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Bi Community

Author:
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By Fee Grabow

It took me a really long time to come into my bisexuality. This will sound strange to anyone who knows me because I love being bisexual. But I didn’t always.

And it wasn’t even the usual qualms about the word, how it evokes an extremely sexualized image and stereotypes about greedy, privileged traitors, but also the fact that I didn’t want to be attracted to more than one gender. It was confusing, scary and felt… deviant. It felt dirty to want so much. I felt wrong to want in the way that I did. I didn’t care so much about being called bisexual, I just didn’t want to be bisexual. Even though I have always very casually and freely expressed my desire for people of all genders, there were times and moments when I hated it. I hated my desire.
When I asked myself what I actually wanted, I always came away with an intense yearning for community. And there was no community for someone like me. There were no bisexual parties or book clubs, no bi positive banners at my small town Pride, no use of the word when I was around other queer people. The way I felt about people meant that I was isolated from a community I needed. So when I first entered queer spaces I told someone I was a lesbian, though I didn’t like that word on my tongue; I quickly exchanged it for queer, hoping no one would ask me about boys.

I don’t remember when I started to call myself bisexual. But I remember realizing fairly quickly that it meant more than I thought it would. People do think I am dirty and greedy and unimaginable. They think I’m the weakest link. They think I don’t belong, that I have it easy, I’m a joke, a problem. They reduce me to how I relate to men. They reduce me to who I sleep with. (In their imagination. Despite what I say and do. As if all bisexuals desire men. As if all bisexuals have binary genders.) They throw queer baseline understandings of sexuality and gender out of the window in the name of protecting this community. When I started learning about queerness, I was ecstatic to find out that we believed gender to be a constructed, fluid, expansive, deeply personal thing that may or may not say something about our desires, bodies or lives. And that we embrace how intricate and complicated desires, bodies and lives are. I was probably even more ecstatic to hear that sexuality, while a root cause of the oppression we experience, was also something to be proud of and excited about. Apparently, that doesn’t seem to apply to bisexual people. But it has changed nothing. I’m still bisexual.

Some days, I hate it. It makes me feel unsafe in the larger queer community. I can’t just assume that people are okay with me. It’s complicated; my mother still doesn’t understand and I had to do this bi thing where you come out 7 times because your parents latch onto the possibility of heterosexuality. It’s painful and I work through it by being loud and obnoxious and so damn bisexual.

And I did find community. Mainly on tumblr but also elsewhere. After I moved to Berlin, I even found community in real life.  I came across small things, like bi-characters, a blog dedicated to bisexual (head)canons. I found The Bi Women Support Network, a survivor-led resource to support bi, pan, and queer women, the organisation Bisexual Woman of Colour and the Bisexual Organizing Project. I learned about BiCon and EuroBiCon. I followed Black non-binary bisexual hero Jacq Applebee on twitter. I started listening to The BiCast, a bisexual podcast. I read Shiri Eisners book “Bi: Notes for a Bisexual revolution”. (Read it. Now.) I realised that there is stuff out there that I can look for, as well as accidentally find when I start somewhere.
And that is what I want everyone else who is struggling with the fact that they like more than one gender to know: you can have community. It’s out there. It’s not as readily available, it’s not as well funded, it’s mostly online, sometimes inaccessible, but it’s there. (How to create bisexual activist spaces off and online might be something to write about later!) And whether you chose the word bisexual or any other one under that umbrella (pan, poly, queer), whether you are attracted to (cis) men or not, whether you are asexual but bi+ romantic, you are really very welcome. Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t care about trans people, that we don’t care about ace people, we don’t know what non-binary means (hi, hello, I’m a bisexual non-binary trans person), we prioritise cis men (we don’t; bisexual women, cis and trans, are the leaders of our community), we don’t have a history (we do), we haven’t done anything for this community (we have), we have no actual problems that warrant a bisexual movement (oh, damn, do we) – all of that is bullshit.
We battle the same issues other queer communities face. We deal with transphobia, classism and racism. I refuse to let that be used to discredit us, because those are widespread issues in all queer movements. But we do have a history and a present of facing those issues with dedication and love. Thanks to tumblr and twitter, to young queers, and some fucking resilience.

You have a community. You have a community. You have a community.

You don’t have to dedicate your life to the bisexual revolution; we are here regardless. You don’t have to love anything about yourself. You don’t have to tell anyone. We are here and we are trying really hard to make things as okay as possible for you. It’s all very confusing, loving people and not loving people and figuring out who those people are and what that means about you, but please know that there is a place for your wholeness, for your desire and pain and love. You don’t have to give up anything about yourself. You have so much time and space to fully understand your desire or just leave it be. You are so amazing.

In defence of fanfiction

Author:
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I have been reading and writing fanfiction since I was 13 years old – I am almost 20 – and I am unashamed of that fact. I believe in the power of this medium. Middle-aged white men may not see the value inherent in fanfic, and the rest of the world may ridicule fangirls and our “creepy/obsessive/weird” hobby, but I know that doesn’t mean anything. After all, aren’t some of the best things about the modern world widely misunderstood and undervalued? Aren’t selfies seen as proof of the ‘fact’ that young women are shallow, vapid creatures? Isn’t YouTube culture deemed as evidence that entertainment is in decay? And yet, think of the brilliance and importance of these things, of how selfies can promote self-love, and of how YouTube allows anyone (with access to a computer – still a massive privilege, of course) to be a creator? Fanfiction has similar value. Trust me, it’s played a significant part in shaping my life and who I am.

As a young teenager, I felt incredibly isolated. I had friends at school, but for several years I was unable to be honest with them – about my emotions, my sexuality, about anything substantial. Thankfully, there was the internet. More specifically, there was the One Direction fandom. It was whilst the band were on The X-Factor UK in 2010 that I found a community for myself, and I am immensely grateful for that. I remember very clearly the evening I went on Twitter, as usual, and one of my mutual followers posted about wanting to write a fic featuring female characters based on herself and a bunch of her fandom friends. I ended up being one of them – the fic concept being of us, as a girl band rivalling One Direction on the X-Factor (but being super close friends with them all, of course!). Each of us in that group ended up writing our own fics, and we all included each other in them. I remember feeling like I belonged, like I finally had a place. That circle of friends – and the stories we created together – was integral to my survival at that point. I was more than a bit miserable at school, but I knew that at the end of every day, my computer was waiting for me. I had something to escape into – the latest chapters of my friends’ fics, and the chatter that followed reading. And I had a purpose – I had my own fic to write, and people who wanted to read it, people who wanted to know my thoughts. Although it was fiction, my group all inserted real life issues into our stories – I remember vividly how one of my friends wrote my character’s body image issues, and finding so much comfort in reading it. The comfort that ‘I’ was given in this fictional world translated into real life. I eventually lost touch with those girls, but I never lost what they gave me. I will always value their friendship, and I will always value the way that fanfiction brought us together.

Fanfiction has not only helped to connect me to others, it’s helped me to connect to myself, too. I have never been comfortable in my sexuality, never really sure of ‘where I fit’ in regards to labels. Bisexual is the word I used to define myself for many years, but it was never quite right, and that always inhibited me considerably. This discomfort only intensified as I began to surround myself with queer friends, people who were out and proud and sure of their sexuality – as I became more and more immersed in queer culture, the more of a fraud I felt. Fanfiction was the thing that began to change that, because it was through fanfiction that I first came across the labels that I felt a true connection to. It was in fanfiction that I came across the concept of asexuality, and suddenly there was a possibility in the back of my mind that I wasn’t ‘failing’, that my general disinterest in sex did not necessarily mean that I was inherently lacking. However, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I ‘fit’ asexuality, because I did not 100% ‘meet the criteria’. For a few months, I was more confused than ever before, and it was immensely distressing. I began to strongly believe that I was defective – sexuality being one of many things that I felt I did not have ‘a fixed place’ in, one of the many things that left me in a grey area. And then came the fic that changed my life. I’m not even exaggerating. This was a high school AU, and in this fic, the two main characters – Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson – defined as grey-ace and demisexual, respectively. I had heard of the latter, but not fully understood what it meant, and – having a friend who defined this way – I wanted to. The former, on the other hand, was a term I had never come across before – intrigued, I looked it up. The results of my Google search were like a slap in the face. Except, pleasant. It was the first time I had sighed with relief at a simple word, the first time that I did not feel like I had to reach for a label and clutch desperately at it. It was the first time I’d latched onto something – not only in regards to my sexuality – that felt natural, easy. It was the first time I realised something important, that I am not defective, and what I feel (and don’t feel) is completely valid. It continues to amaze me that something so monumental in my life was a result of reading fanfiction, and serves as a reminder that doing what you love can have some huge results, beyond anything you could possibly imagine.

Fanfiction has been many things for me over the years – a place of community, of creativity, and of self-discovery. But perhaps the simplest and most important thing that fanfiction has done for me is given me a place to call home. Of course, that’s fandom in general – in the worst of times, One Direction have always been my retreat, my safe place – but fanfiction is perhaps a particularly special extension of that. As a life-long book nerd/story obsessive, it is the part of fanfiction that matters to me most because it encompasses all of myself, and it provides me with an escape of multiple dimensions. I will never understand why the rest of the world can’t see the beauty in that, but I’m not too bothered about that anymore. I know that I am never on my own in what I believe in and care about, and the proof is in this fandom.

GirlCon – come along!

Author:
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By Anna Hill

What is Girlcon?

Inspired by the book Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, where a bunch of teen beauty queens crash land on a desert island, Girlcon is a two day convention aiming to celebrate teenage girls, young women and non binary folk and create solidarity and community.

The conception of the convention stems from a specific and incredibly relatable conversation held in the book:
“You know, instead of some old, backassward pageant competition, we should have a con. A Girl Con! How awesome would that be?” Adina said.
“What would we do at Girl Con?” Jennifer said, giving the words a cheesy announcer’s voice.
“We could have some wicked cool workshops — writing, films, science, music, consciousness-raising…”
— Beauty Queens, p. 152

They go on to talk about having “a seminar on DIY zine production”, and talks about comic books! Excited by the prospect of a space where girls need not apologise for being themselves, a discussion of what Girlcon could consist of happened on youtube in 2013. After these discussions the first girlcon took place in 2015 and was a great success!

Girlcon is back for a second year with even more content and discussions lined up; from a discussion about rage to talks on queer animation stories and black feminist thought as well as an Asexual and Aromantic meet up and a panel on Beyonce’s new album Lemonade.

Why create Girlcon?

The reason that the organisers of girlcon are so committed to its existence are various; it needs to exist to say that girls and non-binary people should be able to take up all the space they need. It needs to exist to fight against the the toxicity of patriarchal competition; other girls are your friends, your support, your loves, not your enemies. It needs to exist so we can learn from each other and listen to each other.

When and where is Girlcon?

30th – 31st of July, Woodhouse College, London, N12 9EY!!

Here is the facebook event page and here are the free tickets (we just need to keep track of numbers!). For more information about the schedule and anything else follow us on twitter and tumblr and like our facebook page!

How “Love Actually” Taught Me To Check My Privilege

Author:

By Christiana Paradis

In light of the recent outbreak of racial tensions in the United States—I say outbreak with a grain of salt because I firmly believe these tensions have always existed in the history of the US, but have just been pushed aside the last several years—I questioned how best to support the African American community in the United States. As a white American it outrages me that, “While African Americans comprise 13% of the US population and 14% of monthly drug users they are 37% of the people arrested for drug offenses” – according to 2009 Congressional testimony by Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project, and that, The U.S. Sentencing Commission reported in March 2010 that “in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10% longer than white offenders for the same crimes,” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-quigley/fourteen-examples-of-raci_b_658947.html) or that, “Black women are almost three times as likely to experience death as a result of DV/IPV than White women. And while Black women only make up 8% of the population, 22% of homicides that result from DV/IPV happen to Black Women and 29% of all victimized women, making it one of the leading causes of death for Black women ages 15 to 35” (http://time.com/3313343/ray-rice-black-women-domestic-violence/). Yet I know that these facts can only anger and outrage me a quarter of the amount that they enrage people in the African American community, because despite being able to spit these statistics, I do not live this experience. I do not know what it means to be an African American woman living in the United States and I’m not going to pretend to, but I do believe that I need to do whatever I can to support them and anyone else that is living in a community that is not experiencing equal treatment in the US.

Growing up in a town that is 91.7% made up of Caucasian citizens (US Census Bureau, 2010), I was never Untitledsurrounded by a shortage of white people and though I was always taught to respect people of different cultures than my own. The opportunity to experience some of these cultures was minimum and the opportunities to check my privilege were even less. Therefore, it came as a huge surprise that one of the first situations I encountered that shattered my white lenses came while watching a Christmas movie, Love Actually, in 2004.

One of the main plotlines in the movie is that Daniel, played by Liam Neeson, has a stepson, Sam, who falls in love with a classmate, Joanna, and in an attempt to win her heart learns to play the drums for their school Christmas Show. The entire movie with intertwining plot lines leaves in you in suspense of meeting Joanna until the very end of the movie. Throughout the movie you must make conjectures about who Joanna is, what she looks like, and of course whether she actually likes Sam. In one of the last few scenes in the movie we are introduced to Joanna while she performs “All I Want for Christmas” at the Christmas Show, while Sam plays drums.

I remember watching the movie in anticipation for the first time to see Joanna and remembered being floored when Joanna was a different race than Sam. Though I didn’t have a problem with it, she was just different than I expected. Then I remember thinking, why is she different than I was expecting? Because she wasn’t white? Why did I think that? That is not okay! I’ve had a few moments like this throughout my life, where I’ve had an immediate judgment, had to backtrack and then question where that thought came from or what was encouraging this stereotype/bias/judgment. In the years since I’ve realized we all make judgments about others, it is what we do with those judgments that determines who we are as a person. Do we make these judgments, let them fester and then act upon them or do we question where they came from and challenge them? Our actions in these moments determine whether we check our privileges or enhance them.

Untitled1Being an aspiring ally to any community that is different than you takes work. It is an ongoing process. You can’t just take a webinar and – poof! – consider yourself an ally to that community. You must be constantly working to improve the lives of others around you. You must make advocacy a daily routine. You must challenge micro aggressions that you hear. It is a process and quite frankly sometimes an exhausting one, but one that needs to be done. Recognizing your privilege is important, using your privilege for good and to help the lives of others is even better. This video is a stunning example of the ways in which we can use our privilege to enhance the lives of others and act as an aspiring ally

I encourage everyone in a place of privilege to question it and the judgments we make every day. Use it to improve the lives of others and above all speak up! Please don’t just sit by while millions of people fight for their rights. #BlackLivesMatter #Everywhere.

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Queer Kids

Author:

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I’ve been having a hard time recently – a mix of deadlines and stress, and bad anniversaries all happening in the past few weeks. I tell you this because something that has helped me get through things is the wonderful and inspiring friendships that I have made.

This time last year, when I was dealing with similar if not almost exactly the same things – exams and pressure, and grief and mourning – I was so alone. I was so tied up in myself and in my issues and I also just hadn’t found “my” people yet. Thinking back to last year is really difficult because I had such a difficult time with everything and I tried to pretend I was fine and I piled on yet more pressure. I couldn’t sleep and was having panic attacks regularly and my counselling was not helping. I was stuck on an idea of myself which I could not reach and thus punished myself for it. I punished and punished and punished. It was a cycle of do more, feel bad for not being able to do it, so more anxiety, more stress and repeat. Something really clicked when someone said to me “sleep deprivation is a form of torture.” I tortured myself. I did, and the bruised bags under my eyes have never been so deep. I hurt so badly but I didn’t let up. I kept pushing and pushing and hurting and hurting and rock bottom doesn’t even begin to cover it.

I’ve never been very good at finding people who love and accept me. When I was younger I felt very alienated from my classmates and I don’t think I ever really found a group of people that saw me. (Excluding two wonderful old friends) I think that’s why it’s been so different now – now I know what it’s like to have full open people love me, I realised what I was missing.

Luckily for me, my family helped to support me and various other things happened that helped me get back onto my feet a little last year. But it’s a process, it’s constant recovery, constant motion in one direction or another. I don’t want to slimpify the process, but the friendships that I formed in August and September of this year have been utterly beautiful and they have made me feel seriously loved and understood. Without my new friends I would not be as happy as I am now, and I would not be able to get through these awful things.

One of the things this process is teaching me is that with understanding of yourself comes self-love and with self-love comes a better comprehension of others which makes it so much easier to love them. I am (constantly) working on being kind to myself and this makes it easier to be nice to others. My friendships can be deeper and fuller and more profound because I am more aware of how imperfect we all are, and how crucially, that. Is. okay.

Loving yourself opens you up to love, in both directions.

If you’re looking for friends who help you lift yourself out of the dirt, then I suggest that you:

  • Be honest with yourself and with your friends, even if it makes you scared and vulnerable. Friends that you make when you are vulnerable are strong because you are deep in your wounds with them and that means they are present with you.
  • Find out what you are passionate about and go for it!! Apply for stuff, I found many ace friends through applying to be a Powered By Girl Blogger, but we are also in similar facebook groups for No More Page Three and the like. So do things! The internet is vastly helpful for this, so I would definitely recommend it.
  • Work on feeling your feelings and moving through them in a way that allows you to feel bad/good/sad/etc whenever you like. It’s so much easier to talk to people if you yourself know where you are.
  • Get some therapy, if you can. This is particularly helpful if, like me and the majority of my new friends, you are in Recovery from some thing. Although I understand it’s a privilege to have time and money for therapy and in some cases it can just be terrible because of bigoted and prejudiced therapists, it is also very useful. However, if someone tells you that Queerness is not okay, or that your gender is the one you were assigned and not the one you chose, then leave and don’t go back.
  • Practice self-care – if you are going out and doing things to find people then that’s great! Just make sure to keep some time for yourself, so that you can always keep in touch with what you want, how you feel and enjoy time by yourself. As much as I want to live in a Queer Feminist Commune with all my Queer Kids, we will all need time alone, to recharge. Have fun, masturbate, or read a book, light candles and have a bath, dance to Beyoncé (<3), bake cookies, watch a film, go on adventures, do art, the possibilities are endless.
  • If you are Queer (like many of us at PBG are), or non conforming in anyway, then I would recommend seeking out people who are like you – who have the same sexuality as your or the same world view or the same difficulty with gender (for example if you are Non-Binary). The fact that the majority of my new friends are Queer has helped me accept who I am and also means I feel like I have people to turn to and who immediately accept/understand me rather than constantly having to explain myself.

I hope these suggestions help you all find the beautiful, interesting, exciting and creative people that will love to have you as a friends!

I shall leave you with some lovely, if banal anecdotes:

  • One time when Becky and I met up we wrote our speeches together and then she proceeded to try to take a photo of a squirrel and put her palm flat out as a way of asking to stop a jogger from keeping jogging (it didn’t work).
  • Cora and I went to see First Aid Kit in concert and before hand we covered ourselves in glitter (I had golden eyebrows!!) and talked about how to commemorate bad anniversaries.
  • Becky, Cora, Sophia and I had a sleepover that included an amazing blue ombre cake and Feminist Cards Against Humanity.
  • I went with Becky, Cora, Sophia and Yas to the Houses of Parliament dressed in a tie dyed tablecloth (I tie dyed it myself) because I had slept over. We all agreed I looked fab.
  • Sometimes when I think of them all my heart gets too big and I feel like im in a swimming pool of love and it’s the cheesiest thing but it is the best thing ever too and I want to stay in that pool forever until I wrinkle up like an old prune and they have to drag me out (even then I’d want to go back in).
  • The first time Becky, Sophia, Cora and I met in person, we all started talking about our therapy. We were open with each other about ourselves and that has meant that our friendship is some of the purest I have ever experienced.
  • We went to the Southbank Centre and into the Tunnel of Love and Yas and I took photos in those head hole carboard things. It was silly and fun.
  • On my mirror at the moment I have collected some quotes from my friends to help me get through. One is something that Cora said to me: “You are brilliant and there is no measure for that”, and I’ve also written some wisdom from Sophia which encapsulates this time right now: “Whatever it is, it’s not what it was and that matters. That’s a big deal because it proves that things can and will improve with time”.

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