"An Atmosphere of Understanding"
When Danso spied the flyer
with the cheerful nine-patch heart,
he knew one of the things that
he wanted to do this summer.
Danso even talked Noah into
coming to the QUILTBAG Club
with him on the weekend.
The first meeting was at
a local ice cream parlor.
It gave everyone a chance
to socialize and snack, while
introducing them to places that
were fun and safe for dating.
Danso ordered butter pecan,
while Noah got chocolate.
Noah paid for both, since
it was his turn to treat.
They overheard the club leader
explaining how to decide who pays
to a couple of Muslim girls, before she
collected her cup of lavender ice cream.
The girls came over to their table.
"Could we join you?" asked the taller one,
who wore a pink-and-blue striped blouse
over blue jeans, with a matching hijab.
"My mom has a rule about me not being
alone with a girl, so we need a chaperone.
We figure two boyfriends won't bother us."
Double dating was on the list of
recommended safety tips anyhow.
Noah raised his hand. "Actually,
I'm bi, not gay. Does that disqualify me?"
"Mom didn't say that," she said. "I think
it's more about who I might find interesting."
"Okay then, happy to help," Noah said.
He shifted to the bench beside Danso,
and the girls brought some chairs.
"I'm Manari, and this is Nilah,"
the girl went on, setting her cup
of chocolate chip on the table.
Nilah's teal hijab blended into
a shirt barely a shade darker, but
her skirt was a tie-dyed riot of
purple, teal, and tan. She had
a strawberry ice cream cone.
They chatted casually for a few minutes
over their treats. Danso mentioned
his riding lessons, Noah his basketball.
Manari was also into sports, while
Nilah practiced Arabic calligraphy.
Then Ms. Landau stood up and said,
"Our life experiences shape us into
unique individuals. We're here to embrace
an atmosphere of understanding, because
we're all in this life together."
Holding up a box of cards, she went on,
"Today's activity is intellectual foreplay. It
works for platonic as well as romantic friends.
If you don't already have an emfriend, just
ask someone if ey would like to partner you."
"But everyone's going to be looking for
a real emfriend, except me," said Barnabas,
who was asexual and Christian and still trying
to fit those two aspects together.
"Why don't you try Coleman?" said Ms. Landau.
"He's demisexual and looking for friends."
As the two boys settled together,
she passed around handfuls of cards.
"How is your past affecting you now?" read Manari.
Danso and Noah both flinched.
"Not a good question?" said Nilah.
"I'll go -- I forgot to make a schedule
for the summer, and now it's a mess."
"I sprained my ankle again last week,"
Manari said. "So I can't walk too far."
Danso realized that the recent past was
fair game. "Taking care of my siblings got me
thinking about becoming a foster parent, so
I'm working on skills toward that goal."
"My last relationship broke up badly,"
Noah said. "So I'm feeling twitchy today."
"Ms. Landau, some of these questions
feel way too intimate to us," said Coleman.
"Did you bring the icebreaker deck?"
"Yes, I did," she said, taking it out.
Danso raised his hand. "I think we'd
like to swap cards too. Some of us
have sensitive areas in relationships."
Ms. Landau brought them new cards.
Nilah took the top one. "If you could have
any superpower, what would it be and why?"
she read. "Super-Intelligence, so I could
finally keep things straight in my head!"
"Regeneration, duh," said Manari.
"Healing," said Noah.
Danso hadn't seen that coming.
"Not Super-Speed?" he asked.
"I like to help people, and Super-Speed
would knock me out of basketball,"
Noah said. "What about you?"
Danso, who actually could have
any superpower he'd met, had
to stop and think about that.
"Fixing a bad day," he decided.
"I've heard of it, but never seen it.
It would make the world a better place."
Everyone nodded agreement to that,
and Noah stretched in a way that made
his t-shirt pull tight across his chest.
Danso leaned back against the wall and
spooned up the last of his butter pecan.
Even though he already had a boyfriend,
the QUILTBAG Club was proving to be
a great place to hang out and make friends.
Plus, he was learning things about Noah
that he would never have suspected ...
... which was really rather hot.
* * *
Jody Landau -- She has pale skin, blue eyes, and curly dark hair cut short. Her heritage is Ashkenazi Jewish. She recently became the rabbi of a local synagogue serving a Progressive Jewish congregation in Onion City. She believes in full equality to all Jews and other faiths, regardless of gender and sexual orientation; and that Judaism means searching for what God expects of us. She tends to use the "ey" set of nongendered pronouns for people. Jody does a great job, but many people dislike her for being female, lesbian, Jewish, progressive, and a rabbi. She supervises the QUILTBAG club that Danso and Noah attend.
Qualities: Good (+2) Creative, Good (+2) Graceful, Good (+2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Rabbi, Good (+2) Youth Mentor
Poor (-2) Intersectional Discrimination
Manari Dar -- She has tinted skin, almond-shaped black eyes, and straight black hair to her shoulders. She is bisexual, with the interesting quirk of preferring feminine people. She isn't into masculine boys or butchy girls, and she isn't picky about genitals, only presentation. Manari is a little more masculine in personality than her girlfriend Nilah. She is a good leader and focuses on making peace among different people. Although Manari loves sports and is physically fit, she throws herself into activities with such vigor that she often sustains injuries. At any given time, she usually has one or two in some stage of healing, which creates a randomly shifting pattern of what she can and can't do at the moment. Manari belongs to the QUILTBAG Club in Onion City, where she meets Danso and Noah.
Qualities: Good (+2) Athletic, Good (+2) Leader, Good (+2) Self-Confidence, Good (+2) Peacemaking Skills
Poor (-2) Sports Injuries
Nilah Barakat -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and long curly hair of dark brown. Her body is notably limber. She is a lesbian. Nilah is a little more feminine in personality than her girlfriend Manari. A skilled follower, she makes a great team with Manari. Nilah enjoys Arabic calligraphy as a cultural hobby. Her executive dysfunction makes life challenging, but she practices self-compassion to cope with that. She belongs to the QUILTBAG Club in Onion City, where she meets Danso and Noah.
Qualities: Good (+2) Arabic Calligraphy, Good (+2) Followship Skills, Good (+2) Limber, Good (+2) Self-Compassion
Poor (-2) Executive Dysfunction
Barnabas Christoffersen -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and curly chestnut hair past his ears. He lived with his parents until his sexual orientation caused problems. He is asexual but strongly homoaffectionate. His parents pressured him toward the priesthood, where his orientation would "fit right in" -- they felt that the only reason for God to make someone asexual would be for that destiny. The problems started when Barnabas was 14 and continued for over a year until he convinced Family Services that he couldn't live that way. He is now 17 and living with his gay uncle, who is much more supportive of his identity. However, Barnabas still feels conflicted about his faith due to his parents' manipulation.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Intrapersonal Intelligence, Good (+2) Integrity, Good (+2) Tall
Poor (-2) Crisis of Faith
Coleman Lauermann -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair that tends to stand up. He is demisexual, but uncertain what the rest of his orientation might be since few other teens have the patience for a relationship long enough to warm up his romantic/sexual feelings. Coleman enjoys camping and other outdoor activities. He just graduated from high school and plans to make several trips over the summer to different parks before training to become a park ranger. His innate shyness may make this challenging in some regards. Also he is a secular humanist, but has not quite noticed that his appreciation of nature borders on reverence.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Camper, Good (+2) Naturalistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Physically Fit, Good (+2) Secular Humanist
Poor (-2) Bashful
* * *
"Our uniqueness, our individuality, and our life experience molds us into fascinating beings. I hope we can embrace that. I pray we may all challenge ourselves to delve into the deepest resources of our hearts to cultivate an atmosphere of understanding, acceptance, tolerance, and compassion. We are all in this life together."
-- Linda Thompson
A QUILTBAG Club covers the full range of sexual orientations. Here is a pattern for the nine-patch heart often used as an emblem. Youthspace and the QUILTBAG Babysitters Club are examples of similar organizations here. Read about starting a QUILTBAG group.
An ice cream parlor serves frozen desserts and serves as a social gathering point. In T-America, they're about as popular as coffeehouses. You're hanging out with friends; do you want hot or cold nibblements with that? Some people think that ice cream flavors can correspond with personality traits.
Here are the tables and counter at Danso's ice cream parlor.
Among the many types of date, going out for ice cream is fun and popular. T-America encourages teens to socialize in groups because it reduces the chance of trouble that they get into when alone or in couples. Double dates are popular for the same reason, and a large group of kids will often square off like this.
Lavender Ice Cream can be made in various ways. Here is a recipe for Lavender Rose Ice Cream and one for Wildberry Lavender Ice Cream.
Who pays for gay dates can raise quite a conundrum for same-sex couples. Among the most popular are going Dutch (each paying their own way), taking turns, and the person who issues the invitation is the one to pay. Here are some useful phrases to indicate that you intend to pay when asking someone on a date.
It is possible to be queer and Muslim, but many people find it difficult. Some teens try dating in secret relationships, but that's very stressful. Happily there some liberal and progressive Muslim movements with more accepting views.
Today, many Muslim feminists feel that the hijab is a radical statement of a woman's right to dress herself like a grownup, wear what she damn pleases, and not have to show any part of her body to strangers if she doesn't feel like it. See a comparison of different coverings that Muslim women wear.
Women have many reasons for dressing modestly. Here is a company that sells Muslim clothes, and this one offers swimwear. Notice that the more progressive branches tend to favor clothes with brighter colors and more fashionable design, which is another clue that Manari and Nilah enjoy supportive families. There are modest clothes without a Muslim focus too. Here are some tips on how to dress modestly.
Emfriend is a gender-neutral term for someone you're dating, the equivalent of boyfriend or girlfriend. Jody tends to use the gender-neutral pronoun set (ey, em, emself, eirs), sometimes called Spivak pronouns.
Social and emotional education can help young people develop healthy relationships. T-American schools typically begin teaching relationship dynamics through friendship in preschool or kindergarten, explore family ties in grade school, add sexuality and romance in junior high, and discuss adult relationships in high school.
Dating can have positive effects for teenagers. In T-America, teen relationships are considered practice where people are encouraged to find out which kind of partner they like and what they enjoy doing together (or alone). A successful relationship is thus one that lasts for at least a few months, is fun and enlightening, and ends without anyone getting shredded. They're not meant to be permanent, although some turn out to be -- particularly among older teens -- and that's okay too. This workshop for parents and teens is about developing relationships.
Intellectual Foreplay is a book of questions and processes for getting to know someone intimately before you decide to put your bodies together. It works for platonic or romantic/sexual relationships. Note that for demisexual people, this is pretty hardcore headpr0n.
In a mixed group, it often helps to have some prompts for conversation. Dating Cards are part of a roleplaying game where you try to match up the characters. Talk to Me cards are flash cards for real life, which can be used as imaginary scenarios. Here is a worksheet to talk about dating and some roleplaying situation cards. These are typical activities for a T-American social group like this, so everyone's pretty familiar with the concept. They still hit some bumps.
Icebreaker questions are useful at parties, and usually less intimate than those meant for couples. I found some really fun printable cards with icebreakers surprisingly suitable for T-America. Set 1, Set 2, Set 3, Set 4, Set 5.
Learning about each other helps a couple move through the stages of a relationship. Danso and Noah have been hanging out for a while, and now they're starting to deepen their connections.