Living the Dream

By: Sharon Nellist

10258891_10101685513754293_6293913161816303566_oOne of my favorite things about Portland State University is how we are incredibly diverse. I have had the opportunity to meet so many new people from all sorts of backgrounds. I have been exposed to various cultures by those interactions right in my PSU backyard.

January 18 was no different than my past experience with diversity, except in one major way. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), Oregon Campus Compact, hosted over 400 students from PSU and six other local colleges and universities to come together in unity and love. Our goal was to serve and prove that we are not just dreamers, but if we believe then the DREAM will become a reality.

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Coffee’d up and ready to serve!

We served 14 community sites throughout East Portland and Gresham, logged 1,428 hours of service, and made an economic impact of $32,944.

I was privileged to lead a small group of students and AmeriCorps volunteers to serve the Dharma Rain Zen Center on their 14-acre former landfill site in Northeast Portland. In those four short hours it did not matter what school we came from, or what homework we needed to do when we returned; we put ourselves aside and focused on them. We were weeding around bare fruit trees, towing wheelbarrows of mulch downhill, and trying to avoid being poked by blackberry bushes while removing them. And even though we may not see a huge impact from our service at that moment, like the bare trees, we know that the fruits of our labor will be noticed with time and more love.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: “What are you doing for others?”

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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At the Dharma Rain Zen Center

 

You don’t look like a lesbian

Hey,you’re pretty cute. Do you give out your phone number?” he asked.

No, I have a girlfriend,” I replied flatly, hoping he would leave me alone.

Oh, you’re a lesbian? That’s cool. I couldn’t even tell. You don’t look like a lesbian”. End of conversation.

Apparently this isn't what lesbians look like.

Apparently this isn’t what girls who date girls look like.

There are so many things that I wanted to say in reply to this well-intentioned, though obviously misinformed person. My gut reaction was: “Your blatant ignorance is very annoying, please leave me alone,” but that felt rude. He clearly had no ill intentions, and this issue goes deeper than one dude hitting on me at a bus station, doesn’t it? Yes it does.

As a stereotypically feminine woman in a serious monogamous relationship with another stereotypically feminine woman, this was not the first time I’ve encountered an inappropriate reaction to my sexual orientation or my relationship. Here are the most common ones:

Oooh, what a hot couple”. Flattering.

Would you be interested in a three-way?” Not flattering.

I’m cool with lesbian. Lesbians are hot. Gay dudes weird me out though”. Not OK.

What we don’t get often at all are outwardly negative responses to our relationship. Even in the more conservative places in the metro area. I have deduced that this is caused by two things:

1. We live in Portland, and seeing two girls holding hands and kissing isn’t that rare.

2. We are both stereotypically feminine.

What’s wrong with the fact that it’s easier for us than other women in relationships with women? We shouldn’t be accepted just because men can still imagine enjoying having sex with us!!

I don’t fault anyone for finding my girlfriend or myself attractive. What I do fault them for is finding my more masculine presenting friends who are women dating women “repulsive” or even just “off-putting” because they “look like lesbians”. People are people are people are people. The privilege I experience as a feminine woman dating a feminine woman does not make me think or feel anything other than that I fit in with the ideals of our patriarchal society better than someone else, and only because of my gender expression. Queer comes in all sorts of colors, all are valid, all are beautiful, and all should be viewed as equal.

Hello, Heart? It’s me again.

t_460x0_gay_couplesWinter Break came and went, and for some of us it brought change moving into new apartments, getting pets, graduating from school, or passing or failing classes. For me, it was meeting someone new. This brings with it a challenge of balancing school and personal life – something which is always difficult for me.

I had recently given up on dating, having had a string of bad luck with flaky guys or just plain weird fellas. But it seems the old proverb about when you stop looking, you find what you are looking for, seems to be true. We even met in the weirdest and best possible way: through a friend, due to a flat tire of all things. For me, the chance encounter after being frustrated for so long has been a breath of fresh air, and one I feel I am ready to embrace.

Winter term arrived and brought with it a possibility of love! I am excited, and eager to take the steps with my guy. Next up, another date… My question for you readers out there: how do you balance school life, work, and your special someone?