Over the last sixteen months, I’ve been working with a great group of people to build and nurture a new project: the Genderplayful Marketplace. This online marketplace celebrates diversity in gender presentation and body types. It rallies a community to work collectively on the question, “How can we build wardrobes we love that fit our bodies well?”, and it offers extra encouraging support for trans, genderqueer, and gender nonconforming folks (an identity set that we define very broadly). The project was inspired by what we’ve learned in our work at Genderfork.com.

The Process

The Genderplayful homepage, in private beta

It started with a fundraiser last year. I promised that we would build the marketplace if we raised $5,000, and we received such a strong show of support that our final total was $8,000. Since then, we’ve just been chugging along, step by step, trying to stay focused on the goal and not get discouraged by the sheer size of it (and all of those damned possibilities that would make it so much better except when they really just make it feel more daunting).

For the first six months, we focused on the tech foundation — WordPress Multi-Site, Buddypress, and Marketpress, coupled with Linode and Springloops — and we worked with designers to build our visual experience. Then we pulled in a bigger volunteer staff to jumpstart our social media presence (meet our Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook accounts — each building their own collage of creativity, curiosity, and community style). We also assigned volunteers to help get our forums going, set our first vendors up with storefronts, develop a community blog, curate some featured content, keep the tech development moving forward, and keep our newfound team happy and healthy.

On January 15th of this year — one year after we finished our fundraiser — we opened our creaky doors to community members who’d supported us along the way for a Private Beta. And now we’re cleaning up, tweaking settings, building missing features, helping vendors settle in, and populating the site with the kind of culture we believe in.

Slowly, but surely. But slowly. Sure.

The Laws of Volunteerism

Featured sellers, community blogging

Eight grand is enough money to deal with legal and financial requirements, to cover tech account costs, and to hire the few services that you can’t easily request from volunteers. (It also buys t-shirts, which were part of the deal for getting community funds in the first place.)

It is not, however, enough money to also hire a staff or fund a professional web development job. And that’s fine — we didn’t ask for that level of support to begin with — but it does mean that everything we do is subject to the Laws of Volunteerism.

These laws, as far as I can tell, are as follows:

Law #1: Our predicted involvement will be bigger than our actual involvement. The energy and excitement that we have at the beginning of a project is rarely sustainable at its peak levels, and the actual time we can invest in a project over the long-term needs to have a realistic bare minimum.

Law #2: We will mostly do things that are either urgent or methodical. Give us a fire to put out, and we’ll jump on it. Give us task to repeat every week, and we’ll turn it into a habit. But ask us to think about something new every day without attaching a major deadline to it?  Yeah, sorry, we’d love to, but maybe you can find someone else to jump in…

Law #3: We need to see that our work is helping others in order to keep doing it. I think the single biggest mistake we made in the first year of Genderplayful was not creating a smaller version of the marketplace that we could release much sooner. As volunteers, we are fueled by the positive impact we have on others, and we lose momentum when that’s harder to see.

Law #4: Real life will get in the way. Job stress, moving, breakups, illness, overwhelm, family issues, school, travel, projects, personal transitions, and other forms of Real Life don’t stop knocking. Ever. Volunteering is a commitment, but it’s a rather secondary commitment to, say, staying alive and healthy, and we have to remain flexible as our own availabilities change.

All of these things have happened to all of us on the project, and they hit our tech team and our organizing/leadership energy the hardest. Which leads me to…

SHAMELESS PLUG! If anyone would like to offer their reinforcements in these areas, please first consider the Laws listed above, and then fill out our “SEND IN THE REINFORCEMENTS!” form with how you’d like to help.

Dreaming vs. Doing

When it comes down to it, we’re still walking and still building, even if it’s messy, slow, and quiet in the darkness some nights.

Ideas are fun and cheap, and Great Ideas are worth doing. Doing, however, requires pushing through every form of resistance your brain can come up with, withstanding the stretch of real timelines, and ignoring all those new fun cheap ideas that show up every morning and tempt you to do something new. Doing a Great Idea (as opposed to just any old idea) helps with that last part, but it still takes force, conviction, and faith to get to the finish line.

And we’re getting there. Soon*, you’ll be able to see and experience all the wonders (or at least the highest priority ones) that we’ve been imagining all along the way.

* “Soon” implies no specific timeline. (We know better than that by now.)

I am building.

I am waking up early on weekdays and going into an office and doing a job I love — community management for a company that makes free, open websites for whoever on the planet wants to write and build and share.

I am taking hour-long lunches on a giant beanbag at the back of the office with my laptop, building a little at a time and answering emails from my other projects. And then I am closing down that mail program and not looking at it for the rest of the day while I go back to work.

I am blogging and thinking and maintaining and helping. I am learning.

I am working 40 hours a week.

I am scheming ideas on the train. I am brainstorming while I walk through Yerba Buena Park every morning. I am listening to audiobooks on management, on creativity, on mindfulness, and on how to be a ten year-old boy. I am dancing through the Martin Luther King memorial fountain in the rain on my walk home.

Once a week, I have a meeting at 7am with one of my organizing counterparts to plan more building.

I am spending evenings resting and playing and seeing people. I thought I would spend them building, but I was wrong. I am healthier this time around, and my body needs time to not build.

I am also getting eight hours of sleep a night. Usually. (Okay, seven.) And I eat breakfast every day.

I am building on weekends.

I am writing all over my whiteboard. I am writing all over my shower. I am writing on post-its and notebooks and the backs of envelopes all over my desk. There are wireframe sketches and lists everywhere.

I am forgetting to do my dishes.

I am tackling features and software and code. I am finding bugs and squishing them. I am testing things and researching and talking to myself out loud.

I am working 60 hours a week.

I am untangling the knot of how to build a sustainable community project on only lunchbreaks and weekends. I am cracking the nut of how to build a happy staff without revenue or major investment. I know these things are possible because I’ve done this before.

Twice.

And this time around, I am healthier. I am in love with my entire day, every day. This is what I spent last year preparing for and making possible. It’s here. This is it. I get to build.

It won’t be done next week, but it’s happening.

The Genderplayful Marketplace is on its way.

Hey Everyone,

Thank you so much for all your support for the Genderplayful Marketplace idea. We’ve launched the fundraiser, and already raised $2400 in the first week (plus $335 for the PayPal Haters Fund) from a combined total of 91 backers.

*pause* Did you get that? If you’re skimming, take a second to go read that last line again. None of those numbers are typos. This. Is. Real.

For those who are hearing about this for the first time, here’s the spiel:

What’s the Genderplayful Marketplace?

Genderplayful is a plan for an online clothing marketplace that celebrates diversity in gender presentation and body types. This is for anyone who can’t easily find what they’re looking for in a typical clothing store, with special support for androgynous, unisex, butch, dapper, femme, gender-bending, gender-transgressive, and gender-fanflippingtastic clothing solutions for all kinds of bodies.

Genderplayful cares about custom solutions, and the marketplace will host a lively community that finds and creates those solutions together. Vendors will include indie designers, crafters, clothing makers, tailors, and people selling things from their closets and local thrift stores. Community members will pool notes on what they’re excited about, and vendors will take cues from buyers on what to create more of. The goal is to create a culture-rich gorgeous Internet bazaar for the playful, the exquisite, and the just trying to get dressed in the morning.

About the Fundraiser

If Genderplayful can raise $5,000 in community funding by January 15, 2011, founder Sarah Dopp will commit to making the project a reality. Anything above that baseline number will go toward making the project happen faster and better. (Really, she needs more like $50,000, but she’d rather do it cheaply than wait to do it perfectly.) All financial backers will receive perks based on their contribution level.

Wanna donate?

You can do that right here:

And please spread the word! The more supporters we can rally early on, the stronger this community project will be. The main event is taking place over here: http://genderplayful.tumblr.com

Thank you so much for all your support everybody!

So much love,
Sarah Dopp
founder of Genderfork.com and the Genderplayful Marketplace
(cross-posted from genderfork)

Update! The fundraiser is live and we’re over here now: http://genderplayful.tumblr.com

~~~

Wow. Okay. Hi. So it sounds like you want a Genderplayful Marketplace to happen. Awesome.

I’ve been humbled and overwhelmed by the letters, comments, tweets, likes, views, posts, and reblogs from the last 5 days. Ya’ll are phenomenal.

And videos are a lot to ask. I know. So far I’ve received four of them. I can work with that, but really, it would make a huge difference to our upcoming fundraising effort if we could bring in more. Also: all of the videos I’ve received so far appear to be from transmasculine crowd (trans men, butch/androgynous women). These are fantastic, and please keep them coming, but it would also mean a lot to the balance of the project if we could pull in some representing trans women, femmes (men, women, and so on), drag queens, and other genderfabulous faces.

So here’s where we get serious. If you’ve been thinking about making a short video of yourself explaining why this marketplace is important to you, go do it. Get it done. Go go go! Don’t worry too much about making it clean and perfect — I’ll be editing it down to chunks and weaving it together with other videos. You will be beautiful.

The best way to send them appears to be through Google Docs. Just log in, hit “Upload”, get it up there, and then hit “Share.” Share it with genderplayful@gmail.com.

For those who might be new to this conversation, here’s my overview of the project, complete with me sitting naked in a towel:

And here’s a small handful of the things people have written…

Why is a marketplace for androgynous clothing important? Because of people like me.

I want to be able to dress up, feel comfortable, feel like myself on a daily basis. I want to be able to have variety in my clothing styles besides just “jeans and a t-shirt” while mainting an androgynous image. I want suits and dresses and kilts and dress shirts that don’t accentuate the fact that I was born biologically female. I want to be able to find a place to buy and replace binders and packers of all varieties. I want a place where boots and shoes are bought and sold that fit my feet and don’t have a high heel.

To those trying to get this project off the ground, and turn this into a reality, I am grateful.

You’ve been to the department stores…

Here is an example of a genetic male androgyne shopping experience:

Go into any department store and look for clothes in the mens section, and you will find the following colors: beige, brown, gray, black, and navy blue. If you’re lucky you’ll find some red, forest greens, or maybe even a colorful Hawaiian shirt. The only place you’ll ever find a sense of color is in men’s dress shirts, but they all of the same cut, and usually are solids or pinstriped if you’re lucky – no scoop neck, V-neck, or something innovative and fun. If you want teal trousers or a paisley patterned shirt then you’re out of luck. Also, the men’s clothing isn’t fitted – it’s meant to fit baggy and not show off your figure. Fitted shirts or slacks are a rarity for men in department stores.

So you go shop in the women’s section and find the color and pattern you’ve been looking for. But the sizes aren’t big enough, the tail of the shirt is too short to tuck into your pants, the darts in the shirt are useless on your flat chest. The trousers would look cute on you, but don’t fit right around the hips, so you find a pair that does, but the pant cuffs are too short and barely cover your ankles.

I think there is a niche market for genderqueer fashion – the only other option I see is to break out my sewing machine and spend all of my free time making my own clothes, and I’m not that good at it anyway.

–Timi

Buying from our peers just feels better.

Where I get my stuff from matters to me. I like the idea of being able to dress the way I want to and buy from my community at the same time. I love the idea of a place where the genderqueer community could come together to swap second hands stuff that worked. I adore the idea of having a place to talk about how to make stuff fit or look cool with other people who get it. It would be fabulous to have a place where I could find people who made genderqueer stuff and support them in making my life a little bit easier.

I am also super excited about having a place where I could sell (or heck, give away) some of my funky femme clothes to my super beautiful funky femme brothers and sisters and siblings.

These are rocking my world, ya’ll. Keep the stories coming!

~ ~ ~

Update! The fundraiser is live and we’re over here now: http://genderplayful.tumblr.com

Update! The fundraiser is live and we’re over here now: http://genderplayful.tumblr.com

~ ~ ~

Update 12/4/10: I made a video for ya. (Well, it was originally for Genderfork, but it’s for you, too.)
Also: I’m naked in it.

This is the week of shaking trees. Two days ago, I put out a call for stable employment (for the first time in six years). My consulting work has gotten thin and bumpy, and it’s time for something to change.

There’s another idea that’s been on the table for awhile now, though, and I think it’s time I told you about it.

I want to build an online marketplace for gender-variant clothing solutions.

Not a store where I sell to you, but a service like Etsy and Ebay where we sell to each other, in a focused, supportive community. And while we’re at it, we also trade all sorts of tips and inspirations on how best to look the way we want, gender-be-damned.

You know what I’m talking about. Tuxes for hips and breasts. Size 16 extra-wide high heels. Custom alterations, custom orders, custom tailoring. Hot unisex indie designer labels. Hand-made t-shirts. That awesome skirt from your closet that doesn’t fit you anymore. A good chest binder. That amazing jacket you found at a thrift store for $5 that you want to resell. And while we’re at it, let’s bring in styles from every subculture that celebrates androgyny, which is pretty much all of them.

I’ve been thinking about this for a year.

I talked to the staff at Genderfork last winter, and we agreed it should be a separate-but-friendly project (Genderfork is run like activism; this would be run like a business).

I did a bunch of research on software options, and had to table the idea for awhile because a good multi-seller marketplace solution didn’t exist. But I’ve got one now. It came out in September. We can do this.

I have the web development, the project management, and the community organizing skills to make this happen. And I love the people this will serve. Relentlessly.

All I need is time and money.

You know. That stuff.

I’m in talks with a family member who can give me a loan, but they need to know that there’s enough support for the project to warrant the risk. Also? Loans are stressful. It would be awesome if we could offset it with some community support. So…

I would like to launch a Kickstarter campaign.

Kickstarter is a service that lets community members donate to projects (and receive thank-you gifts based on their donation amount), to meet funding goals. The goal and timeline are set in advance. If the goal is met, the donations go through and the project happens. If the goal isn’t met, the donations don’t happen, and we consider it closed.

This is a test.

If we can rally a ton of community support, I will go all in on this plan and make it happen as quickly as is humanly possible. If we get only moderate support, I will take a day job and build this project slowly, in my off-hours. If support seems slim, I’ll consider it closed.

**How You Can Help Without Giving Me Money**

Do you want this to happen? Help me convince the world that it matters, that we need these clothing solutions, and that the best way to get them is to come together and create them collaboratively.

Here’s how you can do that. I want you to make a video of yourself explaining why this is important to you. Use your phone, your webcam, or whatever you have nearby. Don’t make it fancy; just make it real. Tell us what matters to you, what you need, or what you have to give.

I will collect these videos and edit them together to make a promotional video for the kickstarter campaign. Or maybe multiple videos, if you send me lots of great stuff.

The more faces we can show, the better.

Your voice will help me convince others that this project deserves their support. That it needs to happen.

How to get your video to me…

Chances are your video will be bigger than the average reasonable email size. So here are some options (just pick one):

A) Use Google Docs to upload the file. Then share it with genderplayful@gmail.com

B) Get a Dropbox account, put it in the public folder, and email genderplayful@gmail.com the URL to that file.

C) Post it as a video reply to my YouTube video.

A Note on Privacy: I plan to use your face and your voice, but not your name, unless (maybe) you say it in the video.

Deadline: This Tuesday.  As Soon As You Can.  I’m going to start pushing things out to the world this week, so the faster the better, but I’ll continue to make use of material that comes in later, too. It all makes a difference.

This will matter.

Make a video. Do it for everyone who needs this marketplace, but isn’t ready to say so out loud. Do it this weekend. This is your art project. Go.

Love,
Sarah

Update: If making a video really isn’t your cup of tea, another thing you can do is write a paragraph explaining why this is important to you. You can leave that in a comment below or email me at genderplayful@gmail.com, and it will find the right audience. Thank you so much!

~ ~ ~

Update! The fundraiser is live and we’re over here now: http://genderplayful.tumblr.com

As luck would have it, the two books I contributed to this year are being launched in the same week.  This is actually quite lucky because it means I can confuse everyone with it, and distract them from looking at one book with the other.

Here they are…

1) Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation

Edited by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman. (Get it.)

genderoutlaw This is a very powerful and important book, and you should buy it.  I say this not as a contributor, but as someone who’s been holding space in the gender-variance advocacy world, who knows that most of you are craving more exposure and information, and don’t know how to get it without coming across as clumsy.  THIS IS A GOOD BOOK.  It’s a patchwork collage of 52 voices, many of whom are hidden in daily life, but all of whom are well-spoken and have something powerful to say.

I’m honored to add that my piece is the End Note. It’s a brief meditation at the back of the book about where I see us, and where I think we’re going.  An excerpt:

We are five years old. Eighteen. Thirty-seven. Sixty. We are starting grad school, starting companies, starting families, and starting trends. We are serving coffee and signing paychecks, nursing the sick and teaching children, building technology, growing food, producing masterpieces, and changing laws. We are woven into this culture and we are finding each other. We are sharing our notes, strengthening our stories, reaching out for one another, and welcoming everyone in.

And when we wake up in five, ten, twenty-five years, we’ll find that the queer issues we’re fighting so hard for today have been trumped by an understanding of the fluidity of gender. We’ll have learned that masculinity and femininity are not mutually exclusive, and how satisfying it can feel to represent both at once, or neither…

Buy the book to read the rest, and the REST! ALL of the incredible essays, stories, poems, naked pictures (yes, naked pictures), cartoons, and conversations. I’m serious. You want this one. Go get it.

2) Coming & Crying

Edited by Melissa Gira Grant and Meaghan O’Connell. (Don’t get it.)

comingandcryingThis is the other book I’m in. You don’t need to read it.

The project itself, from a purely observational standpoint, is fascinating. Melissa Gira Grant and Meaghan O’Connell decided they wanted to have an intervention into publishing — especially published sex writing — and to bring more of the rich, raw, honest writing style that was surfacing on the internet (about sex) to the printed page. They used a service called Kickstarter to raise some money from the community before they gathered the writing, so they could self-publish it properly. Their goal was to raise $3,000. They raised $17,000. And now they’re starting their own media label.

(But just because the project is fascinating does not mean you have to buy the book.)

The book is erotica-meets-drama. It’s a book of sex stories with all the messy awkwardness and overanalysis left in. I wrote a story for it. It’s under my real name. It’s a very personal story. Let’s just accept right now that I’m never going to run for Senate.

If you are a member of my family, I strongly recommend that you (please) do not buy this book. If you have a purely professional relationship with me and would rather not feel weird the next time you see me, I also really don’t think you should buy it.

And if you’re anyone else, you know what? We’re in a recession. You need to buy groceries. Look! Shiny things! I think your grandmother is on fire. Don’t look at the book.

Also? It was a limited print run. They’re gonna sell out soon anyway. And who knows — they might not print any more. So you probably can’t get the book anyway. It wasn’t meant to be. No, you can’t see an excerpt. You never heard about this. Enjoy your day.

(Don’t get it.)

Love,
Sarah

Quick Backstory:
This is a finicky evaluation of online project management systems, taken slightly out of context. I originally published it a few weeks ago via “Dopp Brain“, my email newsletter, which I’m writing for more often than I’m blogging right now. If you miss hearing from me, go sign up for that. I’m working on some infant/sensitive projects right now, and am preferring to talk about everything just a little less publicly for a bit.

But somebody just asked me about this overview, so I’m making it public now.

~~~~~

When we last heard from our hero, she was neck deep in trial accounts for online project management software…

Man, that was not a fun game.  But it was absolutely worth the digging.  Here’s what I learned (besides the fact that I am the Donald Trump of Project Management System Evaluators):

FIRED

Basecamp: It’s everybody’s golden child, but damnit, I can’t stand it.  Something about how the information is laid out just doesn’t fit how my brain works.  The Writeboards, which should be a centerpiece, are so far out of the way and take extra time to load that they feel like a disconnected afterthought.  The dashboard and calendar views are unreadably cluttered, and the task lists are clunky.  Fired.

Wrike: Oh, this one had so much potential, it broke my heart.  Completely fresh layout — they organize everything by Folders and Subfolders rather than Projects and Clients, so you can decide how your own work needs to be structured.  They also allow you to record the same task in multiple folders, so it’s cross-referenced against what it needs to do.  The only downside? It’s all about tasks.  And it takes a few too many clicks to enter a task to warrant that single focus.  There is a space for notes and discussions, but those are hidden away and hard to find — which is bizarre and completely unecessary.  I thought i was going to strangle it for that, so… Fired.

DeskAway: This one and I almost got married.  I had loaded up all my projects and we were halfway to the chapel (my tux looked great) when I realized that its Dashboard view of the All Tasks Due Today doesn’t let me mark tasks as done.  SERIOUSLY!  It’s just a summary — you have to click through to each task in this weird convoluted way to mark a task as done — so there’s no homebase area that you can hang out in and just be productive.  The other thing that bugged me was that the list of “Overdue” tasks included Today’s tasks.  You don’t get to tell me that something due today is overdue. And by the way, I lied, I don’t really like Bob Dylan and I don’t want to live in your stupid house with the stupid white picket fence and look at your stupid face all day long and this engagement is OVER. Fired.

Pelotonics: By this point, I was jaded.  I knew my standards were too high, and I was a little too familiar with the ejection button.  There was no passion here.  Just a bland dinner, a glimmer of hope (integrating with Evernote? Sweet…), and a quick dismissal based on a flat excuse.  I can’t add a new task from the Dashboard view. There. I said it. None of the other systems would let me do that either, but it seemed as good enough an excuse as any to end that date before we got any further.  It’s not you, it’s me. Let’s just be friends.  Trust me. You don’t want to get involved with me anyway. I’m bad news. I kill systems.  Just ask the others. Go. Now. Before we do something we’ll regret. You’re fired.

After I drowned my system incompatibility sorrows in several regrettable rounds of Chat Roulette, I got back on the horse.  I’m a reasonably attractive, successful consultant — I have a good personality, damnit!  There are plenty of fish in the sea!  Maybe I’m just using the wrong pickup line. Should I change my soap?

To cut to the chase, I put on my best “fine, i’ll be more agreeable this time” face and put together a hybrid solution:

HIRED

Remember the Milk for task tracking.  But not all tasks.  Just the tasks that aren’t part of any scheduled projects and still need to get done by a certain day.  I added the widget to my Gmail sidebar and configured it to only display tasks that are due today or are overdue.  I can check things off as I go, and I can add new things super-quickly when they come up. It works fabulously.

PBWorks Business Edition for project notes and collaboration.  It’s a wiki built for project management, and it’s yummy. I can have a different wiki for each project, and pull in guest collaborators for specific spaces only.  Bonus features: it has task lists (though they’re not any better than all the other system tasks lists I fired), and I’m using those to keep track of project requirements.  It also has this really sexy conference call feature, where it will call as many people as I want to have a meeting with on their telephones and bring them into a zero-hassle conference call.  And the best part about a wiki is that it has all the content I need, and none of the content I don’t need.  Win.

Google Calendar for scheduling work sessions. I’m blocking out time on my schedule for working on different projects. Old school, I know, but it works.

Emma, aka “Girl Friday,” aka “Queen of the Wikis” for tying it all together. (*joyful choirs erupt in praise*)  Emma’s a kick-ass project organizing consultant who is keeping the wiki and calendar updated, and making sense of new projects as they come in. You might also know her from KinkOnTap, the weekly webcast about culture, sexuality, and politics that she co-hosts and organizes.  She’s an awesome one, she is.

And there we have it.  That, plus some Gmail and Freshbooks is the organizational ground I’m standing on.  So far so good.

Genderfork.com — a volunteer-run community expression blog about gender variance that I founded two years ago — has exploded. In a good way. We’re getting far more submissions than we know what to do with, and the comments have started overflowing into tangential discussions. It’s time to grow.

Last week, we put out a call to the community, asking who’d like to help advise us on the creation of open community forums. We figured 10 or 15 people might raise their hands right away. When 70 did, we closed down the invitation and marked the group as Full. (Yep. Definitely a need for forums.)

Kicking off that discussion this week, we asked everyone involved a bunch of questions about where they’re coming from, what their interests are, and what they’re most inclined to talk about in a community forum about gender variance. We also included a question about how Genderfork has affected their lives and their own identities so far.

The responses hit me hard. This is the kind of site that has a big but quiet impact. To hear people put that impact into clear terms was hugely helpful to me, and moving.

Here were some of them….

* * *

“The biggest thing Genderfork has done for me is give me permission to not fit. For a long time I’ve felt like expressing an alternate gender without being trans in some way detracted or disrespected the life experiences and narratives of trans people. Genderfork has helped me embrace a gender identity that isn’t cis and isn’t trans and is still completely valid. Genderfork has helped me to feel real.”

* * *

“Genderfork is great! It’s helped broaden my idea of gender and taught me about the different labels we put on ourselves and each other. It’s a supportive little community that is very kind. I’m very glad it’s here on the Internet or else I think I’d be totally lost.”

* * *

“Genderfork hasn’t helped me with my identity formation, per se, but it has been crucial in how I’ve grown to accept it. Without the blog, I’d still probably be closeted about my third gender and feeling quite bad about it.”

* * *

“The blog helped me an amazing amount. I used to be just very, very confused. I didn’t even think it was possible that I could have a problem with my gender! Then I found the blog (I wish I remembered how), and it helped me a lot to figure out that I can be very happy even if I don’t present the gender traits of my sex.”

* * *

“Genderfork helped me to realise that it was ok for me to not be a woman or a man. I think before I realised that I was unhappy sometimes living as a woman but that I didn’t think I would be able to transition and live as a man full time either. I think genderfork helped me see that those are not the only two options and encouraged me to explore who I am a little bit more (still exploring, still having great fun doing it).”

* * *

“Genderfork has been invaluable, not in the formation of my gender identity, but understanding how that identity was defined. I already knew how I felt, but it took seeing other people relate to that, then label it, for me to understand what it was. If it wasn’t for genderfork, I’d still have that general feeling of ‘wrongness’ when acting or dressing as my gender identity.”

* * *

“Genderfork (along with the nudging of some friends of mine) opened my eyes and really gave me a safe space to examine and explore my own identity. I intellectually grasped the social construct of the binary, but was blown away by how many of the quotes and profiles here especially hit home for me. Seeing all the different labels or refusals of labels that people came up with was extremely educating in terms of showing me how wide this community really is. Also, being able to have a space where i know there are answers to the questions that answered anywhere else, and seeing, below every submission and profile, a flood of “Me too!” is really empowering.”

* * *

“As far as gender identity construction is concerned…well, Genderfork took me as a very confused individual and left me as a very confused individual. But it a good way! Knowing that there are alternatives to the oh-so-constricting binary is definitely an improvement from where I was. I’m still working through a lot of things, but it really helps to know that there are like-minded people out there in the world, and maybe even closer to home than I originally thought.”

* * *

“It’s shown me there are others out there who are like me and yet entirely unlike me at the same time. It’s helped guide me toward the ways to outwardly express my inner identity.”

* * *

“I wouldn’t say Genderfork has helped me form my own identity as much as it has shown me how diverse other peoples’ genders can be. It’s also helped to show me that it’s not abnormal to have a non-binary gender identity.”

* * *

*gulp* Okay. We’ll keep walking.

Sometimes I email people.

Like, a lot of people at once. I do the “bcc” thing, and I hand pick the people who I think want to hear about something, and then I remember after I sent the email that I forgot a bunch of people. But it works well enough.  Sometimes an email to a lot of people is the right medium for what we’re doing.

Then again, sometimes blog posts are the right medium. Or tweets. Or personal emails. Or facebook wall posts. Or text messages. Or (gasp!) a phone call (but let’s not talk about that). I try to stick to whatever medium is right (except when it’s a phone call, and then I’ll try to come up with something else, anything else, that will substitute. But again, let’s not talk about that).

When I send out a big email, it’s usually because:

  • Someone sent me a really cool job or gig that doesn’t fit me very well, and I want to pass it on to other good people.
  • I want to hire assistance for something, but I don’t really want the whole world to know about it.
  • I want to tell people what’s changed recently in my consulting work, so they know what I’m a good fit for and what I’m not interested in.
  • I want to tell the story of my consulting work — what I’m learning and doing and accomplishing and messing up along the way — without feeling totally public and naked about it.
  • I want to talk about a new personal project I’m working on (usually relating to gender or sexuality or queer culture, or maybe creative writing) and see what people think before I make it public.
  • I want to announce something I’m doing or hosting or organizing or traveling to (or whatever) to people I care about.
  • I want to pass on information about something amazing that I care a lot about.

And… as you can probably tell from that list, these emails are starting to feel a little bit like having a newsletter… just, minus the “consent” part.

So let’s get consensual about this.

If you would like to be part of my inner circle of advisors, or if you want to hang out within catching range of the job/gig leads that I pass on, or if you find the neurotic journey of a consultant interesting, or if you think the stuff I do for the queer world is making a difference and you want to know about my next big thing before it happens, or if you’re just my friend who never gets to spend time with me and is looking for some insight into why I won’t answer my phone…

You can sign up to get emails from me here:

Google Groups
Subscribe to Sarah Dopp’s Brain
Email:
Visit this group

After you hit “Submit” above, Google will probably email you to make sure you really meant to do that. Just tell Google, “Yeah, I did,” and then you’ll be done with it. (And if you have any problems, tell me.)

In exchange for your consent, interest, and trust, I vow to:

  • …not send you things that feel impersonal or spammy.  If I’m sending you something, it’s because I think it really, really matters, and I will tell you exactly why.
  • …never ever ever sell/trade/share your email with others, or let anyone else hijack my list to use it for their own agenda.
  • …not email you more often than I think is respectful. That’s subjective, I know. In reality, it will probably only once a month or so — maybe less.  I’m not setting a schedule.  If it starts getting more frequent than that, I’ll be extra careful.
  • …keep it a one-way announcement list.  This isn’t a big huge discussion group. If you respond, you’ll be writing directly to me, not to everybody.
  • …never take it personally if you want to unsubscribe.  In fact, I probably won’t even know.  I don’t keep track of that stuff.

Past and current clients, friends, family members, genderfork fans, queer open mic regulars, conference acquaintances, former lovers, co-conspirators, and total strangers are all welcome.  Just remember: this is me talking about what I care about.  If you don’t share the same interests, you might not find this very exciting.

But if you do, you probably already think this is awesome.

(Sweet. Me too.)

Love,
Sarah

I just spent two weeks on my couch, staring at the wall, nursing a bad case of bronchitis, desperately trying to convince myself every morning that I was healthy again, and then falling over ten minutes later.

This was poorly timed. I had just asked the internet/universe for new clients (and it was delivering); I needed to promote and host January’s Queer Open Mic; I had to host, edit the audio recording, book the next guest, and kick off some written content for Deviants Online; there were a handful of loose ends at Genderfork that I was dropping the ball on (including a physical interactive art exhibit that we were sponsoring and needed to build); and there’s also a big sorta-secret dream project that I’m determined to kick off this year, and I had planned to announce it in January to find out who wants to help.  But instead, I’ve been curled up in a ball, unable to think or do.

Pretty much all I managed to pull off in this time was gathering a few new (less linear) perspectives. Here’s one:

I used to write — poems, stories, essays, daily journal entries, thoughts on napkins, whatever I could use to spew ideas on. I also blogged almost daily here, and was thrilled by my ability to publish something to the whole world with just a click. My writing slowed when I got into building more websites “just for fun” — there’s a lot of creative energy that goes into getting the CSS and HTML, the content and audience, just right.  And now I organize.  My creative needs are met by arranging people, ideas, and spaces together like I used to string together words or snippets of code.  The result is still a piece of art — something I can point to and say, “I did that, and it’s beautiful, it’s even more interesting than I imagined it would be, and it has an effect on the people who encounter it.”  Only now the art is much more alive.  It grows and changes and takes on its own personality and it needs to be constantly fed and nurtured to survive.

I’ll be honest: poems were way easier.  They certainly didn’t care if I got sick.

About a month ago, when I was having a crisis of direction, I called my dear friend Melissa and demanded, “What do I want to be when I grew up, again??” She said, “Sarah, you’re a poet who raises armies and brings people together, and sometimes those poems look like websites.” And sometimes those websites look like armies. And sometimes those armies look like poems.

Genderfork was a photo-a-day project in which I posted photos from flickr to represent my unusual sense of style.

Genderfork is a community space for 13,000+ devoted readers a month, and it’s managed by a staff of ten.

Queer Open Mic was my writing deadline and my creative home — I went there to perform every two weeks for a group of friends in that tiny cafe, whether I was ready to or not.

Queer Open Mic packs 80 grateful performers into the back of a bookstore each month, and they thank me afterward for making them a home.

Deviants Online is a baby now, and I’m excited to see where it will grow.

And there’s this other big project that I want to talk about — it’s not ready yet, but it will be real soon.  As soon as I catch up from being sick.

And my clients, I love you, and I love that you trust me to advise on your organizing — that music you play to your audience and the way you inspire them to dance.

I live for this stuff. I work to build and I build for work. I’ve been sitting on a couch for two weeks agonizing over how disconnected and depressing it feels to not be creating.

But one thing is loud, bright, and obvious from where I’m standing now: It’s gonna be a damned good year.