What Are You Going To Do With That Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies Degree?

I wrote & performed a poem called “What I’m Going To Do With My Women* Studies Degree” at the Gender, Women, Sexuality Studies graduation in 2004.

Ever since I saw it, I’ve been thinking of this tweet. Things are changing so, so much. I’m so grateful.

One of my favorite parts of the poem? “People ask me — ‘what are you going to do with that degree? Go work at the women studies factory?'”

(That poem is called Every Single Day on my 2004 spoken word poetry album, For the Record.)

When I took my first feminist theory class, at Seattle Central Community College in 2000 (wish I remembered the professor’s name to give credit), I had such a lightbulb moment that I felt bowled over. Oh. I’m a women studies major. Right. I forgot. Well, it’s not that I forgot, it’s that I had never thought that thought before, but now that I had, I knew completely that it was correct.

I needed that degree because I needed to understand the suffering I had related to my nonbinary (though we weren’t using that word then) gender and my queerness, and I came out of it with a bigger understanding of other intersectional identities like my artist/semi-working class background and my whiteness. That degree was survival, was key for me to be able to be an adult in the world and not be completely shut down by my experiences as a person with marginalized identities.

I was also a Creative Writing/English major, and my tentative plan was to work in book publishing. I figured I’d be writing eloquent emails and identifying the sexism in the workplace, and that’s what I’d be doing with it.

I used to feel some envy — or even jealousy — when other people would write eloquently about intersectional oppression, because I wanted so badly to do that. but jealousy is often the best teacher, because I doubled down and studied and wrote and wove my experience in with all the things I was learning. Sometimes I say Sugarbutch is my graduate degree, only partly in jest.

I never expected to have the tiny platform (very well known in very few places) that I have, talking about sexuality, gender, kink, and relationships. so much of what I know comes from that degree, and from the queer education my first queer roommate led me through when I was 20, 21, 22.

So I saw this tweet the other day and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. It stopped me and I had to pause my scrolling and let it settle in.

Things are changing so, so much. I’m so grateful.

Seeing so many people picking up this conversation and doing so much work, in such huge ways … instead of feeling jealousy, I just feel relief.

Relief that the racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, heterosexism, cissexism, is being called out from within tiny communities to a national level. Not everywhere, I know, and I’m in a self-selected bubble on the internet just like I’m in a self-selected bubble in the liberal cities I’ve lived in all my adult life. But because of the internet, and advancing technology, and because of the marginalization and terror we are feeling so hard due to this presidency, it is happening in such larger ways.

And I’m feeling this slow ungripping, this letting go, this holding on to it softer. I’m still so invested, and I still get in there and get my hands and face and feet and whole self dirty sometimes, but I don’t feel obligated the way I did before.

Still, often, I feel like there is so much to do and so little has changed. But when I pull back a little, there are such significant differences even in my lifetime.

I’m so grateful for the strides.

And thank you, Earth, first for teaching me so much, and now for continuing to catch up.

*The degree at University of Washington Seattle at the time was called Women Studies, definitively with no apostrophe-s, because it was studies about women, not studies that women do. It’s now changed to Gender, Women, Sexuality Studies, which they abbreviate to GWSS and pronounce g-whiz. (Love it!) As a student, my class petitioned the department to change the name and expand to gender and sexuality, even to use the word ‘queer.’ This is one of the oldest Women Studies programs in the country, however; started in the early 80s (I think), and the first batch of professors were just then starting to retire. They said, you have no idea how hard we fought to use the word women, to convince the university that women studies is legit. I learned a lot from those conversations, and while I’m glad they changed the name, I respect the roots and think it’s important to name the lineage it comes from. Much love to the professors there who changed my life.

Big Book of Orgasms: Blog Tour!

bigbook Today’s my day on The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories blog tour … BUT I am running around like a crazy person getting ready to

1. Zoom into San Francisco and read at The Big Book of Orgasms release party (where I’m going to read Five Blow Jobs, FYI)
2. Go right from the reading to the airport
3. Catch a red-eye overnight plane to New York City, where I will
4. Teach a writing workshop at Columbia tomorrow, Thursday, and then
5. Perform a spoken word set in the evening (also at Columbia), and
6. Host an open mic to encourage the students to share their own work.

Fuck.

Maybe I shoulda waited to put up the hottest parts of the hottest parts of the stories post. Oh! Hey, those of you who are here for the blog tour? Go read that post. It has some good quotes in it.

So, consider this my Big Book of Orgasms placeholder until a) my schedule dies down, and b) I actually read more of the book (oops). Which I will. I love the short-shorts.

Video Poems: “Gender Architecture” and “The Right One”

At the Northern Exposure kink conference in Anchorage earlier this month, Sarha, our 2013 IMsL and one of the producers of the contest, asked if I’d like to do a short performance set during her weekend finale, the seven deadly sins dinner.

I was lucky enough to land on “lust.” So after a salad (course of envy), halibut, perfect creamed potatoes, and asparagus, the strawberries with melted chocolate came out, and they called me up to the stage.

“Gender Architecture”

“The Right One”

These poems are actually kind of … well, old. I wrote them early on when I was living in Seattle, which was probably at least ten years ago now. They’re both on my spoken word album For the Record which was released in 2005 (and is online through bandcamp if you want to listen to it or buy it). The first piece, “Gender Architecture,” is also known as “the boots piece,” and there are some parts of my theories about gender that I’m not sure I still agree with exactly … no, it’s not that I disagree, maybe it’s just that I wouldn’t put it that way, at this point. The second piece is still one of my favorites to perform, especially because of the way the beginning starts, where it’s made to sound like I’m just still casually talking to the audience but then I launch into the poem. It’s kind of a surprise that way. And when the audience energy is good, it’s so, so sexy.

I’d really like to do more spoken word. Adding that to the list, and trying to strip away other things that aren’t as satisfying.

Protected: Back on the Path

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… But Butch Voices Portland is This Weekend!

Hot on the heels of the Butch Voices NYC Regional conference, Portland is hosting their own Butch Voices this coming weekend, October 1-3. And I’ll be there!

I debated attending Portland’s conference—after all, these conferences are regional, so why attend in a region so far from where I live? But I adore the West coast, if you’ve been following Mr. Sexsmith’s Other Girlfriend you know the love affair I have every time I go visit a city on the I-5 corridor. It’s where I grew up, it’s the culture I know and feel most at home in, it’s what I crave and miss, and, eventually, I think it’s where I’ll end up. (Not sure when, exactly, but it seems right to be headed back that way, eventually.) So it feels important to me to attend.

I’ll be there Friday for the SWeLL performance, and then at the conference on Saturday, and reading my new butch poem, “Unsolicited Advice To A New Butch,” at the spoken word event on Sunday. Here’s the details:

Butch Voices Portland
9:30AM-10:45AM
Telling Our Stories: Writing Workshop with Sinclair Sexsmith

Everyone is the expert of their own life. Everyone knows themselves, their stories, their triumphs, their heartaches, better than anyone else. We all come from somewhere. We all have had struggles, heartaches, successes, breakthroughs, knockdowns, sideswipes, joy, that have brought us from the people we used to be to the person that we are today, and we butches have our own unique and similar stories. The rewards of starting to tell these stories, to write them down, to have others witness our stories, can be massive. The power of words to name what has happened in your lifetime can be spiritually and psychologically healing, can bring together communities of like-minded people, and can even write our selves into existence and change the world. Join writer, blogger, and activist Sinclair Sexsmith in a personal writing workshop about bringing out own inner stories out, finding the stories of our lives that are begging to be told, trusting the wisdom of our own inner voices, and finding the courage to share our stories with others. We will discuss blogging, places to read your work, editing, basic craft, and other inspirational butch writers. Bring paper and something to write with, there will be writing prompts.

Gender/Queer
Sunday, October 3rd, 2pm to 5pm
at In Other Words, 8 NE Killingsworth, PDX
Free and open to the public!

Gender/Queer is a spoken word/poetry event, that will happen on Sunday, October 3rd at In Other Words. Start time is 2:00pm and we’ll burn a fire under your feet till 5:00. The event will feature an open mic, as well as several featured performances. This event will be emceed by our PDX favorite MC Sossity Chiricuzio, notorious for her fabulous work with Portland’s one and only Dirty Queer.

The goal of this event is to offer a stage for the voices of butch identified women, transmasculine studs, aggressives, and any other individuals that find their identity on the gender queer continuum. We are also welcoming all allies to participate in this event. Gender/Queer offers an opportunity to shout out our stories through art and poetry and encourage a community oriented activism that demands social and economic justice as well as equal rights. It is a stage where artists can freely express their work on queer identities, sexualities, wants, desires, politics, you name it.

ASL interpretation provided by DHOR

I won’t be making it to the LA Conference, though I’d love to. Next time, maybe.

See you in Portland!

Where to Find Me

I’ve got a lot of performances coming up in the next few months in New York City. If you’d like to say hi, please do! I’ll have my spoken word CD and copies of the Sugarbutch Star Chapbook, if you’ve wanted to get your hands on those.

Tomorrow! Thursday, February 12th, 9:30pm
AuralFixia: An erotic blend of spoken word, porn, and burlesque
Performances by: N * JZ Bich * Bunny Nose Best * Ami Uzi * Sinclair Sexsmith * Tess, Urban Gypsy * Audacia Ray
WOW Cafe, 59-61 e. 4th street, 4th floor

auralfixiaposter

*

Tuesday February 24th 7PM – 9PM
$5 suggested donation
Open mike – sign-up at 7 pm – 8 minute limit
Hosted by Vittoria repetto
Bluestockings Bookstore
172 Allen St. (between Staton & Rivington) NYC
212-777-6028 [email protected]
www.bluestockings.com

*

UPDATE: Unfortunately, I won’t be at Gayety this weekend – it’ll still be a great show, I’m sure!
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Gayety! A Queer Comedy Cabaret!

gayety.wordpress.com
9:30 PM
Re/Dress: 109 Boerum Place, Brooklyn, NY
with Femmecee Bevin Branlandingham, Kelli Dunham & Sinclair Sexsmith, and other Gayety Guests
February’s theme: Halfway to Michfest! Love it or hate it, Fest is part of dyke culture and we’ve all got something to say about it!
Gayety Queer Comedy Cabaret has its triumphant return the last Saturday of each month. Accessible, interesting, and compelling comedy is just what the doctor ordered!

*

Saturday, March 28th
Gayety! A Queer Comedy Cabaret!
gayety.wordpress.com
9:30 PM
Re/Dress: 109 Boerum Place
Theme: Sailor’s Delight

*

Thursday, April 16th
In the Flesh Erotica Reading Series
Happy Ending Lounge, 302 Broome Street, New York,NY
8:00 PM
Virgin (new) authors and first-time readers grace the In The Flesh stage. With Jenny Block (Open), Sarah Wendell (Beyond Heaving Bosoms, Smart Bitches Trashy Books blog), Sinclair Sexmith (Sugarbutch), Gideon Levy (Kinky Jews). Hosted by Rachel Kramer Bussel. Free candy and cupcakes will be served
inthefleshreadingseries.blogspot.com

*

Saturday, April 25th
Gayety! A Queer Comedy Cabaret!
gayety.wordpress.com
9:30 PM
Re/Dress: 109 Boerum Place, Brooklyn, NY
Theme: Formal Gayety!

*

Wednesday, April 29th
Visible: A Femmethology book release party
www.femmethology.com
7pm
Bluestockings Bookstore 172 Allen St.(between Staton & Rivington) NYC
212-777-6028 [email protected]
www.bluestockings.com

DC celebrates mothertongue

I’ve met Natalie – the coordinator of mothertongue – in passing a few times and always really enjoyed her company, I always wanted to go down to DC to see her show and watch her perform some more. Those of you who are in the area are lucky to have this fab event coming up, check it out.

mothertongue Turns 10 Years Old
October 15, 2008
Word.

Safe. Empowered. Creative. Heard. Since October 1998, mothertongue has encouraged women in the Washington, DC area to share their voices. mothertongue is a community-based, all-volunteer run organization that works to create a safe space where all women may speak freely and powerfully and have their creative and artistic voices heard. Through monthly women’s spoken word events and writing/performance workshops, mothertongue encourages women to use their voices, art, talents, and skills to build just and inclusive communities.

mothertongue celebrates its tenth birthday on October 15 at the Black Cat, featuring spokenword performances by mothertongue cofounders Karen Taggart and Ruth Dickey; mothertongue collective members, and a splash of new voices.

After the open mic, the anniversary celebration will continue with local up-and-coming folksinger Nancy Eddy and the punk rock duo Trophy Wife.

The event will also showcase a screening of The Coat Hanger Project (2008) directed by mothertongue alumna Angie Young.

Unlike any other spokenword organization, the proceeds of each mothertongue shows go to a local beneficiary. mothertongue is proud to have supported a diverse group of local DC organizations, including the Black Lesbian Support Group, Dinner Program for Homeless Women, DC Rape Crisis Center, Hannah House, Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive, Lesbian Services at Whitman Walker, Tahireh, Ophelia’s House, Visions in Feminism, Girls Rock DC, DC Kings,The Rainbow History Project, and
Phasefest 2008.

mothertongue calls upon readers from across the DC Metro Area to share their original spokenword on the celebrate 10 years of mothertongue with original spokenword performances. Natalie E. Illum, mothertongue’s current President and longest-running board member, will also be stepping down at this herstoric event. She looks forward to being an inspired audience member at future mothertongue events.

Got something to read? Contact Michelle Sewell at msewell[at]mothertonguedc.org Or Danielle Evennou at dmevennou[at]gmail.com.

When: October 15, 2008
Doors 8:00pm/Show 9:00 pm
Where: The Black Cat (1811 14th St, NW)
Cost: $8-10 (proceeds to benefit mothertongue’s future programming)

STAY IN TOUCH:
www.myspace.com/3wordproductions
www.myspace.com/mothertonguedc
www.myspace.com/wordwarriorsbook
www.myspace.com/girlchildpress
http://www.mothertonguedc.org

ask and you shall receive

Thanks for all the comments & requests on the whispers, after poem – I’m glad to provide the audio of me reading the piece. Download it here: whispers, after mp3.

I’m most definitely not a recording engineer, and I get pretty impatient with the edits, so it’s messier than I’d like it to be. But I’m trying not to let my perfectionism about my spoken word get in the way. Thanks for the request, Viviane – happy to oblige.

How to Survive Your First Year in New York City

(work in progress) 

I Summer

Immediately in the city everything is just as hard as you’ve always heard it is: the disgusting humid summers. Finding an apartment. Getting a job. Locating friends. But the subways become easy, once you get the hang of it, and Manhattan is comprehensible, once you orient yourself. Be careful not to over-orient: you will change.

Invest in an air-conditioner. August will be brutal.

Distract yourself by going to every Brooklyn roof party you can find. Ask everyone for their New York survival tips. One boy with great hair says “a solid pair of skater shoes” ‘cause they’re so durable to the constant new relationship of your feet to concrete. A German girl who’s lived here ten years says, “an expensive, fancy pair of headphones” that she puts on before she leaves the house and takes off only when she gets to where she’s going. An older woman from the West Coast says “nature shows” remind her of the earth and essential oils give her that sense memory. A young queer boy says “a day bag, a perfect day bag,” with pockets for all the survival tools you need for the city: book, notebook, pens, subway map, Manhattan map, metro card, water bottle, wallet, hand sanitizer, tissues, smokes, cell.

Search everywhere for these tools. Your search will teach you the city. Do not stop until you find them.

II Fall

When the leaves start to become undone and summer’s oppression begins to unravel and the tourists leave, go to the park. Buy a skateboard or roller blades or a bike or a Frisbee. Borrow a dog.  Promenade the West Village with a pretty girl, any pretty girl. Fall in love, that’ll help.  Best if she knows the city better than you and can take you to her favorite Mexican restaurant, dive bar, dance club.

This is good. Keep yourself occupied. But be careful not to get too comfortable in her world: you won’t be there long. Do not assume you will get to keep anything from her, other than the memories. You are still making your own New York. Join some organizations, make some friends, make some art, take up time. There is so much to be done here.

Keep trying to figure out what you’re doing here. Once you figure out what you’re doing here, you will know how long it will take to do it, and then you’ll know when you can leave. But you won’t know until you know. And it always takes longer than you think.

III Winter

By the time the first snow falls, you will have an idea of what your own New York looks like. Re-read Colson Whitehead’s The Colossus of New York and remember that it is only after your favorite Thai restaurant becomes a coffee shop that the city will begin to show you its ghost.

This is a good thing. But winter is a hard time here, and you will loose two of the four of the following: your job, your apartment, your community, or love. It is hard to hold more than two for very long in this city. Watch the New Yorkers, they have these four balls in the air constantly but rarely touch more than two at a time.

You may loose the girl. The one whose hair swirls, whose breath you feel all the way to your toes. This will hurt. That’s okay. Feel it.

The girl you want isn’t in New York anyway, the girl you want would never live in New York. She’s too tender, sensitive to the overstimulation, just like you. But you can take it, for a little while. You can learn to put the armor on, and then take it off again.

This is how New York makes you strong.

IV Spring

When you’ve finally given up on the trees, they will start greening again. It is time for a few more things to hop into place. Your sister will become your roommate and you will learn so much about your childhood. You will begin to watch and understand how what you take into your body effects you. You get a friend, a best friend, suddenly, an instant connection, someone you call when something big happens, someone who is usually free for beers at the pub on the weekends.

This city may exhaust you, but you will never exhaust it.