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“I want to make friends with/potentially date a woman in my grad program. I met her during orientation, and I was immediately drawn to her enthusiasm and wit. I’m taking online classes from out of state, but I will move to campus in the next semester. She’s on campus now. We are Facebook friends, but we haven’t talked much. How can I start getting to know her without coming on too strong/only talking about school? P.S. I know she’s at least bi because she mentioned an ex-girlfriend. I am also bi.”

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Claudia Astorino Says:

Well, hellooooo there, Anonymous!  As I write this, it’s a beautiful Friday—the sun’s out, it’s not freezing-my-butt-off cold, the weekend’s nigh, and I’m feelin fine! In celebration of this OMG IT’S ALMOST SUMMER weather, enjoy this silly classic Muppets video I love, “Mahna Mahna.” Hey, is it cool if I call you Mahnanymous?! I SURE HOPE SO (cuz I’m doin it).

So. Mahnanymous. Having crushes can be S T R E S S F U L L L L L, but they can also be kind of fun problems to have. I mean, cute folks! Daydreams! Nervous flutters!  POSSIBLE SMOOCHES (if you’re into smooches—hello, lovely asexual friends)! Or a rad new platonic friend! Lotsa good stuff can come out of crushes.

If you’re a grad student, then you’re likely going to be spending a TON of time with at least some folks in your program. With these folks, you’ll be: in class together, in the department together, in the library together, having study parties together, having actual parties together, and generally hanging around one another ALL THE DANG TIME. As long as the folks in your department aren’t particularly cliquey, you will have approx a zillion billion opportunities to make friends with and get to know your fellow grad students.

Including your crush. *heart eyes emoji*

The fact that you’ll be coming to campus next semester gives you perfect excuse to contact her—and the fact that you’re already Facebook friends gives you a low-key way to do so! I’d suggest contacting her via Messenger with something like the following:  “Hey there! This is Mahnanymous, from [your grad program]—it was great to meet you at orientation! How are you liking [the program so far, particular class, place your school is in]? I did my first [length of time] online, and am excited to be moving onto campus next semester! It would be great to hang out when the new semester starts—want to get [coffee, a beer, a doughnut] together sometime? Hope you’re doing great!”

BOOM! And just like that you started talking to her—GO YOU!

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If she takes you up on that hangout, that’s great! But if it doesn’t work out, you’ll have AMPLE opportunities to talk. See above: you’ll be around your fellow classmates 23 ½ / 7. And the fact that you’ll probably be doing at least some of the same work means that you can use work stuff as an excuse to hopefully talk about non-work stuff! Ask her if she wants a study buddy at the library, to work on homework together, to bone up for your upcoming exam. AND REMEMBER, YA CAN’T WORK *ALL* THE TIME. Ask if she wants to take a break to go get coffee, a beer when you’re done, a doughnut (YOU CAN SEE I’M NOT TERRIBLY CREATIVE, BUT YOU GET THE POINT, RIGHT). Tell her you really wanted to go see this movie, this cool exhibit at a museum, this great restaurant, this show—does she wanna come too?

Y’all, I have gotten a lot of crushes on women I met through school, and this chat-and-chill method has def worked for me. I had crushes on some women and then ended up not having any chemistry with, but remained either great classmates or my besties. And, my dear Mahnanymous, it’s worth mentioning that my amazing girlfriend of 5+ years? I met in class during grad school. I said hi cheerfully when I saw her, even though there wasn’t time to talk besides that. I paid attention to when she was in lab and tried to study around the same times she did. When I needed a break, I asked if she wanted to grab something from the corner deli, or walk around the block a few times. I invited her along when I hung out with other students in my class. And eventually, I asked if she wanted to go on a date. AND SHE DID.

One last thing you should think about, Mahnanymous, as you get to know your crush: dating someone/breaking up with someone in the same academic field has major pros/cons. Dating someone that’s in your same academic field can be fantastic. There’s something amazing about dating someone who just GETS IT: who knows the words you’re using, who can intelligently pick apart theory, who can act as a sounding board for your ideas. IT’S GREAT.

That being said, if you break up with someone in your grad program, you’ll still see them regularly. In class, in the lab, at seminar, at journal club. And well into your academic career—at the conferences every year, at the symposia you organized, at the women in science workshop you’re going to. You should ask yourself: Is this person awesome enough that I’m willing to date them knowing that I’ll have to see them forever after we break up? First things first—talk to your crush! Save that ish for later!

Well, Mahnanymous, I hope this helped!  Good luck talking to Crushy McCuteface, and best of luck in your grad program! <3

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Claudia Astorino is an intersex activist living in NYC and a Point Foundation Scholar for LGBTQ students.  Claudia is the former Associate Director of Organization Intersex International’s USA chapter (OII-USA).  She coordinates the Annual Intersex Awareness Day (IAD) events in NYC and writes for Full-Frontal Activism: Intersex and Awesome (her personal blog) and Autostraddle. Follower her on Twitter @claudistics

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“How can I ask my school to include LGBTQ health and sex education in classes?”

Question Submitted by Anonymous

Dana Says:

Hey! So I love love love that you want to get LGBTQ-inclusive sex ed in your school because a lot of the time, this doesn’t really cross the minds of our educators—or even us as LGBTQ people! I know that as an 8th grader in an introductory health class, I had absolutely no idea what a “dental dam” was and I probably wouldn’t have known about it in my 10th grade health class either if I hadn’t already searched it up. In any case, LGBTQ individuals deserve inclusive sex ed, so damn it, we’ve gotta try our best to get it.

Before you ask your school to get an LGBTQ-inclusive sex ed curriculum, you need to have all your arguments, evidence, etc in order, so I’ve compiled a badass list (if I do say so myself) to help you do so!

Evaluate the current state of your health curriculum
Odds are that if your school is enforcing abstinence-only education, they’re probably not going to be so keen on considering LGBTQ-inclusive sex ed. You can do this by simply asking health students what they have learned, or referring to your old health notes if you have already taken the class. If your school is able to educate students about the ol’ penis-in-vagina method, then they should be able to teach them about other forms of sex as well.

Check up on your state’s standard health education curriculum
Go online to your state’s department of education website to find out whether your school is actually following the state guidelines. This has the potential to contribute a lot to your argument for LGBTQ-inclusive health classes; if the state says LGBTQ-inclusivity is the standard health curriculum, then why isn’t your school’s health curriculum up to par? If you find that your school is indeed failing to follow the guidelines, you should TOTALLY take that information to your state’s Board of Education.

Gather some queer-er data!
A great way to see what your health curriculum specifically needs is by asking your queer peers what they want to learn. Maybe they want to learn about anal sex, or oral sex, or the different ways you can protect yourself from STI’s when in a same-sex relationship, because oftentimes a lot of us queers have no clue how to go about understanding all of that. So ask away!

Gather your troops
By this, I mean gather a few of your friends who are just as passionate about the cause so you can set up a meeting with your health teachers and/or the administration to talk about it. If you know any supportive parents or faculty who will join you in setting this meeting up, that will definitely add much-needed fuel to the fire!

Start a petition, get attention!
If the administration refuses to meet with you, start a petition among your student body, and perhaps even reach out to the local news outlets. Go nuts!

Ask LGBTQ health-related questions
If you’re asking questions that require answers, your teacher(s) will be forced to come up with an answer (or find that they lack one entirely). More often than not, health teachers don’t have enough knowledge on safe sex to provide students with accurate answers. In the asking, you’ll either be getting more information for all of your peers, or alerting your teacher to the fact that they need to learn more about LGBTQ issues!

Take matters into your own hands
You can’t teach in your school because you probably don’t have any kind of teaching degree, but you can reconvene with your troops and study up on as much you can find about LGBTQ sexual health. If the teachers aren’t going to teach, then you are going to have to spread the word about safe, sane, and consensual queer sex (say that five times fast!) as best as you can. Laci Green on YouTube, Autostraddle, Girl Sex 101 by Allison Moon, Scarleteen, and even your state’s LGBTQ research center (if you have one) are all great resources to get you started btw! Rather than proclaiming “the prostate gland is often found in AMAB (assigned male at birth) individuals and can be a major pleasure center if stimulated!” down a crowded hallway, educate on smaller levels, like at a GSA meeting. A lot of the kids who want/need LGBTQ-inclusive health education are probably already in the school GSA.

When playing GSM (Gender/Sexual Minority) Jeopardy with my school GSA, I slip in a lot of random LGBTQ health facts so they learn something in a fun and lighthearted environment. For example, one of the questions was “What is a dental dam (or what I like to call, a dental “damn” ;D), and how is it used?” Because none of them knew, I ended up explaining what it was and its purpose, which definitely opened up their eyes to the world of STIs and sexual safety. Smaller-scale things like this definitely make a big difference if your school is consistently refusing to incorporate LGBTQ-inclusive sex education.

Last but not least, be patient yet still persistent
A lot of school officials aren’t as ready and willing as you are to get an LGBTQ-inclusive health curriculum for a multitude of reasons. The administration may be afraid of angry parents demanding why their teenager came home wanting to know more about safe anilingus, or the administration could be controlled by the state government, making it even more difficult to alter the curriculum, or perhaps they’re just not supportive of anything LGBTQ-related. The bottom line is, stay patient and stay persistent.

If all else fails, civil disobedience in the form of a sit-in at your school could definitely raise some eyebrows (and probably some blood pressures). That’s just my personal endgame, though, haha. Anyway, best of luck!

***

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“There’s this girl who works at a coffee shop that I’m super into, but she just has a high school diploma and I’m working on getting my masters. We’re both into each other, but I can’t get over the fact that she isn’t really doing anything with her life. Am I a horrible person for letting this get in the way?! UGH! How do you handle education inequality in dating?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Shane Billings as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Shane Says:

Oh man, those girls in coffee shops…. putting heart shapes in your cappuccino and drizzling their number with chocolate syrup. I hope you don’t even drink coffee, and you’re just ordering it to seem caffeinated and cool for your barista boo-thang.

With situations like yours, it’s important to not let the idea of a thing (the implications of her education level) interfere with the thing itself (your mutual attraction). There’s nothing wrong with wanting specific qualities in a partner, including a certain education level. However, your concern seems rooted in a couple of assumptions – that MAYBE your coffee shop lady doesn’t have an advanced degree because MAYBE she doesn’t have ambitious goals for success, or MAYBE she doesn’t care about her future. Don’t give those “maybes” any control over your love life.

Truth is, your coffee shop lady lover is doing things with her life. Maybe it doesn’t seem like much, but she’s got an income and a love interest… and most people would kill for just one of those (please don’t kill anybody). I’m willing to bet that if you ask her what she’s doing with her life, she’d have an answer. And that’s the fun stuff! Getting to uncover all the details that make a person complex and three-dimensional, those are the things that will anchor your feelings in reality.  Maybe she is, in fact, too cool 4 school. School – especially higher education – is not for everyone, and isn’t a comprehensive metric for success or value in a person’s life. Don’t hold it against her.

So take a hot minute, while you’re sipping your hand-crafted mocha made special by your barista lover, and think about why higher education is important for you in a partner. Then take another minute (OMG so many minutes) and see what Aziz Ansari has to say about dating, specifically how people often realize that the qualities we say we’re looking for… don’t match the partner we actually become interested in.

You’re not a horrible person, at least not in this case. Maybe you don’t pay your taxes, or maybe you fart in crowded elevators. But like I said, “maybes” are just emotional contaminants, and don’t deserve the swaying power they have over our decisions. Don’t let the idea of a good relationship defeat an extraordinary opportunity that looks and feels different from what you expected.

***

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“Hi! I’m a female junior in high school who asked a girl to prom last week (she said yes!) but I am not out as bisexual to my parents. My parents are both conservative and neither pro-gay nor anti-gay (at least, I think!) They believe I’m going to prom alone, and I’m struggling with whether I should come out before prom or afterwards. If I tell them before, I risk them flipping out and disallowing me from going; if I tell them after, they might think I was lying/being dishonest about prom. Help!”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

Lie!

OKAY OKAY SORRY THAT WAS MY FIRST IMPULSE, LET’S TALK THROUGH THIS LIKE TWO ADULTS.

The reason that I shouted “lie!” at your face is because I cannot bear to think about you not getting to go to your prom with this wonderful girl that you’ve asked and who has said yes! This is a wonderful thing! I am so excited! I want to go to prom again! AHHH!

The reason that I hesitated with my initial impulse is because, like you, I don’t want your parents to think you are being dishonest. However, I don’t think this is as simple as plain ol’ “dishonesty.” It isn’t like you are telling your parents that you are sleeping at a friend’s house so you can go to a party and get drunk and they won’t know. That’s a lie that could put you in SERIOUS hot water because you are directly disobeying them, you are potentially putting yourself in a dangerous situation, and a million other things. Maybe this is also one of your prom plans, if it is I DID NOT OKAY IT, PARENTS.

The lie you are potentially going to tell (that you are going alone instead of with your lovely date), is being told because you want to have the experience of going to prom. The feeling nervous about what to expect, the wondering what you should wear, the hoping you’ll make out before the night ends, the dancing together to a song that you’ll hear on the radio 15 years from now and still feel those same glittery, stomach-squeezy feelings you had on prom night. You deserve that, and if you think that it might be taken from you, I think I am going to stick with my gut on this one: lie.

Then, when you do come out to your parents, include those feelings and that decision. Tell them that it killed you to be dishonest with them, because you want them to know that they can always trust you, but that you were so afraid that an important memory and experience might be taken away from you. They should be able to understand that, and, even if they are upset with you at first… I think it is something that they will be able to wrap their minds around over time.

I wasn’t out to my parents or myself when I went to my junior prom, and I took a girl as my date. I told my parents we were going as friends, and I really thought we were… even though somewhere deep down I knew I would love to spoon with this girl and probably kiss a whole bunch. Coming out – whether to yourself, your parents, or anyone else – is a tricky business, and it means making decisions when and how they make the most sense for you.

Oh, and two more things:
1.  If your parents are upset after you tell them, let them read this post. I think it will help.

2.  If you want to know what it looked like to go to prom with a girl before being out to yourself or your parents in 1997, here you go:

***
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“The work you guys do with Everyone is Gay is an on the ground, active, accessible application of queer and feminist theories. That is fucking awesome. How do you reconcile the work you do with the theory side of things which in academia can be SO theoretical, intellectual, and jargon bound that it oftentimes seems to exist more for itself rather than any real world application? As someone who struggles to bridge the gap between theoretical and practical I find this endlessly frustrating.”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

A big part of me wants to scream ‘THANK YOU FOR NOTICING.’ Another part of me wants to scream ‘WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE DO IT THO?!!’

I struggle with this because I don’t come from an academic background. At all. I just straight up don’t understand most queer and feminist theory. I do, however, understand that the world around us has a massive impact on how we see ourselves and how we treat others. That’s a life experience I chose for myself. I decided to step back and examine why I felt so grossly uncomfortable in dresses and why I felt even more uncomfortable saying I didn’t want to wear dresses. I took the time to realize that I’d spent my growing up only seeing one type of family on TV and in movies and in magazines. That’s how I realized “holy shit, of course I feel weird wanting to marry a girl, I have never even seen it HAPPEN!!” I lived so much life feeling like being a feminist was gross and embarrassing and it took year to realize that simply thinking it was embarrassing was the exact reason it was so necessary.

It’s so hard to explain. I think if you took every queer and feminist theory and broke it down, you’d realize that what’s being said is, “we all deserve the same rights. The right to love who we want, the right to dress how we want, the right to explore sexuality the way we want, the right to the same careers, the right to feel safe when we’re alone at night, the right to voice our opinions, the right to speak up when we have been disrespected, the right to live life to the fullest and not be torn down. BUT Y’ALL we don’t all have those rights and that is fucked up, so let’s talk about why and where it came from…”

I think we can all agree and I think we all wanna make a change, sometimes it’s hard to talk about with big words, though, I’ll be real.

Kristin Says:

God I LOVE this question.

Unlike Dannielle, I was heavily immersed in feminist and queer theory when we began Everyone Is Gay – I was about a third of the way through getting my queer-theory focused Masters Degree, in fact. At that point, I felt just like you, Anonymous. How in holy hell would I ever be able to take what I was reading and make it accessible? How would the things I saw happening in real-time be affected by the piles of words I was sifting through by Kristeva, Foucault, Butler, and the rest of the theory-crew? I felt at once fascinated and passionate about the way my brain was being cracked open through the readings and the class discussions and overwhelmed and distraught at how to take it outside of those classrooms.

Everyone Is Gay was the place where I learned that the brain-cracking affect of all of those theories was the exact point of those theories. I couldn’t look at a 13-year-old who was scared and angry and start with, “well, you see, gender is performative so what you are experiencing is heteronormativity (bigwordsbigwordsmorebigwords),” and then hand them a copy of Derrida. What I could do, though, was see the existence of so many of these discourses and theories in their question and in their experience, and use what I’d learned to help guide me in answering responsibly. And by responsibly I mean two things: 1. Responsible in respect to their needs (aka not sourcing Derrida on our first conversation), and 2. Responsible in respect to larger discourses that are often nearly invisible (which I had only been able to see because of reading those theories).

Somewhere in my academic journeys I learned the word praxis, which was explained to me as the place where theory meets real-world practice. It was a legit lightbulb-moment for me, where I realized OHHHH OKAY, SO I DON’T NEED TO ACTUALLY LIVE OUT THESE THEORIES VERBATIM! And, Anonymous, neither do you. In fact, if you are only living theory, then the theory does begin to exist only for itself (and for your handful of friends who will geek out with you on feminist texts). What you do is let those theories crack your brain open, over and over and over again. Geek out with your friends and dig deep with those big words if that helps you expand even further in that crazy theory-spiral. Then, give yourself permission to let it go, and to learn from the world around you just as much as you’ve learned from those theories.

I hope this helps!
<3

***
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