table of contents
Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Really in a Name?
Understanding My Identity Through Queer Music
because you do not love me / i must love myself
Let Go and Choose Yourself
Media, Mind, and Self-Reflection for the Bisexual Community
Music and the Queer Community: How Music Has Helped Us Love Ourselves
Glitter and Get Loud: Breaking Sound and Gender Barriers with Bebe Huxley
Love on the Battlefield
The Taboo on Bondage
Letter to My Future Self
Dear Reader, In this edition of OutWrite, our writers and artists explore their personal journeys to affirming, valuing, and validating themselves. Centered around the theme of self-love, this edition speaks to the power and potential that every individual possesses when they are aligned with their own beautiful and unique spirit. Self-love is an embodied form of resistance to scrutiny and violence aimed at the queer community. It is, in practice, a radical act of breaking beyond boundaries and defying limitations that society has attempted to uphold. While these messages are full of light and positivity, they are also created, in part, through the transformation and destruction of darkness. For this reason, I must warn you that topics such as self-harm, verbal abuse/slurs, and sexual violence will be discussed. If these topics trigger you, you will notice a content warning underneath the title of the respective articles. This magazine would not exist without the hard work of this yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s staff and editorial team. I would like to give a special shoutout to our graphics and layout director, Shay, who has spent more hours than anyone else contributing to this amazing publication. Lastly, I would like to thank the UCLA LGBT Center for their support to our organization and unwavering dedication to the campus community. Xoxo, Andrew Hall
Embody written by Gaurav Lalsinghani illustration by Carmen Ngo, layout by Shay Suban CW: verbal abuse/slurs, eating disorder When I look in the mirror, I see a brown, battered shield. A body that has lost all concept of privacy and safety. A carcass that has endured. I can trace the creases of my brown skin, outlines of past bruises, and my protruding rib cage with my fingertips. I don’t know how to call this shell home. I have detached myself from the day-to-day pain that comes with living as a queer person of color. I have rejected these two identities vehemently for the majority of my life, trying and failing to outrun and erase parts of myself that I have known to be true. With my skin color and sexuality both at the margins, I have done everything in my power to
avoid embracing my existence. It was all I ever knew how to do. Growing up, everything around me conditioned me to believe that being brown was wrong. Within the world of whiteness that is Texas suburbia, I was taught, both explicitly and implicitly, the diminished value of my culture and faith. I remember being affirmed for selecting peach and cream-colored crayons when depicting my family in grade school. My life at home became a showand-tell on my peers terms. Hand-picked to regale stories of our parents’ “arranged marriages” in high school, my brown classmates and I were constantly reminded that we were not only “other”, but less than. I stomached the fact that students and teachers alike approached me in hopes of proselytizing me, informing that my religion was “going to die out” and reinforcing the idea that my faith was a “mythology” in their eyes. I could tell that my complete racial and religious presence wasn’t wanted. At home, the smell of incense sticks and sounds of mantras shrouded the shame and guilt I held for myself. Within my own community, I remember the gupshup (gossip) surrounding the manner in which I befriended girls and embraced femininity. I had my male friends reenact Bollywood movies with me as I stepped into the role of the damsel in distress. When I looked for cues of affirmation from those around me, I found nothing. Instead of finding acceptance, I found solitude. The heat and embarrassment that came with the stares of uncles and aunties instilled in me the idea that I was doing something wrong. I couldn’t
put words to the experience or my identity, but I began to police who I was. My entire perception of myself changed when I was reintroduced to myself as a “faggot.” I remember hearing the word for the first time after being dropped into a trash can in the fifth grade. Everyone had cleared out of the cafeteria. I sat amidst leftovers and styrofoam plates, the bruise on my side begging me not to move. I kept replaying the word in my head, trying to place it in my reservoir of English words at the time. I hoisted myself up and proceeded to the bathroom to clean myself up. I remember everything being silent. I became that silence. That day my identity was defined for me. I was a “fag” over everything. It defined my sexual orientation long before I would find words like “gay” and “queer.” It defined my self-worth. I knew there was something wrong with me and I unknowingly began to do everything in my power to regulate my behavior. Fear of physical violence, escalation, and alienation drove my day-to-day behaviors. Everyday decisions became gambles of self-preservation and safety. Being queer was wrong. The lesson reared its head at every turn. Success felt antithetical to my queerness. Overcompensation ensued. I knew my sexuality would be used to diminish any accolade or achievement I earned. Day-in and day-out, I pushed myself to conform, overcompensate, and curate every aspect of my life, ensuring that no detail was out of place as to reveal my “otherness.” I became the overachiever, the archetypical perfectionist. I retyped worksheets in their entirety for middle school assignments, even using stencils to avoid seeing my own imperfect script. I would create additional work for myself to keep myself busy, expanding project guidelines and paper requirements to prove to others, and myself, that I was capable of success. The standard of perfection was set, and my chase for the unattainable ensued. My body became a point of deflection, and starving it became routine. I silenced my hunger and restricted my food intake as a means of coping with the stress of my own standards. I pretended to complete meals, arranging remnants of rice and daal to convince my parents that I was full. My body was in flux, yet my disordered eating felt like an assertion of self-control. My attempts at self-improvement came at the cost of my own
“self-annihilation.” Upon arriving at UCLA, I withdrew from my body completely. My rote practice of self-starvation became interspersed with frequent trips to my dorm bathroom to purge meals. Having been outed within the first week of my college career, my entire timeline of self-acceptance fell off track as everything came to a climax. I remember getting up off the bathroom floor, time and time again, spiraling out of the abyss of shame and guilt that came with each purge. Ironically, the silent victories of weight loss became my only source of power and stability. People talked. I knew they did, and I wanted to control how they did it. Comments about my weight were easier to stomach than passing comments about my sexuality. Even as I sought help for my disordered eating and stopped purging, I found myself unable to drop the hyper-vigilance that I had adopted out of fear for being queer. I flashed my anger to the world as I attempted to grapple with the shame instilled in me, wounding the people closest to me. My relationships faltered and the false reality of perfection I had attempted to curate collapsed. My numbness was broken and the silence I had become roared alive. I had to stop running from myself. Keeping a secret is no easy task, especially when that secret is tied to deep-seated notions of rejection, neglect, and abandonment. For twentytwo years and counting, I hid my queerness from my peers, my parents, and at times, myself. The silence that began as a survival tactic became the most powerful driving force in my life, and slowly but surely, it consumed everything because I gave it the power to. Sometimes, I contemplate how long it took for me to reach this point of self-acceptance. I think about the passing comments I made out of my own shame and internalized homophobia. I think about how lonely I felt as a kid, unable to even connect with myself because I had been so deeply ingrained with the idea that I was not worthy. I think about how that lack of self-love damaged and destroyed my relationships and friendships. I think about this journey. I think about where I was and I smile because I am no longer there. I am brown and queer. I am queer and brown. I love that I am both. I am no longer running from myself. I am free.
What’s Really in a Name? written by Stef Newell illustration by Shay Suban, layout by Jenna LaFleur CW: verbal abuse/slurs “Weird.” That was the word they started with. “You are a weird kid.” “You act weird.” And thus, with no less than a phrase, my years as the weird kid began. I didn’t want to be weird. Who would? Nevertheless, the “weird kid” period of my life dragged on for five prepubescent and debilitating years, starting at the age of six. By the time I hit middle school, I had grown to hate the very word “weird” so much that hearing it in a completely normal context could make my stomach turn. Although I never really did find out what about my neon-pink nails, long hair, and sparkly bracelets was so “weird.” Funnily enough, often the words we don’t understand can cut deeper than the ones we do. No wonder it hurt so much when they started to call me “gay.” I had absolutely no idea what “gay” meant, but by the way they said it, I knew that it was bad. I had never put any time into thinking about who I was attracted to; I had been rather preoccupied with cutting all my t-shirts into crop-tops and stealing my mother’s clip-on earrings. Regardless, I had been designated as liking boys. When someone finally explained it to me, I was so relieved. Now that I understood, I knew I could tell everyone that I wasn’t gay. I could say I liked girls, and I would be like all the other guys, and we could all be friends, and I’d finally be part of the group. It’s never that simple, though. To my dismay, nobody seemed to care what I said. I was not gay because of who I said I was. I was gay because they said I “acted gay.” Who I claimed to be was irrelevant because apparently they decided who and what I was. This idea tortured me for years. How could I love myself if I had no say in who I was? Slowly, I came to realize this would not do. I could not and would not live in the shackles of ideas and words that were thrust upon me by people who probably didn’t even know my
name. Nobody is the sum of their criticisms, and everybody deserves to have a say in who they want to be. Unfortunately, as kids grow, so do their vocabularies, and right when high school hit I became “the fag.” I guarantee I heard that word ten times a day all four years I walked the halls of my conservative religious Southern school. At some point, I began saying that fag was just short for “fagulous” and lord were they right; I was one fagulous piece of work. And for once, I didn’t care that not everyone liked me or agreed with me, because for all that they tore me down with their words, I built myself up with my own. This concept is nothing new to queer people. Words are powerful—so powerful that the reclamation (like in the case of the words “queer” and “dyke”) or transformation of a single word can completely change someone’s condition. Was I weird or was I unique? Was I a fag or was I the most fagulous kid in school? You may say it makes no difference, but to me it was night and day—shame and pride. My identity was no longer a circumstance molded and lorded over me by ignorant high schoolers, but a facet of my day-to-day life that I found beauty and pride in. Choosing a preferred name is the ultimate example; it is reclaiming and reaffirming oneself. What word is more important to you than your own name? There is no greater way to put your foot down and challenge the brands and labels that have been put on you. There is no greater way to say, “this is me…because I say so.” For all the slurs and names society has given us as queer people, do we not deserve to give ourselves just one – our designated preferred name? Is it too much to ask that in this world of clamorous bigotry we have just one word to call our own? I think not. So what’s really in a name? Absolutely everything.
“For all that they tear me down with their words, I could build myself up with my own.”
06 | OutWrite, 2018
Understanding My Identity Through Queer Music written by Siobhán Chapman illustrations by Angela Zheng, layout by Siobhán Chapman Sometimes when I’m walking down Bruin Walk — my eyes cast down, avoiding flyers like the plague, my music playing so loud it vibrates my skull, and my entire body condensed as vertically as physically possible so as to not bump another body — I am reminded of high school. Back then, I felt small and constantly insecure, a feeling that only returns occasionally now on Bruin Walk among the strangers and commotion. As I move away from all the unwelcome solicitation and noise and into more comfortable territory, everything opens up. My body untenses a little, my eyes sometimes meet other sets of eyes, and I even laugh, perhaps too loudly and too often for other folks’ comfort. I sometimes catch myself off guard in these increasingly frequent moments. How did I become a completely new person in the span of five years? What changed my mind and made me realize it was okay for my body to take up space?
High school is a strange place. Without making too broad an assumption, I’d wager that most folks there did not feel totally comfortable in their skin. And oh boy, was I the epitome of an uncomfortable teenager. My queer self was constantly on alert, wanting nothing more than to just melt into the “normal” population. Internal question after question pestered me daily (and probably appeared in my Google search history more than once): Do I look too gay? Does she know I like her? Do I have to be a lesbian if I like her? Why can’t I just be happy dating this boy? I was everconcerned with what to call my specific brand of queerness, and then, subsequently, how to hide that label from everyone I knew. I worried about society’s perception of queer folks mostly because I had my own preconceived notions about the community. Suffice it to say I was pretty far back in the closet for a while. My junior year, I discovered the songwriter Mal Blum. They were the first artist who I recognized as queer, and who I credit with changing the way I viewed myself. Because society did an incredible job of convincing me that queer folks did not exist in the mainstream world, it took me an embarrassingly long while to realize that Mal Blum identified as trans. When I thought about how their song “Valentine’s Day” might apply to a lesbian couple – only as a fun thought experiment, of course, because I definitely wasn’t gay – the line “the community isn’t that big and they will always find out” took on an amazing new meaning. My perception shifted in the best possible way. 07
I listened to all their discography on repeat and heard every (now obviously) gay line the way it was intended. Even better, I started keeping that queer possibility in mind when I listened to every song on the radio. I realized many more of my favorite artists were also queer. A lot of pop songs I liked for seemingly no reason made much more sense to me now. It was all very exciting for a little 16-year-old queer ball of discomfort. These discoveries were groundbreaking because I learned that queer-identifying people were (duh) people, including famous people, and including successful musicians who I aspired to someday become. I’m disheartened that society has so deeply ingrained the idea that queer folks are less than others that people have to work to unlearn it. If I didn’t have such firmlyrooted biases to begin with, or if I had figured out this obvious lesson earlier, I think I would have gotten a lot more out of my teenage years.
I feel indebted to the comfort and validation that music allowed me as a young queer person. Less positively, I realized that not all queer musicians overtly discussed queer topics like Mal Blum. Many artists seemed to avoid mentioning specific genders and sexualities, and there are many lyrics that require listeners to have prior knowledge of the community in order to understand their meaning. On the one hand, I was proud of myself for being in on these queer secrets, but on the other hand, artists’ covertness also troubled me. I assumed it probably meant one of two things: either these musicians were not proud of who they were, or they had to keep their sexuality on the down-low in order to maintain their mainstream fame. Neither of these options was ideal, and I was heartbroken. Why couldn’t all the gays just unapologetically be themselves, hold hands, and sing kumbaya around a big rainbow flag? Despite my concerns about the community’s music scene, I remain forever changed. The more queer representation I saw, and the more lyrics I heard that normalized my mysterious gay feelings, the more I realized I could also potentially be comfortable with myself. The next few years of high school, I figured out which label I liked best, came out to a few friends, and asked a few straight girls out (oops). I even wrote and performed a few songs of my own about girls that I liked, making sure to use pronouns and lines that are conspicuously gay because I was so upset that other artists were not as upfront about their queer-ness. I’m still not the most confident person in the world, but I think I’ve come a long way since high school. My fear of Bruin Walk aside, I feel more comfortable with who I am now than I ever did before. While there are aspects
in the queer music scene that I would love to see change and that I am working towards changing, I feel indebted to the comfort and validation that music allowed me as a young queer person. Having a sense of personal identity and of camaraderie can be pivotal to self-growth, and I truly believe that music has the capacity to provide both, while also just being catchy. To those who remain confused, anxious, or scared, look towards the arts and I hope you, too, will find freedom and solace.
because you do not love me / i must love myself written by Jasper M. illustration and layout by Nick Griffin i. because you do not love me autumnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s overripe fruit is felled by winterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s unforgiving hands crumpling to the ground, rotten to the core you would have me here, palms open begging for your love left inevitably starving because i am not a girl anymore i have become a liability and you cannot love me as if by saying i am transgender i have become an abnormality, a perfect target for your suffocative curiosity that strips the humanity out of my body rendering it barren and inhospitable till i am nothing ii. i must love myself because you do not love me i must find a home in the body you made me despise with the gentle hand i once used to nurture your weeds i must now plant seeds anew that thrive within me; with time fresh blooms overtake the hate you left healing me from the inside out after the harshest winter spring will always arrive i begin to feel as if the happiness frozen within my veins is finally thawing
Let Go and Choose Yourself written by Jessica Humphrey illustration by Carmen Ngo, layout by Shay Suban It has been four years since I stopped talking me when I’m older!” to my mother, and this decision has increased Panda Webb, a twenty-two-year-old who works my health, confidence, and success. Though my at FedEx, moved out of his parent’s house to mother had her suspicions, I was closeted when escape abuse and the policing of his queerness: I cut her off from my life. However, for years “Since I left, I have been forming more positive beforehand, her drug addictions had amplified patterns, have not actively self-harmed and am her homophobia, and I internalized much of it. The working towards piecing a life together. Honestly, abuse was almost always directed at me rather I’m genuinely happy for the first time in longer than at my father and sister. than I can remember.” Before joining queer spaces online and in While it is amazing to recognize the selfperson, I never knew just how common it was improvement that comes with ending harmful to excommunicate a phobic family member or relationships, it is also critical to address the friend for the sake of one’s happiness and safety. self-doubt and difficulties that inevitably follow. To escape prejudiced judgment, non-acceptance, Feelings of regret, anger, and resentment must be and/or abuse, a valid way of dealing with toxic battled. Cutting a person off can also turn into a relationships is by ending them. repeated action of self-advocacy Even though the action is often if the other person does not Even though the criticized as selfish, it should be accept the decision, continues to action is often celebrated as a courageous act find ways to be abusive, and is criticized as selfish, it supported by other people who of self-protection and self-love. Because it helped me (and still should be celebrated feel they have the right to judge helps me) to hear from others and offer their opinions. as a courageous act who have gone through similar Jasper says cutting off their experiences, I asked fellow queer of self-protection and friend resulted in “feeling socially people about their decisions to isolated,” because withdrawing self-love. cut people off. from shared social groups became Jasper M., a UCLA freshman a necessity. and fellow OutWrite writer, shares their experience Michael feels pressure from other relatives, with a close friend: “I ended my friendship with saying, “sometimes I feel guilty, like my choice to someone because ever since I became more cut [my father] from my life has contributed to his open about my queerness several years into self-destruction.” Personally, I can relate because our relationship, he shunned, mocked, and I frequently feel responsible for my mother’s disrespected me repeatedly…Instead of allowing relapses. him to continue to hurt me with his transphobia, Dahn mentions how his best friend criticized him I stopped speaking to him and found myself far for “caring more about myself than my parents” better off.” and notes, “I don’t think I’ve met anyone who walks Michael Moffatt, another OutWrite writer and away from that decision unscathed.” UCLA sophomore, ended his relationship with his Panda deals with “disconnectedness and father: “Halting communication with my dad has loneliness from ‘no longer having parents,’” been overall better for my mental health. I don’t especially “during holidays or when people ask feel obligated to answer drunk phone calls in the about them.” Haunted by a sense of regret, Panda middle of the night or respond to cryptic guiltis also burdened with feeling that he should just ridden texts at 2 a.m.” endure abuse, so that he’d still have a family. Dahn Zafar, an OutWrite photographer, Discontinuing relationships with abusive and distanced himself from his family for years: “Well, phobic people can be a brave prioritization of selfmy mom expressed one day five years ago that love, but it is often wrongly judged as giving up she really was not down with the transgender or being heartless. People who make this decision cause and supported the death penalty on face considerable backlash and ignorance, homosexuals, so I was like, okay, well guess I gotta which proves the unfortunate reality that it takes sever this relationship so that leaving is easier on considerable strength to stand up for oneself in | 10 OutWrite, 2018
our society. It is also important to respect that the choice to reconcile is an option for some. Dahn has decided to reconnect with his family and wait for understanding and acceptance. “We’re figuring each other out while we both realize that we’re different, but can still have a good time together. Eventually yeah, I expect to be accepted. But if I’m not, I’ll know that it wasn’t because I wasn’t a dope dude. Cause I think I’m pretty dope. And I think my family is starting to think so too. So that’s where we’re at right now.” Jasper, Michael, Dahn, Panda, and I are proof that you are not alone if you are going through this situation. My advice is that if you have the financial ability to cut off toxic family, do it. My health and sense of worth deteriorated as I wasted years hoping to see change that never came. I saved
myself from further trauma by letting go of the belief that our relationship was my responsibility. Jasper urges us to remember that “if someone consistently demonstrates that they do not respect your identity and autonomy as a person, you are completely valid in ending the relationship.” Michael reiterates, “relationships are a two-way road. Steps and effort must be made from both sides. Thus, balance must be achieved in order to reconcile. If this isn’t possible, you must shield yourself to such toxicity.” Dahn’s advice is to, “value yourself as much as you can.” Panda concludes by reminding us of the ultimate truth, “Don’t justify abuse with ‘it’s not that bad’ or ‘it could be worse.’ You deserve to be happy.”
photoillustration by Ray
“I’m not a prisoner like screens show me to be. I’m a fighter, I’m a healer.”
12 | OutWrite, 2018
Media, and Mind, and Self-Reflection for the Bisexual Community written by Shannon Kasinger illustration by Hannah Boston, layout by Cami Miceli Media, and America’s incessant consumption of it, accompanies every facet of daily life and has had a tremendous influence upon society, especially in the past five years. From the advertisements screaming at us from every available screen to the enormous sway that social media has on our perceptions of others, the average person is constantly bombarded by images and messages created by those who control corporate media. One especially influential medium is that of television, as it is a mode of media that Americans invite into their homes on the daily without fully realizing its intimate effects on their perceptions of others. As it is often a homogenous group of people (read: rich, old, white, straight, cis men) who controls what shows and characters make it to air, depictions of marginalized groups are often told through the lens of the majority rather than those of underrepresented individuals. This issue is a point of contention for the LGBTQ+ community, whose struggle for liberation has been encouraged by increasingly positive depictions on television yet inhibited by continued inaccuracies and stereotypes. The bisexual subsect of the community, in particular, grapples with inauthentic representations, which contribute to a general misunderstanding of bisexuality as well as problematic presentations of an intricate identity for bisexual people, some of whom look to television for relatability and acceptance. These unfavorable depictions are detrimental to the mental health of the bisexual community, and can contribute to higher rates of mental illnesses in comparison to the general population (Journal of Bisexuality Volume 16, 2016- Issue 3, “Bisexuality, Mental Health, and Media Representation”). If television is meant to represent the lives of real people, and bisexual people continue to see depictions that are not grounded in reality, how do they cognitively view themselves within the fabric of human society? The question of representation is often perceived as an emotional issue—supposedly, biseuxal people want to see themselves represented so that they can make themselves feel better. This assumption,
while oversimplified and a blasé interpretation of queer pain, is not necessarily wrong, in that the representations of bisexual persons can dramatically alter how they perceive themselves in relation to the rest of the world. Since mental health is an already pressing issue in the LGBTQ+ community, as nonstraight teens are four times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts (The Verge, “Queer teens are four “. . . depictions of marginalized times more likely groups are often told through to commit suicide, the lens of the majority rather CDC reports”), the media has than by those of underreprean ever present sented individuals.” opportunity to ameliorate or further injure this situation. Bisexual persons are more likely to have mental health issues than both their heterosexual and homosexual counterparts, including anxiety, depression, and alcohol misuse (Journal of Bisexuality Volume 16, 2016- Issue 3, “Bisexuality, Mental Health, and Media Representation”). In television representations, bisexual people are often shown as sexual deviants who use their sexualities to manipulate others or as people who are unable to make commitments to monogamous relationships as a direct result of their sexualities. A principal example of this is Piper Chapman on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black. Piper’s pre-prison life involved an engagement to a man who she was not fully committed to and a boring existence that she could not escape from. When she is imprisoned, she reconnects with her previous lover, a woman who she was involved with the first season. Piper is portrayed as not being able to commit to either partner and often manipulates them both for personal gain (Journal of Bisexuality Volume 17, 2017- Issue 2, “All Bi Myself: Analyzing Television’s Presentation of Female Bisexuality”). While monogamy should not be a standard that we hold anyone to, regardless of sexual 13
orientation, it is often bisexual characters who are portrayed as incapable of having one partner at a time. This feeds into the perception that bisexual people are sexually perverse and do not have the same capacity for love and affection for others that heterosexual characters are often shown to have. This perpetuation of stereotypes can have a direct result on general perceptions of bisexual people’s abilities to maintain healthy relationships. In a study conducted by intimate toy website Adam and Eve, 45% of respondents reported that they had no intention of ever dating a bisexual person (Bustle, “Why Won’t Some People Date Bisexuals? A New Study Confirms That Biphobia Is Still Alive”). This dismissal of any possible future relationships with a bisexual person on the sole basis of their sexuality sends a harmful message to bisexual people: there is an inherent lack of morality associated with your sexuality, and non-bisexual people do not want to be involved with that deviance. The aforementioned harmful tropes on television do not only have the power to skew the non-bisexual population’s mindset; they can alter bisexual persons’ perceptions of their own decency. These outward perceptions can be damaging to bisexuals, leading to struggles with self-worth and image as well as insecurity when entering intimate and/or romantic relationships. 14 | OutWrite, 2018
Furthermore, it paints a disturbing self-portrait for bisexual persons, who are led to believe that because the world depicts them as deviants, they must be. The future, however, presents an opportunity for television to alter this trajectory. 2016 saw the highest percentage of LGBTQ+ series regulars than ever before, 30% of whom were bisexual characters (GLAAD, “Where We Are on TV Report - 2016”). More and more bisexual characters are being written outside of tired stereotypes, creating a community of characters on television that empower and engage audiences “ . . . the representations of in thoughtful bisexual persons can dramatically discussion of alter how they perceive themselves bisexual issues. Darryl Whitefeather in relation to the rest of the world.” on the CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend came out as bisexual in 2016, and even performed a song (called “Getting Bi”) dispelling bisexual stereotypes and misconceptions. Rosa Diaz’s storyline on Brooklyn Nine-Nine showed the difficulties in coming-out to your parents as bisexual while focusing the narrative on her feelings. These small strides are only the beginning of where bisexual representation needs to go. The health and wellness of the community depends on it.
Music and the Queer Community: How Music Has Helped Us Love Ourselves written by Austin Mendoza illustration by Nieves Winslow, layout by Shay Suban What does a queer person turn to when struggling to love themself in a heteronormative society? For me, the answer is music: songs by Lady Gaga, Sia, and Troye Sivan defined my journey to self-love and acceptance. Indeed, music has inspired queer people and defined queer culture for decades. Many queer artists have used their platforms to defy societal gender expectations. Marlene Dietrich, who became a widely acclaimed cabaret performer after her extensive film career, was openly bisexual for the duration of her musical career that spanned the 1950s and 60s. In
addition, she openly defied gender norms in her cabaret, dressing in both masculine and feminine clothes during every performance. Sylvester was an openly queer disco artist whose androgynous appearance and drag performances were singularly unique in the 1970s. His 1978 hit “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” became one of the best-selling disco tracks of all time, earning him the moniker “Queen of Disco.” In 1993, RuPaul emerged from the New York drag scene into the national consciousness with “Supermodel (You Better Work).” His later albums, eponymous 90s talk show, and RuPaul’s Drag Race have all helped 15
to bring drag into the mainstream and start a societal discussion on gender norms. Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2014 with “Rise Like a Phoenix,” a song about being queer despite being beaten down by society. She immediately dedicated her win to the queer community, and she used her newfound continental platform to campaign for queer rights across Europe. Music has also been extensively used by the queer community to overcome hardship. Homosexual sex, and by extension homosexuality, was outlawed in all fifty states until 1962, and remained illegal in fourteen states until Lawrence v. Texas in 2004. Following World War II, the term “Friend of Dorothy” came to be used as a secret phrase for gay men to identify one another in places where homosexuality was illegal. Dorothy’s longing for a peaceful place where dreams could come true in The Wizard of Oz’s “Over the Rainbow” had resonated with the gay community. For decades, the phrase was used so extensively that a 1980s criminal investigation of homosexuality in Chicago uncovered the phrase and actually searched for the elusive “Dorothy” who was acquainted with so many gay men. The 2012 song “Same Love,” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert, discussed the issue of queer rights in America and was released during a statewide campaign by various queer groups to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state. The song was adopted by the queer community as a rallying call for nationwide marriage equality after its performance at the 2014 Grammys, during which Queen Latifah officiated thirty-three weddings featuring sameand opposite-sex couples. It was also performed at a major sporting event during the 2017 Australian same-sex marriage plebiscite campaign, despite significant public backlash against the performance. Perhaps the most striking example of a song being a rallying cry for the queer community was “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. Released in 1978, the song initially appealed to the queer community as an anthem for surviving through the storms of life, but it quickly took on a much deeper meaning as the AIDS crisis erupted in the early 1980s. The queer community fought through this mysterious and deadly new disease without so much as an acknowledgment of its existence by the Reagan administration for years, and opposed
16 | OutWrite, 2018
the vitriolic public prejudice that HIV/AIDS was a “gay disease” that was doing society a favor. As hundreds of thousands of queer people were dying around them, “I Will Survive” became the ultimate rallying cry for the queer community. Today, the song is widely considered the most important queer anthem of all time. Most of all, music has served as a respite for queer people to forget the prejudicial world they face and lose themselves in a song. Sometimes, these anthems are coming out songs, like Melissa Etheridge’s “Yes I Am” and Ani DiFranco’s “In Or Out.” Sometimes, they are club anthems like “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls and Kylie Minogue’s “Your Disco Needs You.” These songs can be powerful forms of self-expression by prominent out artists, like “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen and “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga, or subtle winks to the queer community, à la “YMCA” by The Village People. There are even examples of straight music megastars penning songs specifically for their queer fans, most prominently “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross, “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper, and Madonna’s “Vogue,” all of which served as powerful reminders that there was some level of support for the queer community from the heterosexual public. While these songs had different purposes and origins, they all became immense hits within the queer community and served as a positive outlet for queer people to love themselves. Music has been around to inspire queer people to love themselves and be proud for decades. Whether it’s Marlene Dietrich or Sylvester brazenly flaunting gender norms, Gloria Gaynor inspiring us to fight oppression and suppression, or Madonna taking a page from our subculture, music has been a queer person’s best friend. We dance to Gaga and Ariana, spit with Nicki, and brood with Lana today because of the uplifting music of decades past. Looking into the future, young queer artists like Troye Sivan and Hayley Kiyoko, who both proudly embrace their sexuality in their work, will continue to forge a path of compassion and be shining inspirations for the queer community. Music has always been there for us and will continue to be until the day when society stops caring about sexuality and queer youth will not need to depend on music to find themselves as I had to. Instead, music will help us celebrate a world where we can all fearlessly love whomsoever our heart desires.
Colors written and illustrated by Angela Zheng My sexuality does not define me. It’s not something that’s said When I introduce myself, Not something I share At family dinners. With friends it’s different, And we talk and laugh and share. But even then, Words can be hard, And easily silenced Or lost in the fear of uncertainty. Even so, I seem to find a way, And every chance I get I follow the path to express myself, To be who I am. Painting pots Crafting pillows Attaching pins to my bags and hats Everywhere is a canvas For me to paint my colors —the black and purple and grey and white— Until they bleed across my life And I can see myself Even when I don’t say the words. And so I embrace my identity. I share who I am Day by day, everyday With the colors that shout Louder than words ever will.
Black, white, grey, and purple are the colors of the asexual (when one does not experience sexual attraction) and demisexual (when sexual attraction only occurs after a bond has been formed) flags. 
GLITTER & GET LOUD
Breaking Sound and Gender Barriers with Bebe Huxley written by Shayna Maci Warner photos of Bebe Huxley by Eva Zar, Makeup and Styling by Love Bailey, shot on The Savage Ranch illustration by Nick Griffin, layout by Shay Suban As a performance artist, musician, and persona, Bebe Huxley is a force of wild energy. Her shaved head and cleavage are glittered and sprayed in any number of metallic-colored paints, and she’s bejeweled, or clad in black leather and a scorpion’s tail, or in just a bra and panties and thigh-high boots. In any variation, her appearance is accompaniment to an intense, aggressive physical presence, and lyrics that explicitly, implicitly, and scorchingly state: you don’t own me, and “you don’t get a part of me that I will never give.” Indeed, after watching one of her music videos or live performances, it is difficult to believe that anyone would ever doubt that strength. 18 | OutWrite, 2018
Huxley, who takes her stage name from her birth initials and famed author, Aldous Huxley, has a complex relationship with this stage presence — something she crafted through more than 8 years of experience in drag and the queer party scenes of San Francisco and Los Angeles. After graduating from UC Berkeley with degrees in Sociology, Theater, and Dance, Huxley began performing at Aunt Charlie’s, an historic San Francisco gay bar. She started her venture into performance art in high-femme drag, but when she first experimented with being a drag king, she says that’s when “the gender game really clicked.” “‘Girl’ was my value in society,” Huxley expressed
during one of two Skype interviews. “But when I was no longer selling just sex to get that validation, and I was doing more ‘I don’t give a shit,’ there was something very potent in that. It was a different way to take up space entirely.” When Huxley performed as a king, she wasn’t as “afraid” of offending her audience, and it was a new revelation of how to play with a butch identity. The intermingling of feminine and masculine performance is something that Huxley plays within every music video and performance she has put out, but in Scorpio, her newest venture, that balance is particularly personal. Scorpio, a production orchestrated by Slather Studios, Love Bailey’s SoCal-based queer arts collective at which Huxley is a creative producer, portrays Huxley’s queer reconstruction. She transforms, quite literally, from a woman struggling in an abusive relationship, to a powerful, unencumbered goddess of experimental pop and breaker of gender roles. Amidst the fantastical imagery, which includes Huxley in a full scorpion tail, wailing to the wind on an electric guitar, there is an evolution for Huxley’s real-life persona, who shaves her head during the video. Huxley said that taking a razor to her hair, both in the video and in real life, was “cathartic,” and a symbol of a new femininity that needed no restrictions or guidelines. “You know, my dad will ask me about [shaving my head] sometimes — he straight up says ‘you look ugly,’ but I’ve never felt more beautiful,” Huxley said cheerfully. “It’s kind of like I’m still coming out. I’m coming out every day, and the more people tell me that I can’t do something, or that I shouldn’t look like something, the more I feel like ‘well, I’ll show you!’” This attitude is one that Huxley cultivated through the club scene, and also attempts to maintain in her personal life. Queer establishments like Aunt Charlie’s, and the legendary A Club Called Rhonda in Los Angeles (where Huxley first met Love Bailey) gave her “permission” to experiment with loud, outlandish, and unapologetic ways of being. At clubs like these, Huxley was encouraged to “turn the volume up” for herself, and to be the most passionate version of herself that she could be. She wouldn’t be looked upon as an anomaly, but rather, an appreciated addition to the energy of the room. However, off the dance floor and out of the sequins, she sometimes still struggles with being “self-critical” and the buried idea that being queer is somehow detrimental. “With a queer mindset, you can often feel like the world is against you, but we have to be on our own side. From the inside, we have to maintain that reality that we are good.” This “baseline” idea of a queer body being good, no matter how you choose to present it, is an act of resistance that
Huxley both struggles with and delights in playing with. “If there’s any way to resist these internalized judgments of external voices, we have to. I struggle with being self-critical all the time. But we have to.” Huxley’s embrace of queer confidence is not only limited to the individual, or even her own individual works. “Queer is a big old spectrum,” she said, discussing her embrace of openness in the community, especially when it comes to welcoming new members. “It doesn’t work to shut people with different presentations down. Let’s invite everyone in, and see what they can offer.” Currently, Huxley is working on more music, which she says is supported by these ideas of community, rebirth, and support, and she hopes to have her next EP out by Summer of 2018. If her new work carries any of the same threads of resilience, resistance, and queer celebration as her existing repertoire, you can bet that its release will be another reason to turn the volume all the way up.
LOVE ON THE BATTLEFIELD Gay athletes & locker room homophobia WRITTEN BY JEFF AUSTIN AINSFELD ILLUSTRATION BY JEANINE LEE, LAYOUT BY ORIANA SALAZAR __
CW: verbal abuse/slurs The locker room is a sacred place. As a young athlete, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s where my teammates and I laughed, horseplayed and joked around. Where we came together as a team all for the same mission: to beat our opponent. After victories, the celebration and excitement were like no other feeling; after defeats, the consolation and support were equally unparalleled. 20 | OutWrite, 2018
“... it was like something had exploded inside me, a sensation I never felt before.” Then it all changed. I was 12 years old walking in the locker room, and for the first time it felt different. On the surface everything was the same: the same banter, the same jokes. My friends and teammates were dressing and undressing. Underneath, it was like something had exploded inside me, a sensation I had never felt before. I could see the brightness of their tighty whities. I could see every outline of their bodies and muscles. I was no longer blind. The world around me was illuminated and it scared me out of my mind. The juvenile jokes about fags and homos were no longer funny, because of what I now knew for sure. I was one. I could never reconcile the idea of being a gay athlete when I was a teenager. At this point, no professional athlete had ever come out, so there were no role models to look up to. If you ever messed up in a game, you played “like a fag.” You were seen as weak. A sissy. So I automatically associated being gay with being a sissy. There’s no way I could let that happen. My friends and teammates would turn their backs on me. Suddenly, for the first time in my life, I was an athlete without a team. The locker room was no longer fun. So, I did the only thing I could. I hid. I lied. I pretended it wasn’t true. I dated girls. All through my high school and college athletic endeavors I “played” it straight. I participated in the homophobic jokes, because I was homophobic myself.
My self hatred and shame grew every day. It became stronger with every game, with every joke, with every unrequited crush I couldn’t let myself feel. In a lifetime spent on teams, I felt very much alone. It was only after college and away from that environment that I came to fully accept my sexuality. Unfortunately, I still had difficulty finding my place in the LGBTQ+ community. I just wasn’t into all the things my new friends were. I loved sports, they loved musicals. They had never seen the Super Bowl, I had never seen The Wizard Of Oz. So, here I was. I was finally comfortable in my own skin, but not comfortable with my surroundings. It was at my first pride that I found the LA Gay and Lesbian Softball booth. I signed up immediately. To my surprise, most of the players in the league were not athletes or even into sports. They were there for fun, friends and the beer busts after games. They would make fun of my competitive nature. They’d laugh after I’d get mad when they called me “ghurl” but they also embraced me and I became part of their family. I met my first boyfriend on that team. He could care less about sports. But he came with me to the sporting events I loved and I went to Christina and Britney concerts with him. I found more competitive teams and players over the years, and was lucky enough to play in several gay softball World Series where thousands of LGBTQ+ players gathered for a week-long tournament to compete and celebrate our diversity and inclusiveness, making friends with so many like minded athletes across the country. I was no longer alone. I ventured out to gay flag football league, gay beach volleyball league, dodgeball and kickball. I even created an LGBTQ+ team of triathletes and marathoners to raise money for the Human Rights Campaign. What I learned through all these experiences is that it’s not about the sport, the competition or the victory. It is about friends, family and the love we have for each other. That everyone can be an athlete no matter their skills, orientations or identities. A lot of my friends today are the ones I met playing in these leagues. I finally found my team, united wearing one rainbow-colored uniform. 21
Dual written by Anastacia Kellogg illustrations by Hannah Boston, layout by Andrew Evans The air is so cold, it feels like it’s going to take my nose right off my face and shatter my skin like the surface of a frozen puddle. I’m taking photos of charred-black rafters, burnt linoleum floor, book pages scattered in the snow and crumbling darkly like a scene from Fahrenheit 451. There’s something artistic about it that I want to capture, but my phone, at half charge when I began, dies before I get through the front room. Technology is no better at handling the cold than is my California-freckled nose. An orange cat darts across one of the few roof supports left. This used to be a perfectly serviceable home. My mother is clinging to this plot of land with the tenacity of a winter frost: it’s passed through the hands of my evil witch of a great grandmother and my hurricane of a great aunt, and someday it or the profits from it will go to me and my four siblings. Our other plot of land holds a very lovely house whose temporary renters seem to grow worryingly more attached by the week. Down the street is an elementary school where my middle three siblings spent seven months, a bit beyond it is the evening school for high school dropouts which was the only place that would accept me at 18, and around the corner is the kindergarten where my baby brother was finally convinced to speak fluently. My mother wants us to have a foothold here. She wants us to have a place to live, a place to educate ourselves, a place to build a business. I have trouble expressing to my mother exactly why I don’t want to uproot my entire life and settle in Russia. Usually I spread my hands
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and say some variation of “isn’t it obvious?” Her responses reflect the same flabbergasted tone back at me – “why wouldn’t you?” – as she lists all the benefits of not staying in the capitalist dystopia that is the United States. I stutter and respond, “I just can’t live in a place that’s so antagonistic to me,” which is always the wrong thing to say to an immigrant who has done exactly that. The seven months that made up my last stay in Russia were in 2014, the year of the Winter Olympics that so many athletes boycotted to protest recent anti “gay propaganda” laws. The way my mother explained it, my siblings and I were in danger of saying something too liberal and being hated at school. The way my father explained it, “propaganda” could mean anything that sent the message “gay people exist.” For those seven months, I attended evening classes for the students who were too troublesome to keep in high school – druggies, delinquents, and one too-cool-for-thistown girl who seemed to have decided to be my friend. Most of them were too old for their grade, but at 18, I was one or two years older than any of them. On my first day there, I was bombarded with questions: most laughably, “Do you have smoking in America?” – most charmingly, “Do palms really just grow there? On the streets?” – and most dauntingly, “Are there lots of gays in America?” My cool-girl friend clarified the last question with the follow-up, “You know, pederasts?” I didn’t know how to respond. I was 18, they were 17; if I answered “yes,” I would be an adult spreading gay propaganda to
minors. They asked me the question a few times, never once suspecting that I was one of the gays myself. I didn’t know how I could tell anyone -- even my cool-girl friend, even the boy who told me in English that he’d “once been like that” but was “all natural now” -- that I had tentatively applied the label bisexual to myself in the backseat of a van speeding through palm trees to LAX only weeks before. (I literally wouldn’t know how to tell them. I typed bisexual into Google Translate later that day, and it gave me dvupol’nyy, a literal translation meaning “two gendered,” which is less than accurate.) The thing is, I don’t know what level of responsibility I have. I feel like my inability to speak up makes me a bad social activist. But I also feel like if I did speak up, I would be trying to change a culture that I’m barely a part of and thus have no right to change. What right have I to tell Russians how to be Russian? My two red Russian passports don’t mean a thing once I open my mouth and let out the awkward accent. I passed the ninth grade standardized writing exam because my teachers corrected my scantron after hours. Who’s going to correct my grammar as I try to conjugate the Russian transliteration of the word bisexual? We watched the Olympic opening ceremony live that year, and my mother stood behind my chair with a sour look on her face. “It’s like makeup on a corpse,” she said. “It’s all a fake cover for the turmoil going on in this country.” Seven months later, I saw makeup on a corpse for
the first time in real life. I kissed my grandfather’s forehead and told him I loved him in broken Russian, silently raging against my hurricane of a great-aunt for shouting him into the grave. I wore heels to the funeral, shoes that I had packed but been too shy to wear even once. My only black dress ended mid-thigh and that morning I noticed, with a quiet sense of guilt, that my legs looked really good. My coming out story is far less brutal than it could have been. Last summer, my mother wakes up and is running around the house by 4 am, and she sees me and my friend who slept over sharing the pull-out couch bed. I can’t account the thoughts that ran through her head – I’ve always shared beds at sleepovers – but her suspicions were right, I suppose. “I’m not mad,” she told me later, “I just wish you were dating a boy, because I want grandchildren.” The joke’s on her – my longtime gal-pal-turned-partner is a (trans nonbinary) boy after all – but we are unavoidably and visibly a queer couple. When this week is over, my mother and I will head home to greet Christmas with the rest of the family. But I won’t be home until a few days later, when I’m back in LA in the roachfilled apartment with the roommates who forbid whispering after 9pm and call me and my partner “very good friends.” We’ll do propagandic gay things like hold hands and tell each other how much we love and value each other as human beings. We’ll dress up cute to go places together, and somewhere in the back of my mind I’ll remember snippets
I’ve read about queer fashion being an act of resistance. It feels like a massive leap to compare the people who struggled on the front lines of social movements to me admiring how my own boobs look in a crop top or how shapely my legs are in a funeral dress. No one would call Narcissus a world-changer. Today, the snow crunches softly under the combat boots I bought at a yard sale and stuck a dozen safety pins through. Hair frizzes around my face in dyed-green strands under a beanie that sits lopsided thanks to my undercut. I have found a thousand small ways to present a queer image, to be in control of the ugly that the world will
see in me no matter what. My phone is dead, but I keep looking at these charred pages in the snow like an artist, a tourist, the disconnected outsider that I am. I still navigate the language in a series of surreal Google Translate errors (though thankfully, we’ve both gotten better: bisexual now translates to biseksual, the proper word). Behind me, the house that my great-aunt set on fire threatens to crash down. When I fly home, I’ll pass through the airport flashing the bright red passport that lays out my name in familiar Cyrillic letters, but once back in LA I’ll sink into the comfort of a 65° winter chill. I think that all I can do, for now, is try to understand myself through palm trees and shoes.
The Taboo on Bondage written by Anonymous illustrations and layout by Shay Suban
CW: mentions of rape I find that stories of sexuality rarely begin at the start. Instead, they often begin with a realization, a breaking of the bubble, and retrospect floods in from there. This one begins with innocent little sixth grade me, sitting on her parents’ bed with a 2006 MacBook, exploring the Internet for the first time. Sixth grade me was discovering the world of fan art. The words I typed into the search bar meandered and then grew more specific, until I realized what I was really looking for. I edited the next search to say “tied up.” Retrospect arrived over time. I used to tie up my Barbies. I remember being so disappointed whenever Nancy Drew got knocked out and not physically restrained. My early attempts at writing usually revolved around one or more characters getting tied up at the climax. The idea of someone bound stirred a dark sense of excitement in me, and through the Internet, I learned I was not alone in this. The name for it was “bondage,” I discovered. It was pretty innocent at first, especially since I was blocked by mature content filters (I was that rare kid who clicked “no” when faced with an “Are you 18+ years old?”). So for a while it was about 24 | OutWrite, 2018
the vulnerability and suspense, but when I saw a crotch rope for the first time, I knew there was more to it than that. I caught on quickly to the taboo. Between the sexual aspect (sex was taboo in middle school) and the fact that I’d never heard anyone speak of this, ever (or, later, spoke of it only through innuendo), I knew this was a secret to keep. As I feigned innocence for the next seven, eight years – perfecting my confused blank stare, pretending not to hear the dumb joke my physics teacher made about tying things up, retreating into the corner of the room whenever the *BDSM test came into conversation – I neglected to wonder why it was taboo to begin with. In my years of exploring the bondage community, I found that while there were art pieces and stories I genuinely enjoyed, there were others which made me sick to my stomach. The most problematic pieces are the ones that end up being about rape, ranging from outright, obvious, undeniable rape to a more subtle brand of unwilling, reluctant, not-quite-consensual sex. In a game that’s largely about the storytelling, the suspense may be seemingly diluted by consent. When a story admits to being “just a story,” the stakes are lowered, and the audience loses its personal investment in the tale. Personally, though,
*BSDM stands for Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission, Sadism and Masochism
I’ve realized that in the rare story about consenting adults who then transition into roleplay, I’m just as invested as I would be if the situation were more dire; my conscience, however, is more at ease. Art and stories containing non-consensual sex are so common in the bondage community, I assumed they were an inherent aspect of bondage and BDSM. There were superficial arguments I used in attempts to ease my own conscience, which involved ignoring the counterarguments I easily came up with. The use of disclaimers was one of these surface arguments. Artists and writers often add “[insert character name here] is 18+” in order to make their art more okay. Not all contributors do this, however, and the state of being an adult is not the same as consenting. “This is a consenting adult situation” is significantly better, but disappointingly uncommon. Furthermore, some contributors take characters who are canonically under 18 years of age and use this disclaimer to say they have “aged-up” their character, which turns into a gray area of borderline-okay-butincredibly-sketchy. Something else I told myself was that if I knew rape was bad, and that I wouldn’t do anything harmful as portrayed in these art pieces, then it was fine. There are so many flaws with this idea. One is that the few audience members who actually do think non-consensual activities are okay become validated by what seems to be a confirmation of such. It becomes a direct propagation of rape culture itself, despite this complacent idea of well-at-least-it-doesn’t-affectme. Additionally, even if viewers disagree with the material, if they accept it anyways, they become desensitized to it. Non-consensual activities then seem, if not fully okay, at least more-okay or less-terrible. Which then allows the viewer to theoretically enjoy the material more, becoming still more desensitized to the downsides. I say “theoretically,” though, because this only halfworked for me. I could never fully enjoy this kind of piece; my conscience consistently fought my libido and won. Okay. That sounds like I’m bragging about my morality. Here’s the reality of it: I’m embarrassed that I ever thought any of this was okay. I regret the fumbling, flimsy DM sent to an Internet friend in an attempt to ease his worries around the moral dilemma of being in the bondage community. I’m ashamed to think that I was willing to forgive rape in order to satisfy my own sexual cravings, and that I was willing to ignore basic logic and morals to do so. This is why there is a taboo. Those outside the community see or assume that rape culture is an inherent part of bondage and BDSM, whether because they have seen the problematic side of the community or because bondage itself seems
like it would be used in rape, and thus that’s what it must be about. (A too-quick assumption? Yes. An easy assumption to make? Also yes.) But those inside the community have difficulty defending it when the problematic implications are so prevalent, or when they consider how their defense could lead to assumptions about their own character, or when they struggle to reconcile themselves with the subject in the first place. I know what you’re thinking – “When is she going to talk about Fifty Shades?” E.L. James’s book Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels and film adaptations have captivated the masses with its (heavily inaccurate) representation of BDSM. What I’m interested in, though, is the BDSM community’s response. Blog posts and articles (search “Why Fifty Shades is an inaccurate portrayal of BDSM” and you’ll find plenty of these) explain in detail what is wrong with the portrayal of BDSM in the novel: in summary, real BDSM centers on consent, on taking care of each other and making sure everyone involved is comfortable and okay. To me, this illuminates the other side of the bondage community. There is the dark, nonconsensual side, but then there is the side that values consent and realizes that mutual trust does not make the activity less enjoyable. This second side is much closer to reality than the fictional fantasies of the Internet seem to suggest. In other words, bondage and BDSM are not inherently problematic – the popular portrayal of them, however, often is. Lifting the taboo on bondage starts with reversing the misconceptions surrounding it. Much of this responsibility lies on the shoulders of the creators in the bondage community. Creating art and writing about consensual, healthy situations rather than non-consensual ones will promote the positive side of bondage. Again, roleplay can be involved for the sake of creative spin, but consent is key. The fact that characters’ actions are in roleplay should be clear. Other members of the community can help by promoting these artists over ones who continue to create stories of unhealthy situations. And anyone, whether in the community or outside of it, can read about BDSM (real BDSM, not the Fifty Shades version. The articles from the search I suggested earlier are a good start) in order to educate themselves on the topic, enabling them to dispel falsehoods regarding it. One positive from the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey was a loosening of the taboo, the start of a more open discourse on BDSM in popular culture. If the public sees that BDSM can be a healthy expression of sexuality, there is less reason for members of the community to hide. And if individuals in the community know that bondage and BDSM are not inherently harmful, then there is much less reason to be ashamed.
Letter to my written and illustrated by Shay Suban Hey, I hope you’re doing well, whenever it is that you’re reading this. This year I’m lucky to be surrounded by friends and communities that love and support me, and I hope that the same is true for you. You deserve only the best, including the best environment for love and growth. I remember I used to wonder about my life, identity, and place in the world, and I’d feel uncertain and uneasy, but now I feel uncertain and okay with it. It’s okay to be unsure. There is no limited time frame for learning about myself and the world around me. I can take my time. You can take as much time as you need. This journey of self-discovery, love, and acceptance doesn’t have one set destination either. There doesn’t have to come a time when you just “know” everything about yourself. And even if you do feel settled in, it’s okay to discover later that maybe you feel differently than you thought. Also, don’t feel pressured to settle in one place or another. If the words for identities don’t fit what you feel, you can make up your own words or just give it all a big shrug. It’s okay to take things as they come. Life is not just certainty, knowing, and moving forward. Life is everything we experience. We’ve come so far, and we can keep going for as long as we want. I’m excited to see where we’ll go together in the future! Talk to you soon.
Contributors Cover Letter from the Editor Embody What’s Really in a Name? Understanding My Identity Through Queer Music because you do not love me / i must love myself Let Go and Choose Yourself Trapped Media, Mind, and Self-Reflection for the Bisexual Community Music and the Queer Community: How Music Has Helped Us Love Ourselves
Shay Suban Andrew Hall Gaurav Lalsinghani Stef Newell Siobhán Chapman Jasper M. Jessica Humphrey Ray Shannon Kasinger Austin Mendoza
Colors Angela Zheng Glitter and Get Loud: Breaking Sound and Gender Barriers with Bebe Huxley Shayna Maci Warner Love on the Battlefield Jeff Austin Ainsfeld Dual Anastacia Kellogg The Taboo on Bondage Anonymous Letter to My Future Self Shay Suban Photos, Graphics, & Illustrations
Hannah Boston Nick Griffin Jeanine Lee Carmen Ngo Ray Shay Suban Nieves Winslow Angela Zheng
Andrew Hall Siobhán Chapman Sarah Jensen Anastacia Kellogg John Solan Shay Suban Shayna Maci Warner
Siobhán Chapman Andrew Evans Nick Griffin Jackson Hau Jenna LaFleur Cami Miceli Oriana Salazar Shay Suban Angela Zheng
Copy Editors Dharma Sarah Jensen Cami Miceli Tiffany Tang
Special Thanks Bebe Huxley Eva Zar Love Bailey
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