#LoveWins and the Road Ahead

Yesterday was a huge victory for justice in the United States as the Supreme Court announced that bans on same-sex marriage were illegal because they violated the Constitution (the supreme law of the United States of America) and therefore any laws that states had made regarding same-sex marriage that either banned them or made them unequal to different-sex marriage. This is so rad, because that means that couples who are of the same sex can finally have some of the rights and privileges afforded to married people in this country.

Some of the benefits as listed by PBS Newshour:

  • They can sponsor and be sponsored for immigration benefits. That means they can get their immigration status changed through marriage just like straight couples!
  • Next-of-kin status in emergency situations!
  • Family visitation rights in settings where it's needed like hospitals and prisons.
  • Custodial rights to shared property, child support, and alimony in the event of divorce.
  • Joint parenting rights, like access to school and medical records (while the child is still a minor in most states).
  • Right to spousal funeral and bereavement leave.
  • Qualify for domestic violence intervention. This is huge because same-sex marriages are not immune to the problem that affect other marriages, and before, many people couldn't get the help they needed to escape violent situations because their marriage/partnership didn't legally qualify as one.
  • Apply for low-income housing together if they are a low-income family.
  • More at PBS Newshour
This is a huge win! We should celebrate! I'll be at NY Pride tomorrow with some of my friends to celebrate. I know America is bursting at the seams with excitement.

But that said, there are still a lot of things we have to keep working on. Marriage Equality has been a hot issue for a long time, and probably the most popular and visible one, but the less visible issues are certainly still relevant. We have to keep the momentum going and fight for the safety, dignity, and equality of LGBTQIA+ people.

Here are some more issues affecting the LGBTQIA+ Community that you should know about, talk about, and take action on. 
  • Transphobia. This topic is becoming more mainstream with celebrities like Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner being vocal about their lives. But there is a ton of work to be done. By April of this year, we had a record-breaking 14 LGBTQ murders, and half were transwomen of color.  Even so-called LGBTQ organizations are guilty, like the Human Rights Coalition, which is noticeably disinterested in helping transpeople. It should also be noted that a report came out in the past year that HRC is sexist, cissexist, and racist, where only cis, white, gay men could advance. (Can you tell I'm really not about the HRC?)
  • Racism. Racism is a huge problem in America and it intersects with LGBTQIA issues. It affects the community internally (as evidenced by HRC above, as well as elsewhere) and externally. In 2011, 70% of anti-LGBTQ murder victims (murders!) were People of Color.
  • Police hostility. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP)'s 2014 report on hate-violence on LGBTQH individuals reported among other horrifying stats, that fewer people were reporting hate-violence and those that did were met with "increased police hostility."
  • Youth suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-24. LGBT youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers, and questioning youth are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide compared to their peers. Almost half of all trans youth have seriously considered suicide, and a quarter of trans kids attempted it. These and more facts about LGBTQ suicide and ways to get involved at The Trevor Project. More info from the CDC
  • LGBT youth homelessness. No small number of LGBTQ youth face rejection from their families, and decide to leave home to escape abuse (physical, mental, etc.) and violence. Many of them end up on the street. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 40% of the homeless youth served by their agencies are LGBTQ. Some homeless shelters refuse to help LGBTQ people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender presentation. LGBTQ homelessness is even more of a problem because unlike in the past, these kids aren't leaving home at 18-20-- they're running away at 12 or 13. Imagine being 12 and homeless, and facing serious threat of hate-violence on top of all that. 
  • Lack of education. Whether you are or aren't LGBTQ+, there is a good chance that growing up you didn't have a good understanding of LGBTQ+ issues, or identities. This makes it hard for those who aren't straight or cisgender to understand themselves, find resources, and get medical care. It means that many people at school, work, wherever don't always understand how to deal with LGBTQ+ people, which can result in anything from hurt feelings and disrespectful comments to full on bullying and abuse. Imagine your doctor not understanding how to be respectful of you and your body. We need to push for better education earlier on and better education for those who didn't get it until now. That means teaching teachers how to teach kids and handle conflicts based on anti-LGBTQ bullying, as well as having sensitivity training and education for adults who were raised in a transphobic, homophobic, biphobic society, and haven't learned how to interact with LGBTQ individuals.
  • Biphobia and bi-erasure. This comes on both sides from heterosexuals and homosexuals alike. "Bi people are just slutty." "Bi people just want attention." "Bisexuality isn't a thing." "Pride isn't for you." "You're not bi if you married someone." There's a lot of this ignorance going on. I've even seen gay people outright tell bi people with different sex partners that "Pride isn't for them" and to "stay the hell away."
  • Representation in politics, media, etc. Let's make our political system and our media more representative of the world. Let's push for diversity in books, movies, toys, and TV! People of color, LGBTQ people, people from other countries, socioeconomic backgrounds, and with disabilities all deserve to have representation in the media they consume. Vote and support candidates who can bring different (but still aligned with your values) viewpoints to the table. Push for better written characters that don't fall into cheesy one-dimensional tropes, or have to take the backseat to a straight, white, cis guy. 
  • Employment and Housing Discrimination. A 2013 study found that housing applicants listed as same-sex couples were far more likely to be rejected. There are 30 states that do not have any anti-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals, and another three that have protections based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity. This means that LGBT people are more likely to be poor (and that American businesses are missing out on amazing LGBT employees because of bigotry).

Let's keep moving forward, America. What issues are you working to further conversation and action on?

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iLLA: A Hip Hop Musical Needs Your Support!

Ya'll probably know already that I'm a big fan of the musical as a storytelling vehicle. I post about musicals fairly frequently on social media, and I even review them on my blog. Today I'm talking about an upcoming musical that tells a story about clashing cultures, self-love, and ambition. It's called iLLA, and it's a hip hop musical.

I first heard about the show through my friend, LaVon Fisher-Wilson, who has been involved with some of the readings. I went to a little showcase of some of the songs and to learn more about the show, and I was very impressed with the performers and the material.
iLLA follows Robert, a classically trained dancer, who dreams of becoming a famous rap star. After suffering a humiliating defeat at a leading open mic competition Robert struggles to redeem himself in the eyes of his community. He falls hard for a girl named Stacy but his family’s prejudices threaten to tear them apart. Can Robert overcome his fears and troubled home life to achieve his Hip Hop dreams? It’s a journey of Swagger, Struggle and Self-love that we all must travel. Do you have what it takes to be iLLA?

This show blends genres like hip hop, R&B, gospel, and more to tell a story about a young man caught between worlds, struggling to find himself and love himself when others are trying to convince him of who he is and isn't.

I've heard some of the music, and it's really fantastic. I can't wait to attend the reading at the New York Musical Theater Festival (NYMF) in July. I really love supporting the arts, especially when it's in favor of stories that bring diversity to the industry and to the audience, and when the work widens the accessibility of the medium to more audiences. iLLA does both, with artistry and authenticity.

I had the pleasure of meeting some of the talent and creatives involved with the show, and I can't tell you how excited I am to see this all come together. They are such a brilliant, fun cast, with a great story to tell. The work feels so real and honest-- There are times when people try to create a more accessible musical and it just come off gimmicky, or silly, or just doesn't feel well-crafted. This is not one of those half-baked musicals. This is the real deal. The music is so well written and even anthemic. This is such a cool project, I really hope it gets fully funded!

They are working on getting funded through Indiegogo. Support them by donating and sharing their campaign.

You can also follow them on facebook, twitter, instagram, youtube, and soundcloud.

Learn more and support iLLA the Musical on Indiegogo and share their campaign! Let's get this funded!

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Feel Confident in Swimwear with Leonisa

This post is sponsored by Leonisa, a brand that makes shapewear, lingerie, swimwear, and more for people of many needs-- whether you want to smooth your midsection, or want a stylish mastectomy bra. Feeling confident and comfortable is for everyone!

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Who has a beach body already? Everyone does! If you got a body, and you're going to the beach, you have achieved beach body status. That said, I'm all for people wearing the stuff that makes them feel most confident and comfortable. It's totally natural to want to project our best outward self-- it's why we wear make-up, and dress the way we do. We all love being the best version of ourselves, inside and out. Leonisa has shapewear and swimwear for varying needs. They're having a swimwear sale right now where you can get 15% off with code SWIM15! I've picked out some summer swimsuits I love, and some of them have bonus body-shaping features.

Graceful tummy-slimming one-piece bathing suit - This swimsuit is really gorgeous, and very slimming. You don't have to show your belly to look good, and this suit proves it! The criss-cross draping across the bust is slimming and makes your chest look fuller.

Geo firm tummy control one-piece swimsuit - This cute geometrically patterned top has tummy control built into it, keeping your torso looking smooth and firm!

Air push-up top& adjustable bottom swimsuit - I love the colors on this suit! The top has a bit of push-up in it, and the bottom is adjustable, so you can decide how much lower belly you want to show.

Chic bustier top with push-up and bikini bottom swimsuit - This last suit is in that super hard-to find bustier style, which I really like since it's a little more crop top-like in cut.

You can also follow Leonisa on twitter and facebook.

Which one's your fave?

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Things You Should Know About College

Holy crap, I'm an alumna now.

I graduated as part of William & Mary's Class of 2015. I did some really cool stuff (like bringing Yuri Lowenthal '93 and Tara Platt to school) and learned a lot in my time there. I don't think I changed a lot as a person-- I came into school already pretty emotionally and psychologically mature and so what college did for me was to grow into myself-- a person I had long felt I had found. I did not need to "find myself" the way a lot of people do in college-- which is neither a good thing or a bad thing-- it's just they way things were.

Anyway, I'm here as a freshly minted grad to tell incoming students, future students, grads, and anyone else some stuff I think you should know about college (and life afterward).

Coffee does not replace sleep. When I needed to stay up (ex: when I accidentally over-netflixed my Sunday) and finish an assignment, or prepare for a test, I would get this thought into my head that I could find a way around needing sleep. I am the type of person who gets a little loopy when sleep deprived, and so to me this becomes a totally rational thought alongside my elaborate fantasies of becoming a mermaid in legends of old that lures sailors to their doom. Coffee will not replace sleep. Sometimes it won't even fend it off. You are just a human. And you are talking crazy if you have convinced yourself that time is an illusion and sleep is an unnecessary institution designed to keep us from discovering the alien forces shaping human history. (Real thoughts I have had at 4am on a second consecutive all-nighter.)

There are more important things than your grades. This is not my "blow off the thousands of dollars someone is investing in you to have an 80s movie style college experience" statement.  I'm the child of immigrant parents. I will never ever make that statement. But for a lot of people, college is an exercise in survival. Between the big life changes, to the tendency for many mental health issues to arise in your late teens and early twenties, and a lot of your beliefs/routines/identity being challenged, college can be a really hard time. You are more than just your education, and you need to find and nurture yourself in ways that aren't just academic.  You may be faced with a moment when you will have to choose between your grades and your well-being. And if that ever happens to you, please, please, please put yourself first. Please know that if a friend needs you, you can probably spare an hour from your studies. There might be people who disagree with me on this, but you are not going to care about your GPA at 50, you are going to wonder why you decided not to be with your family after a loved one's death because you had a group project to work on, or thinking about how things might be different if you had reached back when your friend started opening up to you about their eating disorder. Maybe you are at the end of your rope and you just shouldn't push yourself over the edge. You aren't always going to know when these moments happen, but if you are fortunate enough to recognize these moments as they come, remember that grades are not everything.

You do not need to study abroad to validate your college experience. Things I believe you should do in college: learn about capitalism and patriarchy and race as flawed but powerful systems that influence humanity on a global scale. Become friends with people who are different from you. Learn how to say no. Find yourself (or more parts of yourself) if you haven't already. Get a handle on how to manage your money. Have a few dishes you can cook well. Learn how to spot a toxic relationship (romantic or otherwise) and how to excise it. One thing that people push a lot when you are starting university is this apparent need to travel the world. I think a lot of people get pressured into either making a decision because it seems so absurdly important, or feel like they've really missed out on something essential to a "complete" college experience if they weren't able to go abroad. I have met incredibly worldly people who can talk about far-reaching issues like colonialism and poverty who have never gone abroad but have studied these complicated systems, and I've met people who have studied abroad and come back with stories of interesting sights and foods and fashion, but very little by way of actual enlightenment. The rest of the world is not an exotic adventure for you to Eat, Pray, Love your way through. It's a real place with real people who live through real issues, and sometimes if you spend your funds experiencing it before you are able to truly see it, you'll find yourself becoming one of those touristy students who thinks that they can Columbus their way through the world on superficial connections and believe it was a "life-changing experience." If traveling is important to you, don't worry. If you can't swing it in college (on top of tuition and books and loans), you can still travel later. And you might travel when you are better equipped to make the most of it-- financially, intellectually, emotionally, or otherwise. There are more important things than traveling, and there is a lot of time in your life when you can travel.

Learn to say no. This is so important in life. This is one of the most important lessons you can learn. You might want to make others happy. You might want to convince yourself that you can say yes-- but we reap what we sow and sometimes it's better to not commit to things that won't pay off. Say no to staying out late if you know you're going to regret it. Say no to situations that make you feel uncomfortable. Say no to parties when you need to study. Say no to friends who try to convince you to blow extra funds on unnecessary burgers. Say no to clubs you just don't have the time for. You are so much more than your ability to say yes to others. Sometimes your yeses to others can be nos to yourself-- no, I won't have a low-stress week because this party this weekend is going to put me behind on my paper. No, I won't be able to afford that camera I wanted because my friends want to see a movie at  theater almost every week. Make more room for the moments when the things you say yes to align with your wants and needs by saying no when they don't.

If you have sex, please be safe about it. That means use adequate protection. That means know what consent is (and what it isn't). That means get tested regularly. Please get to know and understand your body before you put it into more complicated situations. If you did not receive a comprehensive sex education before, get one now. I highly recommend the resource Scarleteen because it is accurate, non-judgy, and inclusive.

Become a critical thinker. Life's about more than multiple choice questions. Learn to pick things apart and put them back together, conceptually. Learn to be comfortable with the nagging feeling that you haven't unpacked everything, that you haven't figured it all out. Chip away at big blocks of questions little by little, careful not to damage whatever masterpiece lies within like a sculptor. If you come out of college with a thorough understanding of your field but without the tools to face the complexities of the world, you will be the kind of person who can only travel a few courses, and will find yourself lost at sea if you ever get knocked off track. The only way to be truly in control of your life is to have the critical thinking ability to make decisions for yourself in a way that is right for you.

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New Glasses from Firmoo!

Firmoo.com invited me to try their glasses for free in exchange for a review of their product and service! All opinions are honest and my own.

You guys might not have known that I have impaired vision since I regularly wear contacts, but I'm terribly near sighted. The glasses I had been wearing for the past couple of years seemed like a great buy at the time, but I actually hated them. I found out that I hate Transition lenses. I found out that I can't do without those little clear plastic nosepads since I have such a low, flat nose bridge, and I also found that they rested too close to my face and fogged up and left embarrassing marks on my cheeks if I smiled too much. As such, I was delighted when Firmoo.com presented me with the opportunity to get a pair of glasses for free in exchange for me telling you all, my lovely readers, all about how the experience went.

When you use Firmoo, you can see how the frames would look on several different default models, or upload your own photos to virtual demo your new frames. I've tried many different sites with similar functionalities, and Firmoo's virtual frame demo is definitely one of the better ones I've used. You do have to enter your pupilary distance (PD) which I had never heard of, nor was it on my prescription for glasses, but I found out it's the distance in mm between your pupils. I measured it and input it and it helped the virtual demo fit the glasses more accurately. PD is also necessary to placing your order since it helps them manufacture glasses perfectly for your face!

I also found that the store had a lot of helpful information on the real life dimensions of the frames, as well as their weight which was surprisingly important to me. I realized that as a contacts wearer, I prefer really lightweight glasses. I tried on tons of different frames in their online store, and eventually decided I liked the model CSN F1327.

I got my frames in black since it goes well with my own coloring. They turned out to look exactly as the site had projected. They are very lightweight, they matched my prescription perfectly, fit well, and were delivered in about a week with a sturdy case, repair tools, and a cleansing cloth.

I've gotten a lot of compliments on these glasses, with people telling me they look very professional-- which is good since I'm currently interviewing for jobs!

I had a really positive experience ordering these glasses from Firmoo and will probably be a repeat customer-- they offer a great value and were so easy to order from. They have a broad selection of glasses and their ordering process is relatively simple. You can order prescription or non-prescription frames and even sunglasses with them. If you're in the market for new glasses, and don't want to drag yourself to an often overpriced frame store, I recommend checking Firmoo out!

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