Ending the Stigma Around Polyamory

Love is love, we all cry out, begging for acceptance. Every one of us knows this to be true. To be judged for who you love can be an alienating and confusing. Yet, when it comes to those in polyamorous relationships, we often don't know how to react. Like many things "out of the ordinary," polyamory is somewhat of a taboo topic. While anyone can be polyamorous and love two people, many have issues accepting this. In the straight community, those who are poly are often seen as players. However, in our LGBT+ community, one would think there would be more acceptance. This sadly is not the case. 

We have all had that one friend who was part of a thruple that ended terribly, and so we assume this is how all poly relationships will end up. Personally, I have had the same misconceptions in the past. However, I have learned that I was being close-minded. 

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Most of us have had a similar experience with introducing our new same-sex partner to our families after coming out of the closet. It is nerve-wracking, there are uncomfortable questions, and some refuse to accept it. Imagine this; now you have two partners to introduce. Those who are poly have the same social struggles to those that are queer, if not more so. It is important to understand how poly relationships work to lift some of the stigmas behind it.

Poly relationships are just like any relationship. They require honesty, trust, commitment, and love. All three or more people must communicate and trust one another for it to work. Many say "well I could never do that." The thing is, love and sexuality are not one size fit all. What does not work for one person could be exactly what someone else needs.

How Does It Work?

Many ask those in polyamorous relationships, "how does it work?" Many genuinely do not understand how someone can be with multiple partners and have successful relationships. So I reached out to some poly/queer individuals to ask them.

According to Candace, a local Poly-Queer woman, "it works by all parties having open communication (or at the very least the "main" partners having open communication sometimes they agree on a 'don't ask don't tell' relationship)." 

Melissa Huddleston, another poly individual, stated when being asked how it works for her, "As far as how it works, I think I'm just built to give and receive more attention than other people. I have a lot to give. It's not difficult for me. I would probably be smothering to just one person. Both partners enjoy their alone time so while I am spending time with one, the other is getting time away from me, which is also important. The only thing difficult is to remember to tell them BOTH when something happens during my day. Often-times I'll tell one and forget to tell the other." 

Barriers 

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It is assumed that a relationship with multiple partners will fall apart. Those who have had a poly relationship may have barriers, but they have also had successful relationships. 

An anonymous Poly Individual stated on the subject of barriers, "Sometimes it can be challenging in the sense that if I'm going through something at home like financial hardships or emotional trying times I can have partners but still feel alone because it's not all that relevant for those who don't live with me. Also being introverted I value my alone time and don't want to chat or hang out but I still feel pulled into feeling obligated to do it to sustain the relationship.

Candace added, "The barriers I have faced are jealousy. I'm a very self-deprecating person and have never believed myself worthy of my husband's love and affections. In the beginning, I felt like he would find someone better and leave me. I would get jealous of his dates thinking this would be the time he leaves. Most people that I reveal my polyness to are not judgmental, but very curious and have lots of questions which I'm usually very open, so don't mind answering. The only bad reaction I've ever had was from an older person who also believed being anything other than straight was awful".

Melissa Huddleston explained that her barriers included her jealousy. " My husband is poly too, and I struggled a lot with it the first couple years. I got a poly-friendly therapist, and they have helped a lot, but I still struggle. My husband's mom is very accepting, but my mom not so much. She ignores the fact that I'm doing it, acts like it doesn't exist, which makes it hard for me to share anything at all with her because I have to pretend that so much of my life isn't happening."

Benefits of a Poly Relationship

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Romance is not one size fits all. Polyamory varies person to person. Which is why I asked multiple people to see what works for them. 

What Candance enjoys about being poly is, "Never feeling alone,  there's always someone I can turn too when I really need affection. I have my husband, two girlfriends (one of which also dates my hubby) and a bf that's also dating one of the gf. We're a cute little polycule, OH the best part of being poly is always having enough people around for a board game."

An Anonymous Interviewee stated, "I love the opportunity to know wonderful people in a deep level without fear of judgment. I like that I can have my own identity away from being a wife and mom and still be respected and adored. I love that I can have sex with people outside of marriage and it's okay because there's consent and safety. I enjoy knowing that I don't have to be everything to one person and vice versa. I can get different qualities from different partners, and it doesn't make anyone more special than the other."

Melissa Huddleston said,"I love having two partners because it doubles the amount of support I get. And the attention lol I love attention. It's like I have two personal cheerleaders. I think it mainly works so well because my partners are best friends."

Poly Can Absolutely Work

 In a poly relationship, there is love, there is honesty, and there is trust. While responses vary person to person these are the base things that are needed for a Poly relationship to thrive. With that said, many people make it work and prefer to have multiple partners according to their preferences. There is not "one way to be poly," and that is okay, humans are so diverse, as is our sexuality and no one should try to make themselves fit into a box when they are a triangle. Love is love, and we should all be allowed to love how we love without being shamed. All You Need Is Love.


Sources

Glassburn, S. (2017, April). 7 Ways to Dismantle the Stigma Surrounding Polyamory. , (), . Retrieved from 

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/7-ways-to-dismantle-stigma-surrounding-polyamory-0411174

Sylvan, J. (2014, February). Answers To Every Question You Have About My Queer Polyamorous Relationship.     

Buzzfeed, (), . Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeed.com/jadesylvan/answers-to-every-question-you-have-about-my-queer-polyamorou?utm_term=.nhzg2ROoj#.kp8pJbx47

California Teachers Association GLBT Issues Conference

By Peggy Nemeth

The California Teachers Association, a union with 350,000 members, likely contributes more to equity in education than any other organization. It provides LGBT+ youth of California with more protection and support than students outside of California enjoy. 

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One opportunity that I have gratefully participated in as a CTA member has been the annual CTA GLBT Issues Conference. This weekend-long conference has taken place for nine years, usually in Palm Springs or San Jose, where hundreds of California teachers gather to learn and network about issues that are of highest importance to LGBT+ youth and teachers. 

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On Friday evening of the conference, about 300 teachers arrive at the hotel ballroom where the events of the GLBT Issues Conference kick off with a delicious dinner, inspirational speakers, and group activities. The following Saturday includes a jam-packed agenda with many workshop choices, a film, various exhibits with resources for teachers, and a keynote speaker. This year’s workshop topics included:

  • How To Be an Out Educator or Supportive Ally
  • The Only Choice I Made Was not To Live a Lie
  • Creating Trans-Affirming Schools
  • Empowering Student Social Activists
  • Organizing for Success
  • Strength Stories/Appreciative Inquiry
  • FAIR Act 2.0 Classroom and Beyond
  • Creating a Safe Place – Legal Obligation
  • Understanding Labels – Helpful or Hindrance
  • Resources for GSA Advisors
  • Mindfulness and Meditation Practices for an Equitable, Emotionally Safe Classroom
  • Coming Out Again and Again
  • Ideas to Transform Your School Culture
  • The Superhero Courage of Being LGBTQ+
  • Moonlight Movie Dialogue
  • Create an LGBTQ+ Friendly Environment
  • Building an Equity Team
  • Trump Administration Dialogue
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As a teacher at Riverdale High School, where I’ve served as GSA advisor for the past six years, I find the CTA GLBT Issues Conference to be a most valuable resource regarding best practices and policies that protect and support students who identify as LGBT+. Over the past several years, I have convinced eight other teachers from my school to attend this conference, hoping to spread the wealth of information to more educators and promote a school environment that is a positive one for all. Every teacher I know who has attended this event has been very glad they did. I wish ALL California teachers were aware of this conference’s value. Spread the word! Details at links below. 

About California Teachers Association 

CTA GLBT Issues Conference 2017

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Being Me

My name is Kara. If that is the only thing that you take away from this blog post I would be extremely grateful.

I was labeled as “the loner, the angry kid” “different.” Not the same. Invisible.

I was outed when I was 18 years old to my family. I lived in a rural area and had no access to other people that were like me. Meeting the status quo of being a quiet country girl in a small country town reigned supreme. Society drilled into me the idea that I was to act and behave in a way that was socially and culturally accurate. I spent so much time  preparing myself to enter into a heteronormative world. A world in which I felt that I was an imposter. A world that had already deemed me a second class citizen because of my sexual organs and feminine appearance.

It  gave me the conflicting message that being my true self was something that was better kept in the closet and only taken out on special occasion.

Not to mention that the only images that I had of successful lesbians was what was portrayed in the media. Ellen, Portia, The L word, Wanda Sykes, Rachel Maddow, the WNBA.

To meet the expectation of being a successful lesbian. Because all gay people are “successful” aren’t they? That’s what the TV says. That’s what the radio says. That’s what other gay people expect/believe, right?

I existed in two worlds.

The message from the hetero/family world:

“Hide.”
“Hide who you are.”
”Don’t tell anyone, they will treat you badly.”
“Because you’re gay, you’re a target and “we have to protect you.”
“Be pretty.”

The LGBT world:

“Be out and proud!”
“Equal rights!”
Proposition 8, gay marriage equality, gay adoption!

What I never heard or believed for myself:

That I was capable of interacting in the world as my authentic self. It took me approximately 35 years to finally come out as “myself.” To rip off the label of what society had labelled me and just be. Be me.

I would start my day in the heteronormative world:  Shower, shave armpits, shave legs, dry hair and use tons of product that is marketed to women in pink and purple bottles and has a flowery scent (As if, somehow, having my body reek of synthetic chemicals made me any more self-confident or sexually attractive to either sex).

Feeling like a Stepford wife I would leave my home and go to work. I worked at a clothing store where the sole premise was to have women purchase credit cards and magazines and tons of clothes. To use my feminine form to model the product to the consumer and gain her loyalty to a brand name. I was told over and over that it was my job to gain a woman’s loyalty to a product that would magically make her feel happy and give her a sense of identification and higher self-esteem amongst her peers.

When I would get home, I would be able to take off the Stepford wives uniform (as I called it) and step into my “gay self”. My more comfortable self. The one that didn’t have to pretend to have a perfectly crafted image behind it.

The self that wears thrift store clothing and stuff from H&M together. The self that doesn’t need a thick layer of makeup to make me feel attractive, to hide the “imperfections.”  That doesn’t need to accessorize an outfit, or grow my hair long to “fit in” with other women.  Or to fit in with the world.

The person that has ideas, and goals and opinions and humor and wit.

The person that has life experience that is willing to share.

The person that would grab another person’s hand in a crowd and start dancing for the fun of it, not afraid of what other people would think.

The person that is on the inside that was screaming my whole life to come out.  To come out of the closet in my own way. In a way that I felt comfortable with.

The person that became invisible once I stepped out the door of my home.

The pressure of trying to keep up this guise lasted until this past January. I walked out of a job that wasn’t me. It was nothing that I stood for. Nothing that I believed. Nothing but shaming women into purchasing overpriced clothing to make them feel more attractive, more competitive in a group of women.

I have learned that it isn’t the clothing brand, the job, the money, the car, the makeup brand, the music that you listen to or what trend you follow that makes you who you are.

These things are a “label.”

These things are not you as a person.

They are not the heart and soul of you the human being.

What makes you worthy of acceptance is the way that you treat yourself and those that you come into contact with on a daily basis.

You have the choice to make the world a little better each day. Why not make the world a little better every day by being your authentic self?

When you deny your authentic self, your core beliefs and values, you begin to walk a very thin, very treacherous line. If you hide your inner self for reasons of safety, I can seriously relate. That is a survival skill. That is nothing to ever, ever, ever be ashamed of.

But the moment you begin to feel safe, supported, loved is the beginning. The moment that you gain acknowledgement from others like you, the authentic people in your life, is the moment that the world begins to open up a little bit.

And what a fantastic place it has become.

Same Love Today

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When this song was released, I was going through a really weird time in my life. I was around the age of 14 or 15, at the time, and was a freshman in high school. I didn’t have many friends, but I did hang out with one girl who was my closest friend at the time. We hung out in a small group every day during lunchtime and one of her friends would always make fun of me.

I once wore a pair of white knee high socks that had a rainbow around the top of them. I thought they were really cool because where the rainbow was, there was a little zipper.I could put money in the little pocket. Because there was a rainbow, this guy just assumed I was gay and every single day he called me “the goth lesbian chick." That was actually a nicer version of what he actually called me. Point is that because I wore a pair of rainbow socks one day to school, I was instantly labeled a “Lesbian” and I didn’t get it. I had a boyfriend and never really liked girls.

After a while I realized that I did have a crush on one girl, but I shrugged it off. I mean it was only one girl. Then I started liking a girl in my science class. Well, not to long after "Same Love" played on the radio.

I remember the first time I ever heard the song. I was in the car with my grandma and my brother. I was sitting in the passenger seat enjoying the radio while I stared out the window as I always did. Then the first verse played and I remember being intrigued immediately by the way it sounded. Then I really listened to the lyrics. 

A bunch of stereotypes all in my head / I remember doing the math like Yeah, I'm good a little league / A preconceived idea of what it all meant  

After this line I felt someone understood. I’ve learned that people will judge you within seconds of meeting you. Society labels you as whatever they want to.

I started doing my research and tried to understand a little bit more about what it even means to be part of the LGBT+ community. I wasn’t raised in a home where being LGBT+ was normal. I just kept thinking, “I’ve liked two girls before. Does that mean I’m gay? Does that mean no one will accept me?" I’ve come to find out that none of that matters.

I learned at that moment I like both guys and girls. If society wants to label me as a Lesbian when I’m with a girl, and straight when I’m with a guy, or confused when I’m single, then that is fine. What anyone else labels you as doesn’t matter. Sure, most people think I'm just confused because I've never been with a girl, but what really matters is what you label yourself as. What matters is you accept yourself.

I listened to "Same Love" so many times when all of this was happening and even more when I accepted that I am bisexual.

A few days ago I listened to the song again. Every word means so much to me.

When I came out I got a lot of support. I also got equal amounts of hate with a lot of people telling me I didn’t know what I wanted. It tore me down for so long. I never understood how someone could be so offended by something that doesn’t even concern them. There is so much hate in this world not just against the LGBT+ community, but against anything that is ever slightly different.

The line, “I might not be the same, but that's not important” tells it all. No matter what your race is, what gender you are, what religion you chose or even what your sexuality is, it doesn’t define us as a whole. Why people judge you over who you want to love will never make sense to me.

What about if you share your love or your hate? What about how nice you were to others? Or how hard you worked for your dreams? Does any of that ever happen to cross the minds of our society? This is not just a song. It is an eye opener. 

While I do wish labels weren’t a thing, they are and I don’t know if they will ever go away. Which is why I might as well be proud of my label and you should too. Lesbian, gay, straight, asexual, bisexual, etc. You are human. We are all human. In the end we’re the same.

We all have a brain and a heart. We all have eyes and ears. We all have a heartbeat and we all have things that we are passionate about, as well as things that make us sad. So to anyone who thinks it matters who someone else loves, start thinking about something more important like what you want to do with your life. Remember that what you think of someone else isn’t a reflection on them. It is a reflection of who you are.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is I hope one day this will be a world full of love instead of hate. Maybe not, but it doesn’t hurt to dream. Every person in this world has the ability to make a difference. You have the power to push towards a good change. I hope when I have kids one day that they’ll grow up in a safer, more accepting world than the one I was raised in. And yeah maybe that is a little far fetched, but I will never stop fighting for that. Not in this lifetime. And I hope those of you reading this will do the same.

Being “Brown” in America

Written by Parmita Choudhury

I wrote this because I've been feeling so many emotions with the current events going on in our country. And writing is my outlet. And I am scared to share these thoughts. But I hope it sheds some light to someone else on being a person of color in America and how small interactions can be hurtful. 

Being “Brown” in America

Being an excited eight year old starting at a new elementary school
To only be greeted by a new classmate
Saying that her parents said not to speak to you
Because you are dark
And not telling anyone
Because you don’t understand what you did wrong
But later not feeling surprised when a brown kid was murdered in this same town
The day after Trump was elected

Being a human having a stressful day
And then getting into an Uber
To have the driver exclaim, 
“Oh, you’re Indian. We are listening to Indian music then.”
To which I respond,
“I don’t enjoy this music.”
To which he says,
“Well you’re Indian and you should so we are listening to it.”

Being an adult and having the color of your skin fetishized
So that boys are asking if they can “ride your magic carpet”
Or calling you Jasmine
Or saying they have always wanted to date an “exotic chick”
And feeling anger that you are not even sure how to process

Meeting a friend’s parent for the first time
And being greeted in an Indian accent
And feeling so taken aback that you laugh
Even though every bit of you
Feels at odds

Meeting a friend’s parents who are Indian immigrants
And they keep asking why I cannot speak any Indian languages
And bluntly then saying my parents failed
And having most other Indian Americans I meet
Repeat the same harsh declaration
Until I feel neither dutiful enough to be considered Indian
Nor white enough to blend into America

Being asked constantly “where are you from?”
And having them not be satisfied with you stating your hometown
Or your current city of residence
Being pressed
Being grilled
By complete strangers
Until you comply with sharing your ethnic origins
And feeling like your white friend standing next to you
Never gets asked these same questions

Being at a music festival
To be stopped by a stranger
Who begins to make kind small talk
To then just loudly declare
“The people from your country are just so beautiful.”
And to abruptly walk away laughing.

But my country is America, isn’t it?
I was born here.

Writing these words
And feeling like I shouldn’t
Because so many people before
Have told me to just get over it
And that my dissent
Is negative

A Night of Modern Ecstasy

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I have had the chance to catch Lady Gaga’s tours 3 times. My boyfriend Matthew, has seen her a total of 4 times. Needless to say, we were not about to miss her during her latest ‘Joanne World Tour’. We attended the Sacramento show this past past Tuesday. If you have never been to a Lady Gaga show, you’re surely missing out on an amazing experience. Not only is she an advocate for the LGBT+ community, but she believes in equality for everyone, and she bases all of her concerts around that. Inclusiveness, acceptance, compassion, and kindness is what she believes in. She always says that for one night, she locks the doors, and the outsiders are locked out, so everyone in attendance is free to be whomever they choose to be.

Matthew and I arrived around 7:30PM, and waited with great anticipation for Gaga to hit the stage. We people watched mostly until then, (people make really creative and re-create very intricate costumes Gaga has worn throughout the years) one of our favorite things to do. After what seemed like forever, the lights finally dimmed at 9 PM, the timer counted down, the curtain raised, and the smoked cleared on the stage. The audience was catapulted into another world for the next 2 and a half hours.

She kicked off the show with Diamond Heart, a pop song with rock influences. She performed most songs from her newest album, Joanne, but she did not leave out her biggest hits. Such as fan favorites, Just Dance, Poker Face, & Bad Romance to name a few. The stage itself was amazing, she had one main stage, two smaller ones on the floor, and another stage at the end of the arena where she played a few songs on the piano. Bridges, which doubled as projectors, would come down to get her and her dancer to different stages. It was truly mesmerizing.

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We sat near the piano stage, which is our favorite kind of Gaga. When it’s just her and her piano, she’s so powerful. She told the audience if they did not believe in equality for everyone, then they were at the wrong show. She also shared a moment she had earlier that night with a fan she met backstage. The fan thanked her for being there for her as a teen growing up, as a gay girl, and gifted her a pearl necklace which she wore during the show. Many, including myself, share the same sentiment, we thank her for being a great role model and encouraging everyone to love and embrace themselves, because they were born that way. Gaga further acknowledge the LGBT+ community and encouraged the audience to give them all a round of applause which caused a huge amount of cheers and applause. She even waved a small pride flag for a second while on the piano.

Gaga closed the sold out show with her recent ballad Million Reasons.  Which everyone got on their feet for, and swayed their arms in the air. She truly never disappoints on tour, through her several elaborate costume changes, to the messages she projects, and of course the incredible music backed by a powerhouse of a voice. Truly encourage everyone to catch her on tour later this year in December. She’s returning for a second round of shows in Los Angeles.

A Poem for Fresno

Written by Jordan Fitzpatrick

Last week, I went to a queer poetry slam and read this poem that I wrote:

Fresno
I came to Fresno As a lost boy.
I came to Fresno And hit rock bottom.
I tried to kill the pain and memories inside.
As thirsty as a drought, I only caught on fire.
I tried to kill the pain -
Almost became another queer statistic.
My trans family and I
We are hungry.
In the bread basket of the world
Those crops are not for us
My trans family and I
We are hungry.
Kicked out of homeless shelters,
Turned away by therapists, doctors, surgeons
And our resumes go into trash bins.
My trans family and I
We are hungry
And so we live off a diet of revolution.
Sometimes the battle is just going outside and being yourself.
My trans sister, Casey Haggard
Was stabbed
And left for dead.
Cars drove by,
People walked by,
Just walked on by,
One person even kicked her
As they walked on by.
My gay brother, Imir Alvorado
Was shot
And left for dead.
People just walked on by.
A bicyclist even circled around his body.
And people wonder why
Why we are dying.
My community is hungry
So we live off a diet of revolution.
I came to Fresno As a lost boy.
I came to Fresno
And I hit rock bottom.
But my queer family helped me find myself.
I used to hate fresno.
I used to plan my escape.
Then I realized
The doctors,
Therapists,
Surgeons
Move away
Because they can.
They drink expensive coffee
In expensive condos
In expensive cities.
They just walk on by.
My community is hungry.
My community is dying.
And people wonder why.
This is why.
I used to want to leave Fresno
But now, I love this place!
One day, I will be a therapist here.
My trans family and I are hungry.
But we live off a diet of revolution.
Like a tree sprouting through sun bitten, cracked sidewalks,
We will RISE!

Interview the Artist: Francisco

About the artist: Ever since he was a child, Francisco was fond of creative activities: finger painting, doodling on note books during class hours, and drawing in his room all through the night.  He always knew he wanted to become an artist at a young age, but reality was lurking nearer. Teachers reported him bad news and considered that he starts thinking of a realistic plan B. After high school, Francisco enrolled into an art school in San Francisco to study fashion design. There he learned new skills and techniques to advance his self-taught artistic abilities. Graduating with a degree in fashion design, Francisco uses his skills and years of experience which includes internships, mentors, and work experience in the fashion industry. He believes he has a bright future ahead of him.

How long have you been an artist? When did you first start drawing, painting, creating art?
Professionally since July 19th, 2015. I started drawing around pre-school. (Finger painting) it was my favorite part about school.

Did you have any formal art education?
I learned from "how to draw" books and cartoon books. In the summer of 2010, I enrolled at an art school in San Francisco for my BA in Fashion Design. From there, I learned figure drawing, fine art, color theory how to construct a gown, and even fashion illustration.

Are you self-taught?
I was self taught up till my senior year of high school. I learned more creative skills in college and from books. LOTS of books.

What inspires your artistic style? Who inspires your artistic style?
History books, music videos, anime, comic books, my imagination. A lot of my friends would tell me I have a very interesting imagination. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad complement....never the less, I create a story that will turn heads.

I admire many designers from the fashion industry. I personally love haute couture fashion week. I took a class for fashion history part 1&2. During the class hours, I learned many styles and techniques from the old times. 18th century, late 40s, 50s, 60s and even 70s punk. But there is no limit. I love all fashion.

For some, creating art and being an artist is a job, for others it could be an emotional outlet. What purpose does art serve for you?
My art has to make me feel happy. If I don't like something I drew or created, I doodle over it until I'm satisfied. When I take a break from drawing and come back, I quickly change my perspective of my own work and decide that this art piece is, "cool."


What are some of your dreams or aspirations that you’d like to accomplish with your art?
Quit my part- time job and make my art and fashion a successful, stable, life time career.

Where can others get in contact with you?
Right now, I'm working on my shop and website, but I do have an Instagram: (@francisco_illustrations) there you can see all my artwork and doodles I post daily. Or by email: (francisco.illustrations@gmail.com). I’ve had my art displayed at the (Fresno Art Hub) 2024 N. Van Ness Blvd, Fresno, CA. I’ve been hustling all month long...a lot is happening this year.

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If your art could talk, what would it say? If your art were a person, what would they be like?What would their personality consist of?
I'm not sure what it would exactly say, but I know it'll probably be something inappropriate.....in my experience with making new friends and professional services, if you don't have nothing nice to say, keep your mouth shut...

If my made up fashion characters were real life Barbie dolls, their resting face would be sassy, always dressed fashionable, and abnormal to society. To be honest, they probably wouldn't be accepted in society or the fashion industry because they're different....sad face.

Last question, your art style is very unique and a common theme appears to be feminine figures with large eyes. How do you personally describe your artistic style?
Good eye there, mate! I'm not sure how the big eyes and big lips came from? I do know that they will not be going anywhere anytime soon...i guess you could say, it's one of my signature looks. My style is always changing. It can be feminine, punk, glamorous, animated, and even retro, but overall, it's still mine. I control the pen, and the paper is my world to create.

Meet Marcus Navarro

On Saturday, April 22nd, 2017 Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network will be hosting its annual central valley conference for LGBTQ+ youth, Expression Not Suppression (ENS). This is an event that I look forward to every year. People from all across the central valley come to Fresno on this day to participate and connect. Youth and supporting adults can attend a full range of workshops containing a variety of things like the gender spectrum, different identities in the community, comprehensive sex ed, grassroots organizing, and the legal rights LGBTQ+ youth have in schools. Participants have the opportunity to interact with local organizations that support them and with other LGBTQ+ folks looking for community and solidarity. There is no event that has impacted my life as much as Expression Not Suppression.

My first time attending ENS was in 2012. I was a sophomore at the time and I had been involved with the Genders and Sexualities Alliance (GSA) club at my high school for a little over a year. Eventually I was connected with the then current GSA Network Program coordinator, a fierce Chicana woman that laid the foundation for my activism. At the age of 14, this event allowed me to put a name to my identity, instilled me with a sense of power, and connected me to a supportive community in ways I never imagined. Out of all the events GSA Network put together, the most life changing for me has always been ENS.

 ENS 2012! It felt so big and important to me that I had to wear a tie and my best button up shirt (pictured bottom row, third from the right)

ENS 2012! It felt so big and important to me that I had to wear a tie and my best button up shirt (pictured bottom row, third from the right)

For me, ENS has always been a place of inspiration. Every year I meet people with unique experiences and I am constantly moved by the resilience and power of central valley youth. Whether it’s the life saving information gained from the workshops, the plethora of connections folks make, or the creative expressions found during the end day drag and talent show, there’s something here for everyone.

Expression Not Suppression 2017 will be held on Saturday, April 22nd, from 9 am to 8 pm at Wesley United Methodist Church (1343 E Barstow Ave, Fresno, CA 93710). This is a free event open to all LGBTQ+ and ally youth. Advisors, parents, and educators are also encouraged to attend or volunteer for the event.

To register, volunteer, or participate in the resource fair, please go to http://gsanetwork.org/ens


Get In Touch with GSA:
Marcus Navarro, Fresno GSA Organizer
Email: Mnavarro@gsanetwork.org or Centralvalley@gsanetwork.org
Phone: 559.268.2780
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CentralValleyGSA/

 

Meet Sophie Brodish

On March 23rd, 2000, I came out kicking and screaming, and you know what? Nothing’s changed! Except now, I scream, shout, and advocate for LGBT+ awareness and women’s rights. My journey continues today, as I have only officially came out to a few family members and friends. Through the years of high school, I have learned from my experiences and I hope to spread my knowledge. My story of officially accepting and being myself began here.

Ever since I was young, I had no idea the way I thought and the way I loved was considered different in other people's perspective. I remember being the girl who always held her girl friends’ hands, the girl who hugged everyone and anyone, the girl who thought other girls were pretty cool, the girl who wasn’t anyone but herself. When I was in elementary school, I was playing Cowgirls and Bandits, and I kissed one of the bandits to make one of the cowgirls jealous. It didn’t really work, because the cowgirl went and told the teacher and then I had to apologize to the bandit and his parents. (Good ol’ Sophie!) However, I gave up on that cowgirl and ended up liking another.

When I entered 7th grade, a cowgirl and friend very dear to me moved away. Little did I know the emotions that I felt for her were so strong that I became very sad when she left. Since a young age I was very “sheltered” and I honestly did not know “gay” was a thing until the end of junior high. When this friend left my life, I felt very emotional, because I did not know of people who felt the way I did. I was very alone. So instead of focusing on emotions, I focused on school, science fair, science olympiad, sports, and clubs. My days were consumed with work and more work. I denied every emotion my mind thought and this continued until the summer before freshman year.

The journey that I walk became more rocky as I neared high school. Up until this point, my road had been pretty well paved with the occasional bump or crack, but now it was nothing like before. The emotions that I denied for years spiraled out of control and soon I had breakdowns everyday. My mom knew I was upset, but she didn’t know why. Later on, I joined the robotics team. Ironically, now, when I ask people of their first impression of me, they say, “I knew she was gay the moment she walked through the door.” My now closest friends knew before I did! However, I’m jumping ahead; let me continue. After a few months on the team, I went to a competition, where I ended up feeling very emotional toward one of my friends who is of the female gender. After this experience, I first went home and cried a little, but then decided it was time to figure out these emotions and what they meant. For about three days I stayed home and took all the online quizzes on the internet that were about being gay. After every quiz, I became more and more terrified of what came next.

About two weeks later, I came out to my best friend Kaelyn Dauer, who has loved me for me since day one. I don’t know where I’d be without her. The journey still continues and I am a junior now. Sometimes the unspoken is much more pleasant than the spoken. By not telling everyone in my life, I am protecting myself and my self love. And that’s okay! I am happy where I am and who I surround myself with. I am an avid leader in my school GSA and in the GSA Network of Fresno. I am the historian for my Women’s Empowerment club and the treasurer of the Women in STEM club at my school. I know everyone in my life knows who I am, what I believe in, and what I’m not afraid to talk about. Everyone’s journey is different, but overall, we can help each other and give each other support to be our best selves.

With love,

Sophie Brodish   P.S. Live Long and Prosper!