Fighting evil by moonlight, crushing on girls by daylight

When Hulu started showing subtitled episodes of the early 90s Sailor Moon anime about a year ago, I was pretty excited; I wanted something I could watch while knitting that would be entertaining but forgiving if I had to look away from the screen for a moment, and Sailor Moon seemed like a good choice. Despite my deep love of Sailor Moon I had actually only seen most of one season (Sailor Moon S) in the past, back in my senior year of high school, and aside from a couple episodes shown by my college anime club I hadn’t seen any of it since then. I was looking forward to starting from the beginning and working my way up to the part of the show I dimly remembered.

And yep, from day one Sailor Moon has been a lot of fun. It can be formulaic and predictable at times, but even when it’s mired in monster-of-the-week-land you’re still looking at monsters like a possessed tennis racquet monster or a priest who turns into a boxing bird-man, and if you can’t find the fun in that I just don’t know what to say. As much as I enjoyed the earlier seasons, I’ve been excitedly waiting until the episodes from S became available. Would I enjoy it as much as I remembered? Would it be yet another thing I retroactively remember as a big flashing Queer Signifier that has gained more significance in hindsight than it ever had in the moment?

In hindsight, it’s easy for me to see that Sailor Uranus/Haruka was my first memorable crush on a female character. At the time I don’t know that I would have described my interest that way, despite how clear it is to me now. But in the same way I had called my dear friend Tiffany my “forbidden love” in a way that was NOT GAY ok, we just REALLY LOVED each other PLATONICALLY, I was suuuuuper into Haruka and her relationship with Michiru/Sailor Neptune.

What I didn’t expect is how the inner Senshi have the exact same reaction to Haruka and Michiru’s appearance that I did. The show itself seems to crush on them; their entrances and exits are often marked by drifting cherry petals and artful sketchy stills, and their intro music is more mature and dramatic-sounding than what the other Senshi get. Usagi and Minako instantly crush on Haruka the moment they see her, thinking she’s a man, and those crushes seem to only sort of disappear once they realize she isn’t. All the Senshi swoon over how great she and Michiru look together even though they seem to struggle a bit with the idea that they might be in a romantic relationship.

These reactions the girls are having are very much like the ones I had, not just to Haruka herself when I first watched the show, but to other half-realized crushes on women I had before I really understood that what I was feeling was attraction (or, in some cases, aspiration). They get all blushy and sparkle-eyed, but the moment they notice their expressions are visible they have to snap out of it and say “NOPE, I’m not attracted to her she’s just…you know…” and while of course it’s not in the text I imagine they all go home and spend some time wondering “why is it that I can’t stop thinking about her?”

There’s an episode fairly early in the season in which Makoto seems to have a pretty intense crush on Haruka. She tries to downplay her crush to her friends but is clearly in awe of Haruka and Michiru as they take her out for a drive. Is this purely a platonic crush on someone with a cool style she aspires to? Is it the mix of “want to kiss you” and “want to be you” that I think a lot of queer folks wrestle with in their attractions? It’s not clear to the viewer, or probably to Makoto herself, exactly how she feels about Haruka.

What she tells Usagi at the end of the episode is that most of what she’s feeling for Haruka is admiration at how cool she is; she’s mostly focused on her as an aspirational model. Haruka is a woman (she never states she’s a man when Usagi and Minako first meet her; they just make that assumption) but is performing womanhood in a completely different way from what Makoto’s seen before. Earlier in this episode, Makoto tells Usagi she’s worried about ever finding love because she’s large and strong, and tries to play up her feminine pursuits like cooking to compensate. I can see how Haruka would be a reassuring example of a woman who isn’t feminine but is still attractive, competent, and respected – and just plain cool, as everyone’s eager to point out.

And that sort of crush (plus the confusion as to whether the exact feelings are admiration, attraction, or both) is very familiar territory for me. When I started to recognize and be open about my feelings for women, it was right when I was also starting to have a lot of gender-angst and confusion. A lot of those early crushes were on women who were experimenting with gender in ways I found inspiring. And to be honest, a lot of my crushes on women now are aspirational; I’m just focusing on very different things now than I did 10-12 years ago. It’s been interesting to see these feelings reflected back at me from these episodes, and it’s made them even more enjoyable than I’d expected. I’m not even halfway through the season, even, so I’m sure there’s more awkward queer nostalgia to come.

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Some of the best conversations I have with Scarleteen users are through our live chat service. Of course plenty of folks come in with pregnancy worries, just like they do across all direct services, but because it’s more private I’ve found that people are more willing to come in with thornier topics. Sometimes live chat is brutal – there’s still one conversation I can’t bring myself to talk about with anyone because it was so upsetting – but honestly, those harder conversations are usually the ones I like the most because they’re where I feel I can be most helpful.

Days like today, though, I just sign off feeling angry and exhausted. I got a “was this rape” question, which is one of the ones I both love and hate. On the positive side, I have the chance to validate someone’s understanding of their experience, I can use my crisis line training, and sometimes I’m the first person a user has told about an assault, or who’s believed them. The tradeoff is carrying around a lot of traumatic and real rape stories in my head. A much smaller burden, of course, but it adds up over time.

This afternoon was maybe the first time when someone’s question about a friend’s situation really was about a friend, and not a distancing tactic. It was heartbreaking; the scenario was (as always) a very clear-cut case of someone being raped by her partner, but the friend was hesitant to call it that and was placing blame on herself. I don’t want to go into too much detail here, as it’s not my story to tell, but it wasn’t ambiguous at all. There was a dude who made a shitty choice to rape his girlfriend, and he probably isn’t having a hard time sleeping at night while she twists herself in knots finding ways to blame herself for his decision to cause harm.

I’m so glad the person who came into chat today felt that something was off and wanted to support her friend by reminding her that she wasn’t at fault. Everyone deserves to have those people around to offer that reassurance and support. Here’s the tricky part, though: in that situation, even if every fiber of your being is screaming “he raped you, you can’t call it anything else” and “this person clearly does not care about your consent or personal safety” and maybe loudest of all “please just get AWAY from him forever,” you can’t necessarily say those things. You have to walk a delicate tightrope of letting someone know that you know their experience wasn’t their fault, that it was wrong, that you see the situation as rape or abuse, without dictating the language they use or demanding they leave their partner.

To do that can push them away, make you no longer a safe person for them to come to in the future if things escalate. To do that will take away the agency of someone whose agency has already been violated.

You can say “I believe you. You weren’t at fault.” Maybe most importantly, you can ask “how can I support you?” Perhaps some day you can provide that support by helping them leave an abusive situation or call a rape crisis line, but you can’t make that call for someone. 

I’m so tired of this, y’all. Rape crisis organizations, campus groups, all sorts of people are speaking out, often at a huge personal cost, and so few people care to listen. Recent news has made it pretty fucking clear why so many people who are raped don’t call the police, or make reports to their college campuses, or come forward in their community spaces, or even tell anyone at all. Support, and even basic belief, are thin on the ground right now. I understand why people blame themselves for being raped, considering how many other people are willing to jump in with that blame. It’s heartbreaking, it’s infuriating, it makes me feel like nothing I can do is going to help change anything on a larger scale, but I understand why it happens. I just wish I didn’t.

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Dick-biting is not a solution

Hi y’all, it’s been quiet around here because the creative section of my brain has been a bit of a wasteland lately. Sometimes I’ll try to draw on news that catches my eye when I’m running low on topics to write about, but the news the past few months has been horrible in a pretty overwhelming way, plus there’s been so much written about GooberGoat etc. that I haven’t felt like I have much to contribute beyond growling and angry handwaving, which doesn’t make for exciting reading.

But! There’s nothing like Dudes Being Terrible About Rape to get the ol’ rage gland working overtime, so here I am.

So it’s been pretty clearly established at this point that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist. I haven’t been following this too closely because the moment famous folks get accused of rape then the victim-blaming and smear campaigns start, and I have limited mental resources to deal with that, but I have no problem saying that I 100% believe he has raped many people and is a deeply shitty dude.

This morning I read that some douchebag on CNN named Don Lemon decided to ask Joan Tarshis, one of the women he assaulted, why she didn’t think to chomp down on his dick while he forced her to perform oral sex. First off, can you even believe how fucking terrifying it must be just to come forward about an assault perpetrated by a man beloved by most of America, and answer questions about it on national television? That would be a huge and stressful undertaking even with the sweetest, most supportive interviewer ever, and instead she got this asshole. Can we as a nation send her a fruit basket or something?

But beyond the basic respect and decency that should stop someone from asking an interview subject why she didn’t do something in particular to prevent her own rape, this betrays a complete lack of understanding of rape and how rapists operate.

Rapists can use physical force, sure, but often they will rely more heavily on intimidation, coercion, or their own power and reputation to keep victims from fighting back. What does Lemon think would have happened if Tarshis had bitten Cosby during that incident? That he’d say “oh golly, the pain has made me realize I’m a shithead of a rapist and I’ll let you go now, no hard feelings” and that would be the end of it? Is he that fucking clueless? People love to pull the “why didn’t you fight back” line all the time, but fighting can put someone at even greater risk, especially if they’re physically or mentally impaired or their rapist is much larger or stronger.

Plus, in sexual assault situations it’s very common for folks to freeze up in shock, or confusion, or as a defense mechanism out of hope that things will be over quickly. It’s super easy for me, or Lemon, or anyone else to say “this is how you should have handled it. Here’s what I’d do. Why didn’t you just do this?” when in fact no one can know how they’d react to that sort of situation until they’re in it. Hell, maybe in the moment you’re so surprised that by the time you are able to make a plan, it’s too late to act at all.

When someone discloses their rape to you, you don’t ask why they didn’t react the way you think they should. You say “I’m sorry that happened to you.” You say “it isn’t your fault.” You ask “how can I support you right now?”

Setting all this aside, though, this wasn’t even “just” a case of a famous person coercing someone into sex. This was an instance of a man DRUGGING HIS TARGET. I’m not sure how anyone can make a case that a woozy, disoriented person should have an active hand of fighting off or dissuading someone bent on rape. And in a case like this, there’s no ambiguity about his intentions to rape her. Why the fuck else would he drug her drink?

And folks wring their hands and wonder why people don’t report rapes more. Famous people or not, this is what happens. We worry about “ruining the life” of the guilty party and pick apart the survivor’s story, looking for mistakes.

PS: Lemon made this sorry-ass statement today:

As I am a victim myself I would never want to suggest that any victim could have prevented a rape. If my question to her struck anyone as insensitive, I am sorry as that is certainly, was not, my intention.

It’s the classic “if I did this [not saying I did], I didn’t mean to hurt anyone by it [because I have no duty to consider the impact of my word choice haha]” non-pology! A textbook example showing no understanding of the situation or intent to do better. Well done.

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The Full-Length Mirror

If any of y’all are not in a good mental place to read about body issues, eating disorders, etc. right now, go ahead and skip this one. I say this because I generally can’t handle reading any sort of diet/weight loss/body negative talk because it sets off my own issues something fierce, so this is an out for anyone else who has the same reaction. ❤

A while back, maybe sometime last summer, I was in Dolores Park on a sunny day, and a guy sitting a little in front of me caught my eye. He turned to talk to his friend and as he I saw his face, my first thought was “he’s really attractive,” which is pretty normal for me as I am perpetually admiring attractive folks in a non-creepy sort of way. I think I even pointed him out to my partner as I often will when I see cute folks around me. But my second (and unspoken) thought when I looked at him was “oh, he looks a lot like me.” Our body shapes looked similar, and if I were blonde and my beard were a little fuller, I would have been a near body-double for that dude.

It took a moment for that to sink in. I can idly look at someone like me and think “hey, he’s cute” but I still can’t always handle looking at myself in a full-length mirror. I am the master of the classic “fat bodies are great, my body is gross” bit of doublethink that I know a lot of people struggle with.

[As an Aside on Fatness, this is something I’m still wrestling with a bit – I’ve been kinda dipping my toe into the fat-positive/body-positive scene for several years but never really sure if it was a place for me, both for gender and size reasons. But hey, I’ve randomly gained more weight recently (one reason for a lot of my body panic is that I can’t always connect weight fluctuations to changes I’m making so it feels very out of my control) and I think I might be able to say “hey I’m fat” at this point. There’s no official dividing line of Fatness vs. Non-Fatness that I know of. But maybe I’m on the other side of it? I’m still not entirely sure where I belong.]

Last fall, I finally took the step of talking to someone about what I’ve just been calling my “fucked up food issues” and what she called restrictive eating that qualified as an eating disorder. It was really intense and tough to talk about my feelings and behaviors around food in the level of detail I knew I needed to in order to make progress – I’ve hinted at and talked about some of this to a few people at various times, but I don’t ever tell the whole story, and I had to make myself do that.

And that shit’s tough, for real. I don’t want anyone to know that I don’t always feel like I deserve to eat even when I’m hungry, that sometimes I’m furious at myself for even being hungry when I just ate a while ago, that sometimes I have such a hard time knowing what’s ok to eat that I don’t really eat enough during the day. That while I’m thankful I didn’t manage to be anorexic when I was ten (and that “pro-ana” and other ED encouragement communities didn’t exist then, because if they had I might have managed to do it), I can’t read narratives about eating disorders without a sneaky voice in me saying “maybe you could make it work this time.” Because I know it’s bullshit, all of it, and that I shouldn’t think any of it, and if I don’t tell anyone about those maybe I can pretend I’m not so terrible to myself.

Having someone say “this is an eating disorder” was a huge help in itself. Being able to put a name on my problem, and acknowledge that it really was a problem-problem and not just some frustrating habit, was scary for sure but it was also comforting. It meant I needed to take it seriously, that I deserved to find ways to be better to myself.

One thing Michelle suggested was an exercise of just spending time looking at myself in a mirror, clothed or not, to get used to what my body looks like. The idea is to be able to get in a neutral state, where I can just say “ok this is what I’m seeing” in an objective way. And to be honest, I never felt brave enough to do this. I did buy a cheap mirror, the kind you hang in a dorm room, but all I used it for was checking my posture when doing yoga and PT stretches. No contemplation or neutral observation. I have developed a skill for looking in a mirror without always seeing the real shape of my clothes or my body, which also means I sometimes don’t know if clothes fit at all and need outside opinions. It’s often just too intense to really look at my body so closely.

But I have picked up another habit; starting early this year, I took inspiration from some of my friends and started taking and sharing more pictures of myself. I love seeing my friends’ selfies because of their wonderful faces, and it’s nice to see them living their lives or modeling new sweaters or what have you, so it seemed like a good idea to try it for myself. I specifically started this habit with the idea of getting better at seeing myself and sharing pictures with friends even if I don’t always like what I see.

And it’s been nice! I do like my face and generally that’s most of what’s visible. I enjoy being able to show off my favorite adornments, big interesting earrings and nail polish. It’s pretty easy to look good when I’m posting headshots. And sure, it’s great to have friends make sweet comments on my pictures! I like to do that for other people and I certainly enjoy it myself. If that’s vanity then ok, I’m fine with being vain.

like most humans, I possess a body

But the big obstacle has been pulling back a little to let more of myself into the photo. I’ve posted one or two with part of my torso, and there was one full-body picture I took when I wanted to show off the amazing minty-green shorts that can also be seen here, but I specifically felt safe doing it because I was wearing a loose shirt and the lighting around my torso wasn’t great. I keep wanting to be braver, and sometimes I’ll even wrangle the mirror so I can take full-body pictures, but I  get this sick feeling, a pit of dread in my stomach, when I think about sharing them, like my body is a secret I can’t tell anyone. It seems ridiculous to me – I don’t expect anyone to be a jerk! And of course I know, in the part of me I’ve managed to drain the poison out of, that my body is fine.

But that feeling is there now, I promise, no matter how unreasonable it is. I’m sure I’ll hit publish and instantly think “noooo, this is too much, it’s too personal and weird to talk about this, plus why did you put a picture of your potato-self in there???” and I’ll have to deal with that.

This post feels a little disjointed to me, and maybe way too personal, because this isn’t something I’m used to talking about in much detail, and I have no idea how much of myself is too much to share, here. I still feel like maybe I shouldn’t say I have an eating disorder and talk about the recovery process because my experience isn’t “real” enough. But I’ve spent months knowing that I want to say these things, and months putting it off because it feels embarrassing and too raw and kind of like those dreams where you realize halfway through your day that you’ve been walking around with no pants on. After a good while of doing a lot better in terms of dealing with my body and feeling like I’m allowed to eat food, I’ve had a rough couple of weeks, and being a little more publicly open about what’s going on seems like a good idea.

I want to be able to let people see me – all of me – without feeling sick beforehand. I want to admire folks that look like me and be able to say “he’s pretty hot JUST LIKE ME, YEP” instead of doing mental gymnastics to explain why my body is wrong and gross despite being just like someone else’s 100% awesome body. I want to eat a fucking snack when I’m hungry and not worry that I don’t deserve it.

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More pronoun troubles

I mentioned earlier that my mom doesn’t have a great track record of using the right pronouns for me, even nine years (almost to the day) after I started asking others to make that change. Before her brief visit in the spring, I was worried I’d have to deal with that again, but happily she didn’t slip up at all when she was here.


I just came back from a roughly week-long family vacation with my partner, my parents, and my brother and sister-in-law. It was a lot of fun, as we all get along well, but a few days in I realized my mom had slipped up on my pronouns several times. It really hit me on a hike Thursday afternoon and I slipped behind a bit while I cried a little and felt like a useless lump and a Bad Trans Person.

Because here’s the thing: I just can’t bring myself to talk to her about it. I know I should. I have always had a hard time confronting people in the moment, but now that I’m home I should be writing her an email to say “hey, after all these years this really hurts, can we talk about it?” And I haven’t done it yet, plus I’m pretty sure I’m just not going to. It makes me feel like a coward, probably because it’s fucking cowardly to avoid the issue for so long.

My mom’s a private person, and I know she doesn’t talk about personal things to others very often. A couple of years ago, she told me that my old band director from high school (who she sees fairly often and subs for, as she’s a music teacher) still doesn’t know me by anything other than my old name and pronouns as she feels like it would be awkward or weird to bring it up. So he asks how [birth name] is, and my mom apparently says “she’s doing fine.”

It makes me wonder how many other people in her life she’s avoided the issue with. What does she even call me when she’s talking to my dad?

I came out to my parents in an awkward and painful way – I was at a family reunion in July 2005 and my dad cornered me alone and badgered me until I came out to him. I literally said “I have stuff to talk to you and Mom about, but I’m not ready, and I don’t want to do it like this” while crying but he pushed and pushed until I broke down and tried to explain things to him. But of course, since I was off-guard and upset, my explanation was probably pretty jumbled. I tried to talk about being genderqueer, not being particularly male-identified but wanting the changes that come with testosterone, etc. and I think that was confusing for him.

He insisted that he tell all this to my mom the next day as they drove home, instead of waiting for me to call her after the trip or talk with her before they left, and while I wasn’t ok with that situation I had no fight left in me. I really don’t know what he said to her about me, and I’m still upset when I think about how that all happened. I am unsure exactly how he presented my gender identity to her.

It became easier, as time went on, to just be a guy for them. I tried this in general, the first few years after I started medical transition, just because physical changes came slowly and I felt like I had to change my clothing and mannerisms a bit to coax the general public into seeing me at all how I hoped they would. I’ve not tried to talk to them about genderqueerness, or the thin like I walk between “trans guy” and “ugh, I am really not male-identified at all,” and for the most part that’s ok, I think? My gender confuses me a lot of the time, and I’m comfortable giving them a more simplified version.

But as I’ve become a little freer in my gender presentation lately, I worry if it’s having an impact on how they’re seeing me, and on my mom’s language problems. As important as nail polish is to me, I agonized over painting my nails for the trip this past week. I think I’d had toenail polish on once before when they were around, but not, to my recollection, fingernail polish. I eventually decided it was silly to worry so much and went for it, but when my mom kept saying “she” did this and that about me… I became a lot more self-conscious about it. I’m going to see them again this weekend for a quick trip and I’m pretty sure I’ll keep my nails naked while I’m there, this time.

Mom and I have a pretty good relationship, as far as I can tell; while we don’t talk a lot about gender stuff we are able to have pretty personal conversations, especially as her mom’s health is getting worse and she’s trying to deal with that. When I moved across the country she talked a lot to me about her own loneliness and struggles to find friends when we all moved to Tennessee when I was in elementary school. We go antiquing and hiking together and have a good time.

I thin I’m afraid she’s secretly really not at all ok with who I am now, and that if I tried to bring it up I’d learn that for sure. It’s hard to feel like she accepts me when this keeps happening, even though in all other ways she seems to be supportive. But it’s been nine years. I had a friend who I mostly cut out of my life when he kept fucking up my pronouns a year or two after I came out. I don’t think I’d tolerate this from anyone else, after so long.

Somehow it seems easier to keep quiet, though, and I’m upset with myself that this is the case right now.

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Bailing on Pride

It’s SF Pride this weekend! And while I really wish I were excited about it, the feeling’s just not there.

I haven’t attended a ton of Pride-related events in years past, to be fair. It isn’t like I’m turning my back on a grand tradition of partying it up at the official celebrations and afterparties. But it’s the idea of it that I miss, that I wish I’d experienced and could look forward to. There’s some feeling of belonging or acceptance that I assume happens at these events, that a lot of folks enjoy and look forward to, that just doesn’t occur for me. There seems to be a similar pattern to my experiences in Big Queer Spaces.

My first Pride event was a dyke march on my college campus I was invited to by some classmates. I think they were trying to be friendly as they believed I was a newly-out lesbian. My first tiny steps towards changing my appearance and presentation, as I was starting to sort out my gender-feelings, read as “baby butch” to a large number of folks I met during that time, apparently. (This led to a lot of personal confusion as I figured that since I appreciated butch aesthetics that maybe I was or should be butch too? Which… is not at all the case.) I felt un-confident and awkward enough as a newbie-queer that I didn’t know how to correct people if it didn’t directly come up, so in many cases that assumption went unchallenged.

It turned out that I didn’t know anyone at the event other than those classmates, who I wasn’t particularly close to, and felt a little lost until a sweet gay couple chatted with me a bit before and during the march itself. But the entire time, I kept thinking “why am I here?” I was just starting to figure out how my queerness worked, my gender was still a big ball of mystery I hadn’t quite unraveled, and despite the fact that one of the march’s chants was about genderqueerness, I didn’t quite feel like I was supposed to be there.

I know that feeling awkward and not having friends in a space contributes to this! Of course it does! But as a less-awkward person these days, with some local friends to go to events with, I can still get that feeling.

I’ve come to realize that even the SF Trans March, which I think is a great event and am very excited about in principle, just isn’t for me. I have enough friends who attend that the three years I’ve gone I’ve been able to be social, and that’s an improvement over that lonely dyke march, but somehow I still feel like I’m hovering at the edge of this huge community I don’t know how to be a part of. I don’t how to feel like a member of any larger community when I’m not engaging in community events, but last year at the march I was painfully aware, almost the entire time, that I just didn’t feel very comfortable there. It felt like it should be my space, because yeah – it should! But I just felt awkward and out of place. So while some part of my brain says “you have to show up to feel like a part of anything,” maybe I’m just looking in the wrong place.

My one experience with the official Pride celebration was last year, when I thought I’d peek in to get a feel for it. This was on Sunday afternoon, when the party had been going on for a day and a half already, and what I saw when I got to Pride was trash overflowing from bins and covering the ground, cheap rainbow crap being sold in every other booth, and huge signs for that year’s beer and vodka sponsors. Maybe I was in the wrong spot, but it felt like a big street fair with poor sanitation planning, not anything explicitly queer.

I want some sort of local queer or trans community, I really do. But I’m having a hard time with that, despite the fact that I live in fucking San Francisco, where one might assume it wouldn’t be that difficult. I have queer friends here, for sure! But (and this is true of most of my buddies in the area, straighties included) those friends aren’t really in one social circle that forms its own community. It’s a bit spread out, so somehow I can have trans and queer friends here but still feel lonely and isolated a lot of the time.

I don’t feel like enough of a man, and certainly not enough of a San Francisco Brand Gay Man (TM), to be in gay spaces. I barely feel like enough of one to be in spaces for trans men, and spaces I have ventured into haven’t really been a great fit for me. As my gender identity has been more squishy and uncertain lately, I’m not sure that any sort of male spaces are really where I want to be, but there’s no way I’d feel comfortable in or presume to enter women-only spaces, either, so it leaves me feeling a little lonely. If there’s a Weird, Jellyfishy Gender Club in the city somewhere, I am not aware of it.

Pride may not be for me, but I don’t want to be dismissive of it at all! I know it’s important for lots of folks, and I don’t want to minimize the impact at all. It’s just hard, when everything’s rainbow-y over here (more so than usual, even) and friends in other cities are doing Pride events that make me think “I wish I could go there instead,” to not feel extra incompetent at community-building.


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WisCon panel roundup

As much as I enjoyed Wiscon last year, this time it was even better. I think coming in with a little bit of experience helped me set my expectations better, plus I knew more folks at the con this year. I managed to finish a shawl I’d been knitting, self-identify as “femme-curious” out loud for the first time, make some new friends, and speak on two panels without making a fool of myself.

First up was the Teaching Consent in Sex Ed panel, the one I was really looking forward to. I did spend some time Friday and Saturday morning nervously blurting out “I hope I don’t mess up on this panel coming up!” to just about every friend I talked to, but when the time came I felt pretty chill. Our moderator ducked out at the last minute, but someone else on the panel had moderated before and got us started. I was the only current sex educator on the panel; the others were parents, one of whom had done sex ed in the 80s but felt like he was saying things to his kids he didn’t approve of once he really thought about it.

The audience wasn’t huge but neither was the room, so it worked out. There were enough people that we had several good questions to address, but mostly the format was folks on the panel bringing up points they found important (I was able to go down most of my list of things I wanted to discuss) and then having other panelists & audience members branch off from there, and about halfway through we were open to questions as well.

It’s a little hard to have a discussion specifically about consent in sex ed without touching on more general issues – one of my points is that you can’t have consent without informed consent and so young people need to know the facts about what sex is, safer sex and birth control, etc. in order to make good choices around consent in relationships. I had some ideas on how to start teaching consent and bodily autonomy to younger children, but this is where the other panelists and audience were great; it’s not my area of expertise and I was glad to hear the thoughts of folks who work with or are parenting children.

So, yes! It felt like a success! I didn’t talk too much or act nervous, I learned some things and I hope the audience did too, and I left the panel feeling good about my part in it. I was also a little relieved that I am not personally responsible for a small child! Parent comments and questions were great in that panel and while I did have some ideas, I also realize that lack of experience with the under-13 set probably limits my helpfulness there.

When when I went back to my hotel room to relax a bit before dinner, though, I found out about the Isla Vista shootings, which put a huge damper on pretty much everything. I think if I’d seen that news before the panel, or if the panel had been on Sunday afternoon instead of Saturday, I would have focused a lot more on teaching young men that women do not exist to provide sex and that the entire MRA worldview is 100% poisonous garbage. Clearly I think those are important things to cover anyway, but holy fuck do we need to focus on that a bit extra right now.

The other panel I was on was a bit of a surprise; I volunteered to be on it just a few days before the con. It was a “queer alphabet” panel discussing the various umbrella terms and acronyms (LGBT+, QUILTBAG, GSM, queer, etc.), and the mod mentioned on tumblr that she really would like a trans person on the panel so I figured I may as well help out. At first I thought “eh, do I have a lot of opinions on this?” but it turned out I really do.

This panel experience turned out to be a helpful exercise in “being diplomatic when feeling frustrated or particularly strongly about something” as there were moments I needed that skill for sure! One person on the panel hit my Annoyance Button to the point that at one point I couldn’t tell if I really was irritated at everything he said or if I had just been irritated enough times that I was determined to continue. He wasn’t Actively Terrible, at least! Just rubbed me the wrong way on several statements. I got some sympathetic eye contact from an audience member the one time I had to gently facepalm while he was talking; I believe that was when he attributed low levels of bisexual/trans representation to the relatively lower number of such individuals when compared to gays and lesbians. Everyone else up there with me was pretty rad, though, and I think we all had useful points to make.

One of the questions we discussed was “does the A in LGBTQIA stand for ‘ally’ or ‘asexual’?” I had no idea that including “ally” in any queer acronym was even an option. I very firmly believe that part of being an ally isn’t taking up a lot of space in the group you’re trying to support and that when talking about things like employment rights, anti-discrimination laws, and media representation, “ally” doesn’t make sense in that acronym space. It was a bit of a bummer that apparently the audience had enough to say about this issue that we spent (what I thought was) waaaay too much time on the Trials of Straight Allies for a queer panel, though. Especially when some ace folks in the audience specifically said how much they appreciated that asexuality was included in the alphabet soup more often. I didn’t quite have the guts to say “the fact that we’re centering the discussion on ally experiences during a panel about queer folks kind of proves my point why I don’t think they belong in the acronym” but I thought it very loudly.

I realize I’ve mentioned frustrations, but I did enjoy the panel quite a bit! Even comments I didn’t agree with were still interesting and fun to engage with, for the most part, and it was a fun challenge to prepare for a panel on short notice. Plus I figure it’s good experience as I’d love to be on more panels at future cons.

They were two very different panels, for sure, but both were positive experiences and I’m glad I got over my initial nervousness. I’m already looking forward to next year.

(Bonus fun fact: before the sex ed panel, I had a dream in which Scott Thompson from the Kids in the Hall took it over and used that time to show art films of trees. I stood up to him and had to convince my fellow panelists to join forces and convince him to let us run the panel as scheduled, but by the time we kicked him out we only had a half-hour left before it was over.)

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