Generally, I really struggle writing blog posts. It feels like a strange virtual soap box (complete with big scary teeth and claws) and usually gets me asking myself "what do I really have to say?" I work as an artist and dancer in New York City and still sometimes think my life is not 'exciting' enough to write even a few paragraphs about each week. When I sat down to write this weeks post, I instead tried asking myself, "what do I really want and need to say?"
As a gay female living in a very patriarchal society I need to say a lot of things. But blogs are not thesis papers so let's start with this:
I have been extremely curious over the last couple of months about the detriment it still is for queer individuals, to be out even in the most accepting cities. After some discussions I've had over the last few weeks, it was clear to me that discrimination both in and out of the workplace is something we need to be talking about so much more as a population; something I crave to be talking about more. It's an area I feel extremely lucky in, considering both of my employers are committed to the work at hand and they value and accept me, not in spite of who I am but because of who I am. Many people do not have these luxuries.
I feel that there is a particular confusion over celebrating and embracing females that don't fit the housewife mold. Even for gay men, there are industries in and around theater, dance, art, and fashion that wholly celebrate and embrace them. I don't believe there to be the same acceptance and celebration for gay women. Stand up comedy maybe? Sure, a profession requiring women to make fun of themselves so others don't have to do the work.
Take a gym environment for example in New York City, the straight male trainer is celebrated for being macho and even man enough to rock the slim trouser outside of the gym when he's at brunch with his wife. The straight female trainer is celebrated for having a flat stomach, a collection of obnoxious semi see-through leggings and well shaped eyebrows. Even the gay male trainer has a strong following of women who think he's the best thing ever, men who love his workout, and gay men who think he's super hot.
What about the gay female trainer? I happen to know one who hasn't told a sole at work for fear of losing clients. And in a city where the cost of living is through the roof, it's a risk that can't be taken; the cost of living then literally costs us not living our truth.
But this question of workplace acceptance is not limited to just women. I also want and need people to hear that in 28 states it is still legal to fire someone for being gay; in 31 states, including New York, it is still legal to fire someone based on their gender identity; creating unwelcoming environments for all LGBTQI people.
Not so liberal now are we.
And its not just the workplace that harbors discrimination. Catcalling and objectification affect women regardless of race, socioeconomic background or sexuality. A walk home from the train last week started with two particularly vulgar harassments before I even got above ground and then minutes later two men in a car slowed down just enough to follow me and give their unfiltered thoughts on my life and body. Why is it that these men exercising their freedom of speech often leaves me feeling incapable of exercising my very same right? Their comments hindering my vocal chords in the same way the stiletto (preferred female shoe by the patriarch) physically hinders a woman. Would it even change anything if I yelled back? Sadly, I'm not sure.
Street posters by artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh
I do think it would change things if women were vocal about their distaste for rap lyrics that objectify women; vocal about the violence towards women found not only in the 'adult' film industries but in mainstream hollywood films as well; vocal about the under representation of women in government. We should openly talk about our personal experiences with objectification with both female and male friends, colleagues, and family. If a woman in New York City is being closeted by employment, I can only imagine how many people are affected in the same way across the country. Incidentally, its not just the opinion of the neighbor down the street or the mass media even that are keeping people less than who they truly are. When your lively hood and paycheck are reliant on being a straight female, coming out really isn't a viable option.
But I am sure, that the more awareness brought to the topic and the more discussion is spurred about how far we've come but also how much further we have to go, will make a dent. Even if it makes it easier for one woman or transgendered individual or gay man to feel comfortable and unafraid to be themselves in the workplace, or just walking down the street, it is worth the yell. And it is definitely worth the sharing and the discourse and the empowerment.