GingerSass

adding ginger to your sass

GingerSass - adding ginger to your sass

Happy first birthday, GingerSass.

365 days ago my life changed forever.

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I was feeling a bit down and I decided to go to the (now defunct) 2nd Annual Sex, Love, and Dating Conference at Rutgers. After all, it was 5 minutes away, and a lot of my friends were working the event.

 

I didn’t know what to expect, and my social anxiety prevented me from wanting to make new friends at the conference, so I decided to do what I had done when I was younger: pretend I was a news reporter and super important at an event.

 

I ended up creating GingerSass and live-blogging the conference. GingerSass had over 300 hits in its first 24 hours of existence. By the end of the week, GingerSass had a domain name, a Twitter account, and me solemnly swearing that I wouldn’t toss GingerSass to the side after a few weeks, like I have done with so many writing projects in the past.

 

One year later, GingerSass has grown into something I never could have dreamed of. A year ago, I thought GingerSass would just be something to make me feel like less of an awkward turtle at a conference. Now, GingerSass has over 745 Twitter followers, 170 fans on Facebook, and, on average, over 5,000 visitors per month. THAT’S CRAZY TALK.

 

GingerSass has given me a lot of opportunities this past year I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I attended the BlogHer conference in NYC. I met fellow bloggers and made some amazing friends. I became a National Runner Up to be the Verizon Ultimate Insider. I’ve booked a few appearances and made a bit of money as a poet (unheard of!). I’ve been mentioned on AfterEllen. I’ve interacted with celebrities whose alter-egos have questioned what a celesbian is and why I want to be one. (coughcoughCadyMcClaincough) I’ve also been sent fun things in the mail, including a book from Eden Riegel’s mom. (I’m still finishing it, Lenore! Sorry!) GingerSass is also found in the first few pages of “celesbian” search results on major search engines.

 

Besides the Z-list celesbianism I’ve managed to obtain, GingerSass has given me a lot personally. It’s helped me grow as both a person and a writer, and it’s helped me get through anxiety, stress, grieving, student teaching, excitement, a hurricane, love, and so much more. It’s helped me become more in tune with who I am, and who I want to be. GingerSass gave me the voice that I kept locked away for so long, and it has helped remind me that I am a strong, independent, incredibly awkward yet endearingly sassy ginger woman.

 

GingerSass has been one of the best things that has come into my life, and I am forever grateful for what it has evolved into. It wouldn’t be possible without all of you– THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.

 

I’ll be announcing a giveaway at some point this week to commemorate one year of GingerSass. Until then, be sure to like GingerSass on Facebook, follow @THEGingerSass on Twitter, or subscribe to GingerSass using the “Subscribe” button on the side of this page.

 

Stay tuned for an update– with cake– later tonight! Thanks again for making this past year possible. I really couldn’t have done it without all of you. <3

 
Oh, and here’s a Hillary Scott (of Lady Antebellum fame) song I found that perfectly sums up how much my life has changed in the year that GingerSass has been around. Blogging and running GingerSass truly has been life-changing for me.

I found my voice again…

In Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” there’s a scene where Ariel gives up her voice to Ursula, the evil sea witch, so that she can walk on land and be something she’s not.

While I haven’t negotiated with the devil, and I never had a singing voice to give up, I’ve spent a lot of the past year or two in a funk. I gave up my voice to my own worst enemy: myself.

During college, poetry was my escape. Imagery and rhyme scheme allowed me to convey the emotions I couldn’t communicate in everyday life. I coped with love, loss, and even episodes of Glee. Then, life got chaotic. I struggled with all the stress in my life, encountered situations I didn’t know how to handle, and went through a minor meltdown upon graduating undergrad and starting The Real Life Pit Stop Known As Grad School And Student Teaching. Amongst all this, other than when it was for a poetry class, I couldn’t find the desire to write poetry or perform at poetry readings. I felt like a part of me had died, and I threw all my writing energy into GingerSass.

On Friday, something within me changed. I thought about collapsing on my bed and watching depressing episodes of Grey’s Anatomy or Private Practice, but, on a whim, I decided to attend Out of the Box, a local open mic I last attended over 3.5 years ago.

Attending OotB felt like a homecoming. It was hosted in the basement of a church by Pandora Scooter. (She’s fabulous; I actually want to try to arrange for her to perform at school for my students as a part of our performance poetry unit.) I read my post about Coming Out Day, and the poem I wrote in response to my students attending Dodge for the first time. After I was finished, Pandora shook my hand and thanked me for what I do. I also had quite a few people come up to me afterwards and compliment my piece, and I even connected with another teacher dealing with some of the same issues and feelings I have been dealing with.

Listening to the various poetry, musical, and other sorts of performances really warmed my heart. For the first time in a very long time, I felt like I was getting my voice back. Everything seemed right in the world, and it really meant a lot to be a part of such a wonderful, inviting group.

Oftentimes lately, I’ve felt like I’ve lost my voice. I haven’t had the time to write, and when I have, it’s usually been posts about something involving my student teaching internship. I’ve written maybe 2 poems since April, which is devastating to me since I usually write 2-3 poems a week. I’ve been having a bit of an identity crisis with the loss of my voice and my lack of writing. All of this combined with going to Out of the Box on Friday has helped me realized something: I really am my own worst enemy, and I am definitely the only person preventing myself from embracing my voice as a writer and a poetic performer. I have nowhere else to go but up, and I am so extremely grateful that I decided to go on Friday night. Without OotB, I don’t know if I would’ve found the desire to find my voice again. I’m finally getting closer to being the me I want to be.

Why I Chose Not to Come Out on National Coming Out Day

Today, October 11th, is National Coming Out Day.  National Coming Out Day was started in 1987 when half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Since then, National Coming Out Day has continued to promote a safe and accepting world for LGBT individuals.

I’m currently student teaching in a really wonderful district. The teachers are amazing, wonderful, and supportive of one another. The students are really close knit. The school thrives on diversity. However, one thing I have noticed in the hallways is that the school has a slightly homophobic feel to it. There are no out teachers (that I have met). There is no Gay-Straight Alliance for students to join. In particular, my students have frequently used the phrase “That’s so gay!” or “You’re so gay!” in the classroom. I have had at least four conversations about respecting one another and each other’s differences in my one classroom, but it sometimes feels as if I am beating a dead horse.

Last night, I was so overwhelmed by the ignorance displayed by my students that I was literally restless. I remembered that today was National Coming Out Day, and I became even more restless. I started Googling “student teachers coming out to students as lesbian” and the lack of results was even more overwhelming. The more I Googled, the more I wanted to cry. There were plenty of resources to help support students who were coming out, but none for teachers coming out to their students.

I then remembered a book I had bought at some point last year (one teacher in 10, edited by Kevin Jennings) that is a collection of words of wisdom from LGBT-identified individuals in the teaching profession. I dug the book out and consulted it. While it didn’t really offer much advice on working a Coming Out Day lesson into one’s plans, it gave me inspiration to try to think outside of the box.

I went to bed at 12:30am, but I didn’t fall asleep until close to 2:30 last night. (This is bad when you get up at 5.) My mind and heart were weighed down by my worries about my students, and whether or not I have the potential to help them be more accepting of others. I also was still very conflicted on whether or not a Coming Out Day Lesson would be detrimental to my classroom environment.

When my alarm went off, I was already up and on Facebook. One of my Facebook friends had responded to my post looking for Coming Out Day Lesson ideas by suggesting I take a look at an anti-bullying lesson a New York teacher had done. The lesson appeared on BuzzFeed and proved to be a true source of motivation and inspiration for me.

In my Creative Writing class, where I’m already known as the “cool, weird teacher,” I handed each student a small slip of paper and told them to destroy it by whatever means they felt necessary. Some ripped their pieces, others folded them, and one student even chewed on his. One of my students laughed and said she was “demeaning the paper” as she wrote mean names on it. After the papers were destroyed, I told my students I wanted them to return the papers to the original state as when I had handed them to the students. They all stared at me, dumbfounded, before they attempted to tape, glue, erase, and uncrumble their papers back to normalcy. After a few minutes of scrambling, I told my students to stop, that it was impossible to return their papers back to the original state.

I discussed the one girl’s paper, where she had written mean names and curse words on one side and compliments on the other. “No matter what nice words you may say, the mean words still remain. Bullying is like how we destroyed our papers– once you say something to someone, you can’t take it back. The scars remain.” I explained that I had had the students complete the activity because I noticed a lot of students saying “That’s/ You’re so gay” or “That’s/ You’re retarded” in the hallway. I commented that you never know who can hear what you’re saying, or what scars you’re giving someone as you unknowingly bully them, their friends, their family, or other loved ones. I also explained that it was National Coming Out Day and that some people in the school might come out today, and I wanted my students to try to be supportive of them by making the conscious decision to be careful with what words they say, as you never know who’s listening.

The reaction was AMAZING. A few of my students said “they felt like shit” and that “they just wanted to hug their papers.” A lot of productive conversation was stimulated by the activity, and although I only included it in my Creative Writing class (it wouldn’t have gone over well in the other class setting), it felt like a HUGE success in my day.

Although I have struggled with my identity as a closeted out educator in my school these past few weeks, I chose to NOT come out today because I felt it was irrelevant. Instead, I chose to have a lesson that was relatable to my students. I wasn’t just a gay teacher to them– today, I was a role model. I taught my students a valuable lesson on the power of words and bullying, and I stimulated conversation in the classroom. While my students may not have received confirmation that I’m a flaming homo, they did receive confirmation that I will not tolerate any discrimination in my classroom. That alone is all the more powerful than coming out on National Coming Out Day.

I can honestly say that, for the first time in years, I feel the need to remain closeted in my life. I’m not afraid to be me, but I am afraid of being labeled a lesbian before an educator. Without the label, I am able to teach my students about love and tolerance first, and worry about myself second. That is far more valuable than any moment of sharing my lesbian identity with a bunch of teenagers.

The only evidence of my sexuality today: a NOH8 button I added to my bag