Jun 212011
 

Do you like pancakes? Do you like building and supporting local community? Do you like working together to work against violence, particularly within and against the LGBTQ community?

GOOD NEWS!

July 9th, from 9:30-11:30 am, at East High School in Denver, is the 4th Annual Pancake Breakfast, put on by the Colorado Anti-Violence Program. CAVP is the ONLY organization in Colorado dedicated solely to work on stopping violence inside and against the LGBTQ community. How awesome is that cause?

You get ALL YOU CAN EAT vegan pancakes (which, even if you’re not vegan, and freaking delicious!), plus the opportunity to hang out with local celebrity servers (like my sweet self), meet new like-minded folks, reach out and be a part of the activist community and much much more! Tickets are on a sliding scale of $5-$25 (pay what you can afford), and kids under 8 are free! I really hope to see you there, supporting such a fabulous organization and important cause.

-Shanna

May 272011
 

This month’s post for my monthly Unapologetic column on the Fearless Press deals with the concepts regarding the term Partner — the good, the bad, and the frustrating.

Sometimes, the English language just fails me. Aside from the ridiculous issue of pronouns (I mean, really, do we need to have masculine and feminine pronouns when we conjugate everything in neutrality anyways?), it’s so interesting trying to navigate in field of terminology to refer to people’s partners.

The other day, someone referred to my partner as my “wife.” Well, since both of us reject the concept of traditional marriage (versus our upcoming “Queer Celebration of Love”), it didn’t really fit, but even more so, it doesn’t fit because my partner doesn’t usually identify with either female or male identifies. My partner identifies as genderqueer, residing outside of that binary.

So the term girlfriend doesn’t really fit either. Moreover, as one of my straight friends revealed to me, calling her partner “boyfriend” after ten years of being together feels silly to her, and like she’s back in high school.

To read the rest, click here for Howdy There Partner.

May 242011
 

If you’re in Denver and are Womyn/Woman/Girl/Grrl, etc identified, you should stop by the Womyn’s Circle tonight, at the Denver GLBT Center for a free workshop and Q & A session with me at 6:30pm.

The Womyn’s Circle is a safe space for those who identify as women, womyn, girls, grrls, etc (particularly for LGBTQ folks). The theme of the 24th will be Shanna Katz, M.Ed, ACS talking about maintaining and re-building intimacy in relationships, as well as answering everyone’s questions (anonymity is completely allowed) on everything from picking up partners outside of the bar scene, female ejaculation, safer sex, non-monogamy, and more more.

See you there!

Shanna

Oct 112010
 

I am one of the winners of the Phoenix Pride Coming Out Story Essay contest ( I even got to read mine out loud at the Zoo yesterday at the Coming Out celebration)…and as today is officially National Coming Out Day, I thought I’d share. Please feel free to share yours, or links to your own stories on your own sites, etc.

My coming out story isn’t just one day, or a week or even year. In fact, my coming out story isn’t finished. It is happening every day of every week of every year.

In college, I discovered the concept of orientation being fluid, and realized that I liked some of the women on campus. I joined QSA and EQUAL, and began to identify as bisexual. I told my mother and sister, and they reacted as expected; they didn’t really care.

Then in graduate school, I decided that I didn’t really like men anymore; I became a proud, flag-flying lesbian. I’m actually not kidding about the flag. I was a lesbian, and I liked women, and was attracted to women, and I came out to my friends and family and work and then…suddenly, I hit a speed bump.

Why? Well, I was suddenly dating someone that didn’t identify as a woman. I was dating a gender queer identified person. She didn’t care what pronouns people used to refer to him. When we were out and about, sometimes people saw us and identified us as a lesbian or dyke couple…other times, I could swear that people thought I was a twenty-something woman robbing the cradle with a 15-year old guy.

I loved this person. And this person didn’t identify as a woman. So I did what most young people in the middle of an identity crisis would do; I went online. And as I searched blogs and forums, I came across the term “Pansexual.” Ok, I thought. I can be pansexual, and be attracted to many people across the sexual spectrum. I was now a card carrying (I’m joking about the card) pansexual woman. Great. I started coming out to people as such on a regular basis.

In the midst of all this, I discovered something else about myself. Despite my angry feminist moments in college where I distained all things feminine as a creation of our misogynist culture and the patriarchy, I realized that while I didn’t embrace all or even most feminine things, my gender identity was developing, and it happened to have a Femme bent to it. One person I was seeing told me one day that I was “such a Femme.” I froze. I had always thought that being feminine or even a Femme was a bad thing, capitulating to social norms. But here I was, having spent almost an hour getting ready, getting a tingle in my stomach as my date opened the door for me, and a smile on my face as they brought me a drink. I had embraced the power of femininity, and I realized that even though I rarely wore heels and was allergic to pink, I am a Femme. Femme is my gender.

So here I was, a Pansexual Femme, and trying to come out to people. Trying to explain how Femme differed from female or woman was hard enough, but when I got into the term pansexual, people shut down. It was too academic, too different, too much. As I continued to prowl around online, I found that pansexual was a privileged term; it was mostly people in academia using it (and often just open minded bisexual people). I didn’t identify as bisexual, and I didn’t want a term that wasn’t accessible to everyone.

That is when I discovered the term QUEER. I was at a house party I’d been invited to by a fellow fierce Femme from roller derby, and I started talking to people about identity. At this party were people of all different gender presentations, from high femme to stud, gender queer and andro to trans folks of various presentations. And let me tell you, almost everyone at this party was smoking hot. I was trying to figure out how one would identify if you were a fierce Femme (IE, me) who was attracted to pretty much everyone in the room, and then, magically, I heard the term QUEER. It fit. It was perfect. It was me. It was an identity that fit me regardless of what I was wearing, who I was attracted to, what my own gender identity was, and everything else.

Now, as Queer Femme, I had to re-come out to everyone I’d already come out to. My family was open to it, but needed some education on the term queer. My co-workers were already reading Judith Butler and Kate Bornstein, so they got it. Some of my friends asked me what took me so long to figure that out, while others still thought of the term queer as a hateful term, and that involved much discussion.

When I moved to Arizona, the coming out process started all over again. Explaining my gender as Femme is always a hoot; people assume that unless you’re trans or gender queer, your gender is just a given. Mine is not. Femme is an attitude, a belief system, a presentation, and it is my deliberate gender. And here in Arizona, very few people understand my queer identity, and so it’s been an opportunity for education. My coming out story never ends, because I have to come out to everyone I meet, and everyone I’ve met, and because my identities are so fluid, sometimes I have to come out to myself.

The other day, my partner’s softball coach referred to me as her “roommate.” I was hurt and angry and frustrated. I’d come out to him already; as queer, as her partner, as her fiancé, and yet here he was, invalidating our relationship. So we both came out to him again. And will do so again if needed.

THIS is why coming out is so important. It creates visibility, and dialogue, and understanding, and these three things create change in our community. It is only with change that we can be seen as full members of our society, instead of second class citizens. So please, keep on coming out.

Happy Coming Out Day!

-Shanna

Oct 082010
 

Hello all,

I’m absolutely positive that you have heard of, in some way or some form, of the tragedy of multiple suicides by youth who were the victims of anti-LGBTQ bullying. Notice I don’t say the “gay suicides” — regardless of gender or orientation, NO ONE should have to deal with being bullied. Who are we to assume their identities? And when we say gay or LGBTQ in front of suicides, it depersonalizes them, puts them in a grouping, and takes the blame away from the bullies.

Below is a video from me. It’s part of both the It Gets Better project, as well as the Make It Better Project (LGBTQ youth empowerment). I think it is incredibly important to also give these youth the power to educate, find allies, build communities, and stop the bullying, in addition to reminding them that it almost always gets better, and that we need them to survive in order to beat the homophobia and transphobia, and create a better world for the entire community.

I’m not very erudite in this clip. I didn’t have a script, I messed up a few times, I’m awkward and the angle is off, and I mess up what I meant to say at one point. However, it is 100% from the heart. I hope that it touches at least one person, or at the very least, touches you enough to make your own video, or to volunteer in your community, or donate money, or support these projects that help support and empower youth. It is high time that the climate changed, and I’m not talking about global warming.

-Shanna

Other resources:
Scarleteen
Trevor Project

Oct 072010
 

Many people are talking about the It Gets Better campaign. I myself am filming a video for it. I think that it is a fine project, and support all of those contributing to it.

However, I think that it is also important to create change in the schools now, rather than just put a band aid on it until they grow up. BOTH are important messages. There is another organization now called the Make It Better Project, which is using social media, videos, the web and more to empower youth to create change in their own communities right now.

Please check it out and pass it on to any you feel might find it relevant.

-Shanna

Aug 042010
 

The other night, I was at my partner’s softball game. I go every week. Do I particularly like softball? No. Do I particularly like my partner? Yes. Ergo, I go, and I cheer for the team, and I support her as much as I can. I am the only partner of someone on the team who comes regularly; in fact, I’m often the only one sitting in the bleachers, for either side.

While there, my partner and I interact like people in a relationship do. Sometimes we kiss and hug a lot, sometimes we don’t. I cheer for her, and make salacious suggestions about what I’d like to do to her wiggling butt when she’s batting. We’re not super into public displays of affection, but we certainly are not one hundred percent chaste in public either. We always refer to each other as partner, we come and go together, we hold hands, and we’ve even mentioned our upcoming wedding in front of the team.

The other day, while at a game, a fellow player needed a pen, and the coach turned to him and said “LP’s roommate has a pen you can use.”

He called me her roommate. He called me the roommate of the person who is not only the person I live with, but the person I love, the person I have sex with, the person who is the reason I moved to Arizona, the person who waited in the lobby throughout my surgery to visit me when I woke up after the anethesia, the person who has driven me to the ER, the person who is the CO-parent of our cats, and so much more.

We don’t often realize how much language, even if not used maliciously, can hurt. By him refusing to validate our relationship, and referencing us as roommate, he told us we weren’t as good as straight people, that our relationship wasn’t enough, that it didn’t count.

People ask me often why pronouns matter, why it’s important to ask people how they identify, if it really is that big of a deal.

It is, because when someone says something that completey invalidates your identity, it just really hurts to the core. Yes, it does matter whether they prefer he, she, zie or something else. Yes, it is important to ask someone if they identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, questioning, heteroflexible or something else. Yes, it is really that big of a deal.

Language has power.

-Shanna

Jul 052010
 

***Cross Posted***

Thanks to my lovely partner, I had the opportunity last Wednesday night to go check out the new movie with Annette Benning, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo, entitled The Kids Are Alright.

Now, the basic plot, as advertised, is that there is a lesbian couple, who have an 18 year old daughter and a 15 year old son. The son convinces the daughter to get in contact with the sperm donor that provided said sperm to create the kids (each mom carried a child). They meet him, and now the family dynamic changes, and the movie ensues.

Voila. It’s supposed to be cool and trendy and did super well at Sundance. I had some hopes for this movie, in that it was showing an LGBTQ family as a REAL family, not as hot and sexy lesbians, or those with issues coming out, or any of the other many ways lesbians have been portayed. They have kids, they have a dining room table, and a house, and conversations and the same issues that every other type of family has with communication, and teenagers, and so on…

And now, for the spoilers. If you don’t want to hear about the actual movie, stop reading now.

Ok, so basically, you have fairly happy family. Some issues, like all families, but there are two teenagers, and two moms, and everyone seems to communicate fairly well and get along, although the moms definitely could have used a couples counselor to help them work through a feel control/free-flowing hippy issues.

Then suddenly, the sperm donor (Paul) is brought into their lives. Jules (Moore) is a more woo-woo, free flowing femme-ish type, and is open to him. Nic (Benning) is a bit more andro/butchy, and seems to be nervous (understandably) about letting this guy into their kids’ lives. Long story short, Nic starts doing Paul’s (Ruffalo) landscaping and BAM. They kiss. And if that wasn’t enough, they start having sex, and the noises she makes with him are waaaay different and seemingly “better” or “more satisfying” (according to the movie) than the sex she has with Nic. She tells him she’s married, she’s gay, she loves Nic, but then, more sex between Paul and Jules. Jules keeps it a secret from Nic until they have a family dinner at Paul’s place (Nic is willing and trying to get to know him better), and Nic goes to the bathroom and finds Jules hairbrush…and hair in the drain (like at their home), and then in his bed. The movie ends with them removing Paul from their lives and getting back together and talking about how marriage is tough, but they love each other and will work through it.

My beef? It’s two fold. First of all, this movie perpetuated lesbian stereotype right and left, from the drinking massive amounts of wine to the butch/femme to the station wagon of sorts to the watching gay-male porn, to the being woo-woo and wanting hugs in unison (you’ll have to see it to get it). It made a big deal out of Jules not shaving her legs (gasp!). And worst of all, it perpetuated the stereotype that lesbian relationships don’t work out not because of family/relationship/communication/wants and needs issues, but because truly, all every woman, lesbian or not, wants is OBVIOUSLY a man. Every woman must have a penis in order to feel fulfilled. It also perpetuates the idea that lesbian (or gay or queer) relationships are not as “real” as straight marriage; Paul seems to glaze over the fact that Jules is married to Nic, and even suggests that he and Jules start a life and family together at one point, as if her 18+ year marriage to Nic was completely invalid. Way to give the anti-gay movement fuel for their fire about how dysfunctional lesbian families are.

Issue two? The fact that I feel that this movie is going to stir up even MORE biphobia in the queer community. For some reason, we as a community tend to exclude bi folks as being queer, as if them having a relationship with a cis-man (bi women) or cis-woman (men) makes them “less” queer. Now, while Jules never openly identified as bi, her sexuality was clearly a bit more fluid that just “lesbian/gay,” as she openly enjoyed sex with Paul. So basically, we have a queer or bi acting woman on screen, cheating on her lesbian wife with a man. Which seems to be the issue that is ALWAYS brought up when biphobia rears its ugly head; don’t date bi-women, because they’ll leave you for a man.

Now, I know that this generalizing statement is bullshit. As if dating a lesbian-identified woman will somehow protect you from cheating/being cheated on. Infidelity hits ALL types of relationships, regardless of the gender or orientation of the partners. Period. However, movies like this seem to reinforce this misnomer, that bi-women of any sort will always end up going for a man. NOT FUCKING TRUE.

So in the end, I AM glad that their is a movie bringing lesbian visibility to the big screen, as I think this movie will be a hit. I did like that it was a lesbian family, with gender presentation diversity in the two women. However, I have a LOT of reservations about how the content of this movie will be used against the LGBTQ community by those who are against it, as well as the issues surrounding bisexuality that this movie may serve to worsen.

And those, dear readers, are my thoughts on the upcoming movie The Kids Are Alright, to be released July 16th at an Indie theater near you.

-Shanna

Jul 022010
 

Student panelist needed for LGBTIQ & Disability panel (7/16)
Kelly Leonard, Asst Director of Purdue University’s Disability Resource Center, has been asked to pull together a panel on the intersection of LGBTIQ and Disability/Deaf identities in college students, for the Association for Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) conference at the Sheraton Denver Downtown. The panel, which will also feature two staff members and reference resources such as http://eliclare.com/background/queer-disability-resources, will be held Friday, July 16th 2-4pm at the national AHEAD conference in Denver (Sheraton Denver Downtown). If you or someone you know identifies as an LGBTIQ college student with a disability, and would possibly be interested in participating, please contact Kelly Leonard at kleonard@purdue.edu .

May 042010
 

With all of the discussion about Constance and the hate put upon her as she tried to bring her date, a woman, to prom in a tuxedo, and with all the talk about that poor high school senior who was left out of their senior year book because they refused to wear a dress for pictures (and instead wore a tux), we forget about the triumphs.

Like this boy in New Jersey, who identifies as a cross-dresser and wanted to wear a dress to his prom. He was originally told no by school officials, but students, his classmates and peers, started a petition to allow him to come dressed as he wanted to. In the end, the school changed their mind, and he went dressed in the dress he’d wanted.

Yes, this was in New Jersey, a state often seen as more liberal than the Southern states where the other instances occurred. But note, this is also a state that voted against marriage equality. So it’s not San Francisco.  Ergo, it doesn’t matter where it happens, we should still celebrate when diversity is welcomed, and when open minded-ness triumphs.

Congrats Derek – I hope you had a fabulous prom!

-Shanna