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Author Topic: How to sound out safe places
moonlight bouncing off water
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For one of my classes (Challenge and Change in Society), we have been assigned a project where we can pick just about any topic. I was thinking that I'd like to write my essay on coming out, ie how the perception of different gender identities and sexual orientations came to be in our world, why people are presumed heterosexual until proven otherwise and the fact that it is so chronically unfair that non-cisgender and/or non-heterosexual individuals need to come out at all.

But the thing is that I'm not sure I'd feel entirely safe if I were to write about it. I'm pretty darn sure that my teacher isn't homophobic since there's a huge poster in the room that says "Gay is not a synonym for stupid", but at the same time his attitude makes it pretty darn obvious that he presumes that everyone is cisgender and heterosexual. Also, I haven't definitively come out to my family (part of the reason for that being that I feel I shouldn't have to come out). I usually have my parents help me a lot with my essays, they're great for telling me what they think about what I've written and how I could improve it, but I don't think I'd be comfortable doing that if the project had anything to do with queerness. I also don't know how comfortable I'd be doing the research at home for that project, I certainly wouldn't feel okay leaving books about this stuff lying around the house.

At the same time, I'm really passionate about this stuff and I know this is not an essay I'd be bored writing about. But I don't know how safe I'd feel writing it.

How can I figure out whether it is a sound idea to write my essay about this?

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~moonlight

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Heather
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Sounds like a great topic!

I certainly think you have the option of writing about the topic without outing yourself in any way. How would you feel about that?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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moonlight bouncing off water
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Thank you for your answer.

I would feel pretty good about that, and the essay is a research essay, so I'm not even aloud to use pronouns like "I" or "me", so I don't think that it would even be possible to talk about my own orientation.

The thing is that it would still likely raise the question of my orientation. A lot of people would probably assume right away that since I'm taking any interest in this that I must be something that involves coming out. And while I can't really see that being an issue with the teacher, I can really see that being an issue with my parents. That is not to say that I think that they'd have a problem with it so much as I think that they'd want to know if I'm gay.

BUT, this would be some thing that I'd love to write about. How can I write about it without outing myself by association? Especially with regards to my parents.

[ 02-07-2012, 06:05 PM: Message edited by: moonlight bouncing off water ]

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~moonlight

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Heather
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Well, I think you and I can agree that those kinds of assumptions are problematic and deserve to be challenged. I mean, I wrote essays when I was young about the civil rights movement, and no one questioned my race (though they might have were I darker skinned). The point is, I'd say, what does it say about privilege that it's assumed only an oppressed group would write about the disenfranchisement of that group?

And if it's true that only queer or gender non-conforming people would write about these issues, what does that say about how much more marginalized these groups are than many people think?

Can I ask how your parents would even know about this essay?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Kachina
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I'd just like to add that I'm very passionate about gay rights and I'm hetero. Even recently my mother said something about how someone's facebook page mentioned they were for gay rights and asked if I thought that meant he were gay. I said my facebook page also mentions that and I'm not gay, so why would it mean that? I'm pretty sure it made her rethink her assumptions.

When I was younger and I would do things that showed I was for gay rights, some people DID assume that meant I was gay. I just told them that was a weird assumption to have, that I was for ALL minority rights. I usually didn't even explain that I was in fact straight, I just let them wonder. People still assume I'm gay all the time for other strange reasons (like short hair, or my career choice) and I don't tell them whether they are right or wrong in their assumptions, I just say it's wrong to assume based on such arbitrary things. I figure the only people's whose business it is about who I'm attracted to is someone I'm sexually/romantically involved with. Since I have a serious partner who is male, it usually becomes obvious fairly quickly that I am not a lesbian to anyone who gets to know me, but this was not the case when I was single.

Anyway, my point with this was, so what if they assume these things? You can tell them you are for minority rights, and LGBT is a minority that is pretty active these days in seeking equal rights. It's in the news all the time, etc. Just like Heather being for civil rights for blacks when she was younger, it's pretty common for people now who believe in equal rights to fight for gay rights even if they aren't gay.

[ 02-07-2012, 07:13 PM: Message edited by: KatWA ]

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moonlight bouncing off water
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quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
The point is, I'd say, what does it say about privilege that it's assumed only an oppressed group would write about the disenfranchisement of that group?

I agree completely. The thing is that those assumptions will be made, no matter how infuriating it is.

quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
And if it's true that only queer or gender non-conforming people would write about these issues, what does that say about how much more marginalized these groups are than many people think?

I agree that it show that those groups are super, super marginalized. And that's why I want to write about it. But at the same time I feel like I have no ground to stand on if I want to say that I'm not only writing about this because I'm queer, because I am queer. I can't prove that I would write this if I weren't queer, because I am. So I don't know how I would respond to something like that.

quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
Can I ask how your parents would even know about this essay?

They wouldn't know unless I told them, but I'd probably want to tell them. It's a really big essay. We got it today and it isn't due for another 3 months. I'm going to be investing a lot of time in it, so it would feel like I was hiding it from them if I didn't tell them about it. Also, I usually have my parents read my essays when I'm done writing them, but that's really not something I'd feel comfortable doing with this essay.

This topic feels so, restricted. If I were doing this essay about something else it wouldn't feel so loaded. I guess that it's because it's got to do with something about myself that I feel really vulnerable about and it's something that I'm really passionate about. I always complain that I hate that coming out is pretty much requisite or you'll be assume hetero and cis, but now I have something, however small, that I can do about this. And I think that the passion I feel for this topic will make my essay about it that much better, but it's still scary to write about something like this. I feel like I'm not safe emotionally, even though I probably am. And it really shows me that we're nowhere near being equal on this if I feel so scared by the idea of writing about it. I really want to do this essay about this. I'm actually super excited for it. (actually, this essay is why I'm going to keep taking the class, I was going to drop the course, but the darn teacher had to go and make it interesting [Smile] )

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~moonlight

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moonlight bouncing off water
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Oh, katWA I never even saw your post! Thank you for responding [Smile] .

You're right that it shouldn't matter to me if someone is making a ridiculous assumption, but for some reason it does. I guess it might be a self-esteem thing. I also feel like I could feel that it didn't matter that they made that assumption, if I were straight. But I feel like since they'd be right in making that assumption that it somehow changes things I guess? It is as though, even though I know that jumping to that assumption is totally wrong, that I start to think what if that is why I'm doing this? That is that if they make that assumption and they're right it makes me start to doubt why I want to write about it. Plus then I'm not sure what to say if they do ask if I'm gay. I don't want to lie, but depending on who it is I might not want them to know.

Or something like that.

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~moonlight

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Kachina
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Well, being queer, how do you feel when people assume you are straight? Do you feel like you are lying if you don't correct their assumptions?

You could always say what I said, which is to not say what your orientation is at all. Let them wonder. Use it to your advantage to challenge someone's assumptions. I always say, "Why would you assume that?" And never actually say what my orientation is. I've done this when people assume I'm straight, too. Like when people used to ask, "Do you have a boyfriend yet?" I'd say, "why would you assume I want a boy?" It really throws people off and usually they don't come straight out and ask what your orientation is. They try to leave suggestive hints that they want to know.

You were discussing above how people usually assume everyone is straight and how that is kind of annoying, because it means you have to come "out" where straight people don't. I really agree with that. If people are assuming you are straight, are you necessarily correcting them? If not, I don't see why you would need to correct whatever assumptions they would make about you now even if their assumptions were correct. Unless you tell someone your orientation, honestly really no one could know for sure.

As an aside, today when prop 8 was declared unconstitutional, 2 of my young, religious, Mormon cousins posted "Yay for Equality" and "Gay Marriage = LOVE". Everyone is still making the assumption that they are STRAIGHT (like how you were saying most people just assume anyway).

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~Kat
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Heather
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FYI, I also want to make clear that if you don't feel safe doing this, you don't have to do this. Or, you could write the paper for yourself, not for school.

You're right, for you this IS personal, and might risk you being asked your orientation. If you're not up for that -- and it's always okay if and when we're not -- that's not a risk you need to take. [Smile]

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moonlight bouncing off water
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@KatWA I really see what you're saying. That does actually help. People are going to make assumptions no matter what. But the fact that they're making those assumptions is their issue I guess. And it doesn't need to be mine.

@Heather, I'm really trying to sound out whether I feel safe with this. I feel pretty good about smaller things like this. For instance I briefly stated that I'm bisexual in a poem for another class recently. I felt really good about that; to be sure I worried about it a bit but the poem was suposed to be about ourselves and I felt that my orientation was important enough to warrant at least brief mention.

I just don't know how I feel about doing this because it is such a huge assignment. It would mean a lot of thinking, writing and potentially talking about LGBTQ stuff. I avoid this stuff in a lot of parts of my life; but I don't think I want to avoid it anymore.

Eventually, I want to be as comfortable with my orientation as I am with my love of mathmatics, the fact that I had scoliosis, or my love of the sci-fi and fantasy genre. But at the same time there aren't as many dangers with those aspects of myself as there is with my orientation. There aren't kids who come out by saying "mom, dad, I've been factoring trinomials behind your back" or something like that.

*sigh* This is actually really, really hard to deal with and decide. But I feel like it is really, really important for my personal development as an advocate and as a person to write this.

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~moonlight

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Heather
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So, sounds to me like the two big questions are this:

• Is eventually now?
• Are there more pros with doing this this way, right now, in this specific situation and setting, or more cons?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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moonlight bouncing off water
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I know that I want eventually to be now, but I also know that that doesn't mean that it is.

Cons:
  • my parents could find out about my orientation
  • my orientation could become readily apparent within school, which is not something I mind entirely, I only mind it in the sense that it's really no one's business anyway

Pros:
  • my parents could find out my orientation (the good part of this is that I could stop pretending, the bad, I'm not sure how they'd react and if it would change anything)
  • I would get to write about something that I'm passionate about
  • Through my research I would get to learn more about this, which I would find fascinating
  • I already know a bunch of stuff about this from personal experience and from good sex ed, like that on scarleteen
  • I'm not like to get bored writing this, whereas I might when writing about some other topic
  • after doing the essay, no matter what I encounter in the process, I will feel more confident, and I will feel like I have succeeded by facing a fear of mine

I guess when I look at it like that, it really makes a lot of sense to do the essay about this.

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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moonlight bouncing off water
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So, I'm absolutely going to do the essay on this.

If anyone, especially Heather, has the time, I would really appreciate some links to information about this ie articles here on Scarleteen, articles and websites elsewhere and books, plus anything else that anyone thinks would be of help. (If it helps, I'm supposed to look at this from the perspective of a sociologist, a psychologist and/or an anthropologist).

Thank you in advance to anyone who can help me find resources with this.

(Is it okay for me to come on here and ask any questions I might encounter when writing this project?)

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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Heather
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So, the very first thing I'd suggest -- how timely is this? -- is my friend and colleague Hanne Blank's new book "Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of heterosexuality." In fact, she just did a short video trailer for it here, and quotes a section that gives a great start to some of what you're asking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJOt70KiQQk&feature=youtu.be

I'd also suggest seeing if you can't find a copy of Out of the Past" by Neil Miller, which is an excellent historical overview of gay and lesbian history from the mid 1800s to now. In terms of all of this around gender, Anne Fausto Sterling's work is awesome for this, as is Julia Serano's.

In terms of pieces here at Scarleteen, I'll go ahead and let you do that homework yourself (since, you know, it's really just about using our search function, and probably your prof isn't down with students having others do research for them, beyond a few pointers).

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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moonlight bouncing off water
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Thank you so much. And yeah, I was just planning to use the search function on here anyway.

May I ask what you mean by "how timely is this?"?

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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moonlight bouncing off water
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Thank you so much Heather for the reference to that book by your friend! It looks really awesome and I've ordered it online. I'm really excited to read it because it looks really interesting to read. I'm also really excited for this book to arrive at the house because I feel so confident about it. I never order books online, so if the book arrives when my parents are at home, they will most likely be curious and ask what I ordered. I'm not scared at all. Ordering this book may lead to them figuring out that I'm bi, but I'm not even a bit worried. A year ago, even a month ago I would have been petrified of what would happen if they found out the title of the book, but now, although I'm a wee bit afraid, I'm feeling more confident about it than not. This is an awesome step for me in accepting my orientation. (And I feel kind of good about the fact that getting the book is now out of my hands, I can't stop it it is going to my house, so I can't chicken out).

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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Sans
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Hi, Moonlight [Smile]

I just wanted to say that I LOVE your essay topic because it addresses and challenges misconceptions that many people (at least in my experience) don't recognize as being misconceptions.

Even though I am not very knowledgeable on this topic and can't be of help, I just wanted to say that I respect you for your decision (from the situation it sounds like it takes a LOT of bravery). It's very inspiring to me. Do your best! [Smile]

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"Sneak away, sneak away / If the fate is too sad / You are not a flower of hell / That kind of place... / Don't become lost, don't become lost... / Or you won't be able to grasp the entangled hand / The cry also has a limit...." - Naraku no Hana

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moonlight bouncing off water
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Thank you SansNom! And that's okay that you don't have a ton of knowledge about this, I guess it would be cheating to have anyone on here tell me anything but the most general and broad suggestions anyway.

I'm super excited to write this. And I like what you said about misconceptions that most people don't even consider misconceptions. That is really profound. [Smile]

And I'm glad that this is inspiring. I feel like I'm taking off shackles by not letting fear stop me from doing something I really want to do.

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~moonlight

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Heather
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This is so exciting for you! World of yay. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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moonlight bouncing off water
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Thank you Heather!

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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Heather
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Btw, if when you read that book, you have any questions you'd like to have Hanne answer, we'll probably be doing an interview about it with her soon, so let me know! [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Sans
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Your Welcome [Smile]

I'm glad, also, that you're feeling a bit less anxious about this (or so it seemed to me over your last few posts).

I think that one of the misconceptions some folks have is that gender identity should always be the same as biological sex, which is not true for many people.

Anyways, good luck!
I'm be cheering you on! [Smile]

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"Sneak away, sneak away / If the fate is too sad / You are not a flower of hell / That kind of place... / Don't become lost, don't become lost... / Or you won't be able to grasp the entangled hand / The cry also has a limit...." - Naraku no Hana

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moonlight bouncing off water
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quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
Btw, if when you read that book, you have any questions you'd like to have Hanne answer, we'll probably be doing an interview about it with her soon, so let me know! [Smile]

Oh that is so cool! I absolutely will if I have any questions, thank you! The book is supposed to arrive at my house this week and I'm very excited to read it!

And SansNom you're right I am feeling a lot less anxious about this. [Smile]

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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Heather
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Well, we'll be reading it at the same time, then! I'm finally through my book review pile as it stood and at Hanne's. [Smile]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Kawani3792
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I don't know if I am able to help, but I wanted to say good luck with this. I have felt the same way recently...I came out to my mom and was feeling really tense over the idea of coming out to anyone else, and i finally realized "You know...it doesn't really matter. Why should I feel it necessary to declare my orientation? If I were straight, I wouldn't have to declare that. So you know what, they'll figure it out. I'm not going to panic and fumble and awkwardly explain that i'm not what they automatically assumed I am."
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WesLuck
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I know I'm not supposed to post in this forum because I'm heterosexual, but I'd like to commend you on what you're doing. I think you'll do a fantastic job on a very worthwhile topic! [Smile] I'd be interested in seeing the final result, with identifying details removed, posted at a neutral web-site (or at Scarleteen [Smile] ) or even both. [Smile]
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moonlight bouncing off water
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Thank you Kawani and WesLuck! I'm super excited about this.

WesLuck, I don't think that there are any rules about heterosexuals posting in this forum. That would be the kind of prejudice and unreasonable regulations that people on here try to combat, only turned around and reflected at heterosexuals.

I'm not certain that it would be a good idea for me to post this online since my teacher may have me turn this is via "turnitin.com" a site which searched the internet and other databases for instances of plagerism and my entire essay would come up as plagerized.


The book came in the mail today and I've only read a bit of it, and I'm loving it so far! I'm also feeling a lot more comfortable not hiding my sexuality since I sat in the livingroom where my sister was and read it. I mean, I took the dust cover off because I was scared of how big the title was on it, but I'll probably put it back on soon since I loathe having it off. (I'm kind of a control freak when it comes to books, I hate to have them be in anything but pristine condition. Although interstingly I have permitted myself to highlight passages in the book that I think will be particularily useful).

I'm feeling so good about all of this!

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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moonlight bouncing off water
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I have a question about citing articles here on Scarleteen. Some of the articles have the author name displayed as only first names, for example the article: Living Without Labels which is written by "Jacob" but does not list a last name. How would you like me to cite that? Because in order to include the author's name in my bibliography, I am required to put a last name. (Otherwise I am not supposed to put the name at all). I really want to give credit where credit is due. Would you rather that, for those articles I just leave off the author name? (it will have all the other info in the bibliography, like the link to the article, and the name of this site).

[ 03-07-2012, 06:18 PM: Message edited by: moonlight bouncing off water ]

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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moonlight bouncing off water
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Also, I was wondering if you knew whether or not the first paragraph of text on the book cover flap is by Hanne Blank, or if it is by an editor? (I'm asking since I want to use the quote: "Like the typewriter and the light bulb, the heterosexual was invented in the 1860s and swiftly and permanently transformed western culture", if that helps).

[ 03-07-2012, 07:45 PM: Message edited by: moonlight bouncing off water ]

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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moonlight bouncing off water
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YAY! My dad saw my copy of "Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality" and didn't ask me about my orientation! Instead he asked me how the book is and if it's well written. I told him that it is fantastic and super interesting. He told me that books like that are interesting because it is neat to think about how different one might be if they grew up in a different society-- not quite the point of the book but also way better than asking about my orientation. It was an awesome confidence booster!

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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Heather
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How cool is that? Go, Dad!

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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moonlight bouncing off water
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Yep, it's pretty darn awesome. Heather did you have a chance to read the two posts above my last? (I know that since you're catching up on reading all that's gone on while you were away it can be easy to miss stuff, but I was wondering if you could answer those questions I asked).

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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moonlight bouncing off water
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Hey, I was wondering Heather whether you had had a chance to look at the question I asked up there. I don't mean to double post but I'll re-type the question here for the sake of simplicity. For articles like: Living Without Labels which is written by "Jacob", there are author first names but there aren't last names. Would it be possible for me to get the last names so I can give full credit to the individuals who wrote the articles? I really want to give credit where credit is due, but I understand that this could be an issue of anonymity. If this is not possible I can simply omit an author name in my bibliography. I just want to give as much credit as possible to the authors.

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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