Our Fall 2021 Editor: Logging Off

By Ace Garrett

With my internship coming to a close, the end of the semester feels like a goodbye—but now I actually get the wonderful opportunity to interact with the Women’s Center as many of you do, as a student. I am sure to keep stopping by for coffee, to borrow a fork, and to study or read a book on our couch. I will continue to be one of the Center’s biggest fans. 

But there are some endings: I will no longer be contributing to this blog, or working with the rest of our wonderful staff. Though I will be happy to have more time for my studies (and sleep), I am so glad to have gotten this opportunity. In the introduction post I wrote mere months ago, I mentioned that I am aspiring to be a copyeditor. Since then I have gotten experience working directly with writers, organizing and managing deadlines, and editing, of course. I have picked up more time-management skills and social skills. I have become much more confident in my my ability to hold a position of authority and in my competence as an editor. This internship has certainly better prepared me for my future, and for that I am thankful.

And all this doesn’t even take into account the joy I’ve felt advocating for gender equity. Although I was not very involved in the Women Center’s wonderful programming this semester, I know that the posts I edited and wrote are making a difference in their own way. I hope students will use this blog—the posts from this semester and beyond—to find support and growth. And I am proud to have left a little bit of myself here. 

Keep learning. Keep chasing empathy.
Thank you for all you do,
Ace

Feeling Loved

By Ace Garrett

The lovely lady on the left is my grandma. My brother and I have loved her with our whole hearts since we were little kids. She is kind, smart, independent, and incredibly generous. When we were young, she would take us to Chuck E. Cheese, watch movies with us, and put us to sleep with back rubs and her own made-up bedtime stories.

Before I can even remember, our grandma would call my brother and I sunshine. “How are you doing, sunshine?” she’d ask. In our eyes, this became her trademark, so we’ve always called her Grandma Sunshine. (I was quite surprised to learn that this is not, in fact, her name). 

As a grown woman I have been incredibly lucky to still have a close relationship with her. She was the first person I came out to after my brother and parents, and she has more faith in me and my identity than anyone else. She and I spend weekends together, we go out for lunch, we talk on the phone, and my family and I visit her to watch football in the Fall. Recently, I have been calling her more often. I have been having a hard time feeling connected to people, and feeling like anyone is in the bleachers cheering me on. But Grandma Sunshine didn’t hesitate to tell me I can call her any time to tell her anything. She really wants to stay up to date with me, and that means a lot. 

Grandma Sunshine has always made me feel loved, heard, and like I am worthy of her time. I believe that feeling wanted by those around us is really important to self-worth and mental health, and it isn’t always easy to feel that way. Thankfully, my grandma taught me what it should feel like, what it feels like to be loved. 

This is only one of the infinite things I have learned thanks to my grandma, but it has been an especially comforting lesson this semester. I know I have her to lean on, and I know what that should feel like as I make new friends and pursue new relationships. I implore you all to make sure your loved ones feel your love and support. And I hope you have someone in your life who always makes you feel like you belong. That is a gift indeed. 

This story is part of Her Life as Art: Coming Together Through Grandmother Stories, a unique, multi-dimensional, week-long series of events celebrating the wisdom and legacy of the grandmother figures in our lives, taking place Nov. 6 – 12, 2021 at the Kansas City United Church of Christ, 205 W. 65th St. KCMO, 64113. We invite you to view the art exhibit and attend other related events. For details, please visit www.kcucc.org.

Introductions are Crucial to Gender Equity

By Ace Garrett

If you think about it, we are introduced to new people (partners, coworkers, friends of friends) all the time—and often with no heads up. If you are like me, you may still be working on remembering peoples’ names when you’re introduced (a pretty important part of the interaction, for sure), but names aren’t the only things we should be exchanging when we first meet.

The moment when two or more people are introduced is one of the most effective opportunities we have to normalize and validate trans and non-binary identities. If you caught Sierra’s post about sex, gender, and pronouns, you should remember that someone’s gender presentation does not always “line up” with their pronouns or their gender identity—you can’t simply “tell” what someone’s gender is (and trying to do so leads to misgendering)

But if we can’t assume someone’s pronouns or gender identity, how do we find out? They have to tell you, of course. When it comes to gender identity, we don’t actually have to know someone’s in order to talk to them or about them; pronouns, however, are a huge part of conversation and language. You need to know someone’s correct pronouns pretty much as soon as you meet them.

So how should sharing pronouns work?

The key word here is sharing: everyone in an introduction should share their pronouns. You might feel inclined to only ask people who “look” queer or non-binary, but this can be extremely alienating. What if, in a classroom of people, the teacher only asks one student what their pronouns are? That student is now singled out, and this reinforces (in the minds of the other students) that this student is different. We all use pronouns, and we all have a gender—gender non-conforming people are alienated enough without being singled out every time they introduce themself.

Introducing yourself with your own pronouns is the best way to make others around you feel comfortable sharing theirs. And this applies to introductions as well. When you introduce people to each other, don’t only mention pronouns that aren’t “obvious.” Doing so reinforces the falsehood that someone’s pronouns can be assumed from their presentation. The truth is, someone who looks very masculine or very feminine may use they/them pronouns, and someone who looks ambiguous may use he/him or she/her pronouns.  There are even neopronouns to consider (more on that in the future).

The solution to knowing everyone’s pronouns, in short, is for everyone to introduce themselves with both their name and their pronouns. If we all get used to asking for and sharing pronouns, we will stop letting ourselves and others assume. By doing this, not only are we helping prevent harmful misgendering, we are also changing our social climate! Never forget: we have the power to make a difference. 

Sexism in the Queer Community: Some Factors

By Ace Garrett

Last week, Sierra enlightened us to the limited representation for queer women and foc people on screen. Today we are going to dive into the what factors influence the perception of queer women and foc people. We do not see well-rounded representation of queer foc relationships in the media (let alone frequently), so what gives?

Note: Claims in this post not hyperlinked to a source come from my reading of the book Becoming Cliterate by psychology professor and human sexuality expert Dr. Laurie Mintz. I highly recommend it to everybody.

First of all, patriarchal control has majorly influenced the porn industry and sex on screen: for decade, the idea has proliferated that sex without a dick involved is not sex. Why do you think it is common for an entire sexual encounter to consist of a hand job or blow job, while going down on a woman is “only foreplay” leading up to the main event? This societal norm is harmful for all of us with vulvas, and it means that sex between two female people is discredited. It is difficult for queer female relationships to be respected when queer female sexuality is completely misunderstood. 

Secondly, queer women actually are represented on screen—as sexual objects. If you can think of “queer women” on screen, how often are these women just making out, doing whatever the male director considers lesbian sex, or doing either of those in the company of one or more men? Queer women and foc people are mostly represented in media so far as they are a tool for male enticement and enjoyment. Even most “lesbian” porn is made through the male gaze and with the intention of pleasing men. This quote from The Atlantic suggests an explanation: “men are most aroused by visual cues that emphasize youth and downplay drama and emotional complexity. Lesbian porn, therefore, works for straight men by ‘doubling up’ those visual stimuli, Ogas told me. The only thing better than one nubile, personality-free woman is two of them.” This phenomenon somehow manages to hypersexualize queer women and foc people while tying that sexualization to men. 

The resulting perspectives of queer women and foc people are that their relationships are mostly sexual, but only “for fun”—they don’t have real sex. Quite the oxymoron. People more often than not fail to see relationships between women and foc people as strong and complex romantic bonds like other partnerships, which in turn, narrows the representation of our relationships in media. As I hope we will explore in future posts, these factors also result in other sexism-driven difficulties for queer women and foc people. 

Clarifying Gender: Using Multiple Sets of Pronouns

By Ace Garrett

Right now as you read, gender is evolving into the fun, expressive, and validating construct that it always should have been. People here in America finally have the language to understand and express their gender, and many are beginning to step outside of traditional gender expectations and live as their most authentic selves—which is all any of us want, right? If you want to continue being supportive of gender non‑conforming people, a good place to start is understanding pronouns. 

This week, Sierra skillfully informed us about pronouns and their independence from gender, which I am following up with this little series of additions to help you understand the niche aspects of pronouns and gender. Today, we’ll be covering the use of multiple pronouns.

You might be surprised, but many people actually use multiple sets of pronouns. For some, a mixture of pronouns might best reflect them. For others, they might simply be comfortable with more than one set and allow their friends and family to choose whichever they want to use. There are some people that are even comfortable using any pronouns! 

You probably know that pronouns come in sets of three (e.g., she/her/hers), but all three parts is pretty redundant, so pronouns have already been commonly abbreviated to the first two parts: she/her; they/them; he/him; etc. And these sets get abbreviated even more when someone uses multiple pronouns. People who are comfortable with more than one set of pronoun often abbreviate their pronouns like this: 

  • she/they
  • they/he
  • he/they/she

For some, this represents a catalogue of the pronouns they are comfortable with. However, some people have a preference, and they will put the pronoun set they are most comfortable with at the beginning. For example, non‑binary people who prefer they/them pronouns may also be comfortable with the pronouns tied to their sex assigned at birth—especially if (1) they are just discovering their gender identity or (2) they present in a very feminine or masculine way.

But remember what Sierra covered on Monday: pronouns and gender are independent parts of our identity, which is also independent from gender presentation. Someone could, for example, present very feminine while only using they/them pronouns and being agender.

To wrap this post up, I want to remind you that all people are different. We don’t have labels and “rules” in order to box people in; we have them to help people express themselves and find community. Each person is an authority over their own identity, and we should all take care to listen and be open to people falling outside our expectations.

Keep an eye out for part two!

No is a Complete Sentence

By Ace Garrett

Two weeks ago, Brooke told you the story of her discomfort around a man who she struggled to say no to. Today I’d like to ask the question: Why do women—why might anyone—struggle to say no? 

Let’s start with cisgender women and girls. According to sociologist professor, Kathryn Lively, Ph.D, “As young children, girls are socialized to be nice and to be more in touch with their own and other people’s feelings than are boys. [ . . . ] Boys, on the other hand, are socialized to be less attuned to people’s feelings, and to win.”

Other gender minorities may receive this socialization from being born female, from wanting to be perceived as a woman, or from experiencing excessive desire to be likeable or to be accepted due to their gender identity, among a myriad of other reasons. 

This socialization leads gender minorities to go along with things we would rather say no to. This is a hard-to-explain effect of the patriarchy, but it definitely affects many of us and is an unnecessary weight on our shoulders.

I have personally felt the impacts of this socialization: I feel guilt when my wants or needs get in the way of even the smallest whim of someone else. As a young girl, I was led to believe that a good person should be aware of and very considerate of others’ emotions. And since no two people have the same wants or needs, it has always been hard for me to advocate for myself—I have always been worried about everyone else. Today, I am still putting in a lot of conscious effort to try and undo this harmful habit. 

It is important to be considerate of others, but not to the detriment of our needs. Many women, trans people, and non-binary people need to reevaluate their line: at what point do you believe your wants and needs are worth speaking up for? 

Saying no is a crucial skill and a habit you need a healthy relationship with. Saying no is self-care. I hope you all find at least one little way to advocate for yourself this week. Never forget that you matter!

Other resources on this topic:

Saying no and advocating for the things you want is an important tool for all people, in all contexts. However, one of the most important skills people need to have is knowing how to say no to unwanted sexual contact. Due to all sorts of pressure and expectations surrounding sex, this is one of the hardest ways to say no. 

Angie Greaves, a radio presenter and blogger in the UK, has a great post that goes deeper into the specifics of women struggling to say no, including how to say no: “Stop with the ‘I’m sorry’ always attached to the end of saying ‘NO’.”

Book Recommendation:
Earlier this year, I read Untamed by Glennon Doyle, a memoir in response to her realization that she was gay, and even more importantly, her discovery of her own timidity with disappointing others. This novel was ground shattering for me, and it has some fascinating insights about gender and the ways in which women are socialized to act. Caveat: Doyle’s perspective is that of a middle-class white Christian woman, and although she makes some efforts at inclusion, there are parts of this book where her perspective is obviously narrow. You can find the synopsis, reviews, content warnings, and other information at the link above.

Our Fall Editor: Ace Garrett

By Ace Garrett

My name is Ace (she/her) and I am a new face at UMKC. I am a junior this year—but do any other students feel like the last few semesters barely counted? Maybe it’s because I transferred to UMKC last spring (and being on campus again is so new) but I feel as though I’m still wrapping up the freshman year that was suddenly cut short years ago…  maybe some of you know what I mean.

But even with the weight of the pandemic still on our shoulders, we have reason to celebrate this semester! The truly wonderful thing is that most of us are back on campus again, and we have new (and now obviously precious) opportunities to build community and connect again. I can’t say how ecstatic I am that I get to re-enter the college community as the Women Center’s blog editor!

At UMKC, I am double majoring in French and English (creative writing emphasis) and pursuing a minor in Manuscript, Print Culture, and Editing. I’m a Kansas City native, having moved back home after my short year spent at Occidental College in Los Angeles. I have always had a travel bug, and I never would have imagined attending college in Missouri, but I have already fallen in love with the Roo Community and am so grateful I found my way here.

As a woman and a lesbian, I jumped at the opportunity to intern at the Women’s Center. I am very passionate about gender equity and all branches of activism brought to the feet of our generation. Day to day, I spend lots of time with friends and family, play recreational volleyball, ride dirt bikes with my dad, study way too many languages, read and write (especially poetry), and try try try to stay on top of my schoolwork. True to my adventurous nature, I am at UMKC in pursuit of moving abroad post-graduation and travelling the world as a freelance copyeditor (and maybe a language teacher, writer, or translator thrown in as well).

I can’t wait to learn and grow with you all this semester, I hope you will appreciate everything we have in store!