Body Ownership

Carmen Cordis is a rad CHATpdx Sexpert, Activist and Leader in Portland, OR. 

I’ve recently encountered a lot of people, whether they identify inside, outside, or on the fringe of the alphabet soup community (LGBTQQAAPIT-S and any I missed, in no particular order), who have given me an ultimatum, namely that I must make some kind of physical or surgical alteration (of other people’s choosing) to my body or appearance in order to “earn” their acceptance, approval, respect, charity, or support.

I am taking a stand against our culture of non-binary-gender-phobia, body-shaming, photographic alteration, unrealistic body image fixation, cissexism, transphobia, and discrimination based on gender identity, gender presentation, sexual orientation, or bodily appearance.

Carmen Graphic

I am a living, breathing, feeling human being with a heart, a brain, a plethora of dreams, a past, a future, and a story.

I am not someone else’s narrow vision of a quickly-labeled “other” identity that ceases to exist outside of those narrowly imposed boundaries.

I was born with human dignity.  My gender is my own; it does not belong to anyone else.  It cannot be ripped away from me and reshaped by someone else, because no one else owns it.

Likewise, My body is my own. No one the right to make serious, irreversible, potentially harmful or deadly decisions regarding MY BODY but me – and those I designate as my agents in the event that I desire assistance.

Because of the culture of fear, my body has been made into my worst enemy for as long as I can remember.  I also tend to avoid conflict and prefer mediation or compromise in order to diffuse conflict.

Unfortunately, at times I have lost the control of my own body because someone other than myself decided to own my body or change it to suit their desires.

Willingly, or unwillingly, I surrendered my body to someone else, sometimes to avoid external conflict, and found myself waiting for the hell to be over when I began to drown in the internal conflict I created by capitulating.

Carmen Own Post

Too many times, I have tried to destroy my body, in order to satisfy the demands of a fear-hatred culture, and to escape from the hell of conflict by giving up and throwing in the towel, saying, “Okay.  You win.  Are you happy now?”

I no longer wish to propitiate those people who would delight in my destruction.

I deserve to be happy, and one step toward my happiness is to own my own body.

Please consider my words the next time you notice someone (perhaps yourself, even) making serious entitlement claims to someone else’s body, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Please consider my words the next time you notice someone else making serious entitlement claims to your own body, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Do not surrender to anyone who would delight in the destruction or invalidation of your essential self, the self of your definition and determination, the self of your life experience.

No one is infallible, but maybe by educating each other we can make a better world, one step at a time.

Carmen Dignity Post

Enhanced by Zemanta
Advertisements

A Poem By Patricia Lockwood

Trigger Warning: Rape, Consent, Sex

Image

A Poem By Patricia Lockwood

Trigger Warning: Rape, Consent, Sex

Rape Joke

The rape joke is that you were 19 years old.

The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend.

The rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee.

Imagine the rape joke looking in the mirror, perfectly reflecting back itself, and grooming itself to look more like a rape joke. “Ahhhh,” it thinks. “Yes. A goatee.”

No offense.

The rape joke is that he was seven years older. The rape joke is that you had known him for years, since you were too young to be interesting to him. You liked that use of the word interesting, as if you were a piece of knowledge that someone could be desperate to acquire, to assimilate, and to spit back out in different form through his goateed mouth.

Then suddenly you were older, but not very old at all.

The rape joke is that you had been drinking wine coolers. Wine coolers! Who drinks wine coolers? People who get raped, according to the rape joke.

The rape joke is he was a bouncer, and kept people out for a living.

Not you!

The rape joke is that he carried a knife, and would show it to you, and would turn it over and over in his hands as if it were a book.

He wasn’t threatening you, you understood. He just really liked his knife.

The rape joke is he once almost murdered a dude by throwing him through a plate-glass window. The next day he told you and he was trembling, which you took as evidence of his sensitivity.

How can a piece of knowledge be stupid? But of course you were so stupid.

The rape joke is that sometimes he would tell you you were going on a date and then take you over to his best friend Peewee’s house and make you watch wrestling while they all got high.

The rape joke is that his best friend was named Peewee.

OK, the rape joke is that he worshiped The Rock.

Like the dude was completely in love with The Rock. He thought it was so great what he could do with his eyebrow.

The rape joke is he called wrestling “a soap opera for men.” Men love drama too, he assured you.

The rape joke is that his bookshelf was just a row of paperbacks about serial killers. You mistook this for an interest in history, and laboring under this misapprehension you once gave him a copy of Günter Grass’s My Century, which he never even tried to read.

It gets funnier.

The rape joke is that he kept a diary. I wonder if he wrote about the rape in it.

The rape joke is that you read it once, and he talked about another girl. He called her Miss Geography, and said “he didn’t have those urges when he looked at her anymore,” not since he met you. Close call, Miss Geography!

The rape joke is that he was your father’s high-school student—your father taught World Religion. You helped him clean out his classroom at the end of the year, and he let you take home the most beat-up textbooks.

The rape joke is that he knew you when you were 12 years old. He once helped your family move two states over, and you drove from Cincinnati to St. Louis with him, all by yourselves, and he was kind to you, and you talked the whole way. He had chaw in his mouth the entire time, and you told him he was disgusting and he laughed, and spat the juice through his goatee into a Mountain Dew bottle.

The rape joke is that come on, you should have seen it coming. This rape joke is practically writing itself.

The rape joke is that you were facedown. The rape joke is you were wearing a pretty green necklace that your sister had made for you. Later you cut that necklace up. The mattress felt a specific way, and your mouth felt a specific way open against it, as if you were speaking, but you know you were not. As if your mouth were open ten years into the future, reciting a poem called Rape Joke.

The rape joke is that time is different, becomes more horrible and more habitable, and accommodates your need to go deeper into it.

Just like the body, which more than a concrete form is a capacity.

You know the body of time is elastic, can take almost anything you give it, and heals quickly.

The rape joke is that of course there was blood, which in human beings is so close to the surface.

The rape joke is you went home like nothing happened, and laughed about it the next day and the day after that, and when you told people you laughed, and that was the rape joke.

It was a year before you told your parents, because he was like a son to them. The rape joke is that when you told your father, he made the sign of the cross over you and said, “I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” which even in its total wrongheadedness, was so completely sweet.

The rape joke is that you were crazy for the next five years, and had to move cities, and had to move states, and whole days went down into the sinkhole of thinking about why it happened. Like you went to look at your backyard and suddenly it wasn’t there, and you were looking down into the center of the earth, which played the same red event perpetually.

The rape joke is that after a while you weren’t crazy anymore, but close call, Miss Geography.

The rape joke is that for the next five years all you did was write, and never about yourself, about anything else, about apples on the tree, about islands, dead poets and the worms that aerated them, and there was no warm body in what you wrote, it was elsewhere.

The rape joke is that this is finally artless. The rape joke is that you do not write artlessly.

The rape joke is if you write a poem called Rape Joke, you’re asking for it to become the only thing people remember about you.

The rape joke is that you asked why he did it. The rape joke is he said he didn’t know, like what else would a rape joke say? The rape joke said YOU were the one who was drunk, and the rape joke said you remembered it wrong, which made you laugh out loud for one long split-open second. The wine coolers weren’t Bartles & Jaymes, but it would be funnier for the rape joke if they were. It was some pussy flavor, like Passionate Mango or Destroyed Strawberry, which you drank down without question and trustingly in the heart of Cincinnati Ohio.

Can rape jokes be funny at all, is the question.

Can any part of the rape joke be funny. The part where it ends—haha, just kidding! Though you did dream of killing the rape joke for years, spilling all of its blood out, and telling it that way.

The rape joke cries out for the right to be told.

The rape joke is that this is just how it happened.

The rape joke is that the next day he gave you Pet Sounds. No really. Pet Sounds. He said he was sorry and then he gave you Pet Sounds. Come on, that’s a little bit funny.

Admit it.

Patricia Lockwood is the author of Balloon Pop Outlaw Black (Octopus Books, 2012). Follow her on Twitter at@TriciaLockwood.

http://www.theawl.com/2013/07/rape-joke-patricia-lockwood

Do You Understand The Difference Between Sex And Gender?

From Sonakshi Samtani:

Sex is biologically determined, Gender is socially construed. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, attributes and activities that are considered appropriate for men and women.

These gender roles aim at governing everything, from our behaviour to our sexuality. However, it doesn’t come as a surprise that our largely patriarchal society has inherent prejudices constituted in its gender roles. In theory our country has progressed, but the fact is that we are still caught in the shackles of patriarchy. The female population is still facing numerous socio-economic hurdles in gaining access to quality education. It can be clearly attributed to our orthodox mindset which deems fit for women to accept their role as home-makers. Even the educated employed women are under the glass ceiling preventing them for getting higher posts and equal pay as their male counterparts.

So, when a woman gets raped, the society goes ahead to attribute it to her behaving in a brazen manner, for a man is a sexual being and can’t keep it in his pants if a woman provokes him by dressing in a certain way. While one can go on and on about what the repercussions of the gender rigid culture are, it is important to first realize that the society cannot govern our freedom of expression and choice, each of us as an individual has the right to decide what is normal and acceptable for us, a right that shouldn’t be compromised with.

Image

Read the whole story!: http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2013/06/do-you-understand-the-difference-between-sex-and-gender/

How Breast Milk Can Transmit HIV and Why We Should Inform Women

As one of the last fluids we think about when we think about HIV, I thought it might be helpful for us to learn a little more about the 4th fluid that transmits HIV. Since blood, semen and vaginal secretions have gotten all the attention, why not take a moment and learn a little more about how breast milk can transmit HIV.

What a brief review of the research shows:

  • Infant feeding is estimated to be responsible for anywhere from 5-20% of mother to child transmission. If a child is born HIV-negative to a positive mother who is not on antiretroviral treatment, the risk associated with prolonged breastfeeding is estimated at 10-20%.
  • HIV RNA is found in breast milk and the risk of transmission is directly related to the viral load in the mother’s milk.  Some mothers may have a specific gene (SDF1 3’A allele) that causes increased viral replication in breast milk and therefore increases transmission risk.
  • Although breastfeeding from an HIV-positive mother poses a risk of HIV transmission to the infant, there is also evidence that it provides better health outcomes for the child than formula feeding (protective against other infectious diseases)
  • The World Health Organization promotes alternative (formula feeding) only when it is  “affordable, feasible, acceptable, sustainable and safe.” When ARVs are widely available and breastfeeding is a social norm, they recommend that HIV-positive mothers breastfeed until 12 months of age.
  • Women who are on antiretroviral treatment while breastfeeding have a lower risk of transmitting HIV to their infant. (about 3.5% in one study in Kenya)
  • Exclusive breastfeeding has been associated with a reduced risk of late HIV transmission as compared to mixed feeding. Mixed feeding practices (breast milk plus other liquids or solids) and prolonged breastfeeding (more than 6 months) are associated with increased risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding is hard. Barriers include low milk production, lack of control over the feeding situation, and both perceived and enacted stigma.
  • Infants can develop resistance to HIV medications independent their mother’s resistance – that is, the mother is not necessarily passing on a resistant virus, but if the infant becomes infected while breastfeeding and the mother is on ARV, the infant is being exposed to small amounts of the drugs through breast milk and may therefore develop resistance to them.

The more we can inform women about the risks and benefits associated with breastfeeding, as well as things that can reduce the risk, the better able they will be to make the best decision for themselves and their infants.

Some of the articles/abstracts, if you want to read more in-depth:

WHO Guidelines:

A systematic review of a number of publications on HIV and breastfeeding:

How genetics may impact transmission rates:

Drug resistance:

Large Breastfeeding study in Kenya:

Difficulties of exclusive breastfeeding:

Viral load:

If anyone is still reading,

To kill HIV in breast milk, flash-heating breast milk can inactivate HIV without destroying too many of the vitamins or immunoglobulin in the milk that make it beneficial to the baby. The WHO recommends it as an option to reduce vertical HIV transmission in resource-poor regions. Of course, to do this the mother has to express the milk first, then heat it, then feed it via bottle – so it’s kind of a compromise between breastfeeding, which could transmit HIV, and bottle feeding formula, which has other nutritional/gastrointestinal risks.

What do you think? How has this changed how you think about HIV? Has it changed any of your thoughts?

National A&PI HIV/AIDS Awareness Day May 19th 2011

Asian Pacific Islander Pride and Cascade AIDS Project will be commemorating National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Thursday May 19th.  We invite everyone in our communities to join us!  We will be discussing HIV/AIDS related issues during our Monthly Happy Hour (Element Restaurant & Lounge, 1135 SW Morrison Street, Portland, 5-9pm). This event is part of a larger effort organized by The Banyan Tree Project, a national social marketing campaign to stop HIV/AIDS-related stigma in Asian & Pacific Islander (A&PI) communities.  
There are similar events being held in many cities across the country (visit www.banyantreeproject.org for more information).
  
The theme of the 2011 Campaign is HIV/AIDS and API Women.  While HIV is still seen as a men’s issue, the disease continues to rise unchecked among A&PIs and A&PI women in particular. Recent analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that A&PIs have the highest rate of increase in new HIV infections in the nation, the only statistically significant growth among any racial or ethnic group, and yet two-thirds of A&PIs have never been tested for HIV. The rate of increase for A&PI women is actually higher than that of A&PI men, but the misconception that A&PIs are not at risk for HIV persists–even among healthcare providers who discourage A&PIs from getting tested. In fact, a recent study by Dr. Hyeouk Chris Hahm (a leading researcher on A&PI women’s sexual health from Boston University) indicates that A&PI women are less likely than other ethnic groups to be offered an HIV test in OB/GYN settings. A number of factors contribute to the HIV risk for A&PI women, including a lack of targeted HIV prevention information for women, unequal power dynamics in sexual relationships, biological differences and the fact that a woman’s HIV risk is often indirect. A woman’s HIV risk is her partner’s HIV risk and many women in monogamous relationships are shocked when they test positive. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of A&PI women living with HIV got it through heterosexual contact (86%).
 

“By 2050, A&PIs will represent about 11% of the US population,” says Lance Toma, executive director of A&PI Wellness Center in San Francisco. “We could be facing a public health disaster if we
fail to address the rise in HIV and STD infections in our communities now.” Another significant issues related to HIV/AIDS that is relevant to the API community is HIV-related stigma, which refers to the severe individual, family and community shame or disgrace associated with HIV. API’s living with HIV are blamed for their condition and are punished—by exclusion, isolation, prejudice and discrimination—for contracting the disease. They are often vilified and reduced to stereotypes—drug users, gay men, sex workers—with little regard for their individual experience or situation. In the A&PI community, HIV-related stigma is so powerful that people avoid talking about sex or HIV entirely. This silence feeds the fear and misconceptions about HIV transmission. For A&PIs, an HIV-positive test result can shame and disgrace the individual, as well as the family and community.  By raising awareness and openly talking about HIV/AIDS, sexuality and sexual health issue, we can help to erase this stigma and reduce HIV transmission and its impact in API communities.

API Pride is an organization led by and for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in Oregon. We provide safe and supportive environments and opportunities to celebrate, educate and bring our communities together. For questions or concerns, please contact us by email at api.pride@gmail.com or visit our blog:  http://api-pride.blogspot.com

Race, Poverty, Gender, OH MY!

I recently started an internship at CAP and get to participate in some interesting dialogues and trainings.  One project that I was happy to be a part of was a teleconference discussing the intersections of race, gender, and poverty.  This is fascinating to me since I’m majoring in Social Work at PSU.  Here is a summary of what I heard.

Throughout the conference, emphasis was put on how gender and race have a huge impact on health and health outcomes.  One example came from a recent study that showed middle class women of color are more likely to isolate themselves than other groups.  Many people would think that is counter intuitive—if these women are middle class, shouldn’t they have the ability to access resources?   Well, these same women are living in a state of nondisclosure.  They work 9-5 (when most agencies are open for business) and have the means to support themselves with a job that , more than likely, would not be so great (many examples of workplace discrimination have been reported) if they found out these women were HIV+. Numerous studies have found that most workplaces treat HIV+ folks negatively.  The PTA and neighborhood associations may not be as understanding—even if they were, this group doesn’t perceive them as such, and that is what matters.  Without support and communication, what happens to this group of women?

For the women who are accessing services, a study found those that are most useful offer housing assistance, job acquisition and skills, and assistance acquiring medical services (Yay, CAP!).  What else are women doing to help in this struggle?  Many are participating in academic studies.  Besides the financial reimbursement offered in many of these studies, women are having their voices heard and creating connections.  This is invaluable to their community and to policy and academic leaders who are making decisions.

Another startling fact was the in-your-face graph of the unequal disbursement of wealth.  This translates to how much money is left over after the bills.  I know, I know: we’ve all heard this—but just look at the graph!  Crazy, no?

“Where are the Latina and African/Black women in this graph?” you ask—Well, Latina women have $120 and African/Black women have $100.  These groups didn’t even make it onto the graph!  I told you it was crazy.

This info is great and there is a lot more available at the Positive Women’s Network website (the lovely ladies sponsored this teleconference).

Masturbation Doesn’t Break Hearts!

“90% of people admit to masturbating, the other 10 percent are liars.”
                                                -unknown

May 1st marked the first day of National Masturbation Month. Yes I said it, Masturbation. If you didn’t know about this, well, you’re not alone. I’ll even admit that I didn’t know this national day existed or that it has been around for 25 years. For some reason it isn’t surprising that National Masturbation Month isn’t as high-profile as Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, or Easter, but then again these holidays have cute animals or make belief characters attached to them.

I remember the first time I heard about masturbation on TV was when the cast of Jerry Seinfeld made a bet to see who could keep themselves from doing it the longest. I remember being really curious about this subject, but was afraid someone would catch me watching a TV show about this kind of bet. This really points out how ridiculous the stigma and lack of knowledge that youth (or anyone really) have about masturbation. Up until this point all I had heard about masturbation were all the horrible myths about the effects of masturbation on little bunnies and kittens.

While writing this blog I checked a couple of websites for other masturbation myths and this is what I found:

Only youth masturbate,Cascade AIDS Project Button
Only adults masturbate,
Women don’t masturbate,
People in relationships don’t masturbate,
If you live with your parents you don’t masturbate,
If people sleep in the same room as you, you don’t masturbate,
Masturbation will make you blind,
Masturbation will make hair grow on your palms,
Masturbation will give you acne,
Masturbation causes sexually transmitted diseases,
Masturbation will make you sterile,
Masturbation can give your penis a bend,
Masturbation will make you run out of fluids,
Masturbation will make a male’s penis shrink/stop growing,
Masturbation will make you crazy or cause epilepsy.

All of these myths have been proven wrong by science (although some of them didn’t need to be). It is a reality that BOTH women and men masturbate.. It actually is very healthy for someone to masturbate as it can help relieve headaches, stress, pain and help to aid sleep, to get clearer ideas or focus on an issue and helps reduce risk of prostate cancer in men. In 1995 the US surgeon general was quoted as saying “I think it [Masturbation] is part of human sexuality and a part of something that perhaps should be taught.” Even the UK government advocates for “an orgasm a day” and is advocating for youth to masturbate and experiment with their bodies.

The social stigma of masturbation only serves to perpetuate the harmful education that youth are getting from the internet or their peers. Even while writing this I felt uncomfortable and hid my research because of how people might see what I was writing about. I think the fact that as a sex/sexuality educator I should be comfortable with masturbation, but the social stigma I face makes it not so.  I believe in age-relevant sex information, and advocate for youth having as much knowledge about their sexual and reproductive health as they need. Masturbation can be a quite positive (and dare I say pleasant) experience for many people young and old and is only one more way for youth to have safe sexual lives. Maybe if people were more open about their masturbation and did it a little more often, then maybe STD/HIV rates might drop and we would have a safer and healthier (possibly even happier) society.

What do you think? What myths have you heard?

-Ernesto Dominguez