On bullying, domestic violence, homophobia, and fear #HAHAT #IDAHOT

(Please click on the above image for a list of participants in this year’s hop.)

I learned fear the year I turned fourteen.

When I came out of the bathroom at school, a boy would knock my purse just hard enough to empty its contents. When I approached a classroom, another boy would ambush me with a homemade rubber band gun.

“She flinched!” he would crow, chortling with laughter until my so-called friends joined in.

“Did you flinch?”

It became a game to see how far they could push without getting caught. I carried all of my possessions with me so I wouldn’t have to stop by a locker. I mastered changing into and out of my gym uniform fast enough to prevent salacious comments or ransacking of my bag while my back was turned. I learned to remain as still as stone, never giving away my feelings.

Who am I kidding? My feelings were easy to read as the tears escaped. Gym class and bus rides were the worst. I counted each day as I went to bed. One week. Two months. Four months. I knew I would be told to “ignore” or that I was making a big deal out of nothing, so I told no one.

I became labeled a “c*nt,” and I was too naive to know it was an insult until someone told me.

At the end of the day, however, it’s not the boys I remember. I remember my so-called friends, laughing as they joined in. I remember my father asking, “What did you do to provoke them?” I remember my mother saying, “It’s your fault for not telling anyone.” Boys would be boys, and girls were to blame for fighting back or not fighting back.

Bullying. It’s a popular word these days, as parents, teachers, and officials scramble to find a solution to a complicated problem. What is bullying, what does it look like, and what can we do to help? Specifically, what does bullying mean for the LGBT community?

Welcome to the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT)! I’m thrilled to join the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia (HAHAT), a collective effort from authors, publishers, reviewers, cover artists, and others involved in LGBT fiction. IDAHOT has been supported by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as well as many, many others. The aim of IDAHOT is to encourage local efforts, and as an author of F/F fiction I’m grateful for the chance to participate.

We talk a great deal about homophobia, transphobia, and other fears about those deemed “different.” Too often, the response is a dismissive comment such as, “I’m not scared of anyone; I think homosexuality is wrong. I have the right to think that without anyone shoving a gay agenda down my throat.”

Today, I’d like to make a proposition:

Homophobia, domestic violence, and bullying all stem from the same fear.

What fear might that be?

Fear of the unknown. Fear of the “different.” Fear, coupled with a desire to control others.

But mostly, fear of ourselves.

That’s right, ourselves. When we are secure in our own identity, confident and happy to be who we are, we have no need to knock anyone else down (physically or emotionally). The comments people have given me about F/F fiction reveal much about their insecurities and nothing about the love between two women.

What happens to a woman caught between multiple forms of this fear? She might face homophobia at work and domestic violence from her partner at home. But if that partner is a woman, resources may not be available to her that are available to a heterosexual woman. Consider these findings from the Lesbian Partner Violence Fact Sheet :

  • Domestic violence in lesbian relationships is as common or more common (1 in 4 or 1 in 3) as domestic violence in heterosexual relationships.
  • Women in same-sex relationships may not be allowed to request a court-ordered protective order
  • A homophobic environment allows a woman to threaten her partner with forced outing (to family, work, etc.). This also means a woman who is abused cannot seek help from the police.

According to a study by Little and Terrance (2010), gender stereotypes make it difficult for lesbian women to “prove” that they were the victim of domestic violence. Men tend to dismiss all violence perpetrated by a female to a female, and women tend to blame a female victim if she did not conform with stereotypically feminine traits.

Perhaps most shocking of all, many domestic violence shelters refuse to take lesbian women. That’s right. For the 16% of lesbian domestic violence victims who seek official help, they are then re-victimized with denial of legal protection and shelter.

(For more information: Domestic Violence in the LGBT community and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s New Data on Domestic and Sexual Violence

Special thanks to Myra Swintz for providing informative links.)

Do we hear about this in the LGBT news? Nope. We hear about people outraged that someone won’t make them a wedding cake.

I understand that discrimination of any type is wrong, but what is more important? A wedding cake or protecting lives?

As the anti-homophobia movement is gaining momentum, I would like to add this plea:

Let’s focus our energies on where it matters, not on trivial issues.

How do I focus my energies? I write stories of women who love women, and I use opposite worlds to help people understand what it would be like to live in a society that blames us for our identity.

Becoming-Clissine-Cover

Click here for the Becoming Clissine book trailer

Becoming Clissine (Bastia, Book One)

What if heterosexuality were a crime?

Betrothed at birth to the daughter of one of the most prominent Houses in the totalitarian theocracy of Bastia, soon-to-be-college-graduate Clissa isn’t sure whether she is ready to undergo the Mar. Once she becomes the Nur, or the submissive partner, to her betrothed she will have to submit all major decisions of her life to the beautiful Helaine whom she has only met once. She must marry a woman, according to the decrees of Bastian law.

Caught between his desire to “get along” and the growing awareness that he is “het” and is attracted to Clissa, Destral kisses her one day as they study in their college library. Shocked at the feelings the kiss awakens, Clissa begins to question everything she has been taught. Did Basti, their deity, really decree that it was sinful for a man to be with a woman? Will her growing feelings for Destral cost her everything that her parents have worked hard to give her?

In a mad attempt to subvert Bastian authority, Clissa and Destral run away to find the Het Pride, a group that preaches tolerance, equality, and peace. Z, their leader, promises that one day hets will achieve equality and freedom. When the Bastian police capture or kills most of the Het Pride, however, Clissa is assigned to new parents for “reeducation” in the doctrine of Bastia. Her new parents are given one mandate: Bring her back to rightness with Basti.

Clissa, lost in a system that is threatened by her very identity, must make her choice. Will she be broken by Bastian authority, or will she find a way to break free? Can true love overcome a harsh regime?

—-

For this hop, I will offer three prizes:

How to enter: Leave your name and a working email address in the comments. Respond to one or more of the following prompts:

  • What about this post surprised you or was new to you?
  • Please share any personal experience and/or wisdom to share regarding any of the points made in this article.
  • How could we make more resources available for lesbian women who have experienced bullying and/or domestic violence?

Winners will be announced on May 25th here on the blog (governingana.wordpress.com), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/anastasiapvitsky), and Twitter (@AnastasiaVitsky). Winners must claim their prizes within 24 hours, or I will re-draw for a new winner.

Extra prize entries! If you leave a new review on Amazon and/or Blushing Books for any of my F/F books (The Way Home, Lighting the Way, Editorial Board, Simple Gifts, Desire in Any Language, Mira’s Miracle, and Becoming Clissine), you will receive an extra prize entry for each book you review! All of my books are available on Amazon and Blushing, and you will receive a prize entry for every review (two per book, if you post both on Amazon and Blushing). Please leave a note in the comments telling me which book you reviewed and where.

Best of luck, and happy International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia!

Advent Calendar FAQ

Are you ready for the magnificent fun that will be known as Ana’s Advent Calendar 2013? We are certainly lucky this year! New prizes and authors join each day, and we can’t wait!

You might be an old hand from Ana’s Advent Calendar 2012. Or you might be new this year, but either way you might have questions. Ready? Let’s go!

What is the Advent Calendar?

Click here for the main page, read it, and come back. Yep, really!

How do I play?

Sign up. Then visit every day December 1st-24th and leave a comment answering a question or responding to a post.

How do I sign up?

I will post a sign-up sheet on Monday, November 25th. Sign up by leaving your name (whatever name you will use throughout December) and your email address. You may also need to answer a question about book preferences.

When is the deadline for signing up?

December 24th. Yes, that is correct. You can sign up any time during the month! However, there will be an incentive for signing up before December 1st.

Why does Ana’s Advent Calendar start on December 1st when Advent begins on December 2nd?

In the Christian Advent Calendar, December 2nd is the first day. However, Ana’s Advent Calendar is a secular, inclusive event. I start on December 1st because I want to, okay? 🙂

I contributed a prize (book, gift certificate, or physical gift) toward the Advent Calendar. Can I still sign up to play?

YES! Please do! I would love to have you participate. It’s a great way to meet other authors and readers. You are eligible to win every prize except the one you contributed.

I’m an author. Is it too late for me to join?

Absolutely not! I will take author contributions until December 24th. Please send me your name, title(s) of the book(s) you want to donate (or name of the gift you wish to donate), a public email address (it will be posted here so prize winners can contact you), and your blog or website address if you have one.

I’m not an author, but I would like to donate a prize.

Please do! We have two readers (Ami Starsong and Katie), a book reviewer (Fallen Over Book Reviews), and two publishers (Blushing Books and Loose Id) contributing prizes. Leave a comment here, email me, or find me on Facebook or Twitter.

Why does my email address need to be posted publicly?

Nearly 80 people have contributed a book or other prize to Ana’s Advent Calendar so far. Much as I would like to, I won’t be able to email everyone individually about prize winners. Because you are busy people and may not be able to check every post each day, giving prize winners your email address allows them to contact you to receive the prize.

How will I know if I win a prize?

Prize announcements will be posted right here on governingana.wordpress.com.

I won a prize. Now what do I do?

Look for a post listing all contributors and email addresses. Email the person who donated your prize. You may want to use “Advent Calendar 2013” as a subject line. Be sure to say thank you! 🙂

My prize donor doesn’t have an email address listed.

Two authors, Ann Mayburn and Sharon Buchbinder, have requested to contact the prize winner directly. Wait 2–3 days, and if you hear nothing let me know.

Publishers and other non-author prize donors will be contacted on your behalf.

I contacted the prize donor, but I haven’t gotten a response.

Wait 2-3 days and then leave a comment on your prize announcement post. I will message the donor and see if the email got lost.

I’m an author, but I haven’t heard from the winner. What should I do?

Winners have four days to contact you. If you have not gotten an email by then, let me know and I will choose another winner for your prize.

Why do some prizes say US or US and Europe?

Some prizes are physical (a tangible item rather than an e-book), and the donor has set restrictions on shipping areas. In order to receive this prize, you will need to give your mailing address. If you are not comfortable doing so, you are free to refuse the prize. Let your prize donor know, and I will reassign the prize to a new winner.

Do I get to choose which book(s) I receive as a prize?

No. While I will make the effort to match winners with authors they have not read before (a goal of this event), I will not be able to take into account reading preferences for every single winner. If you receive a book that you have already read or do not wish to read, let your prize donor know so the book can be awarded to someone else.

Where do I go for the daily Advent Calendar posts?

The entire Advent Calendar will be right here at governingana.wordpress.com. Stop by each day for the posts, and check back for prize announcements.

I don’t have a Kindle, Nook, or other ereader. Can I still play?

Yes! Amazon has a downloadable Kindle application that you can use on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. You can also download a free conversion program, such as Calibre, that will allow you to read epub files (a format for ebooks) right on your computer.

What are surprise days?

In addition to my surprise checks (random prize awardings throughout the month), a few authors and contributors will put up a guest post and award prizes on certain days throughout the month. Look for some fantastic posts!

Can I become a surprise day sponsor?

I am currently searching for guest posts from people who celebrate a major, historical, non-Christmas holiday in December, such as Hanukkah, Diwali, or Kwanzaa. If this fits you, please message me and we can talk about details.

I don’t celebrate Christmas, or I don’t feel like celebrating Christmas. Can I still play?

YES!!! Everyone is welcome. EVERYONE (except trolls and spammers). Don’t tell Mrs. Claus, but “Christmas” is simply an excuse to come together as a community and enjoy each others’ company.

Who made your artwork for the Advent Calendar?

The amazingly talented team of Minelle and Katie produced the art and graphics. Thank you!

Where can I find Ana’s Advent Calendar 2013 on social media?

I’m so glad you asked! Like the Facebook page and follow @MistressClaus on Twitter.

I really, really want to win. Is there any way I can ingratiate myself with Mrs. Claus?

Tell her that Ana really did mean to be good this year, but there were a lot of extenuating circumstances that need explanation. Don’t tell her I sent you. 🙂

Join Kat’s birthday club and celebrate on June 6th!

Kat’s birthday is coming up, and we are going to fete her in style! Join Kat’s birthday club and become part of the fun!

Volume Two in the Kat and Natalie series, Lighting the Way, will come out on June 6th! That’s only three weeks away! In order to celebrate Kat’s big day, we need your help! Want to get involved? Here’s how!

  • Write a note or letter wishing Kat a happy birthday (suggestions how Natalie should “celebrate” are completely up to you!)
    .
  • Send suggestions for how she and Natalie should celebrate. They live just outside of Chicago, so you can suggest plans for Chicago or suggest traveling for the celebration.
    .
  • Write a “fan fiction” type of scene or scenario describing Kat’s birthday.

If you’d like to send a submission for Kat’s birthday bash, please leave a comment here and/or email me at anastasiavitsky. I use Gmail. Please put “Kat’s birthday bash” in the subject line.

I will go through all of the submissions and post as many as I can during the week of the release. If yours is chosen for posting, you will get a chance for your choice of special perks. Examples include getting to name a new character for the third book in the series, a sneak peek of the third book, and a free copy of Lighting the Way.

Join the fun! Send your ideas for Kat’s birthday bash. 🙂