Binge Watching Heteronormativity

I am not a huge fan of movies and even less of a fan of television. Therefore, it is rather odd that I have recently found myself watching an obscene amount of really bad, really heteronormative media.

What is going on?

On November 8th, when this country elected Trumpy Wumpy to the office of President, I fell into a deep and somewhat debilitating despair. I cried for two solid days and started looking at immigration websites for countries which I thought might accept me as a resident on day three. As someone who normally stands at the front lines of every fight for social justice, this time I just felt defeated. I have no more fight in me (or so I thought).

A week after the election, feeling like a shell of a person, I sat on my couch and stared at the fire. Then a thought popped into my head, “I need to watch something hetero.” I sat a bit longer, trying to come up with the most heteronormative movie ever made when the title, Father of the Bride flashed into my head. I gleefully found it streaming online and immediately watched the entire outrageously heteronormative film. Then I found Father of the Bride II and watched that on the same day. Admittedly, I growled at the actors, pointing out the not-so-subtle instructions on how to be a man or a woman…

Man: Bumbling, unobservant, goofy, tyrannical, possessive of the the females in his life, wealthy, out of touch, playful, juvenile

Woman: Pretty, intelligent (for a girl), nurturing, wiser than man, soft, wants nothing more than romantic love, stylish, mature

I won’t go into the overt racist and homophobic stereotypes that appear in the films, but know that they are there.

Over the course of the following several weeks I watched (this is highly embarrassing):

Gilmore Girls
Little Women
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

At some point in this train wreck of a past time, I realized that I was engaged in an activity from my younger years- binge watching heteronormativity in the hopes that intense study of the phenomenon would allow me to accurately perform it.

I am reminded of all the years I spent trying to be a girl, pouring over fashion magazines and watching What Not To Wear to gain a better understanding of how I should perform my gender. I have not engaged in this activity for a decade, but it showed up in November after we elected Cheeto-head.


I am still uncovering the motivation for this recent hetero binge fest, but I suspect it has something to do with fear. I am an out queer/trans person. I write about the experience of being a queer/trans person. My doctoral research centers around the experiences of queer/trans people. My survival instinct likely kicked into overdrive and said, “Hold the phone! If you want to live you better learn how to perform their shit and assimilate into their world. Otherwise they are going to kill you.”

I had a dream last night that I grew my very short hair out into long, luscious locks. I wasn’t quite sure how it had happened, but people kept complimenting me on my beautiful, feminine hair. My only response was, “I feel like a drag queen.” I did not like the hair, but I noticed how nicely I assimilated into the dream society. This is not so far removed from my actual experience. When I shave my head, most people raise their eyebrows and say, “why did you do that?” When it starts to grow out I hear, “Your hair is starting to look nice again. I’m glad it’s growing out some.” If I ever wear anything that remotely looks like girl clothes, I am complimented. “You look so pretty in that.” “You look very nice today.” But when I wear my normal men’s clothes, no one says anything.

It’s interesting how people use compliments to let you know how well you are performing gender or not. The subtext of their words are:

“When you do things that push the boundaries of gender, you make me uncomfortable and I hate you for it.”

“When you assimilate in a way that makes sense to me, I feel better and therefore like you more.”

How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days shattered something in me. Even straight people must be offended by this! It was so overtly misogynistic, both men and women appeared ridiculous. Maybe it is supposed to be satire and I just didn’t get it which is quite probable. It did have a serious moment were the audience is supposed to “ooh” and “ahh” at the slender lead actress in her swanky yellow gown. I wonder what would have happened if they sent her to the party dressed as a Dapper Dan in bow tie, vest, and hat? And the lead actor could have worn the beautiful yellow gown (I’m sure he would have looked marvelous in it).

Shit. There I go again with my inability to assimilate. This period of binge watching has ended. As much as I might think I want to give up my queer identity in order to be accepted by the masses, I know I won’t. Living a lie won’t help me or anyone else. If I’m killed for being queer, so be it. I won’t be the first person. Plus, who knows if Mike Pence will get his bigoted little hands on our rights, or if there are enough people who don’t hate us to stop him and Trumpy Wumpy’s team of racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic cronies. And finally, if I go into hiding, then I’m not standing in solidarity with my fellow queers and we all need each other as we head into a period of time that we may refer to as “The Dark Years.” Or maybe just “The Years of Cheeto” which at least makes me smile.


Intimate Partner Violence in Queer Relationships

I suspect that I will have a lot to say on this topic over the course of the next few years because it is the focus of my doctoral studies. Even though I am completely immersed in Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) as a course of study, I still want space to talk about this issue outside of the ivory tower of academe. Why? Cause it is happening in relationships all over the world but people aren’t talking about it and that is scary.

What is IPV?

IPV is defined by the Center for Disease Control as “a serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans. The term “intimate partner violence” describes physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercive acts) by a current or former intimate partner” (2016).

Unfortunately, most research and treatment programs still view IPV through the lens of Domestic Violence (DV) which upholds the outdated notion of IPV as “wife bashing,” and contends that IPV can only exist between a woman and a man. You are likely familiar with the image…


A scared woman is beaten by her aggressive husband. This does happen! I don’t want to imply that we shouldn’t attend to IPV in cis-het relationships, but it exists across cultures and is pervasive in relationships of all kinds in the United States. Cis-het IPV in which a man beats his wife is not the only type of IPV being perpetrated, yet instances of IPV in queer relationships or IPV where a woman is the perpetrator go largely unreported.



In order to understand queer IPV we need to understand straight IPV.

If a woman is beaten by her husband, she is seen as weak, vulnerable, and helpless while he still retains the “masculine” qualities of aggressive power and strength. If a woman beats her husband, he is seen as weak, vulnerable, and helpless and we can’t have that. God forbid a man embody “feminine” qualities. An additional factor contributing to this misogynistic view of IPV is the labeling of the victim as weak and helpless. The victim is vulnerable to abuse but that does not make them weak. They may be an incredibly strong person in many areas, but they have become desensitized to abuse and aggression and are likely trying to support the perpetrator in some way.

How many people have heard a perpetrator say, “I don’t want to be this way. Please help me.”


While I can feel anger begin to tense the muscles of my jaw and my left arm is twitching in a rather alien way, I am trying to remain committed to holding compassion for perpetrators as well as victims. It’s hard. I feel hate. I feel anger. I feel grief and overwhelm and sadness. I want perpetrators to take responsibility for their actions instead of crying and begging for forgiveness. But underneath all that, I also understand that most perpetrators are products of our fucked up culture. That doesn’t mean I excuse their actions. No way. But I hold compassion. Or try to.

So what about IPV in queer relationships? What happens when gender roles and genitals don’t adhere to the norm? There are people who think IPV can’t exist in lesbian relationships (cause all lesbians live in lesbitopia?). Those people are wrong. ANYONE can attempt to maintain power and control through aggression and coercive acts no matter what their genitals look like.

And what about IPV that is more insidious? The subtle, verbal insults and humiliation tactics? This type of IPV is very common and highly invisible. While physical violence does occur in intimate partnership, 80% of IPV consists of emotional and verbal violence. Expressive aggression is defined as “verbal abuse or emotional violence in response to some agitating or aggravating circumstance” (Carney & Barner, 2012, p.2).

For example:

Does your partner explode when you express a feeling? Do they get angry when you set a boundary? Do they kick furniture, throw things, or otherwise act like a toddler when something pisses them off? That is expressive aggression and it’s not OK. There is nothing wrong with the Feelz; we all have them, but there are healthy ways to express anger, most of which begin with the statement, “I am angry.”  We all get happy, sad, angry, and scared. Children scream and kick and bite, but they should learn how to express emotions in a safe and healthy way as they get older. Unfortunately, we live in a world that doesn’t offer parents much support in teaching kids healthy emotional expression. Most adults can’t do it! This is why some adults think expressive aggression is A-OK. It’s familiar. But it scares loved ones. And when it is directed at loved ones because of the aforementioned boundary setting or feeling expression or a myriad of other ways that are attempts to exert power and control, it is IPV.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline states that IPV affects more than 12 million people each year in the United States. They also note that “members of the LGBTQ community are slightly more likely to experience abuse than straight couples.” Yet most shelters for victims of IPV are not queer/trans friendly or queer culture informed.

Grrr. Argh.


It feels like time to end my silence on the subject.


No Room for Me, the Non Binary

There are some people and organizations who overtly exclude others: most religions, elite universities, right-wing conservatives (not all, but some), left-wing liberals (not all, but some), school curricula, the media…OK, there is a lot of overt exclusion in the world, but it is truly wondrous how exclusive the world can be without particularly trying. There are several bathrooms at my place of work. The two on my floor are gender inclusive (thank you!). They each contain a toilet and a sink, neither of which care about the gender of the person using them. Then there are the bathrooms in the rest of the building which are for “men” or “women.” I wonder if people think I don’t deserve to pee. More likely, they don’t think of me at all.


This is not a difficult concept

Continuing education and professional development are a part of my chosen career so I often find myself in trainings and at conferences or workshops. These experiences often ask people to divide into groups of “women” and “men,” or have intake questionnaires that want to know my gender: Man or Woman? Or request that groups have an equal number of women and men etc… etc…. When I point out that I am neither a man nor a woman there is generally a question from the facilitator along the lines of, “Well, how would you divide the room then?”

Uh, by experience, interest, area of expertise, modality, musical tastes… ad infinitum?

We are entrenched in the concept of excluding each other; it is an insidious and harmful practice and shows up everywhere.

Some of the time I can brush it off by saying, “The world just sucks. This is how it is. Whatevs.”

Other times I feel crushed by the weight of normativity and want to crawl in a hole, never to emerge.

The latest example of exclusivity came in the form of a meditation retreat. The last four months of my life have taken me into a dismal abyss of fiery agony. I have experienced death, divorce, moving, theft, and loss that hurts so badly I sometimes wonder if my heart has just up and left my body because it can’t take the pain.

Such is life.

So I move through my journey of healing, searching for ways to make sense of what has happened and looking for places of growth. Healing is facilitated by dance, art, music, meditation, time in the wild, spiritual practice, and some serious therapy. Even though I have strong resources in the healing realm, I am always on the lookout for new experiences that might benefit my personal and professional identities and the notion of a meditation retreat floated into my consciousness a few days ago. I am not a fan of talking, but I imagine two weeks of silence with hours and hours of meditation each day would challenge even the most taciturn of people.  So I started to look up retreats in my state for the coming autumn season and discovered… they are quite gendered. Women sleep in one dorm, men sleep in another; there are separate waitlists for women and men, and one has to register as one of those two binary categories.


My initial response was: OK, well, I guess I can just be a woman for a few weeks.

My next response was: I DON’T WANNA BE A WOMAN even for a few weeks.

My third response was: Maybe I can be a man…

My fourth response was: I’m not a man and they likely won’t let me pretend to be one even though they will let me pretend to be a woman.

My final response was: Poo on you meditation retreat. I don’t need your stupid silence and vegan meals and transcendent experience anyway.

I recognize the rather toddler-esque quality of the final response, but sometimes one needs to let one’s inner toddler have a temper tantrum.

I will find a way to participate in a silent meditation retreat or else I will create one for myself. The purpose of this post is to highlight the never-ending barrage of micro-aggressions that one experiences as a non-binary person. I’m not interested in sympathy or pity; my experience as an NB is quite cushy due to my class, race, body, education, and ethnic privilege. It still hurts, but I can move through the world with relative ease even if my NB self is repeatedly excluded.


Wouldn’t it be nice if we considered ALL people when creating groups, social systems, curriculum, families, pop songs, television shows, architecture, medical care, or when we elected politicians?



Dear Pulse, there are no words…

but i’m going to try

what can we say in the wake of a massacre?

how much pain must one person be in to commit such a crime? to inflict such pain? it’s unfathomable. yet it happens all the time. happens more and more

our country is ill. when are we going to talk about it?

our country is ill and the symptoms are manifesting in our children. anxious and depressed kindergarteners. teenagers making suicide plans

our country is ill and the symptoms are manifesting in people with guns shooting up movie theaters. schools. dance clubs

the legalization of gay marriage did not eradicate hate. i don’t have to read the comments to feel it. to breathe it

today, a parent asked for their child to be moved to another clinician because of my “indeterminate gender.” they hadn’t even met me. but they hate me because i am not she/her or he/him. because i refuse to assimilate


my heart feels like a sponge, turned black from soaking up hate and discrimination

my lungs are full of the fear that is pumped into the air by our media, by our politicians

no wonder the kids are sick. our worst toxins are not bisphenol A, asbestos

our worst toxins are fear, hate, and ignorance

which goes in all directions…


if we are going to stop the hate, we all have to stop the hate

asking to stop the hate for one group while hating another group doesn’t make any amount of sense

right-wing evangelical christians have a right to their opinions. if i hate them, i am no better than people who hate me

if we are going to stop the hate, we all have to stop the hate

why can’t we just agree that different people think different things?

and then dance

this all feels very connected to consent and the fact that people have a difficult time adhering to boundaries set by other people because we all want what we want and don’t want to have to let others have what they want

jesus. we’re all still in preschool

dear pulse, your dance floor, once full of memories of joyous feet, now slippery with the blood of the slain. what must your walls still hear? terrified screams and gunshots. a space dedicated to providing a semblance of safety for the marginalized; a space where people forget to be vigilant, now raped by hatred with access to firearms. to be gunned down while connecting to community through the sacred practice of dance is indeed terror. a concept deliberately planted in our psyches to keep our attention on the “other.” this was not an “other.” this was you. me. there is no “other”

there is no “other.” the sooner we learn that, the sooner we can start a revolution. a peaceful one. a revolution to stop the hate

if we are going to stop the hate, we all have to stop the hate

dear pulse, i never met you but i feel inextricably entwined in your soul. the loss of my fellow queers = loss of my own heart. a friend just texted, “we are unstoppable, though. our queer family is so vibrant, so resilient”

yes we are. what other marginalized group poops rainbows?

and cries rainbows? for even though i know we are unstoppable, i still need to mourn the loss of 49 souls who were murdered in rage. i still need to mourn the world that created a person so full of self-loathing he had to open fire on his brothers. sisters. non-binary siblings.

i need to mourn. and then i will pick up, stand up, recalibrate, dust off, step forward, link arms, choose life, choose peace, and stop the hate.

Orlando Response Art

After the Dance





Which Came First: The Artist or the Queer?

In my recent explorations of Queer! with a capital Q, I have discovered that my artist-self and my queer-self might be conflated…or even more than that, they are most certainly deeply intertwined.

If Queer! simply referred to my sexual orientation or gender identity, it could be separated from other aspects of “I,” but my definition of Queer! pertains more to non-normative values than social identity. I am Queer! with a capital Q because I subvert normativity; because I am a rebel, an edgewalker, a trailblazer. As I was dancing my grief in my apartment the other night, followed by some angry splattering of paint on canvas, it suddenly occurred to me that my artist-self is also subversive and rebellious. My artist-self cannot sit still. My artist-self communicates in movement better than words and believes in the use of dance and theater to give voice to the voiceless; to scream about injustices and the soporific effects of capitalism. Or is that my Queer! self?


An Exploration of Reality

The above image is what I am calling an “embodied, artistic, reality check.” My therapist asked me, “What do you want? What do you need? What is true? What is not true?” My response in her office was a collapse in my body with a shrug of my shoulders and a huge exhalation (I don’t know what the fuck I want!). Luckily, I work with a brilliant art therapist so out came the paper and oil sticks and I created a foundation upon which I could later build. This piece of “art” is stuck to the wall of my rather stark apartment and as you can see, I have been adding sticky notes to the four quadrants as I come up with answers to the questions. Rebellion and subversion? You betcha!

TRUE = I have a body

TRUE = Most things don’t matter

NOT TRUE = I am defined by addiction

NOT TRUE = I am defined by trauma

To all the people who want to tell me (who DO tell me) that I am too traumatized to be in relationship, that a history of disordered eating and drug addiction means my brain is “fucked up,” to those people I say NOT TRUE so piss off. Those things do not define me; they are a part of my history and I personally think give me superpowers because I lived a nightmare but woke up and am now here to share what I learned from that dream with my fellow travelers.


Intuitive Collage

I want to mention that I do not identify as a visual artist. I am a dancer and sometimes actor. However, I use visual art quite a bit in my personal life to process emotions, to identify needs and wants, and sometimes just to externalize the cacophony of my inner voices. And then I dance my art. And then I write about my dance. And then I paint my writing. And then I dance my painting… and on and on it goes. One does not need to have years of training and earn their living as an artist to engage in this type of artistic reflection and expression. It is our birthright to dance; to create art that reflects our inner lives and outer worlds.

I recently read that the Balinese have a saying, “we have no art, everything we do is art.” That short phrase sums up my entire existence and makes me wonder if “I am not queer, everything I do is Queer!” Although really, I think “everything I AM is Queer!”

Us Queers! make good artists because we are used to life on the outside; life looking back in. When you’re constantly looking in and constantly told you’re wrong or freaky, you end up with a massive amount of Feelz and those Feelz need somewhere to go. For me, the Feelz either go into artistic expression or self-sabotage. These days I’m choosing the former over the latter, but that wasn’t always the case. I know it’s not always the case with my fellow Queers! Drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness, unemployment, harassment, violence, isolation, bullying, suicide…so many of us internalize the hate that permeates the air we breathe and it destroys us. And just because Caitlyn Jenner was on the cover of Vanity Fair doesn’t mean the hate is dissipating. Just saying…



I’m getting more real in these blog posts. I read Jamie Ray’s post on A Boy and Her Dog titled, “For Ryan,” and my heart broke into a million pieces. Ryan, I never met you but I will dance your name. I will dance your journey as it chooses to come through my body and I will create a work of art for you. I’m so sorry your body had to be a vehicle for the illness of our country.

I don’t know if I’m an artist because I’m Queer! or if I’m Queer! because I’m an artist. I don’t know if I make queer art or artistic queers (there’s a fun thought!). I do know I’m tired of being told my artistic life is unacceptable and my Queer! identity should be punished. If my stories serve to link us together and offer even a small amount of healing, then I will keep telling them in any way my Queer! artist self wants.

*Shout out to my photographer friend who taught me how to queer up a self-portrait. xoxox


Queer with a Capital Q! Part II

I have recently been part of many conversations about what it means to be queer. Several of my cis-het colleagues have approached me about The Acronym (you know, the “LGBTQPAAII” under which all of us queer people are lumped). This acronym presents several major problems, one of which is the mixture of gender and sexual orientation. It maybe, kinda, sort of addresses relationship orientation, but not comprehensively so. This mix of identities is confusing for everyone: Am I queer because of gender or sexuality? Am I not queer if I’m aromantic but heterosexual? Are trans homos more queer than cis homos?

What exactly does it mean to be queer? When my parents were young, “queer” was used pejoratively to describe homosexual people. For some reason, my mother’s dorm at nursing school was given the label, “queer hall” and the libelers did not intend it to be a term of empowerment. One of my favorite family dinner moments occurred several years ago when I was visiting mom and dad. I must have kept referring to myself as queer because my mom finally got a bit upset and said, “would you stop using that word!” I was a bit surprised that she took offense at my self-identification and we started talking about it. She still felt the word queer was derogatory and offensive. When I asked, “what did you think I was, mom?” She responded, “I thought you were just gay.”

At this point, mom understands why I identify as queer and how the word encompasses all my…well, queerness, but I’m not certain there is an easily definable and universal meaning to the word.

Plus, to make it more complicated, there’s queer and then there’s Queer!

I’m going to muse now. Let’s see if this gets us anywhere:

queer might be homo-normative

Queer! certainly is not

queer assimilates into heteronormativity. Think weddings with white dresses and two parents in one house with children and the stock market and shopping at Target*… always shopping at Target

Queer! has it’s own timeline

Queer! doesn’t follow a typical career path

queer agrees and aligns with institutions and systems

Queer! subverts institutions and systems

queer doesn’t question (as much)

Queer! can’t stop questioning

I am trying to observe and document the difference between queer and Queer! without judgment, but I am aware that I have some judgment. So I will just try to not judge my judgment and be transparent about the fact that there is some judgment.

The thing that has been so hard to navigate in the past few months (years maybe) is the recognition that I am marginalized within my marginalized community! It’s hard enough being queer, but when one realizes they are Queer! and therefore too Queer for queer people… well, it hurts.

Methinks ’tis related to normativity.

There is nothing wrong with straight people. There is nothing wrong with wedding dresses and nuclear families and cisgender people. There is something horribly wrong with Target and I won’t back down from that one, but there isn’t anything wrong with wanting to fit in.

The “wrong” occurs when those of us who just don’t fit in are ostracized and humiliated and told we’re crazy and our visions are alien and our way of being is frightening and our silence is threatening and our voices are aggressive and we “should be this” and we “should do that” and we are too sensitive and our tears are hysterics and our anger is out of line and our anti-consumerist stance is tiring and our purple hair is a midlife crisis.

I had a dream last night in which all the players had purple hair. Maybe the Queers! are about to start a revolution.

Fuck normativity.


*In case it isn’t obvious, I do not bow to the Gods of Consumerism. I am quite certain that I was not given a body for the sole purpose of buying shit and amassing wealth. For me, Target is a symbol of rampant, unsustainable, unnecessary consumerism but I could have easily used ‘Costco’ or ‘Walmart’ in place of ‘Target.’ 



Queer with a Capital Q! Part I

The pushing of normative values

on a Queer with a Capital Q!

Causes them to shrink

to be small

to think

I shouldn’t be here

Taking up space

in your normative world


Taking up space

in your normative world

is dangerous


my creative expressions

cause you to hate

So I hid

in my lair and…


I don’t align with systems

I see past your rigid thinking

I do not understand:



Talking about the weather

I dye my hair purple

And you say it’s a midlife crisis

(normative ageist bullshit)

In reality it’s a vibrant burst of

Here I am!

Refusing to be what you want me to be

Refusing to stuff myself into a box

of hetero

of homo (oh yes, look in the mirror)



I’m a Queer with a Capital Q!

I don’t do anything on your timeline

I do it on mine

Which sometimes follows a calendar

but mostly not

I do not subscribe to the path of the white man

laid out for us so sweetly by

our founding oppressors

They may have succeeded in taming you

but they won’t get to me

Queer with a Capital Q!

I keep moving (shhhh)

and I have no need to own a house

or make car payments

or ignore genocide, racism, and white supremacy

Lucidity keeps me from

drinking the Koolaid


So though I shrank in your presence

And hid in my lair

I’m coming out (again) now

With fucking amazing purple hair

To claim the non-normative

To take up space

To play the song of Capital Q!

If enough of us stand

and scream

and dance

and trailblaze our own paths

At least we will see

other Qs

as we swim upstream and

try not to drown

I will head nod to you

You will head nod to me

And onward we’ll go

Fuck normativity