Thursday, December 30, 2010

New website launched: the Rainbow Duo

My girlfriend and I have been working on our own comic for a while called Rainbow Duo - the adventures of 2 gay stick figures in love.

I'd already posted two of the comics on here (Buying tropical fruit and Lost in Corn), but I am proud to announce that they now have their own website!


The comics are loosely based on our own experiences, so if you want to know more about the silly, clumsy and embarrassing stuff we get up to, make sure to check it out.

Go to the Rainbow Duo and follow their/our adventures.

So far there's only 3 comics there, but we're looking forward to creating many more in the coming week and months.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Being Happy

I remember that when I was younger, and everyone was busy making lists of everything they wanted out of life, what they wanted to have and to achieve, I always used to say I just wanted to be happy.

For me, the most important thing one ought to want, and hope for in life, is to enjoy it, to be content, to feel happy. I was never quite sure how to achieve it, or what exactly it would entail, I just new I really wanted it.

Over the years, as I grew from teenager into young adult, and then later exchanging my twenties for my thirties, my life and who I was and what I wanted, fell more and more into place. There were many times when I felt content, thought life was good and felt happy. At least that was what I thought at the time.

To be honest, it's only in the last few years that I have felt truly happy. My thirties have been wonderful in that respect. Since I left my twenties behind, I not only know what I want and who I really am, but I am also totally at ease with that. For the most part, I love me just for me, flaws and all. 


The biggest contribution to my happiness though, happened almost a year and a half ago. That's when I met my current girlfriend. I always thought I was quite happy being single, that I didn't need anyone, that I was quite content with my life. How wrong I was.

I didn't notice what I was missing until I met Heidi. It felt like I had been incomplete my entire life, and now I am finally whole. Everything feels better and brighter with her in my life. I feel like I could do anything or nothing at all, and it will all be ok.

I used to hate it when people went on and on about how happy they were, how much they loved their partner and how everything was great. These days I am just like them, and I am loving every minute of it.

Friday, December 24, 2010

LGBT reading challenge 2011

I love to read and have been an avid reader ever since I mastered it when I was little. As a child I read everything I could get my hands on, and probably went through most of our local library's fiction selection.

The speed at which I read these days isn't what it used to be when I was younger, but I still go through a number of books a month. I'm pleased to say that by now I've collected quite an impressive book collection and I'm even more pleased I still have over 30 books sitting here that still need reading.

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Sometimes it helps to have an extra incentive to read, especially if the incentive is also a lot of fun. I came across the LGBT reading challenge 2011 on Book after book, of which I immediately thought that's something I want to participate in!

What's it all about? Well, according to the website:

Why this challenge? LGBT literature is so rich and varied and worth talking more about. That’s why I am hosting this challenge: to keep learning and sharing reading experiences. And, why not, to do my own tiny bit for a more accepting world – one book at a time!

The details of the challenge

  • The challenge will run from January, 1st 2011 to December, 31st 2011.
  • Because I’m also completing another challenge, I’m not setting a goal. You can decide how many books you want to read during the year. Obviously: the more you read, the more prize draws you’ll be able to enter! See the section “Resources” below for some suggestions.
  • What qualifies as LGBT reading? I will accept reviews of books whose author is LBGT, whose topic is LGBT and/or whose characters (even minor ones) are LGBT. Fiction and non-fiction titles are equally accepted.
  • The challenge is open to bloggers and non bloggers alike.
  • There will be monthly prizes for participants.

If you also want to participate, go here to get all the details.

In sum, it means I will make myself read a number of LGBT books the coming year, that I will then posts reviews of.

I'm not sure yet how many I will read, and I have learned from posting an exact figure, as I usually then to overestimate myself. A lot. But let's say I will try to read and review an LGBT themed book at least once a month.

I'm looking forward to lots of reading and review writing in 2011!

Studying LesBians: Offences by lesbian teens are seen as more offensive

Studying LesBians is a monthly column that discusses recent, and not so recent, research involving lesBians. This time I'll look into a study about the relation between sexual orientation and punishment.

This month an article was published in the academic journal Pediatrics entitled Criminal-Justice and school sanctions against non-heterosexual youth: a national longitudinal study. The article describes a study involving 15,700 American teenagers, who were followed for 7 years, and had many aspects of their lives studied.

The main things Kathryn Himmelstein and Hannah Bruckner looked at were sexual orientation and a number of sanctions by schools and the criminal-justice system.

Their main findings were that non-straight teenagers were 40% more likely to be punished in some way by schools, as well as by the police and the courts. Even more striking is that in general, non-straight teenagers were found to be much less likely involved in any serious misbehaviour.

More specifically, this involved things like being expelled from school, getting stopped by the police, but also more serious sanctions like juvenile arrest; juvenile conviction; adult arrest; and adult conviction.

In the article itself it's summarized as follows:

Nonheterosexual youth suffer disproportionate educational and criminal-justice punishments that are not explained by greater engagement in illegal or transgressive behaviours.

These results are rather shocking. Even more shocking, or perhaps it's not that surprising, these results especially applied to lesbians. In other words, the simple fact of being a lesbian as a teen can get you expelled, or even put in jail. Before we discuss the implications of this, let's look at the study more closely.

During the 1994-1995 school year, a little over 20,000 kids in grades 7 through 12 were interviewed extensively about their lives. This interview was followed up in 1996 and again during the 2000-2001 school year, when the kids from the first wave were between 18 and 26 years old.

They still managed to keep 15,700 of the original respondents, which is quite impressive. Even more impressive is they managed to collect so much data from such a large sample of teenagers.

Everything about the study and how it was conducted seems ok, and I couldn't find any big flaws or other reasons for these results to be inaccurate.

This longitudinal health study looked into many aspects of the kids' lives, but in this article only sexual orientation and sanctions by school and the justice system were assessed.

Categorizations into straight and non-straight were made based on answers about 3 aspects of sexual orientation: same-sex attraction, same-sex experiences and identification with labels of sexual orientation.

This was measured with questions like: Have you ever had a romantic attraction to a male/female? and sexual identification was measured with a Kinsey type scale. This appears like a more extensive way of assessing sexual orientation in teens than is often the case.

An interesting side-note is that for many teenagers sexual orientation and same-sex attraction isn't a very stable thing yet, with big differences between behaviour and identification, not only over time but also within a wave. For example, 28% of the teens who reported same-sex behaviour identified completely as straight.

In the total sample, 17.1% of female respondents reported same-sex attraction, 6.2% reported same-sex relationships, and 14.5% self-identified as other than 100% heterosexual. These numbers were a little higher than for boys, but boys tend to be more extreme (straight or gay), whereas girls are more fluid in their sexuality.

The researchers also assessed what kind of misbehaviour the teenagers had engaged in, ranging from minor misbehaviour (running away from home, lying to parents), moderate misbehaviour (stealing, selling drugs, driving a car without owner's permission) and violent behaviour. This behaviour was controlled for in the study, as well as age, gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic status.

It was then assessed what the relationship was between being straight or not and 6 different outcomes: expelled from school; stopped by police; arrested before the age of 18; convicted (or pled guilty) in juvenile court; arrested after turning 18; and convicted (or pled guilty) in adult court.

Results showed teens who indicated being attracted to or having experiences with the same-sex were more likely to be sanctioned by school or police. Interestingly, when it comes to identifications, only girls who identified as non-straight were more likely to be sanctioned (it made no difference for boys).

In other words, regardless of misbehaviour, ethnicity, etc., non-straight youth were more likely to be expelled from school, being stopped by the police and even ended up in court more than straight teens. This was especially the case for identifying as non-straight and being attracted to the same sex, and not so much for same-sex romantic or sexual behaviour.

Again, this was mainly a problem for girls, who were much more likely to be expelled from school, stopped by the police or even arrested and convicted than their straight counter parts. What's up with that?

The article offers a number of possible explanations. Most of these suggestions can be summed up as due to homophobia: getting punished for deviant behaviour or for being different.

Other explanations do not seem very plausible: they focus on same-sex behaviour explanations even though it's identification and attraction that is related to sanctions. They also wonder if it's due to self-measures of identification, as if sexual orientation could ever be assessed by anyone but the person themselves.

I am surprised not more or better possible explanations for these findings were given. I especially think it's surprising that nothing is said about the fact that being sanctioned is mainly a problem for non-straight girls. Surely, there's plenty of plausible reasons for this.

For example, AfterEllen mentioned that it's well known that lesbians who do not conform to traditional feminine roles and behaviour often are seen as aggressive and uncooperative.

In addition, Autostraddle talks about how "the juvenile-justice system also has a history of policing female sexuality, and a history of being antagonistic towards girls with 'aggressive' or 'masculine' gender presentations."

These are very plausible explanations for the results found in this study, and they also explain why they are mainly found for girls. It seems like it is not so much a case of homophobia (although I am sure that plays a role as well), but the fact that too many people (with power) do not like when girls aren't behaving like stereotypical pretty, silly, dumb girls.

Could it really be that sad? It would be a really interesting follow up study. Let's have a closer look at all girls who get into trouble with the law or at school and those who do not, and see if it's girly behaviour that explains a big part of it. I wouldn't be surprised it this were the case.

I would also love to see studies like these for Western European teenagers. Do we find the same results or not at all? In most Western European countries, we seem to be a little less concerned with traditional female behaviour, so perhaps we wouldn't find the same thing. Or perhaps we are just as homophobic over here?

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What do you think of these study results? Do you think the explanations are plausible? Do you find it worrying? Do you think in Europe we would find similar results? Let us know in the comments.

This post was first published on eurout.

 

Monday, December 20, 2010

New blogs

I just wanted to let everyone know I've been busy with two new blogs lately.

The first one is called Young and Innocent (?), on which I write blog posts through the eyes of my fictional kid self. This means I re-write childhood memories and experiences, from the perspective of a child. To make it a little more exciting, I twist the truth a little bit or even add something completely fictional.

youngandinnocent

So far I've only written two entries, but I think it's a lot of fun to do. It especially makes a nice change from all the other stuff I usually write about. And I'm not just talking about lesbianism.

My second blog is just a photo blog entitled Pics Pics Pics, on which I share some of my favourite photos I have taken over the years. I might even add some photos I haven't taken myself, or that I have found somewhere online in the future. Not quite sure yet, but so far it's fun to have a place where I can put photos on display, besides on my own laptop.

picspicspics

So if you like looking at photos and/or enjoy reading about (mainly) childhood traumas, be sure to check out my new blogs.

Also, keep reading this one as I'm planning to update it a lot more often in the next few weeks. Let's hope this is one New year's resolution I'll be able to keep.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Leaving eurOut

When I joined eurOut as a writer in September of 2008, it was one of my most exciting experiences ever.

For the past year I had been writing this blog, as well as for various informational sites (Oh the joys of writing about things like The best way to clean your DVD player!). I was enjoying writing immensely and I had been dreaming of ways to write for other blogs and websites I liked to read.

In those days I was a huge fan of AfterEllen, and I read their website every single day, loving all the content, the Vlogs, the "coolness of being gay", which was sort of new to me. Besides a great pass time, AfterEllen also really helped me embrace my lesbianism completely.

The greatest thing I could imagine was writing for AfterEllen myself. I thought this was something way out of reach, until I was asked to write for eurOut. It wasn't exactly the same, but it was the next best thing and, thus, I was really excited.

After a few months of just writing for eurOut, I also became the entertainment editor. That first year of starting the website and making it work, was an amazing and exciting time. Most of the time I was living and breathing eurOut and lesbian entertainment, and loving every second of it.

euroutshirt 012

It's not easy taking a picture of oneself in the mirror

Sandra, Maxime and I spent every day emailing back and forth about the website, about the latest European lesBian news we either got excited or outraged about, or just about daily personal stuff as well. We tried to write as much as we could, as well as we could, and as fast as we could.

It was such a pleasure seeing my articles in print, having people not only read it, but also enjoy it, making lesbian European news available to everyone and also showing them how much is out there and how cool it is to be gay. We were getting bigger, better and more popular and I was loving it. I thought I'd be doing it forever, or at least for a very long time to come.

But things change. When you have been doing the same thing for a while, it starts to become less exciting, and you have to think of new ways to keep it interesting. At least, that's how it works for me. I managed to do that for a while, because with a website like eurOut, there's many different things you can do, different topics to cover etc. etc.

As much as I loved the writing, and have always loved writing and will probably enjoy writing forever, the other stuff started to be less fun. You have to realize I have always combined my work for eurOut with a fulltime job as an assistant professor at university, and half way through my eurOut time I also started a serious relationship.

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eurOut meet up with eurOut staff and band Greymatter (I'm on the right)

Needless to say, it wasn't always easy to combine a busy work and private life with eurOut. I didn't mind so much at the beginning, but after 2 years of editing recaps in between grading papers, and having to write an entertainment news column every single Friday night/Saturday morning, you get a little tired of it.

I think one can only live and breath lesbian entertainment news for so long, without getting totally sick of it. I'm not at that point yet, but lately it has been less exciting, and I felt I should stop and pursue other things, before I really stop enjoying it.

I'm not giving up eurOut completely though, as I will still continue to write two of my columns. I also won't turn my back on lesbian content. As I said, I love writing and I am looking forward to lots of new and exciting blogs and articles I will be creating. I'm also very excited at the prospect of being able to sleep in again on Saturday mornings.

Being part of the eurOut team was one of the coolest things I've ever done and I will always think back of it fondly.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Studying LesBians: LGBT research that wastes time and money showing the sky is blue (with a rainbow in it)

Studying LesBians is a monthly column about recent and not so recent research on lesBians and the LGBT community. This column about obvious research being done and getting media attention was published on eurOut back in July, but I forgot to post it here as well.

This month several LGBT related studies were reported in the media that had such obvious results you have to wonder why people think this is news worthy and why the research was funded to look into these things in the first place.

Before I get into describing the studies in question, I want to stress I welcome any person or institution spending time and money researching things to do with the LGBT community. But just as with any type of research, an awful lot of time and money seems to be wasted on showing the obvious.

Let me illustrate this with 3 LGBT related studies that made headlines the last few weeks:

Same-sex relationships improve self-esteem and lower internalized homophobia in gay and lesbian teens

Yesterday Pink News and several other online LGBT media outlets reported about a new study that showed that queer teens who are in a homosexual relationship feel better about themselves and about being gay than those that are single. In other words, if you are in high school and you discover you are into girls, you feel a lot better when you have a cute girlfriend than when you are all alone. Can I get a collective Duh?

Now I haven't had the chance to read the entire research report, but from what I gathered they did do a fairly extensive long term study into the link between romantic relationships and well being of straight and gay teens. Still, the results they come out with and are used as headlines in LGBT media are so obvious it makes me wonder who actually thinks this is news.

Then again, at least this is a topic worthy of mentioning. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the next headline:

Gay men are thinner than heterosexuals, but lesbians are heavier

There have been many studies in the last few years looking into determinants of lifestyle and health behaviours, the results of one of those studies was published a few weeks ago. They looked at many different health behaviours, mental states, as well as stuff like weight. Although the study had some interesting findings about some health related behaviours like smoking and drinking, all the media seemed to focus on was weight.

The study showed that on average gay men were less likely to be overweight than straight men and lesbians were more likely to be overweight than straight women. Can I get another Duh? Everyone knows that (I am totally generalising here) straight women and gay men are much more obsessed with their appearance (and their weight) than the rest of us and thus are less likely to be overweight.

Gay adults are more likely to spend a lot of time online than heterosexuals

A few times now I have seen this headline, and it continues to amaze me that people find this newsworthy. Yes, as a "minority group" we spend more time online because it's one of the best ways to get in touch with our community either indirectly by reading about news and events or directly by meeting people. Still, yet another research group thought it was worth examining.

So what do you think of the research examples I just shared with you? Do you agree this kind of research is a waste of time and money or do you think it's important to look into these issues? Or perhaps you can think of some other examples of pointless research. Let us know in the comments.

Read previous Studying LesBians columns here.

Video of the week: Everybody loves a lesbian

Have you heard of Mongrels? It's BBC 3's first urban, multi-species, adult puppet comedy. Yes, you read that correctly, adult puppet comedy. The series was created by Adam Miller and written by Jon Brown and Daniel Peak.

In one of their scenes, a pigeon called Kali learns all about the joys of lesbianism from Cassandra the crow. The greatest part about this scene is the song they perform, entitled Everybody loves a lesbian.

I thought it was rather hilarious, I especially love the beginning where Cassandra tells Kali "You'd make an excellent lesbian!" The lyrics of the song aren't very pc, but who cares, as it's just a fun tune.

It's like lesbian Sesame street for adults. Or something. What do you think? Did you enjoy Everybody loves a lesbian or not at all?

This post was first published on eurout.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lists Are Hot: 10 songs by European lesBians

Lists are hot is a monthly column for those that love lists as much as I do. This month it's all about music.

After many months of movies, TV and web series related Lists are hot columns, I thought it was time to devote one to music again. I have selected for you 10 songs by European lesBians that I thought you might like. These are not supposed to be the best songs and they also do not represent all of my favourites (for that I refer you to my very first Lists are hot column), but they are a selection of songs from 2010 and a number from previous years, all by queer female singers from Europe.

 

1. Skunk Anansie – Secretly (UK, 1999)

I have always been a big Skunk Anansie fan, as well as of Skins' solo stuff. I love the way their music sounds, especially when heard live. They usually also have songs with good lyrics and interesting accompanying music videos. Secretly is one of my favourite songs, that captures all the reasons why I am a fan. The music video features two boys kissing, which not surprisingly, was censored by a few TV stations when it came out.

2. Sharron Levy – What do you want from me (UK, 2010)

Sharron Levy is an upcoming British singer, who eurOut had the pleasure to interview at the Gay Games this summer. Levy is not only a great singer, she also has a nice and diverse music taste. The latter especially comes through in the wide range of covers she performs. A great example is her acoustic rendition of Adam Lambert's What Do You Want From Me? I definitely prefer this version over Lambert's.

3. Elektra – I don't do boys (Iceland, 2010)

The song I Don't Do Boys by Icelandic all-girl band Elektra is a nice pop song and quite catchy, but what it's really about is the video. Be warned, this video is NSFW and features the girls of Elektra showing us they don't do boys by making out with girls. A lot. I can't quite decide whether it's cool or just a bit much. In any case, this song (and especially the video) was pretty popular this year, and in case you missed all the fuss, you can now watch it again.

4. Billie Myers – Kiss the rain (UK, 1997)

It's been 13 years since Kiss The Rain by Billie Myers was first released, but it still remains a very popular tune. I guess it's true that good songs are timeless. Kiss The Rain is one of the songs I currently have on my iPod, and I still enjoy listening to it as much as I did when it first came out. Of course, Myers has released many other great songs since then, but I guess Kiss The Rain will always remain my favourite.

5. K's Choice – Come live the life (Belgium, 2010)

I've always been a fan of K's Choice, as well as of Sarah Bettens' solo stuff, so I was really excited when I heard K's Choice had reformed and released a new album. Come Live The Life was the first single from their latest album, and it's is a nice, catchy song with some powerful lyrics. Not only that, but the video accompanying it is the cutest video I have seen in a long time.

6. Nina Ramsby – Desire to be free (Sweden, 2009)

Nina Ramsby is a Swedish musician with quite a diverse repertoire. Last year, one of her songs I wanna run was used for the great advertisement for the event about heteronormality for Stockholm Pride. This was followed by the release of a totally different song: Ramsby collaborated with Embee, who’s a famous Scandinavian producer, and sang the vocals of the dance track Desire to be free.

7. Wallis Bird – To my bones (Ireland, 2009)

To My Bones is the fun and upbeat song from Irish singer/songwriter Wallis Bird, who we told you about a while back. To sum up, she's young, she's Irish and she's a great singer. To My Bones is a single from Bird's debut album New Boots, which is available in most European countries in both record stores as well as from iTunes. You can find out more about her on her website.

8. Laura Steel – Feedback (UK, 2010,)

Feedback is the latest single and music video from British singer Laura Steel. We already alerted you to this upcoming singer on eurOut, including in Ley's article Dinner with a dozen British queer women. Steel's music is the kind of dancy pop stuff that tends to give me a headache, so not surprisingly, I'm not very impressed by the music qualities of Feedback. But perhaps you disagree with me?

9. More than les - Statement (Germany, 2010)

More Than Les are a new German all-female band that released their first song and video entitled Statement this summer. The song is rather catchy, although not really my cup of tea. What I think is very cool about this video is that everything about it is SO gay. More Than Les are a band of lesbians who sing about what it's like to be a lesbian. If we have to believe their lyrics, this apparently means everybody is dating/sleeping with everyone else.

10. Alex Parks – Maybe that's what it takes (UK, 2003)

For my final pick, I wanted to take you back to the early 2000's when upcoming singer Alex Parks blew everyone away when she appeared on UK talent show Fame Academy (a show like Idols and X Factor, only fun and with talented singers). The first song Parks released was Maybe That's What It Takes from the 2003 album Introduction.

 

What do you think of these songs? Are some of your favourites on this list or are they missing?

This post was first published on eurout.