I am excited to say that the Women’s Support Group is starting up again at The Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity! The first meeting is going to be Halloween themed and will be held on October 2nd at 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM.
The recipe for a good time consists of a great environment, enjoyable people, and food, of course, so for this first meeting, we will be having a potluck with a pumpkin carving!
Things to Bring to the October 2nd Potluck & Pumpkin Carving: You can bring any size of pumpkin and carving tools. You can also bring a food of choice to the potluck. We plan to have Hocus Pocus playing in the background. (If you do not wish to bring any food or pumpkins you are more than welcome to come by anyway, and have something to eat while getting to know everyone).
The best way to reach out and learn more about the group is to find it on Facebook at The Center Women's Support Group. This is a closed group online that you can add yourself to. (If you do not wish to do so that is perfectly fine as well; you could always send us a message and we could get back to you as soon as possible.)
Hope to see you there!
I was raised Catholic by Lebanese parents who grew up in war. My parents moved to America shortly after my older sister was born. Religion is what got them through tough times even after moving to America and having to basically start over. I strongly respect them and what they believe in even though I’m not religious myself anymore.
In high school I was very religious. For almost two years, I went to church every Wednesday on my own accord because I wanted to feel close to God. I always loved the spirituality part of it instead of sitting through Mass and listening to some grumpy looking old man talk about the Bible.
I would go to church, talk to God for however long about anything, and then I would go home feeling great. I did not tell anyone else at the time that I was attracted to girls and would ask God to give me a sign that it was ok to like other women. I also really wanted to be bisexual so that I could just focus on my attraction for men.
One of the main issues with that was the lack of attraction and the depression that would go along with dating people you’re not into. I wanted so badly to be gay without feeling like God would disapprove or that something was wrong with me.
My parents never talked about the LGBT community but my mother had gay friends while I was growing up so I knew she at least didn’t think negatively about the community. I still spent a good time in silence feeling like I was disappointing God and eventually my family if I ever decided to date a girl. Eventually I stared telling people including my sister. She was ok with it from the start.
When my parents found out, I knew by then I was only attracted to women. They were approving which was surprising to me but there was an adjustment period for them. I started feeling guilty for my parent’s approval because I didn’t want them going to hell too because I liked girls and they supported me no matter what.
I started taking some philosophy classes in college that made me question religion. I ended up coming to the conclusion that if there is a God, he doesn’t care about people being gay or believing in him. He Just cares about people being good or bad. I’m not someone who thinks I have all the answers I really don’t know much but I think it’s ok to have different opinions and I respect anyone for their religion or lack of.
One time I went to church with my sister and we attended a Mass where the priest was genuinely kind but he said that it was wrong to be gay. That really bothered me because he isn’t trying to cause harm to others and he thinks he’s doing the right thing. Saying things like that could truly hurt LGBT children in the future, who love God but hate themselves for being who they are.
Life is difficult enough we don’t need people telling us that who you are as a person is morally wrong. I actually really liked the priest until I heard that because he seemed like he really cared about what he was doing and talking about with good intentions.
It’s a weird feeling to know you strongly disagree with someone who thinks in their heart they’re helping you. I once had a lady hand me a card saying I deserve to burn in hell for my sins and an advertisement for her church on the other side because I was talking to my friend about a girl I liked. She told me, “Jesus loves you” and I thanked her for the card until I read it and was taken back by the dramatization of my doomed future in the fiery pits of hell. In my heart again I felt like she meant well so it puts me in an odd position but I do not agree with her and I think it’s really unhealthy to think this way.
I spent too much time feeling guilty for being a lesbian and lusting after women but in a world with Olivia Wilde playing bisexual characters on TV, it’s just cruel. All jokes aside, I know a lot of churches and religious people do actually accept the LGBT community. I’ve also met a few religious people that are members of the community and I think that’s great.
My family is very religious and I love them with all my heart. I know there are a lot of wonderful religious and atheist people out there. We can all exist peacefully if we all respect one another. I think that anyone is entitled to their own religious beliefs and should be respected and respect others for their beliefs.
The nonbinary community is a branch of the trans community that is often less known among members of the queer community. Here’s a few of the most common nonbinary identities:
Nonbinary and Genderqueer are both umbrella terms for people who identify as not strictly Male or Female. A Nonbinary or Genderqueer person might feel both Male and Female, neither Male or Female, partially Male, partially Female, etc. Other slang words for Nonbinary are nb and enby.
Agender people do not identify with being Male or Female in any amount whatsoever. Agender people often use the They/Them pronoun set.
Androgyne and Bigender people identify with both of the binary genders. They might relate to both equally, or might favor one over the other. Androgyne and Bigender people often use the They/Them set of pronouns, both He/Him and She/Her sets, or They/Them, He/Him, and She/Her sets.
4. DemiMale/DemiBoy/DemiMan/DemiGuy, etc.
DemiMales partially identify with being Male, and partially identify with being Agender. They might relate to both equally, or might favor one over the other. DemiMales often use the The/Them and He/Him pronoun sets.
5. DemiFemale/DemiGirl/DemiWoman/DemiGal, etc.
DemiFemales partially identify with being Female, and partially identify with being Agender. They might relate to both equally, or might favor one over the other. DemiFemales often use the The/Them and She/Her pronoun sets.
A common misconception is that Genderfluid is a gender in and of itself. However, Genderfluid is not actually a gender but rather a descriptor to use instead of a gender, as someone who is Genderfluid has a gender that changes over time.
In other words, Genderfluid isn’t a standalone gender. Genderfluid is a label that describes a gender that changes over time. As an example, a Genderfluid person might feel Female one day, then Male another day, then Agender the day after that. Genderfluid people often use the They/Them pronoun set, or all of the They/Them, He/Him, and She/Her sets.
Please keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. There are many other less common and more specific Nonbinary identities. These are just some of the most common ones.
The pronouns listed here for each gender identity are a generalization. Many nonbinary people use nonstandard pronouns or neopronouns, such as the Xe/Xem or Ze/Hir sets. (As always with pronouns, the best way to find out the pronoun set a person uses is just to ask.)
San Diego Pride was held on the weekend of July 13th – 14th this year and there was a whole lot of glitter in the air. According to the Times of San Diego, a ground-breaking record of 360,000 people unified together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall legacy. First thing on my agenda was the Pride 5K Run & Walk race to cheer on my beautiful wife, Karin, and the Center’s very own, Jaime!
While I waited for them to cross the finish line, I walked around to admire the decorations for the parade. The streets of Hillcrest were filled with extravagant ornaments of rainbows, sparkles, and unicorns to say the least! Everything was so vibrant that it really generated an inviting and inclusive atmosphere. I hurried back just in time to applaud Karin’s and Jaime’s victories at the finish line. They surely made the race look easy and they inspired me to maybe even join them for next year’s race.
We managed to secure a great spot for the parade before it got too crowded. The energy was contagious – Hillcrest was captivated by a big wave of positivity and respect. The freedom of self-expression was LOUD and people looked blissful and confident in being themselves.
One of the first groups that led the pack was Dykes on Bikes. There’s something about women on badass bikes that shouts liberation and empowerment! I appreciate their symbolic movement and maybe one day my wife and I will join in on the fun.
There were many awesome floats, ones where a lot of effort had been put in. It was an honour to watch the LGBTQ+ community march on with their respective clubs. Each club represented a significant meaning to raise awareness and as each group passed, I couldn’t help but proudly acknowledge how far we’ve come and how crucial it is to keep fighting for our rights. In that moment, I felt the purpose of the parade – its significance within the community and in my life.
After the parade, we made our way to Pacific Beach to cool down from being out in the San Diegan heat. The beach was exactly the vitamin I needed to prepare myself before dancing the night away.
The Pride festivities continued at Balboa Park and it had plenty of vendors, music stages and good vibes. My night started off dancing to HYM at Movement stage and then grooving to Kinky Loops. My favourite performance of the night was King Princess at the Main stage. What I loved most was that she brought a lot of different energies to her set. The last act I caught was DJ Whitney Day, who closed down the night with an energetic house set at the Euphoria stage.
Overall, I was really impressed with the execution of the festival as it had the right balance of spreading awareness and showcasing talent. Not only was it uplifting to be amongst the LGBTQ+ community in tribute on a monumental anniversary of Stonewall, but it was also the perfect reminder that WE ARE NEVER ALONE. I would definitely attend again and highly recommend San Diego Pride for everyone to experience.
about the Author
R. Velasco is a Canadian writer new to Bakersfield. She is actively seeking ways to raise community consciousness about LGBTQ issues and topics, one blog post at a time. She is also part of The Center’s Women Support Group.
If you look back at your life to that period after childhood and before adulthood, chances are you have at least one movie (or song, or band, or TV show) that you would pinpoint as being definitive for you - something that spoke to the core of the person you were. Or at least, the person you suspected that you were becoming.
Our blog team will be doing a series of coming-of-age personal stories: the LGBTQ+ representation in media that shaped our identities, welcomed and inspired us. This is the first installment.
It's a powerful thing, when you're a teenager or young adult, to see some part of yourself amplified and played back to you. Especially for those of us who grew up queer and isolated, with a lack of representation and an absence of role models of people like us, art can be a hugely validating, magical experience.
Velvet Goldmine was that film for me. I was raised in the Middle East, within the evangelical Christian church. In other words, I grew up surrounded by people who believed very rigidly in binary gender roles and that homosexuality is a perversion. The consequence for being outed ranged from ostracization and social death to jail and actual death, depending on who you were (your level of privilege) and how far you chose to step out of line.
My family moved back to the United States when I was a preteen. We moved to the Central Valley, which I instantly recognized as being similarly rigid and repressive.
I remember watching a train go by with "God Hates Fags" spray-painted on the side of it. I remember listening to strangers shout "Dyke!" at one of the only girls at BHS who outwardly read as queer with short buzzed hair and body hair. It happened all the time, as she walked across campus between classes, and I never saw any adult notice, or care.
No one ever had to tell me to hide who I was as a teen. I could read the room and knew I wasn't welcome most places. That's how it feels when there's something about you that if other people find out, you're pretty sure they will reject you. Not because of something you did or said, but because of who you are. The world feels hostile.
Outside of the theater community, a de facto somewhat-safe queer space, I made sure to keep my head down. Being out and proud was something I knew was better saved for adulthood, when I would have the freedom to be less vulnerable. At least, that was the hope - that one day I'd grow up and get to choose to live my life openly somewhere else.
So when I watched Todd Haynes' Velvet Goldmine at 17, with it's explosion of color and music and defiant celebration of queer culture, I was enthralled. The film follows journalist Arthur (Christian Bale) who is writing an article on the life of Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Myers), a glam rock star. Slade's career and relationships are retold in a series of flashbacks as Arthur interviews Slade's former wife Mandy (Toni Collette) and lover/fellow rock star Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor).
While not an official biopic, the film is a loose retelling of David Bowie's career and Ziggy Stardust persona - where Bowie had Ziggy, Slade has Maxwell Demon as his alter-ego, an androgynous alien come to earth to shake up cultural norms and toy with the press while channeling Oscar Wilde. The excesses of the 1970's youth culture are vividly depicted against a manic soundtrack featuring Pulp, Lou Reed, Brian Eno, T. Rex and Steve Harley as well as covers of songs by Roxy Music and The Stooges by the in-film band, Venus in Furs.
I loved all of it, from the vibrant costumes to the abstract, theatrical narrative. But my favorite thing about the film was Brian Slade's complete refusal to apologize for being himself.
In the scene below, a teen Arthur watches rocker Brian Slade give a press conference. When journalists badger Slade about his marriage, sexuality and make-up, he shocks Britain by speaking frankly.
The way Arthur stands up in front of his parents and points at the screen, "That's me!" captures the feeling of wanting to be seen so perfectly. Of course, that didn't really happen. Instead he sits quietly, carefully gauging the disapproving reactions of his mother and father.
Slade smirks his way through the interview, alternatively provocative and coy. His answers about gender and sexuality are fluid and expansive. He goes toe to toe with the journalists, never missing a beat, refusing to let them corner him.
Journalist: What about your fans? Aren't they likely to get the wrong impression?
Slade: And which wrong impression is that?
Journalist: Well, you're a blinking fruit.
Slade: Well, thank you sir, and no. It doesn't concern me in the least. I should think that if people were to get the wrong impression of me, the one to which you so eloquently referred, it wouldn't be the wrong impression in the slightest. I mean, everybody knows most people are bisexual.
While I didn't necessarily believe that "most people are bisexual", I adored how he was throwing the intrusive questions from journalists back in their faces. They harp on his sexuality, so he makes them question theirs. It was a glorious inversion.
I, like Arthur, was captivated. It was the first time I'd seen someone acting that way: refusing to allow their sexuality to be a liability, breaking down gender norms - and winning.
The Bi/Pan+ Workshop is a workshop series for people who are bisexual, pansexual, queer or anyone who has ever been attracted to more than one gender. Last week, I sat down to talk with Dani Muñoz and get the full scoop. Dani is one of the awesome people working at The Annex to facilitate workshops and events for our community. They filled me in on all the details you'd want to know if you're thinking about attending - read on for more!
So what is this group all about? What kinds of things can I expect to talk about at the workshop?
We have conversations about a lot of different topics. We talk about our own gender; about the gender of people that we're attracted to; what it's like to come out; representation in the media; relationships. What are healthy relationships, what aren't; what it's like to be in a relationship when you're not monosexual.
There's still a lot of "pick a side" stigma, both in the straight and gay community. We talk about what it means to be bi or pan, what it means to us personally, and how we can be affected by the erasure of our experiences.
We also talk a lot about how to feel confident and comfortable with yourself in your orientation. There's no single right way to be, and we want to help people be as out as they want to be (and that is different for everyone).
Where do the materials and programming come from for the workshop?
The volunteers that created the group researched and came up with themselves. We have connections with LGBTQ+ centers across the country. We can reach out and get materials from other centers that are willing to share.
The workshop has been around for about two years, and it keeps growing and evolving with each new facilitator, based on feedback from workshop members. We do a lot of surveys to find out what people are interested in and what their needs are.
Do I have to be in a certain age group to attend?
Not at all. Right now the group is a pretty even mix of college-aged people, middle-aged people and people 50+.
If you're under 13, you'd need to get parental consent, and it's up to the facilitator's comfort level on whether we can include someone under 13 in any particular workshop series. But definitely talk to us, and we'll get you connected to support services, whether it's with this group or a different one.
Can I drop in? Do I have to attend every single week?
The workshop runs for eight weeks, and we ask that people try to attend at least five. However, if you can't make it to the full series, drop ins are welcome.
What does it cost to attend the workshop?
It's free! Donations are always welcome, but like every support group at The Center, the Bi/Pan+ Workshop is completely free.
When and where does the Bi/Pan+ Workshop meet?
Where: The Center’s Annex location - 841 Mohawk Street, Ste. 260, Bakersfield CA 93309
When: Wednesday, 6:30 - 8:00 PM
If you'd like to attend the Bi/Pan+ Workshop, get in touch with us by calling The Annex at (661-404-5209). You can download a calendar with all of the events taking place every month at both The Annex and The Center here.
Many members of the queer community, even people who themselves are under the Multisexual Umbrella, are unaware of the Multisexual identities outside of Bisexual. This is a list of the most common Multisexual identities and what they mean.
Multisexual is both an Umbrella Term, a term used to describe a more broad group of people or ideas, and a less specific Multisexual identity.
Bisexual is the most well known Multisexual identity, and is often thought of as only describing attraction to men and women, but Bisexual can be used to describe feelings of sexual attraction to any combination of two sexes, genders, or gender expressions. For example, someone who is attracted to both men and agender people could still label themselves as Bisexual.
Polysexual people experience sexual attraction to more than two, but not all, sexes, genders, and gender expressions. One of the combinations a Polysexual person could be attracted to could be women, demiwoman, and androgyne people.
Omnisexual people are attracted to all sexes, genders, and gender expressions, but still consider themselves to be influenced by these things and often have a preference for some over the others. An Omnisexual may be sexually attracted to all combinations, but still prefer nonbinary partners over men or women.
Pansexuals are the second most well known and most common kind of Multisexuals. They are attracted to all sexes, genders, and gender expressions, and don’t consider any of these things to influence their sexual preference. A common saying used by Pansexuals is “Hearts not Parts!”
Please keep in mind that this is not at all an exhaustive list, and there are many more less common and more specific Multisexual identities. However, these are the most common ones and the ones that you are going to run into with the most frequency.
Living here in Bakersfield is pleasant, but sometimes we really need to get the heck out. This year in early April, I went to an event called Dinah Shore Weekend in Palm Springs. My sister had bought me and a friend of choice tickets to the event for my birthday. Dinah Shore Weekend is essentially a five-day spring break for lesbians. I am not much of a partier and I’m really shy, so I was excited but nervous.
What made the situation more stressful was that all I knew about it was that this event is a giant pool party. I do not really like my body in a bathing suit and I do not dance ever, so I feared the whole event would just be uncomfortable. In the days leading up to The Dinah, I also found myself in a position where I couldn’t find anyone else to go with me. A part of me was dreading going all together.
I stayed at the Hilton where all the pool parties took place. Conveniently, every event was walking distance from the hotel. But I soon found myself feeling uncomfortable about being there alone, especially because I discovered that a lot of friends had come together and were sharing hotel rooms. That seemed like a lot of fun that I was missing out on.
A little nervous about spending several days on my own, I went downstairs to the lobby to have a drink and attempt to relax before going out. The bartender was very kind and even tried to set me up with this attractive lesbian, who it turned out didn’t want anything to do with me. She was only at the bar to watch whatever game was on TV. I ended up being friends with the bartender.
Then another girl arrived at the bar to pick up drinks for herself and her girlfriend, and we all started talking. I was surprised to find out how easy it is to meet people in person. She was very kind and advised me to take an Uber to the opening event at the bar a block up from the hotel since I was going alone.
Once I made it to the event, I was oddly relaxed. I was still alone, but I realized that I would be driven to meet more people - especially after how easy it was in the lobby. I was drinking and walking around the place when I noticed the bar had an upstairs. I went up to explore, and not long after I met a girl who introduced herself to me. We hit it off talking for the rest of the night.
She too had come to the event by herself and it turned out that she was staying in the same hotel that I was. She walked me to my room that night and we hugged it out. The next morning, I woke up and realized that we hadn’t exchanged numbers and that I had no idea where her room was. This was upsetting for me, but I was determined to find her.
By 10 a.m. the pool party had begun downstairs, so I got ready and attempted to find my new friend. I was nervous to be in broad daylight around a bunch of gorgeous women in bathing suits. However, I’ve got to say it was actually pretty cool. The environment the entire time was overwhelmingly friendly and positive.
I met a random person from Alaska and talked to her for a little bit until I ran into my friend from the previous night. My friend found another buddy who had come alone to the event just like us. We all became friends by the afternoon.
Dinah Shore Weekend has pool parties in the day and the club at night, along with a number of other events. There were some entertainment options that I didn’t pay for, but sounded interesting, like a stand-up show. A few famous lesbians had little meet-and-greets, and there were concerts by well-known musicians.
The event is hard to put into words for me because it exceeded my expectations. I had so many memorable experiences. Somewhere along my trip, for once in my life, I let loose. I danced for a long period of time, spoke with a bunch of strangers, had confidence in myself and felt bonds with people I just met.
The community at the event was so welcoming and friendly that I felt like I could really be myself, without worrying about what people think of me. I’m not sure if it was because we were all attracted to women and shared that commonality or if it's because the people I met were all just trying to have a good time like I was.
Before my trip, I was worried that I would look like a creep all by myself. By the time I left, I had made a bunch of new friends and gained the knowledge that you have the ability to look at a situation in a positive or negative way.
How you look at things can really change your experience. During Dinah Shore Weekend, I was open to the idea that I would meet a lot of interesting people and it just happened for me. I believe that taking a trip by yourself is something everyone should do at least once in their lives.
Dinah Shore Weekend should definitely be on that list once you become 21+. If you’re not a big drinker, you don’t have to drink there; you could just go and enjoy being around a bunch of girls who like girls. We don’t have a lot of spaces where we are completely surrounded by other LGBTQ+ people. It’s a nice change to be in an environment where you don’t feel like the odd one out.
I’ve never felt more like I belonged somewhere than at The Dinah. I plan to go back every year, whether it's with other people or on my own.
In my first post of this series, How to Be an Ally: Learning the Difference Between Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation, I wrote about the differences between gender identity and gender expression.
For this next installment, I want to go over the gender identity of non-binary. I'll also explain why, for the first time in my life, I'm excited for my upcoming appointment at the DMV.
Non-binary means "someone who does not identify as a man or a woman, or solely as one of those two genders."
A non-binary person may identify as having two gender identities. For example, someone could identify "as non-binary and as a woman". That would make them bigender (having two genders). A non-binary person might identify as agender or genderfree (having no gender); being genderfluid (moving between genders); or as third gender.
A non-binary identity does not mean the person is intersex (but intersex people can identify as non-binary). Non-binary people may define themselves as transgender or they may not. This tends to vary based on the definition of transgender being used as well as their personal definition of non-binary.
myths about being non-binary
Let's dispel a few of the most common myths about non-binary people.
Myth #1: All non-binary people will use they/them pronouns.
This is not true, as many non-binary people will use she/her, he/him, they/them, or a combination. There's no standardized reason why someone might prefer "they/them and he/him" to "they/them" or "he/him" alone.
As is always the case with pronouns, the best way to find out what pronouns someone prefers is to ask them directly. One easy way is to introduce your own, "By the way, I use he/him pronouns and just realized I haven't asked you what your pronouns are yet - which do you prefer?" People generally appreciate being asked their pronouns and would rather be asked than misgendered.
Myth #2: Non-binary people look and dress androgynously.
This could be true, or it could not be. There's no set way non-binary people dress. Non-binary people can and do dress in traditionally masculine or feminine ways, a combination, neither really, or alternate among several different styles. There's no one particular way to dress like a non-binary person. If you're non-binary and wearing clothes, that's how a non-binary person dresses.
To restate one of the major points of Part I of this series, gender expression (how you dress, shave or don't shave, etc - the outside things other people observe) and gender identity (how you feel about yourself on the inside) do not have to match.
Until gender expression is not socially penalized and discriminated against, there are many reasons why someone might not be able to express themselves publicly to match the way they feel inside.
Alternately, someone who is genderfluid might dress traditionally masculine one day, traditionally feminine the next. This expression perfectly matches their gender identity as a non-binary, genderfluid person.
Myth #3: Non-binary is a label that is trendy right now but will soon pass and be replaced with the next fad.
This is an exceptionally hurtful myth about non-binary people. It echoes previous myths about other groups, like the offensive myths that all bisexual people are sexually promiscuous or that lesbians only prefer women because they were traumatized by men. It's a common way queer people have been discriminated against: people say we are confused, broken or temporary.
The truth is that non-binary people have existed for as long as people and gender have existed. Non-binary gender identities were present within many different cultures throughout history. Labels may change from place to place and from time to time, but there have always been people with non-binary gender identities.
what non-binary means to me
Personally I identify as non-binary and use the pronouns they/them. I'm biologically female but have never identified with my biology. When my peers in early elementary school started really differentiating between "girls" and "boys", I felt frustrated and left out.
I hated being called a "tomboy" by well-meaning adults. A tomboy meant "a girl who likes boy things". I had two problems with that: 1) girls can like anything because there are no "boy things" and 2) I wasn't a girl who liked boy things, because I wasn't a girl at all.
I had zero examples of gender-nonconforming people in my life and no role models to help me better articulate what I thought my role was on the gender spectrum. Regardless, from a fairly young age I was adamant that it was a kind of spectrum. I knew I believed this because I felt like everyone was always reading me on the wrong place on it.
I very much identify with Tris Mamone's account of "fitting in until you don't" as a non-binary person:
"For a brief moment I was one of the girls until the subject of the ridiculous things men do popped up. At first I nodded in agreement with the shitty things men do, but then one of the women would say, 'Men just don’t listen! Oh, uh, no offense, Tris.' Everything was going so well until someone had to point out that I’m not one of the girls after all. That’s when I would walk away and play with the family dog. Social dysphoria struck again."
Dogs are always a safe bet. They usually don't make harsh judgments about your gender presentation or lack of conformity. I've played with a lot of dogs. Cats are good, too.
Today, I feel comfortable using a non-binary label. I tend to use it interchangeably with the term "genderqueer" when describing myself. Not all non-binary people do. (Here's a deeper history of the term "genderqueer"; language is fascinating.)
As of 2019, California has started allowing non-binary people to select a third gender option for their driver's license.
So in July when I go in to renew my license, I'll be able to select not "M" or "F", but "X".
I'm not looking forward to the DMV queue, but I am very excited for the opportunity to identify myself legally as who I've always been all along.
How to learn more: talk to us!
I know that personally I appreciate being asked to share my perspective by my cisgender friends. Especially when it doesn't feel like a challenge or a judgment, I am happy to talk about my gender identity and what it means to me.
If you have a question for someone they'd probably appreciate you asking, instead of making an assumption. It's generally better say something like, "I'd like to hear more about how you identify gender-wise if you want to tell me about it". That gives the person an open-ended way to volunteer as little or as much information as they want.
And of course, thanks to the internet, you can learn a lot about non-binary people just by reading first-person accounts in articles and blogs.
Here's a few resources to get you started:
My Genderation (video): This Is What Non-binary Looks Like
Curve: 10 Things You Should Never Say to Someone Non-Binary
Teen Vogue: 9 Things People Get Wrong About Being Non-Binary
National Center for Transgender Equality: Understanding Non-Binary People: How to Be Respectful and Supportive
As an avid festivalgoer and being fairly new to Bakersfield, I was thrilled to find out that the new location this year for Lightning in a Bottle Music Festival (LIB) was only a half-hour drive from me, at the Buena Vista Lake. The only thing I really knew about LIB was that it’s a much more intimate camping festival, which nowadays I preferred over the larger ones. As I deepened my interest for it, I learned it offers an abundance of wellness workshops like yoga, meditation and sound healing sessions and conscious topic discussions featuring key speakers. When I looked at the music line-up, I was excited to recognize electronic dance music artists I’ve been keen to see and I also noticed there will be artists from various genres. Then I noticed that LIB fell on my wife’s birthday weekend (May 8th-12th), so logically it felt like the Universe was hinting for us to pack up our tent and our dancing shoes!
We arrived at the campgrounds on Thursday evening and met up with our lovely friends who did such an amazing job at creating feng shui for our weekend home. We were also situated under a tree so glorious its shades kept us cool. At times, we could feel a gentle breeze since we were close by the lake. When we entered the festival grounds, we were immediately impressed by the eccentric ambiance and how there were plenty of things to do and see! The euphoric energy everyone transmitted out was so contagious that I quickly came to a realization that this experience was going to be magical. Even if we could sense the inevitable rainstorm was approaching.
While the rainstorm during the early hours of Friday morning was harsh, it did minimize the dust for the weekend. The rainstorm was actually cool to witness while camping because it totally set the mood for LIB. The way I see it is that Mother Nature gifted us with a natural lightning show to initiate the weekend festivities – literally placing the emphasis on lightning. Sure, it did rain hard and it got really muddy in certain areas but the sun eventually came out and embellished its heat for the rest of the weekend.
Our Friday started with a psychedelic breath yoga workshop, which ended up being such a special and personal experience. Then we attended some yoga sessions, one facilitated by Stephen and Katherine who operate Samsara Wellness Center here in Bakersfield (You can catch a free Samsara yoga session held at the Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity on Mondays at 6pm). Not only did the daytime activities leave us feeling rejuvenated, but it also prepared us for our evening entertainment. My favourite set was Gramatik who had us literally dancing the entire time!
By Saturday, more friends joined us and I tagged along with them to venture out so they can get acquainted with LIB. While I find comfort in camping with friends, I was also just as enthusiastic to form new friendships. It’s the perfect environment to detach from our mundane routines and disconnect from our phones. In today’s chaotic world, it’s getting tough to simply be conscious of the present moment. There’s nothing more liberating than when you take a moment to reconnect with your divine self and be amongst likeminded people who can express their individuality freely and safely, without judgement and criticism.
Although Sunday was fun, it was also bitter sweet since it was the last day of LIB. We ventured out to admire the live artworks that were brilliantly crafted during the weekend. We even spent a good amount of time roller-skating in the disco rink. The highlight of my day was when I started to notice groups of people gather around the lakeside where we all took a moment together to appreciate the beautiful sunset. The special part of that experience was that we all howled away into the night, just as if we were pack of wolves. Strangely, it felt natural to howl and I learned later on that it was kind of becoming a LIB tradition.
All in all, I’m so grateful that I was able to experience LIB and it definitely lived up to its incredible reputation. All the lessons I was gifted with and the great friendships formed will stay with me for a lifetime. To top it off, I’m ecstatic to learn that the Kern County officials have declared LIB a success. Which could potentially indicate that LIB has found a home in Bakersfield for the following years to come. Time will tell but in the meantime I’ll stay optimistic for the return of LIB in 2020!
about the Author
R. Velasco is a Canadian writer new to Bakersfield. She is actively seeking ways to raise community consciousness about LGBTQ issues and topics, one blog post at a time. She is also part of The Center’s Women Support Group.
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