My weekend! Let me show you it!

(photos by emchy and liz henry… cuz my own camera’s battery died.)

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Tomorrow morning I’m climbing into a bumper-sticker-covered car with Liz Henry and Cindy Emch and driving to Portland, Oregon by way of the redwood forests. Once we arrive we’ll jump out of the car, run around the city, party like we’ve joined the circus, sleep like rocks, wake up like birds, jump back into the car, and keep driving until we’ve made it to Seattle.

ciswy-cover.jpgThen we’ll all scramble onto a stage with some other fantastic writers and read stories about childhood trauma to an eager paying audience of “Can I Sit With You?” fans. If you’ll be anywhere near Seattle on Friday night (April 25), you seriously need to get a ticket and come to this. It’s going to be amazing. (And you can see my story here.)

Several days, a whole lot of partying, and a decent number of hours in a hot tub later, I’ll catch a red eye flight to Boston and then grab a bus up to New Hampshire, where I’ll hang out with my family for a few days. During this time, I’ll turn 25. This will be celebrated in a manner that will rival Christmas.

After I revel in the legitimacy of my new age bracket for a day, I’ll head over to the UNH region for the Annual Writ Summit with the rest of the site‘s core staff. It will be a loosely-organized weekend of meetings, arts events, reconnecting, and brainstorming about what to do next with this brilliant grassroots website monster that refuses to die. I’ve heard rumors about a reunion poetry slam and open mic that Friday night, which would be crazy fun. If you’re in the area and you want to join in on the festivities, ping me and I’ll send you more details.

I’ll fly back to San Francisco on Tuesday, May 6th, where I will promptly find a large rock and hide under it for a week. I’ll come out from under that rock only for a few hours on Friday, May 9th, to celebrate my birthday at the Queer Open Mic and with a drinks outing afterward. You’re all invited.

The best way to keep track of me right now is by watching my Twitter feed. The best way to contact me is through telepathy (if that doesn’t work, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to settle for less reliable alternatives).

Any questions?

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sarah-on-engage2.jpgAs promised, I hit the Engage.com-sponsored Love 2.0 party last night and asserted my peaceful protests about their website’s rigid category structure. I met the CEO, the Project Manager, the Front End Developer, and the Art Director. They were all very friendly and tolerant toward the tall queer trouble-maker in the black wig, and I was impressed with how amenable they were to my concerns about their dating service.

The question was: Why can’t I be bisexual on your website?

The answers were along these lines (with my reactions in italics)…

  • That was a database decision. We made it possible for you to be straight or gay, but bisexuality requires searching the entire database, and that’s a big load on the servers.
    • Good news! Enterprise-level databases and servers are capable of handling full searches now! Really…
  • You can! You’re free to switch back and forth! You can be one way one week and another the next!
    • That’s great that you allow people to be fluid about their identities (really, that’s important, and i’m glad you’re doing it). But I’m not excited about dividing my time into “straight weeks” and “gay weeks.” I want to represent myself on your site consistently and honestly, and not have to make a decision on which group of people is allowed to court me at a time.
  • We thought about it, and we’d still like to do it, but it’s just going to require so much code to make it work. It’s very complicated.
    • I hear ya. It’s hard. That’s rough. I believe in you, though. You can do whatever you want to do. You have the tools.
  • It’s a matter of release dates and product management. We’ve got so much going on, and we’re working on making the site better all the time. We just haven’t been able to get that piece in place.
    • I totally understand. I’m a project manager myself. I know this stuff gets messy. You can’t get it all done at once. So… are you working on it?
  • I agree, it’s important, and we want to be the kind of site that welcomes everybody. We should have that done by the end of the year, and we hope you’ll come back when the site is more open.
    • Fantastic! Thanks! I’ll keep an eye out for the changes! It’s been great talking to you. I look forward to becoming your biggest fan.

engage-1.jpgSeriously, they’ve been really good about this. I’ve had several follow up email exchanges with the people I met at the party, scheming what an ideal site could function like, and discussing the pros and cons of organizational styles. Their VP also responded to my original email, stating she agrees with my point and that they would do their best to get it right.

I’m excited about Engage because they’re merging new ideas about connections with models people are already comfortable with. By the way they’ve responded to my noise, I can tell they sincerely care about making their community happy. They’ve just got some growing to do.

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engage2.jpgThere’s a new dating site on the scene called Engage.com, and it’s bragging about its unique social aspects. In truth, it looks pretty awesome. They encourage friends to match each other up (in contrast to the “Web 1.0” model of seeking out strangers), and they seem to have the tools to make it work. They’re presenting themselves as hip and in touch with what people are really looking for. They’re also sponsoring a party tonight called Love 2.0, which I’m heading out to in about an hour.

They seem well intentioned, but they’ve missed the boat on the categories issue. Their site is so rigidly structured by gender and gender preference that I couldn’t even complete my profile without being forced to lie. It’s not the “okay, i’ll call myself this for now and then go do what I actually want to do” kind of lie. It’s the “wow, I really can’t do half the things I’d like to do here because you won’t let me be honest about who I am” kind of lie. I’m not impressed.

So last Friday, I wrote them a letter:

subj: I’d like you to acknowledge bisexuality.

Hi Team Engage,

A friend just invited me to the Love 2.0 event this Monday that you’re sponsoring, and was excited to tell me about your site. I tried to sign up, but was disappointed to find out that you don’t acknowledge bisexuality. I don’t have a gender preference in my dating, and it would be dishonest and limiting for me to express one.

I dug through your FAQ trying to find some acknowledgment of this situation, and only came up with this:

Does Engage support same-sex matches?
Of course! No one is left out on Engage. You can fix up same-sex couples as long as they’ve both indicated that that’s their preference when they registered for Engage.

It’s important for you to know that I’m feeling pretty left out right now, and many of my friends would, too.

I’m active in the social media tech industry and dating scene, and your site sounds awesome. But I can’t use it if this limitation is going to be such a major aspect of how the site is organized. It’s offensive to me.

Can you change this? Please?

Or at least tell me why it’s important for you to have the restriction?

I appreciate you taking the time to read and respond to this.

Many thanks,
Sarah

It’s been three days and I haven’t seen a response, despite the fact that their automated email promised they’d get right back to me.

Engage.com Relationship Status OptionsSo now I’m going to dress up in my finest cleavage-boosting men’s suit, head over to their party, and ask them about this myself. I’ll be joined by a friend who takes issue with the fact that they don’t acknowledge open relationships or the equivalent of Facebook’s “It’s Complicated.” (You can only be matched up if you designate yourself as single.) Weirdly enough, though, they do provide categories for Divorced, Separated, and Widowed… as though those should significantly impact how you should be labeled on the site.

Just warning you in advance.

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A Jewish friend of mine called me tonight after attending a lecture on the history of Christianity. When I answered the phone he started speaking a mile a minute about charisma, redaction, contradictions, Paul, gentiles, marketing strategies for salvation in ancient times, and the difference between “what likely happened” and “what was written about later on.” The lecture gave him a framework for looking at the story of Jesus in a way that actually made sense to him for the first time in his life, and he was bursting with revelations.

He said, “I had to talk to someone about this, and I knew you’d understand.”

My mom is a liberal UCC minister who is married to a Catholic. My aunt is a Reiki healer who is married to an Episcopal priest. My uncle is a Methodist minister. His son married a female rabbi. My other uncle and his wife and kids are all born-again Christians who have done extensive missionary work in other countries. My other uncle is 17-years sober recovering alcoholic who hits his knees every single morning and every single night to thank God for keeping him alive another day. My grandmother has been teaching Bible Study since God created the heavens and the earth, and she will continue to teach it until she gets swept up by the Rapture.

My mother says, “There are many ways to get to God, but you need to pick one.”

In the spirit of both acceptance and rebellion, I’ve been calling myself an Eclectic Agnostic since I was 16. This means that I don’t care who wrote what down in any book; I acknowledge that I am human, and that I don’t get to know much of anything at all. It also means that I play around in religion like it’s a swimming pool full of finger paints. I’ve considered myself a Taoist, a Buddhist, a Pagan, a Christian, and a whole lot of other things that I’m not quite sure how to label. As far as I’ve been able to tell, they’re all different words for the same experience of feeling connected and recognizing the importance of life.

A friend of mine in high school said to me, “You can’t just up and be a Taoist.”

I walked away from Christianity when I started picking apart the words. The image of a personified God made absolutely no sense to me. I put my hands on my hips and announced defiantly, “No, there is NOT an old man with a long grey beard in a white robe sitting in a big chair in the sky behind a pearly gate, pushing buttons and turning levers and determining what’s going to happen to us next. Uh-uh. No way. Ya’ll are stupid.” Fortunately for me, my ├╝ber-religious family is also extraordinarily patient and accepting of the fact that people need to find their own paths. I’m a logic-brained writer. My path takes language very seriously.

If images of God are just metaphors, then aren’t monotheism and polytheism essentially talking about the same thing?

So I picked it apart. For awhile, I was convinced that Time was my higher power. It’s way more powerful than me. I’m always trying to speed it up or slow it down and I have absolutely zero impact on it. It’s also a reliable force to lean on when I need help. If I just let Time do it’s job while I focus on doing my own, it will pretty consistently save my ass.

That’s like God, right?

But I keep coming back to the core of my spirituality — a space in my life that I only started to be able to refer to as God again about a year ago (although I find I get fewer raised eyebrows when I refer to it as “The Universe” in the Bay Area). I recently grappled with it from a gender perspective and ended up with a beautiful poem that healed a lot of my old anger.

If we are all made in the image of God, then how in God’s name can God be gendered?

Tonight I found my thoughts on someone else’s blog. The completely amazing Emma McCreary wrote a beautiful post about the difference between our culture’s old ideas of God versus its new ideas of God. It perfectly sums up the tension I’ve felt around religions and explains why I keep going back to it: the new ideas work for me. In typical Emma fashion, she writes in a voice that is fluent in both Business and Spirituality — a mix I too rarely get to enjoy. Please go read her post, God is Bottom-Up, and tell me if it doesn’t resolve all of this stuff and put us all onto the same page once and for all.

I think the joy ninja’s got it.

First, the news. Flickr announced a new service that allows you to post videos up to 90 seconds long.

Next, the response. Flickr Video is getting a lot of criticism, mostly because the 90 second limitation is unusually short for an online video service in 2008.

Now, the joke. In the spirit of Internet humor, the Twitter-based peanut gallery has decided to turn its griping about Flickr Video into a parody of the Barack Obama is your New Bicycle website (which is a parody in itself).

Now, the real joke. Who’s griping about Flickr Video? Oh, right. Twitter users! As Barb Dybwad points out, these are people who love the creative restriction of 140 characters in text, but just can’t yet fathom an equivalent in video. Hey Twitterati! You thought Twitter was stupid when you first heard about it, too. Either give creative restriction a chance, or use Vimeo. Flickr isn’t trying to be the next YouTube. It’s trying to do something new.

Okay, but back to the joke. Even though I don’t support the goal of this protest, I think its execution is brilliant and hilarious. Here’s a sampling of some of the gems I’ve picked up via the Tweet Scan:
Read the rest of this entry »

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John T. Unger just put up a post called, It’s only life or death. It’s always only life or death. It starts out:

“The best thing that ever happened to me was the night an angry, messed up cab driver pulled me into the back room of a 24 hour diner and held a huge handgun to my head for over ten minutes, all the while describing in intricately fetishistic detail exactly what would happen when he pulled the trigger.

“Why? Because it changes you, staring down a nutjob holding a gun. After that, the small stuff just doesn’t get sweated. You either break, or break through to a mandatory satori of keeping things in proportion that most people never get to walk away from. It’s an ice calm I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

This sounds like something straight out of Fight Club, but he’s exactly right. There’s this line between life and death where the crap that doesn’t really matter falls away.

Last month marked the ten-year anniversary of my failed suicide attempt. Ten years. It’s a good number. I’ve also been building website for ten years, and performing poetry at microphones for ten years. Guess what I started doing when I realized my life wasn’t going to live itself?

A brief backstory: I had a challenging adolescence. Combine growing up queer in a straight-or-gay world with watching my father slowly die of a terminal illness, and you have the perfect formula for depression and self-loathing. I hit a breaking point, devoured a bottle of sleeping pills, woke up the next day (surprise!), spent a week in a mental health ward, and then decided it was time to get a grip on things. I was fourteen years old.

I subscribe to the philosophy of “No Regrets.” We live, we learn, we move on. I reached a point where I was willing, ready, and determined to end my life, and then I lived beyond it. I’m not going to stand here and advocate suicide attempts, but I will say it was the most dramatic positive turning point in my life to date. I discovered that I’m not trapped in a meaningless and oppressive system. I found out that when life and death are on the line, all of the clutter falls away and we finally see the point: that we matter, that there is love all around us, and that all of those rules are really just suggestions. We get to do whatever we want.

As a sidenote… For anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts, I highly recommend the book Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws by Kate Bornstein. The premise is pretty simple: if you feel like you need to choose between doing [blank] and killing yourself, do [blank]. (And she has some great suggestions for “[blank]” if you’re getting bored with your own ideas.) If you want the book but you can’t bring yourself to purchase it, please email me.

Today my friend Nelz came out today on his professional tech programming blog as a tattooed and pierced, silly-flash-mob-organizing, sex-positive Burning Man fanatic. He invoked my favorite web comic and ended by cheering, “Hooray for transparency!”

I’ll add, Hooray for not taking suggestions that don’t work for us!

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Have you noticed that the abbreviation “WTF” tends to get people’s attention?

Technorati noticed it.

technorati-wtf2.jpg

OkCupid noticed it, too.

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Strangely enough, though, they can’t seem to agree on what it means.

Funny, that.

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