Fear of Sharing

This is my third attempt to write this blog post. The assignment was Pride. Write anything about Pride.

But I had no idea it would be this hard.

“Why would people want to hear about pride from a hetero white girl?” … and this is where I get stuck each time I try to write this post.

I’m afraid of the ridicule. I’m afraid of offending someone, even unintentionally. I’m afraid of the cyberbullies who will position me as some privileged white chick who doesn’t know what she’s talking about. 

But here I am… writing this post again. Because I realized this perspective is important too. My experience of being fearful to speak, even with fully loving intentions, is important. Feeling tripped up, stumbling over my words and thoughts is not like me. 

If we’re going to love and support all the beautiful people in this world, we need to create space for all perspectives. And “all perspectives” includes mine, yours, and those who we don’t agree with. 

It challenging to hear someone’s perspective that’s different from your own. It’s difficult not to write them off. But not hearing them, or not allowing them the space to speak is worse.  

If we’re afraid to talk for fear of ridicule, then nothing will get done. No progress will be made. That would be the worst case scenario.

So I’m sharing this perspective - of a hetero white girl’s fear of writing about pride - to encourage all of us to keep talking! Share your love, share your questions, and share your truth. And most importantly, be a respectful listener for those sharing!

12 LGBTQ+ Folks You Should Know // Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel is an American cartoonist. Originally best known for the long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, she came to critical and commercial success in 2006 with her graphic memoir Fun Home, which was subsequently adapted as a musical which won a Tony Award for Best Musical in 2015. She is a 2014 recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Award. She is also known for the Bechdel test.
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Interview // Nicole Smartt, Owner of Star Staffing

Tell us about your business / current project.

Star Staffing is the career advice and placement experts in Northern California. We've been ranked as one of the fastest-growing companies in America appointed by Inc Magazine. We provide career advice and connect job seekers with local employers. We're currently located in Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Napa, Fairfield, Sacramento, and Lodi. 

If you could describe yourself in five words, what would they be?

Competitive, Driven, Hard-working, connected, resilient

Tell us about your co-conspirators. Who are the ladies you collaborate with on a regular basis?

I collaborate with inspiring, motivating, and go-getting ladies every day. From my teammates at Star to our vendors, clients, friends, and the community at large. I am constantly connecting, cultivating, and building on fierce lady partnerships.

How can young women get involved with an organization like The Lady Project?

They could start a forum group or smaller group in local cities to bring more awareness. 

Talk about the importance of finding your tribe.

Just as it's essential for kids to see people they identify with in movies, on TV, and in real life, it's just as essential for adults. Finding your tribe means you have a support network that understands you and your goals and will show up for you when you need them. It also means you get to invest in your tribe's future, which is both personally and professionally rewarding. 

Who inspires you these days? (Can be contemporary or a historical figure.)

Sheryl Sandberg inspires me! I recently attended her talk in San Francisco, where she talked about her new book, Option B. It's incredible that she was able to overcome an unimaginable tragedy, and she's been able to help others heal from pain at the same time. She took her own tragedy and made positivity out of it.

Why did you choose the career that you have?

I didn't know what I wanted to do. I applied for a front desk administrator position at a staffing firm when I was 18 years. I learned as much as I could, took on as many tasks and projects as I could, and one door leads to the next and the next. I went from front desk to recruiter to manager to sales representative and finally, 7 years later, I was owning my own company. The role is beyond fulfilling, rewarding, and every day is something new. We're making a distance every day and impacting many lives.

How do you think your work helps women locally and nationally?

Empowering other women is one of my key goals. Helping women find work that is meaningful to them and that supports their life goals serves an important purpose for individuals, their families, their friends, and the world. In the staffing industry, I think it's even clearer than in specific career goals - I get to see and support all kinds of women make a great living and help them achieve their career goals, and by extension, enrich their whole lives.

What changes to your business are you hoping to make in the next year?

We're looking to get more advanced in technology to continue our growth and competitive advantage. We're also looking to expand more with three additional offices in Central Valley California. 

What current events do you think are impacting you or your business directly right now?

We're constantly impacted by the changes in employment law. We play a large role in advocating for the staffing industry and sitting on boards within our industry to have real-time data on what's currently happening and what the future holds. 

When did you take your biggest risk (in life or business)? Was it worth it?

The biggest risk I took was joining forces with Star Staffing as an owner. I had never owned a business and I was 25 years old. It was absolutely worth it. They say, "If it's both terrifying and amazing then you should definitely pursue". I don't want to live with regrets and while many people told me not to invest in Star, I went with what I knew. I took a chance on me and it was worth it. We, as individuals, are our best investment! 

When things get rough, how do you keep yourself going?

Funny youtube videos, my goats, and great support! Challenges define us if they don't break us. I deeply believe challenges mold us into who we need to become in order to face the next part of our life. We come out stronger with more wisdom and character! After a rough day, I will either work out or spend time with my goats (I have 12). They're a huge sense of rejuvenation for me. 

What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

The best piece of advice I received is from a Teddy Roosevelt quote, "In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing". 

Do you label yourself a feminist? Please explain.

Absolutely, and I think we should all be feminists! Equality is the central hub of happy, healthy society. Women make up 56% of the United States, and yet not a single woman was in the room when the newest healthcare bill was created, which shows me we still have a lot of work to do to make equality a part of daily life. In my work, I see the effects of a sexist system, and I do everything I can to empower women and men, but I work extra hard to help women. 

If you had a theme song, what would it be and why?

Independent Women by Destiny Child

What's your favorite restaurant in the city where you live?

My favorite restaurant is Rossos. They're located in Petaluma, CA. They have scrumptious pizza. 

Where do you find your inspiration?

Everywhere! From reading an article to speaking with a friend to even daydreaming with my goats... inspiration is everywhere if you know how to look for it. 

Do you have a favorite internet resource for finding tips of your trade? How about any seminars you've been to that have taught you a lot?

I typically search social media for articles. Some of my favorite sites include Forbes, Career Contessa, Inc, and Elite daily. I enjoy listening to audio CDs while I drive so I'm always learning. I attend two to three webinars a week to gain more knowledge and understanding of products and services. 

What do you like about being part of The Lady Project?

Lady Project is an excellent organization I wish I knew about earlier. It provides ongoing education to learn and grow which is essential for career success. It provides networking and building strong women friendships.

5 LGBTQIA Writers and Poets to Read This June

Happy Pride! This month, as in years past, I’ve had the privilege of standing as an ally alongside my LGBTQIA brothers and sisters in celebration of Pride month. The love, support, encouragement, and loud cheers of freedom I hear all month long are so beautiful and overwhelming, even for me—and it means the world to me that I’m able to attend these hard-fought moments. 

In honor of Pride month this year, I strongly encourage you to learn more about some of the world’s brave, fierce LGBTQIA writers. Here are just five of the many who have transformed my worldview: 

Felicia Luna Lemus

“I knew she’d leave me. I figure we might as well go somewhere to fall apart.” 
Like Son

James Baldwin

“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word "love" here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace - not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.” 
The Fire Next Time

Lorraine Hansberry

“[I am] A fool who believes that death is waste and love is sweet and that the earth turns and men change every day and that rivers run and that people wanna be better than they are and that flowers smell good and that I hurt terribly today, and that hurt is desperation and desperation is—energy and energy can move things...” 
The Sign In Sidney Brustein's Window

Stacyann Chin

“If only out of vanity/
I have wondered what kind of woman I will be/
when I am well past the summer of my raging youth/”
“If Only Out of Vanity”

Allen Ginsberg

"O victory forget your underwear we’re free”
“Howl”

12 LGBTQ+ Folks You Should Know // Tammy Baldwin

Tammy Baldwin is the junior United States Senator from Wisconsin and a member of the Democratic Party. She previously served as the U.S. Representative from Wisconsin’s 2nd congressional district from 1999 to 2013, as well as serving three terms in the Wisconsin Assembly representing the 78th district.

She is the first woman elected to represent Wisconsin in the Senate and the first openly gay U.S. Senator in history.
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An Unexpected Love Story

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Let me start with our separate histories... 

I dated men for years, and some of them were awful experiences, and some of them were wonderful. I can look back now and say that at least three of those guys would have made wonderful lifelong partners... but even these great guys somehow weren't quite the right fit for me. I even married one guy, and we were an exceptionally bad match. After all the pain involved through all the years, to get cheated on and lied to by many, and slowly learn to trust enough to try a relationship again, to only be hurt yet again in one way or another... it weighs on you.

Sarah's experience was very different. She dated the same guy for 7 years. She waited for him to take the next step and finally propose and instead of that happening, she got a Facebook message from a girl she'd never met before who told her that she'd been dating her boyfriend for the last handful of months. They had met on Tinder and he was telling her all the same stories he'd told Sarah for years, about having children and building a house together to raise them in. She was crushed... 

I was that girl. We met because we dated the same sh*tbag guy at the same time and then found out about each other. We developed a friendship that then grew into a love relationship. Neither of us had ever dated women before, but both of us were open to the idea. Neither of us really bought into the idea that a relationship should fit into a labeled package. Love is love, no matter what. 

She was there for me emotionally in a way no one had ever been before. We understand each other so completely, that even when stress levels or hormones rise, we have wonderful deep conversations instead of fighting. This is by far the best relationship of my life, and I hope it stays that way for the rest of our lives.

Sarah and I both feel very fortunate to have lots of loving support from all of our parents. Telling my family was easy, and I am thankful. One of my parent's long term friends was a gay woman, and there was never anything strange about that. My parents were very careful in cultivating a deep sense of self. My father used to say things like, "Question everything, even me, especially yourself." My mother taught me to respect and cherish myself by saying things like, "What's the matter, your legs aren't perfect? But you have legs.. and they work; good for you. Not everyone is so lucky."  I will be eternally grateful for these lessons. 

Sarah's mother and sister and stepfather are wonderfully welcoming people, they were overjoyed to see her so happy. She was only nervous about telling her father, who she feared might be judgmental. When she shared this fear with me my response was "Don't worry, We are pretty fantastic together, and if he has a problem with us, that is his problem." When she saw her father next, he immediately noticed how radiantly happy she was. That was all that mattered. He's been very welcoming and sweet since the day I first met him. 

I did have a surprising problem, however with my "best friend". As soon as she found out Sarah and I had moved from supportive friends to lovers, she decided this was unhealthy and not okay because I wasn't gay. She refused to accept her in any way. This absolutely broke my heart. Couldn't my "friend" see how good she was for me? Apparently not. But like I said to Sarah regarding her fear of telling her father, we are fantastic together, and anyone who has a problem with that... that is their problem. I understand completely that my "friend" is harboring negative feelings, and these come from inside her. They have nothing do with the fact that Sarah is the most amazing match for me. 

If you are in love with someone, and you are both good for each other, it's the most beautiful thing in the world. When you have this kind of love in your life, it makes every facet of your life better. Any parent, sibling, or friend who doesn't support a relationship that makes your life better in every way, doesn't have your best interest at heart. That really feels awful. So if you find yourself in this situation I challenge you: do you have legs (love)? And your legs work (love works)? Good for you... not everyone is so lucky. 

Salon owner Betha Wood is the Director of Hair for Style Week Northeast. Working with fashion designers to design hairstyles for runway shows, Betha and her team of session stylists create inspiring fashion forward hairstyles seen in multiple fashion publications and fashion blogs.

Use The Pronouns “They/Them/Their” Until Proven Otherwise

Warning: This article may blow your mind if you are an English major.

A pronoun is a word that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase. Pronouns such as “he/him/his” and “she/her/hers” are what we use when referring to others, during Elementary school days. We learned to identify the other person as either male or female before assigning a pronoun. The pronouns that most of us were not taught to use, however, are, “they/them/their” when referring to one person. We learned that people and animals must fit into the male or female category. What about people that don’t fit into either of these categories? There are people that don’t identify as male or female. Some believe that gender is a spectrum that one can move back and forth on. New York believes that there are 31 genders and protects them all. Facebook has 58 options in regard to gender. Gender is no longer a binary thing.  

Since our society is becoming more aware of our non-binary world, we need to start using the correct pronouns when referring to people. We need to shift our thought patterns from believing that everyone we speak about must be a he or she. I believe that instead of attempting to figure out someone’s gender so that we can use the correct binary pronoun, we should just use “them/they/their” until proven otherwise. I once had a client explain it this way “I do not identify as only male or female. Some days I don’t feel that I am either, and other days I may feel more one way than the other. It’s like I am two people, that’s why I prefer they/them as pronouns” Not everyone experiences being non-binary in this way, but it’s the best way they could explain it. It’s important to remember that everyone’s experience with gender is different.  

Most people can remember the Saturday Night Live character, Androgynous Pat. The entire premise of the skits were to try to figure out what gender Pat was by what they did, said or wore. In reality, this shouldn’t even matter, just use “they/them” as their pronouns, or use their name, Pat. It’s not our job to place labels on others to make ourselves feel comfortable.  
Some people feel that changing this way of speaking can be difficult. It can take a little bit of getting-used-to. With practice, however, it does get easier. One example I use to help people understand how to use “they/them/their” pronouns is:

“Taylor said that they are going to sweep the floor. Can you tell them that their broom is in the corner?”

It takes a little extra time and thoughts, but its something that can mean a lot to someone that identifies as non-binary. The other tip I can give you is this: if you make a mistake referring to someone in front of others, don’t make a big deal about it. Correct yourself and move on. Later, when you can pull the person that was mis-gendered aside, you can then apologize. This shows that person that you respect them and their gender identity. Something as seemingly small as a three-letter pronoun can have a big impact on people. My suggestion is: Let’s all drop the labels and use “they/them/their” as our default pronoun. We no longer live in a binary world. 

Melissa DaSilva, LICSW is a licensed therapist and certified hypnotist in private practice at her group practice called East Coast Mental Wellness. Melissa has been a therapist for over 10 years, is an advocate for LGBTQ rights and public speaker. She is the host of the podcast called Pride Connections. You can find out more about Melissa on Facebook and Instagram.

12 LGBTQ+ Folks You Should Know // Monica Roberts

Monica Roberts is an African-American blogger, writer, and transgender rights advocate. She is the founding editor of TransGriot, a blog focusing on issues pertaining to transgender women of color. Roberts was a founding member of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition, and served as its Lobby Chair from 1999-2002. In 2016, Roberts received a Special Recognition Award from GLAAD in San Francisco.
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12 LGBTQ+ Folks You Should Know // Roma Guy

Roma Guy is a LGBT and women’s rights activist. Roma and her partner Dianne moved to San Francisco in the 1970s and they both co-founded The Women’s Building, and Roma was a cofounder of La Casa de las Madres, SF Women Against Rape, and The Women’s Foundation of California. Roma also advocated for women’s access to health care in San Francisco. She served for twelve years on the Health Commission City and County of San Francisco.
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5 Definitions You Should Know For Pride

Love is the most incredible gift to give and receive as a human being and we deserve to experience it fully, equally, without shame and compromise.—
— Ellen Paige

Warm weather has arrived and Pride month is upon us! The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health is celebrating Pride with you by combing through the meanings behind important words and phrases you might encounter this month.

The CSPH is a small non-profit located just north of Providence, Rhode Island, that works to advance culturally-inclusive, medically accurate, pleasure-informed sexuality education, therapy, and professional development. We provide a welcoming, friendly drop-in and online space to learn about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues.

We believe in the full equality of LGBTQIA+ individuals and celebrate the beauty and diversity in various types of relationships and identities that shape our world. Understanding how sexuality and identity interact with each other can be confusing, and terminology can blend together. If you’re eager to celebrate Pride and want to learn, don’t fret. We’re here to help! Let’s get to the basics. 

Here are 5 terms easily explained to help set the stage for Pride.

Gender Identity

Gender Identity is your sense of self as a man or woman, a combination of both, or neither. Do you feel you’re more “woman,” or “man,” or do neither fit? Or maybe both? Your gender identity is how you think and feel about yourself.

Gender is different than sex—which we’ll define here as the biological characteristics people are assigned at birth (i.e. genitalia, hormones, and chromosomes). Gender and sex are often used interchangeably, and it’s commonly believed that “vagina=woman” and “penis=man,” but that isn’t entirely true. 

Most children in western cultures are placed into a strict binary when they enter this world. If they are born with a vagina, they’ll be told they’re a girl from the moment they can comprehend language (vice versa for boys). Gender is presumed to be natural and static, but in reality, gender is a social norm that we’re taught and that we experience with much more complexity.

While most people in the world are cisgender (their gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth), gender isn’t always predictable or binary. For example, transgender people identify with a different gender than the one assigned at birth. Others consider themselves somewhere on a spectrum between man and woman. People who fall between or outside this spectrum may identify as non-binary (enby), genderqueer, genderfluid, agender, trigender, bigender, demigender, or other gender identities.

Gender Expression

Gender expression is how you express your gender through the ways you act, dress, and interact. Conventionally, behaviors and characteristics separate into “feminine” and “masculine,” and people who display attributes of both may be perceived/or identify as androgynous.

For example, a person walking down the street with long hair, minimal muscle tone, who’s wearing a flowy dress and goes by Sandy will typically be seen as a woman without much thought, even if Sandy doesn’t identify as such. Our brains are always unconsciously perceiving people’s voices, bodies, behaviors, and clothes, and labeling them as either a man or a woman. But the way we express gender is much more flexible and often changes from day to day or place to place. 

The expression of femininity and masculinity is a spectrum and most people demonstrate different attributes of each throughout their day. Some people choose to use their gender expression as a way to communicate what their gender identity is. Others choose not to show outward signs of their gender identity for all kinds of reasons (not being out, concerns about their safety, etc.) What’s important to note is that how we express our gender doesn’t necessarily determine how we identify our gender. Although they’re often correlated, gender identity and gender expression are independent of each other. 

Sexual Orientation

In simple terms, sexual orientation is about who you feel drawn to romantically, sexually, and emotionally.

Everyone has a sexual orientation! Folks who are attracted to people of their same gender usually identify their sexual orientation as lesbian or gay (or the more formal/medical term, homosexual). Folks who are attracted to people of a different gender usually identify as straight (or the more formal/medical term, heterosexual). Often, sexual and romantic attraction go hand in hand, but sometimes they don’t! Folks who don’t experience sexual attraction to others might identify as asexual, and folks who don’t experience strong romantic attraction to others might identify as aromantic.

Just like gender, sexual orientation exists on a continuum. Someone who identifies as bisexual or pansexual feels attraction to more than one gender. They many not necessarily experience equal attraction to all genders, but this does not make them any “less” bi or pansexual. 

Sexual orientation isn’t necessarily static. This part of our identity can develop and change over time! People may also use other labels (pansexual, demisexual, polysexual, andro/gynosexual, etc.) to identify their sexuality or use none at all.

Intersectionality

To grasp the concepts above, it’s vital to understand intersectionality and how it affects gender and sexual orientation. Intersectionality, a concept coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, is how different social identities such as race, body size, ability, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, class, gender, and ethnicity intersect. These interdependent identities affect how we experience privilege and oppression, and how the world perceives us.

For example, celebrated leaders in the LGBTQIA+ movement (and the sexuality field) are often white, cisgender, and typically-abled. Leaders who hold marginalized identities, like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (the trans women of color, sex workers, and civil rights activists who fueled the Stonewall riots that developed into Pride), are too often forgotten or ignored. Within a group of people who experience backlash and discrimination for their sexual orientation or gender identity, there are still layers of race, gender, class, and other identities that contribute to complex experiences of privilege, oppression, and discrimination. What’s important to remember is an identity can never be isolated when discussing social justice.

LGBTQIA

Traditionally, LGBT is used to abbreviate for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. It’s a popular acronym used to represent queer communities as a whole. The CSPH uses LGBTQIA to include queer/questioning, intersex, and asexual identities under the umbrella as well, to help promote inclusivity and social justice.

Want to learn more? Check out our ID A Day series on the CSPH blog, where we highlighted one sexuality-related identity every day for an entire month!

Patty Affriol, Editorial Content Intern at The CSPH