Friday, April 18, 2014

Queerness and Sexual Assault


It was not until this year that I was able to come to terms with the fact that sexual assault was possible within Queer relationships. I am a woman who likes other women. I fought so hard to be accepted, to love how I wanted without people telling me I was going to go to hell.  So after I won that tolerance among my friends and family, I could rarely talk about my relationships, let alone complain about them. "You're the one who wants to live like that. If you were with a man..." I knew that they would never understand that my relationship problems could be anyone's relationship problems. Maybe if they had heard me out, they would have been able to help me realize how toxic my past relationship was.

This pressure, along with many others, may be the reason why sexual assault among Queer couples is sometimes higher than in heterosexual relationships.

In 90% of all sexual assaults, the survivor actually knows their attacker personally.

This reality is scary-an attacker could be anyone. For many people, it is people that they are in a relationship with because possessiveness and persistence to have sex could be mistaken for want, passion, or love, and the discomfort is overlooked without a second thought. Queer people, or at least in my personal situation, know I was always looking for people to want and love me because no one ever did after I came out. I was turned away from a lot of my straight friends out of fear that I would hit on them, and there were no other Queer people around me until I started looking for anyone outside of my straight social life in high school. That is when I found someone who would love me and become my attacker.

In 90% of all sexual assaults, the survivor actually knows their attacker personally.

What further scares me about this statistic is that sometimes, when Queer people come out for the first time, they might experience sexual assault because there is so much hatred in some hearts, they think that "they want it anyway" as an excuse to hurt Queer people. I have seen countless documentaries, movies, and have heard personal stories where Queer people have been stalked, harassed, and even raped because people around them think they deserve to be hurt. What is even worse is that there are no consequences to the attacker afterwards because "he wanted gay sex, so I gave it to him" becomes a valid excuse. THIS IS BEYOND NOT OKAY. Just because someone is Queer, does not mean they are asking for any type of sexual assault.  NO ONE IS EVER ASKING FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT.

I did not believe sexual assault was possible in Queer people's lives-but it is one of the most heartbreaking and harshest realities of being Queer in this world.


Hi, nice to see you again. This will be my last scheduled post for the semester, although I will look into how much freedom I have to keep updates going on this platform into the future.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what we are capable of. Absolutely take that statement and use it to come up with your own definitions of what capability means to you. No matter how we navigate our lives as students, friends, employees, lovers, family members, or anything else, there are different things in each of those roles that make us feel proud of what we are capable of doing. Personally, I don’t really see myself capable of things in the present tense. All those feelings of pride in myself come with reflection. When I do things in the moment I do them because they feel right to me, because it will better those around me, because I love someone. Whenever things are difficult or when stress becomes a really prevalent state of being, there is no time to see the beauty and power of ourselves. In those moments, there is more time spent thinking about how to make the tough times past the fastest. Of course, tough times mean different things to everyone.

Navigating life with the notion that you are capable of doing whatever you want or whatever is expected of you is something I am trying to find out for myself. Entering situations with that in mind, you can overcome whatever is in front of you.
Or you can just take life as it come and look back to see all the incredible things you have done.

But, through all of this, take care of yourself as this tough little thing called life is happening. You are capable of everything, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy.

Now, I’m just really excited that summer is coming and that I will finally have my overwhelming feeling of joy in seeing what I have been capable of. I find it interesting how much of my life is defined by what I can accomplish in a semester's time, and instead of exhausting myself and unpacking that, I will just address it and move forward knowing that this is stage in my life that I am absolutely grateful for nonetheless.  

Thanks for taking the time out to listen to my journey as a member of the 6th cohort of Peers for Pride, a program with enormous capability to transform thoughts and language around LGBT issues, and the beautiful thing about this program is that you see that as it is happening before you. This program has made me see what I am capable of.

All my love,
Stephanie Salazar

fighting invisibility

The year is coming to a close, and as I continue my desperate hunt for summer internships I’ve come across a local Austin sociology research center. I was poking around their website, trying to get a feel for their interests and politics and at first glance I was really excited. I refreshed and caught a glimpse of the word asexuality and my excitement ratcheted up another notch. Asexuality is not an identity widely discussed in any circle, LGBTQ or otherwise. As a queer identity, it’s not even in the standard acronym. I was excited that someone out in the world wanted to give asexuality visibility that it sorely needs and was impressed that it didn’t seem to be from an LGBTQ source.

Unfortunately, when I got a chance later to actually read a lot of the research, it became clear that the political agenda of the research center was not one I shared, and only chose to highlight asexuality as a means to erase it. But it got me thinking. It was interesting that of the maybe two times I’ve heard asexual identities mentioned this year one was by a group intensely opposed to it. If we’re not talking about asexuality we’re allowing people to make claims about it that devalue lived experiences. And while there is active (and needed) talk of bisexuality erasure asexuality isn’t even present in our discourse. It’s an identity so seldom brought up that its erasure occurs without many even noticing.

The asexual visibility and education network (AVEN) defines asexuality as, “someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who we are... There is considerable diversity among the asexual community; each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction, and arousal somewhat differently.”

Through my experience with friends who identify as asexual and going to the FAQs on AVEN’s website, it seems pertinent to clear up a few common misconceptions. Asexuality is an identity. It does not have to the result any sort of sexual assault and does not mean that the person does not know how to love. It is not merely celibacy and does not mean that asexual people can’t have relationships. The most important aspect I’ve experienced is that asexuality is, like most identities, very complex and individual, and changes from person to person.  

Asexuality is only one of many identities that are rarely discussed and one of an even greater number of identities that experience erasure.  But it’s our duty as allies of other human beings to recognize identities, educate ourselves, and make space for them in the conversation. I thought it was appropriate to end my blog posting this way, bringing attention to an identity and continuing to grow and learn in my social justice journey. It’s been exhilarating and exhausting and I’m excited that I now have the basis to continue on my journey and grow even more.


Again to Russia, always with Love

It occurred to me while searching for articles to write about that I hadn’t thought about Russia in quite some time. The article above popped up in a small place on my newsfeed. Originally when the Sochi Olympics were getting ready to be held, there was a firestorm of people who were calling out Russia for its inhumane treatment of LGBTQ Russians.

I haven’t thought about Russia since the closing ceremonies. What a bandwagon effect the whole thing was. Really, if people cared so much about LGBTQ Russians, they would be receiving the same amount of news coverage now that they were getting at the start of the Olympics. Now that we’re packed up and moved out of Russia, it seems logical to think that we can just forget about it altogether. Since it no longer affects us in remote ways, it doesn’t exist.

I’m mad right now because there are such trivial things that the LGBTQ community fights for, outside and within the community. I’m mad because our country seems to have a habit of allowing crimes against humanity to continue on. Sometimes I’d like to think that my life is hard because I fall into the LGBTQ spectrum, but when I think about how much privilege I have in living here in the US, compared to LGBTQ individuals who live in other places, I realize how fortunate I am.

Whether we realize it or not, the LGBTQ community in America has a voice. Maybe it isn’t the loudest voice in the room, but we do have one. And globally speaking, LGBTQ individuals who live in America, compared to other places, have a HUGE voice, and so much privilege. Maybe my issue at the moment is that I am not sure who to be mad at. Why was media so sure to condemn Russia for it’s anti-gay policies and now completely silent at the issue? *GAWKS*

I rant about all of this because the LGBTQ community in America seems to have a problem with not getting its priorities straight (pun not intended). In the video linked within the article, the start of the video talks about the passing of same-sex marriage in Illinois before moving on to what should have been the actual focus of the story. It reminded me where our agendas seem to really lie.

I’m not trying to say that these issues aren’t important. Trust and believe, I do the celebratory happy dances every time a state ok’s the gay, but really? We spend so much time trying to get the freedom to marry in a country where we can more or less live out openly and freely, while our fellow brethren in other countries are the victims of beatings, public humiliation, anti-gay propaganda, and death. Our struggle suddenly becomes so trivial when it gets compared to the struggles of others. Why is gay-marriage so much the subject of our attention? We could focus it in areas where we could do a global impact!

Even then, America is not so perfect, and I believe that our inability to prioritize things correctly leaves American in a problematic situation as well. We put so much attention on gay marriage, but little on LGBTQ homeless youth. We put so little attention on the unbelievably high murder rate of Transwomen of color, or the very unfair prison system against trans* people. Like any other system in America, the issues that get noticed are the ones that affect the wealthy. We’d like to believe we are in control, but we really aren’t.

My challenge to the reader is this, reconsider your priorities, and, if you’re living in America, be grateful for the privileges you have. Think critically about the news media and challenge where your news information is coming from. And, especially, to advocate and fight for the struggles of others, be they here in America, or abroad. It is my belief that, were we to push for treating each other humanely, instead of fighting for “gay rights,” the world would be in a better place.

To Russia, and to all LGBTQ folks across the world, know that you are loved. The journey will be long, but the destination is certain.

With love,

Sexual Violence in the Queer Community

There are times when you feel like the community is everything. That they could possibly not do any harm to you because they also know the feeling of being marginalized and since people often hold several positions of marginalization people think that this wouldn't happen. In reality violence within the queer community is relevant and real. Often times it is compromised for the well being of the group or keeping the community you have together. It's important to realize that stopping violence in any form is important to stop oppression of marginalized groups, and sexual violence is a strong one. The invisible sexual violence that happens in the queer community is subtle and often times it's really frightening. I remember when I was a freshman and we would go head out to Kiss n'Fly where it was notorious for sexual acts to happen without consent. There was a night specifically when one of friends was groped while dancing on the platform. I remember grabbing the guys hand away and yelling in his face. He wasn't even dazed as if he was expecting someone to tell him off. He was just stumbling on to the next person.
The other time was when I was at a party and everyone was drinking and this person was talking to me. I thought we were just friends and then he decided to go in for a kiss, I avoided it because I did not want to do anything like that with this person. He got really mad and blew up on me when I was trying to avoid it, he kept on saying that he knew I wanted it. I was in my own home so I really couldn't go anywhere besides to avoid him for the rest of the night. I couldn't even muster enough courage to tell him to leave the space in fear of retaliation from other people. During that time people would often hook up during parties and if I said no would I be seen as a prune? This is why I often times didn't say things to people until after the fact and people had gone home.
I thought about personal space and what would it mean if this was done in another space. Did the culture that we create not care about people and just use them as sexual pawns to be used. I hated it and I hate when I see these things happen. I often times have to look away when I think I see something happen that isn't consented from both sides. I often times am powerless to even act in a space that isn't my own. If they are random strangers I often times ask myself do I make sure she is okay, do I make sure that he is fine, do I know if that person will get home safe? These questions linger in my mind as my friends tug me away to get them home safe after a night downtown. This is one of the main reasons why I avoid going to these spaces anymore and have found community in other spaces. This new space is comforting and people are very aware of what is happening.

Thesis Symposium Reflections

I presented my thesis: "Silence Will Choke Us," at the Plan II Symposium this Sunday. It was the culmination of not only a year's worth of research but the effort for me to understand this intersection of my life better.

My three presentation points about issues I noticed affecting tolerance levels were: preservation of heterosexual models, perceptions of cultural barriers to discourse, and scientific legitimacy. I focused on scientific legitimacy as a theme through each category of the LGBT spectrum. The points are as follows:

Homosexuality - generally speaking, straight+cisgender participants who cited "born this way" rhetoric tended to have had conversations in positive light about homosexuality, and were otherwise more tolerant. Those who said "It's a choice" tended to be a lot less tolerant, and often qualified the choice as a moral or character judgment rendered poorly. What was interesting is that LGBT participants, when offered the same question about what caused homosexuality, brought up the choice/birth debate and even denigrated it as "distracting," or "pointless to the real issue of tolerance." Basically: those in the community and had had these discussions personally sometimes disagreed whether being born a certain way meant that others should be more tolerant. Those outside the community had been taught that phrase as a line of accepting rhetoric, and were able to repeat it.

Bisexuality - the only part of the spectrum regarded as illegitimate. Interestingly, being presented with the Kinsey scale often encouraged more statements of tolerance, as if the numerical descriptions corresponded to more scientific data about bisexuality's existence.

Transgender - there was a lot of confusion about this, with capital-T identities being treated more seriously than lowercase-T's. If people saw it as a subsect of homosexuality, they tended to be more tolerant (if confused about "why" someone would be like that). If people saw it as a mental illness...this is where it got interesting. I hesitate to say that they were more or less tolerant, rather than their tolerance took on a different color (most often pity, the same way someone with a disability might be patronisingly pitied).

At the Q&A panel, I got asked for tips about the thesis. Much to my own surprise, I said, "If it is a subject you love, prepare for it to change your life." It was definitely one of those answers that garnered momentum the more words that came out of my mouth. But it is true - I think I want to eventually do policy work, or work inside corporations to start shattering those ceilings and climbing those ladders. It's been a whole new motivation for the importance of looking forward, and always telling myself to succeed.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Some Not So Awesome Things are Making their Way into my Awesome Summer

As the final weeks of the semester approach faster than we want to think about, I am finding solace in looking forward to my summer vacation plans. This year I am kicking off my summer as I always do by attending A-Kon 25 in Dallas. For those of you who don’t know, A-Kon is an anime and Japanese culture convention, so basically a place where I go to massively geek out in my overly adorable, frilly outfits (I mentioned in an earlier blog that I participate in a Japanese fashion style known as Lolita). I’ve been going for years and honestly, I measure my relationships based upon who I went to A-kon with; this year will be my third year going with my current partner! ^_^  I have yet to see the schedule; they usually don’t come out until a week or two before the convention but I am excited see what type of programing they are offering this year and whether or not they will be hosting any “queer” panels. You can learn more about A-kon on their website:

Although I have seen “queer” programing expanding at anime conventions in the past few years the majority of the panels presented are either “yaoi” or “yuri” panels. “Yaoi,” also known as “boy love,” and “yuri,”also known as “girl love,” are terms used to describe homoerotic relationships depicted in manga and anime which are generally targeted at teenage female readers. These relationships are comprised of beautiful, feminine characters, mid-embrace surrounded by sparkles and hearts and everything kawaii. Needless to say, this is problematic and honestly I kind of dread leaving the progressive, forward thinking LGBTQ community here to vacation in a community were LGBTQ relationships are fetishized and placed on display for others. However, I am still looking forward to the convention because there are literally a “bazillion” other aspects of it that I am excited about and as much as I hate to admit it I love these panels because that is where I can find other LGBTQ identified attendees with whom I can connect.

Now, I wish I had the time or the ability to host my own panel, one possibly titled “Ways in Which Yaoi/Yuri are Harmful to the LGBTQ Community and Ways in to Challenge the Negative Perceptions Perpetuated by them.” In it I would share my feelings about having my sexual orientation objectified by fan girls and tell them about some of the negative behaviors that these manga and anime seem to be reinforcing; behaviors like obsessing about and expressing how “cute” gay relationships are. I am not going to lie, I have seen young female attendees photograph LGBTQ couples showing each other affection, so that they can “enjoy” the moment later. Such attendees lead me to believe that they think that those relationships exist purely for their enjoyment.

Marie Antoinette and Lady Oscar 
from Rose of Versailles 

It is also hard for me to hate “yaoi” and “yuri” because I believe that some of its worst depictions have been accompanied by some amazing LGBTQ characters in manga and anime. Let’s be honest, as Lolita I am basically obligated to love Rose of Versailles; in this particular series I am a fan of Lady Oscar who was born female but raised as male because her family lacked a successor. She is a military officer who serves as the leader of the Palace Guard while also having to navigate gender (she is a female bodied individual serving as a top military officer in pre-revolutionary France) and her affections for Marie Antoinette, the queen who it is her duty to protect. What I find most amazing about this series was that it was released in 1979! I feel that manga and anime is becoming more progressive but I feel it is not where it should be considering how early some of its most groundbreaking series arose; check out the following article which discusses queer and feminist characters in the extremely popular series Attack on Titan, which I will be extremely excited to see as the dubbed version begins being released next month! (Sadly, because of my dyslexia I have yet to have the opportunity to see what all the hype is about because I cannot read fast enough to enjoy subtitles :’( )

Squee! ^_^
<3 Mylo