Pride Mentorship Project 2013

I’m happy to report I sailed right through Pride Mentorship Project this past Saturday.

That’s a lie.

Here’s a better ship analogy…I was a wreck.

When I signed up to be a mentor, I didn’t really know what I had to offer. I struggled with my sexuality for most of my life, finally culminating in me “coming out” a year ago, and if I’m being completely honest, I  am still struggling.

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This was the 2nd Pride Mentorship Project the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center was hosting. Invitations were sent out to various high schools welcoming LGBTQPIA* youth who wanted to connect with their CSULA counterparts and spend a day discussing relevant issues in the community. This year the project was also opened up to CSULA students who wanted to be mentees. I jumped aboard immediately thinking of how difficult things were for me growing up without LGBTQPIA role models.

But now I was having doubts. What did I have to offer these young people, when I didn’t even feel like I had my life together?

None of that mattered though, once the mentees walked in the door. I along with the other mentors had to put our best foot forward for them.

It was an emotional day. Throughout the activities and the discussions there were stories  about fear, violence, sexual assault, drug abuse, depression, suicide, rejection, hurt, loss, and pain. And there were also silver linings of love, friendship, hope, triumph, and pride.

Suffice to say, my nervousness was drowned out in the intense sense of belonging and connection. LGBTQPIA individuals are often shut out and set aside, but in that room we were a community, linked together by our experiences and identities.

I came away with a lot of love for everyone and a promise to myself to be kinder to others because there is no way of knowing what burdens a stranger may be carrying. I had walked into that room feeling like I had to have everything together and what I learned was that we all struggle and it’s ok to feel and open up in our moments of weakness.

I connected with the mentees who came despite facing personal risk, the allies who were there to stand with their friends even in adversity, the teacher looking to create safe spaces for her students, and the individual who after a lifetime of doubt about his own identity told me he had decided to “take back what was mine” and found his way to self-love and acceptance. I connected with my fellow mentors who had faltered often in their own journey toward self-acceptance and had come out on top. I was honored to stand amongst such amazingly heroic individuals.

As I looked around the room, I saw in the mentees more conviction, strength, pride, and bravery than I ever had at their age, than I have now. I felt a great sense of hope, because I had taken on this project thinking I would teach younger folks, but they taught me instead. Even though it’s not always easy to see, we are making progress, change is happening and will continue to happen.

If this is a war we were fighting. It is definitely a war we are winning.

*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Pansexual, Intersex, Asexual, Ally

Book Review: Every Day

Meet “A.” A is a typical 16 year old in a lot of ways, struggling with identity, doubt, and love. But A is also different. From birth, A has woken up as a different person every day.  With access to every host’s memories, A tries to avoid disrupting their lives as much as possible. A has a coherent sense of self that has no sexual or gender distinction but struggles to understand why life is the way it is.

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For 16 years, A’s policy of noninterference has worked out fine through trial and error. Then one day, A wakes up as Justin and subsequently falls deeply in love with Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. Their love story is fraught with obstacles and their lives become steadily more complicated as they fight to preserve their relationship.

This is a love story that crosses multiple lives. The author David Levithan, with an extensive background in gay youth literature, creates clear messages about our preconceived notions of gender, sex, sexuality, appearance, reality, and its entanglement with notions of love. Out of all this comes a beautiful truth summed up best by my favorite quote from the book:

“In my experience, desire is desire, love is love. I have never fallen in love with a gender. I have fallen for individuals. I know this is hard for people to do, but I don’t understand why it’s so hard, when it’s so obvious.”

I really loved this book….5/5 Bookmarks!

Did you like the book?

What would it be like for all people to fall in love irrespective of gender, sex, or sexuality?

Film Focus: Django Unchained

Let me start off by saying I’m a big fan of Quentin Tarantino and I’ve gotten used to his trademarks: dark humor and ultra-violence.  His movies are of course not everyone’s cup of tea.

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This film follows Django (the D is silent), a former slave, who is “hired” by Dr. Schultz, a bounty hunting dentist to track three wanted men. Throughout the course of the film the two become fast friends and the empathetic Dr. Schultz decides to help Django find and recover his wife, Brunehilda Von Schaft. Their biggest obstacle is self-avowed Francophile Monsieur Calvin Candie, who organizes slave fighting rings from his manor, Candieland.

So… I loved Django. It was Tarantino at his best. There was action, comedy, brilliant acting, and some strikingly emotional moments too. Though the movie was nearly three hours long, it didn’t drag at all even with no onscreen action happening, definitely one of the coolest movies I’ve seen in a while.

However, the movie is also embroiled in some controversy. There are those who consider the movie racist, a call back to “Blaxploitation” films from an earlier era that presents both white and black characters as caricatures. Meanwhile others think the film delights in turning traditionally racist film tropes on their heads.

4.5/5 Ticket Stubs

Did you see the film? What do you think? Is Django racist?

Next Step 2013

At this stage in my life, I really didn’t think there were any real experiences left that could teach me more about myself. I thought I was handling “adulthood” like a boss and everything was more or less settled in the process of my “becoming.” Next Step shook me out of that illusion from the get go.

What I learned was that most of us, even the incredibly socially conscious, live our lives with eyes half closed (some fully closed). We don’t really try to look too hard at ourselves, the things we say or do or think, especially when it comes to confronting hard truths that make us uncomfortable. We all fall into this trap at least some of the time. We stay silent when we should speak, we speak when we should stay silent, we make snap judgments about others and we resent when the same is done to us. We may know better but we choose to be passive when action is daunting. We make the same mistakes over and over because we are afraid to learn from them.  We don’t believe in ourselves when we should and we can’t recognize when we’re standing in our own way.

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All this showed me that we are all on a journey not just toward social justice but toward self-realization. We can’t be hard on ourselves and we can’t be hard on others. We are all fighting the same battles. We all have the same stories. Give and assume good intent always.

Thanks to Next Step, I’m tackling life with an open mind, open heart, and open eyes.