Monday, October 24, 2005

Virginity Explored

I’m reading a thread full of mostly straight men discussing virginity. It’s hilarious.

Some of them have sarcastically decided that since penis + vagina = intercourse, then all gay people are therefore virgins.

I sorta like that idea. I’m not celibate, I’m claiming my virginity.

However, since virginity as a concept is probably about ownership of children, I wonder that the word works for us at all.

I’ll back up. Virginity, as I understand it in the cultural sense, is a way of ensuring that the man’s family can safely regard a child as the legitimate successor to their worldly goods, if any. It’s a continuation of their genetic line, although why this is important to people has always escaped me. I feel it’s enough to load a child with your cultural and emotional baggage. Genetic baggage as well seems like overkill.

Since (if we weren’t previously married and had children as a result of that relationship) we make a conscious choice to deal with the exhaustive process of alternatively making children, we are not necessarily continuing our genetic line (adoption, surrogacy, anonymous donation) nor do we contend that a non-genetically related child is unable to inherit, I don’t know that virginity is a concept that works very well for lesbians (gay men, feel free to comment).

The culture certainly doesn’t seem to support it. In my experience, many lesbians absolutely refuse to sleep with “virgins”. Unfortunately, this attitude leaves out the only true method of “reproduction” we have that will increase the lesbian community. Alas, most lesbians have straight children, regardless of gender of the child.

Virginity is a negative concept, defining a stage in a woman’s life by what she has “not” done. Lesbian community should be about celebrating what women “have” done.

Not only should we not care whether a woman is “untouched”, we should optimize the person who has already discovered her sexuality, and hopefully has learned a couple of things we don’t already know, just to keep it interesting.

I’m enjoying watching my fellow internetters engage enthusiastically in the discussion, but I think many of them may be missing the point. If one is old enough to consent, and has found someone who makes one’s naughty bits tingle, then virginity is not necessarily a noteworthy state of being.

Sex should be safe, legal, and frequent. Laws, cultural mores, and Mrs. Grundy should be egalitarian and quiet about whether Slot B prefers Tab A or Slots C, D, and E. Folding and spindling optional

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are

I went to Oakland’s celebration of National Coming Out day last Sunday. Lying on my back in the middle of the lush grass of Frank Ogawa Plaza, I stared up at the impossibly blue sky and basked in the sunlight.

I usually don’t attend these functions, since I came out in 1990. Back then, it was a huge deal. You came out once and dangit, you stayed out and stayed gay!

Now…not so much. People come out, go back in, come out for visits…it’s changed. However, I tend to forget that there are young people coming out every day, and older people living a constant coming out process.

One of the speakers was an FTM who said that while the ability to pass as a straight guy was alluring, he kept coming out anyway. What bravery, and sheer stubbornness.

A very young man discussed his experiences at Boys State, where his very presence as an out gay man changed some of his homophobic peers for the better. (I tried VERY hard to overlook my realization that at least 35% of his content consisted of the word “like”.)

The first openly gay (and black) elected official in Oakland spoke about the importance of being out and involved. Oddly enough, he looked like a Baptist preacher, which he was not.

Also present was the openly gay (and black) representative (and her girlfriend) from the district just southwest of mine.

The reality of Oakland vs. the myth is very odd. This is actually a thriving community of people in all walks of life, not just some urine-soaked crack-smoking thug ghetto playground.

It’s okay to be political here, and if that is your métier, you are encouraged to try your hand at getting elected. Sometimes, it even works.

Simply by refusing to hear his “no” the citizens of Oakland have chosen to draft a man we all respect to run for mayor next year. According to the Chronicle, Ron Dellums didn’t really want to run, but feeling the hope of the audience that had gathered to hear his decision, he put his name into the ring. The crowd went nuts.

It’s all about feeling the love. When that kid came on stage to talk about Boys’ State, I could feel how nervous he was from 100 feet away. He started to talk and nobody stopped him, booed him, nothing; we listened. His voice got stronger and his story more focused as he realized he was being heard.

I sat on that grass and listened to the voices of gay people talking about success and pride. I looked up at City Hall, on which steps the stage was set, and loved my adopted city just a little more.

There IS a here, here, and what a lovely here it is. Hope you had a Happy National Coming Out Day, too.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Vive la Peanut Butter

Do you ever wonder just what it would take to make a noticeable difference in the world? I do. I think it’s some terribly large, difficult thing that would take my whole life, and for which I would only be recognized posthumously.

I now think I’m wrong. Sometimes, it just takes seeing a problem for what it is, not all its ancillary problems.

Remember the Nestle baby milk fiasco of the mid-90’s? Basically, makers of baby formula were telling African mothers that their products, rather than breast milk, created healthier babies. Notwithstanding that this is simply false, it also failed to take into account that many African women are/were illiterate and thus cannot read the directions, they had limited access to clean water with which to mix formula, and the price of formula was often equal to half or more of the family’s income per month. All this led to badly mixed, unclean, or diluted formula, which led to babies starving.

There’s now a WHO/UNICEF code to prevent such things from happening again, which is the traditional way of remedying a problem; pass a law.

However, the law does not relieve many of the problems of infant-feeding in poor countries. Most milk-based formulas spoil easily and are difficult to get to places that lack refrigeration. They’re also still expensive. Africa’s women are also largely still illiterate.

Enter two French daddies, who feed their young children an usual European breakfast food, toast with a hazelnut-chocolate spread (common brand in the U.S. is Nutella).

These fathers are also scientists and noticed a curious thing about their kids’ bread spread. It had the same nutritional profile as many baby formulas.

So, they invented a peanut butter-based version, packaged it pre-mixed in a foil wrapper, and called it Plumpy’nut (they’re French, what can I say).

It doesn’t spoil, it adds pounds to children as well as milk-based supplements, and it’s cheap. Medecins Sans Frontieres ran a relief campaign in 2000 that helped only a few thousand children. This year with Plumpy’nut, they will feed over 30,000 children in one country (Niger), and more across Africa.

Thinking outside the breast; it’s a good thing. It’s also culturally sensitive, since much of West Africa relies on “groundnuts” as a protein source. What’s a groundnut? It’s in the same family as the goober pea, or peanut . There are several different species, but the entire group can be generally referred to as groundnuts.

Somewhere, the Great Circle of Karma triumphs yet again, as we can credit George Washington Carver for inventing peanut butter in the first place. A man that turned down a huge salary to work to benefit his countrymen (Americans), ends up saving uncounted future babies from starvation on the very continent from which his ancestors were kidnapped into slavery.

Ironic in a good way, eh?

So, merci beaucoup Monsieur Lafayette y la peoples Francaise, for the Louisiana Purchase and for breeding smart scientist daddies who read bread spread labels, rather than wondering how on earth they could make a difference. Perhaps they are right now saving the life of the next George Washington Carver. Vive la France!