Category Archives: The Buzz

Misgendering Your Transgender Friend

Imagine a scenario: you’re talking to your friend, when suddenly, you use the wrong pronoun. It makes things awkward and you have no idea how to proceed. The question is: What do you do when you misgender a trans person?

Your first reaction may to be to freak out and apologize repeatedly. Don’t! This could manipulate your friend into feeling guilty,   something they shouldn’t have to feel. In order not to overreact, you might feel inclined to ignore the mistake and move on. This could also be problematic and lead to your friend thinking that you don’t care.

But you do care about your friend. You didn’t mean to misgender them, and you want them to know that. The response is simple: apologize once, correct yourself by using the right pronoun (most important—this reaffirms their identity!), and continue with the conversation. This approach lets them know that you realize that you made a mistake, without making them feel like they’re an inconvenience to you.

Pronoun slip-ups happen to everyone. The most important thing is that you let your trans friend know that you support them 100%. Practice their pronouns so you get them right next time!

This is a guest post by Adam, one of Maine Family Planning’s student interns.  Adam is pursuing a degree in creative writing. When he’s not writing for class or for Maine Family Planning’s blog, he’s petting cats.

There Has To Be Room for Stories Like Mine

The following interview was conducted with a Maine woman who has had a medication abortion. She remains anonymous in order to protect her privacy and safety.

Why do you feel it’s important to share your story?

I want to do my part to de-stigmatize abortion while using my story to help expand access and options for reproductive health care here in Maine.

When I looked around for sympathetic abortion stories, all I could find were narratives about people who chose to get abortions because they were survivors of incest and sexual assault, or they were teenagers living in extreme poverty. I understand why some organizations lift up these kinds of narratives. They underscore the profound human rights abuses that occur when people are denied the right to abortion care and provide a powerful counter-point to right-wing arguments that anti-choice laws protect women and girls. I think that these stories are important and need to be heard.

choose when and if

However, these stories do not reflect my own experience. When I got pregnant I was 29-years-old, in a loving partnership, and was using birth control. Neither my partner nor I had a job at the time, and our financial situation did play a role in my decision to terminate my pregnancy. But it was just one factor, and it could have been overcome. When it came down to it, I just didn’t want a child at that time. I thought I might want one in the future, but it was not the right moment. I have long believed that there is nothing wrong with abortion and that people should get to choose when and if they have kids.  Continue reading

Self-care is a Political Act

It feels like I’ve been drowning in articles about New Year’s resolutions this week. I struggle with the whole Resolution thing, though, because it often seems that January is a time when we’re encouraged to declare war on our lives (or at least our bodies). We spend so much time working to reclaim our bodies from those who would control us—why turn the tables on ourselves every New Year?

self preservation lorde

I think we do battle with ourselves plenty over the course of the year. I don’t think we need to feel pressured to do (yet one more) thing that brings more stress, makes us feel bad about ourselves, or ultimately doesn’t serve our physical or emotional well-being.

What’s more, many of us spend a lot of time doing important work: taking care of others, working for social justice, and doing our part—however small—to try to make the world a better place. We’re told that the work itself should be its own reward, when in truth, it can be both rewarding and also really exhausting. We’re told that self-care is frivolous, superficial, or an excuse to disengage. Many of us—women especially—are shamed into ignoring their own physical and mental health, sometimes to the point where we just don’t have the energy to participate in the work that we care about deeply.

The world can be a scary, discouraging, sometimes tragic place, but it’s a world that needs youContinue reading

National Coming Out Day: A chance for safer Maine communities

This week’s guest post was authored by Cara Courchesne, Katie Kondrat, and Rachel Epperly, all of the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault and also appears in the Bangor Daily News

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With the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality and Caitlyn Jenner’s iconic Vanity Fair cover, issues faced by the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community dominated headlines this summer.

As we celebrate these victories and the headlines fade, activists continue to rightfully point out the work that remains.

SAFE-SPACE

We know that sexual violence is the most under-reported violent crime in the United States, and that there are often barriers to victims and survivors who want to report to law enforcement and seek services. We also know that the rates at which LGBTQ people experience sexual violence are alarming survivors face even more barriers when seeking help. 

These barriers include: previous homophobic or transphobic experiences with services providers and law enforcement; concern the services available don’t have the expertise to affirm and support someone; a lack of understanding by the victim that what happened was sexual violence; a fear of being outed; service providers making false assumptions about someone’s gender identify or sexual orientation; or worse still, discriminate against someone who has come to them for help.  Continue reading

I was only ever meant to be your Papa: A father’s letter to his daughter

This post was written by Stephen; he lives in Portland with his family where he works as a parent and a nanny. You can read more about his journey to fatherhood at his blog, papa bear

Dear Birdie:

I have been asked to write about what it means to me to be a father. Or more specifically, what it means to be a transgender father. I am a father who carried you for nine months in my body, who labored with you for 22 hours, and at the end of a very long day–with Daddy waiting to catch you– who gave birth to you. Right now you don’t know that most dads don’t get to carry a baby, right now you don’t know that some people think there is a right and a wrong way to build a family, right now you don’t know anything except that you have a Daddy and a Papa who love you more than anyone else in this world.

stephen birdieBefore you were born we talked a lot about how we were going to make a family, and we considered all our options but the one that felt most right for us was the path that ultimately led us to you. I was worried about so many things; how we would be treated by our community, how we would be treated by doctors, and if you would be accepted when you were born. Most of all I wondered if I was strong enough to be a man and be pregnant. But we wanted you so much that we took a leap of faith. I whispered a wish and a prayer to you; that if you were ready, then so was I.

I want you to know that I haven’t always been happy with my body and I have had a difficult time loving myself. But something changed when you began to grow. Continue reading

Who’s Being Excluded? A Body Image Conversation.

This post was written by Anna Rabasco, an intern at Maine Family Planning and a senior at Colby College. Anna is passionate about reproductive rights, watching documentaries, and eating cheese.

feet in sneaks

The topic of body image is all over the blogosphere and magazines, and last month, Colby College joined the conversation. At the recent Body Image Narrative event, students from Colby submitted stories about their personal experiences with body image. The event provided a look into how body image is being talked about, albeit within the context of a small liberal arts college. Many of the stories involved messages of struggle and hope. Here is a quote from one of the narratives:

The calories needed to be burned. The food needed to stay away. The voice needed to be happy. This cycle went on for a few months….There is a lot left that I need to work through, a lot of healing that still needs to be done, but I am strong now.

Many of the narratives contained similar themes that come up in this quote – a struggle with disordered eating and the journey to overcoming that struggle. While these narratives were powerful and the response from the audience was overwhelmingly positive, there were certain audience members who expressed their disappointment with the lack of diversity in the stories. Out of twelve narratives read, only one was from a male viewpoint. Most of the stories had white, cisgender, able-bodied authors, and focused on eating disorders, rather than positive stories of body image.

So why did this event attract the stories that it did? Why did certain groups of people feel comfortable sharing, while others didn’t?  Continue reading

May We Suggest a New Year’s Revolution?

It’s January, which means it’s New Year’s Resolution season. Maybe you resolved to take good care of your health, to give back to your community, or to save more money.  Because taking care of ourselves can be a political act (as Audre Lorde reminded us), might we suggest you make a New Year’s Revolution, instead?

Whether or not your resolution feels revolutionary, there’s something nice about a new year and a fresh start– and it’s especially satisfying to know you’ve done something kind for yourself (we can help!). Continue reading

Here’s Lookin’ At You, 2014.

For many people, the New Year is a time to take stock of the past year: a time to measure how far we’ve come, to learn from the challenges we’ve faced, and to make resolutions for the year ahead. 2014 was a pretty eventful year for Maine Family Planning specifically and for reproductive rights generally. So before the ball drops, let’s toast to a year of showing up for reproductive rights and sexual health—and resolve to continue working towards reproductive justice for all.  Continue reading

Boundaries: Get Clear!

Here’s the scenario: you’re on a date with someone new, and it feels like the two of you will be headed towards the bedroom soon. Once you’re in the heat of the moment, neither of you have protection (you haven’t visited a Maine Family Planning clinic in a while). You’re conflicted. But you make the decision to follow through with it because your new crush doesn’t seem worried about not practicing safe sex. The next morning, you wake up wishing you had listened to that nagging voice in your head–you wish you had made a different decision and now you’re feeling badly about ignoring your instincts.

writing in bed

Have you ever been here? So many of us have. Often times, we ignore our instincts and gut-feelings because our boundaries–our ‘yeses’ and ‘nos’– weren’t particularly clear to ourselves in the first place. Boundaries are nuanced; they change all of the time–depending on our mood, our current feelings, and the situation.   Continue reading

It’s Not a Dirty Secret (Get Tested)!

coupleholdinghandsclinicImagine a world where testing for sexual transmitted infections (STIs) was as normal and routine as getting a flu shot or your teeth cleaned. Imagine if there was no shame in asking to be tested for chlamydia or gonorrhea or HIV. Imagine how many people–who may have been infected without knowing it– could live healthier lives because they didn’t fear the social repercussions of having an STI.

Sexually transmitted infections (also known as sexually transmitted diseases/ STDs) are self-explanatory: infections that are primarily transmitted through sexual behavior such as vaginal, anal, or oral sex. About 20 million new infections occur every year in the U.S., and about half of those will be among people under the age of 25. If left untreated, STIs can lead to a number of health problems– including infertility, cancer, chronic pain, high-risk pregnancy, and even death.

But here’s the tricky thing about STIs….

Continue reading