while, granted, they often have amazing and unique experiences to share because of their trans factor, there’s A LOT more to it for me than that. I’m all about viewing whoever I date as the total package, and it just so happens that, in the past, I’ve found my personal definition of that in a few transguys. Sure, I dug their “equipment,” and we had our fun in that department, but what really got me hooked and held my interest was so much bigger and so far beyond all that…

I’ve known guys with whom I could talk for hours and never get bored because of the amazing banter and verbal sparring we developed. I’ve known guys who’ve inspired the shit out of me with the strength and integrity they displayed as men, in the face of – and perhaps even because of – the challenges and obstacles they’d encountered in their lives. I’ve known guys who’ve had the rare distinction of being one of those people who made me feel that, when they looked at me, they were actually looking hard enough and paying close enough attention to really see me, learning what I was about and what made me tick, challenging me to fully examine each facet of myself… and who, in turn, openly invited and encouraged me to challenge them because they truly believed that the connection we shared had the power to help us both grow and evolve and better ourselves as human beings… and they were right; it absolutely did.

And none of that had anything to do with their “equipment.”

© Kristin Despina for Acceptance Revolution, 2012