Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Imperial Desire/Sexual Utopias: White Gay Capital and Transnational Tourism" by M. Jacqui Alexander

In “Imperial Desire/Sexual Utopias: White Gay Capital and Transnational Tourism,” the second chapter of his book entitled Pedagogies of Crossing, M. Jacqui Alexander initiates a discussion surrounding Western constructions of tourism and their implications, specifically in relation to an emerging branch of consumerism: the gay consumer.

Alexander begins this discussion with an examination of the ways in which the “gay market” has been constructed and appropriated by a domineering heterosexist capitalism. He likens this to heterosexist capitalism rolling out a “welcome mat” for new gay markets, a “welcome mat” which has its roots not in hospitality, but in exploitation. This exploitation inevitably begins with an assertion of homonormativity. Alexander says that, “[h]eterosexual capital makes it appear that the only gay people are consuming people, and that the only gay consuming people are white and male…whiteness and masculinity operate together through a process of normalization that simultaneously overshadows lesbians, working-class gay men, and lesbians and gay men of color of any class. This erasure is necessary to produce this above-average homosexual consuming citizen.” In this way, “heterosexual capital” works to manufacture the gay consumer.

Furthermore, Alexander makes the case that, not only does this heterosexual capitalism manufacture a particular (blanket) type of gay consumer, but that oftentimes the oppression of gay consumers that this capitalism perpetuates (and profits from) is manipulated and used as a selling point to those same consumers. Thus, Alexander argues that capitalism markets itself to this new gay market as, “more progressive than the ‘mainstream’, progressive enough to “sell” to homosexuals and…to hold out the promise of befriending them,” even while it is contemptuous of this market. Alexander says that, “The struggle for this consumer…is thus so fierce that heterosexual capital feels entirely compelled to use the perversity of heterosexism to mold lesbian and gay men into well-behaved consumers.” (emphasis mine)
*photo credit unknown

Knock, knock...it's the Gender Police

While I’m no reader of weeklies, I do happen to be someone who walks into stores occasionally. And, even rarer, someone who stands in line at cash registers to buy things. Thus, there are few ways to spare my retinas the disasters that spew over the covers of tabloids, and when I saw Life & Style’s most recent attack on Shiloh, daughter of actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, I couldn’t help but think it: blog post.

Although I must admit that I have not read the contents of this particular article about the "destructive" path Angelina Jolie is "forcing" Shiloh to tread, I have to wonder why the hell so much “concern” should be sparked for the child of two multimillionaires over, not child abuse, not drugs, not neglect, but a haircut. While the children of celebrities are expected by the mass population to be as fashion-forward as their parents (which is a ridiculous notion on its own), Life & Style's use of shock and scare tactics in order to ignite public disapproval over a child’s haircut is…dismaying, to say the least.

To me, this is a clear example of the extremes to which society as a machine will go to in order to further strengthen the gender binary. The idea that children “need” to be indoctrinated into a system of two and only two genders for their own “protection” and “health” is not new, but this policing of public figures in order to uphold the rigid definitions of masculinity and femininity is a strange (perhaps not new, but new to me) creature.
*photo credit unknown

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How to Grow by A. Kalena Williams

The readings for the last few classes inspired me to share a Queer fiction piece I wrote for my fiction workshop. Please feel free to add critiques and comments you would only be helping me. :)

How to Grow

The concept of brunch is misleading. I think of families laughing over grapefruit and Belgium waffles and picking over each others’ meals because they aren’t strangers. Marisol and I can’t laugh together because I don’t know her. I knew Andres. I want to know where my brother went. I look at Marisol with her long brown hair filled with tiny golden threads and search for remnants of him in the creases oh her hands. Marisol takes a sip of her orange juice and leaves a magenta stain on her glass. She is a clone of Eva Longoria. She lifts her shades to order because she is not hiding behind them. I stare at the menu hoping I didn’t do my math wrong. I’m a clone of America Ferrera.

I am stiff in my chair, while she is practically in lotus position talking about her new place, about how she is taking up gardening. “What are you going to plant first?” I don’t actually want to know but we’re playing a game so I ask. “You know I think I may plant a few trees in the back to have more shade.” She pauses hoping I will contribute to her plans but instead I stare at the little green eyed boy in front of me eating apple slices. I want to smile and then cry. I shake the sadness out of my outgrown bob and forfeit the game. “So you still like trees?” I asked. She nodded as she removed her shades and placed them on the table. I wonder if Redwoods are still her favorite.

When Andres was well, my brother Andres and not Marisol, he would cry when trees where cut as if he was a branch being torn from its trunk by a rusted blade. But that was when he was seven and I was five and we weren’t ashamed of our emotions. In time however, we would learn to shed our childhood for tougher skin to make it through the daily contests we always lost.

Andres lost the most. He lost the ability to make the words on the pages stay in one place. He tried to keep the p’s from looking like q’s d’s and b’s but the girls were yelling again and he couldn’t concentrate. Someone else was leaving, someone else had a baby, someone else was going to have to teach him how to read because his tutors were dropping like flies better yet, they were leaving like they had been kicked out of the house for getting pregnant at 17, 16, 15. I was lucky. I relied only on myself when it came to book smarts.

Afterschool we would always study in the kitchen. “The red wood forest is the only place the red trees grow.” After thirty-five minutes he managed to read one sentence. He closed the book and began to wash his hands in the kitchen sink. I was reading our sister Angie’s journal to see if she would be the next to go play house. “Let’s make a snack Nati.” “You should probably finish your homework.” “I’m almost done.” “You read one sentence.” “So how about grilled cheeses and green apples?” “OK. Fine” I would always give in. He would only let me help him that way. I tried to teach him how to read but he just starred at the pages for hours, even when he gave up on deciphering the words. He would look at the pictures and tell the story he saw. This worked pretty well until the books he read no longer had photos. After that he began to sink inside himself and even I wasn’t allowed in.

I watch Marisol neatly eat her crepes. I wanted to know what happened that day after we finished the last of the apple slices but she was more focused on small talk. I had lost track of Marisol’s progress on the house, she was saying something about changing the color of the living room then going for modern light fixtures in one room to antique fixtures somewhere else. She was stalling. “I can’t believe we’ve only been talking about me. How are you?” Even behind my shades she notices my impatience. Whatever she wanted to say since she called me last Monday, “Hi Natalia, have brunch with me. I miss you” was going to pour out soon in front of all these happy people. “I can’t complain.” I really couldn’t.

I have been trying Buddhism for a while now; the whole concept of “ending suffering” drew me in. It’s the only reason I am here today. “This can be a healing experience if you let it be.” The words of my teacher no longer made me think I was in Jedi training. “Don’t empower negativity.” “Take the time to free your mind.” “When you hold grudges you enable suffering.” They have turned into quiet mantras I whisper as I adjust my worn tote bags filled with overdue notices on my shoulder while walking the seven blocks to the write for a magazine no one ever reads.

As I slump in my chair I claw at the phrase “This can be a healing experience if you let it be.” I take another bite of my bagel. Take one last glance at the little boy as he waddles out the door. This Bistro in the valley is a clone of the clean ones for tourists in Hollywood. I take my shades off and look at my sister. Andres is gone.

My brother was my soul mate before I knew what one was. I never really had sisters. I had nice girls that would brush my hair and told me stories to go to sleep before their boyfriends came to tap on the windows late at night. They didn’t know me and left the house before they could. I had been waiting for this, for some way to piece the yesterdays back together. I was done with the ugly pleasantries. They were remnants of the mariansimo I thought I had peeled away from after picking it apart while getting my B.A.

We no longer play make-believe. Marisol strokes her shades as if she wants to be strangers again. Before she has time to really ponder it I speak again. “Why didn’t you tell me? I used to feel sorry for you but then I realized it was happening to me too. To all of us so I just started to feel sorry for myself.” “Your editor Shawn tells me you are covering the opening next week, will you promise not to leave until you see the whole exhibit?”

Andres would do this all the time. He was three steps ahead of me when it came to things like this. No matter how many words I could read I could never quite predict his reasoning. “I know you are struggling with stuff right now Nati, I also know that we don’t know each other anymore. One conversation over one meal won’t help us. Besides words were never my thing. I can show you the answers you want or atleast a way to find them.” I stare at the remainder of my fruit salad.

That day we were studying in the kitchen Andres told me he had something to show me. He had the biggest smile on his face and I got excited. I chewed the apple slice as quick as I could and ran after Andres to Susie’s old room which was Sara’s old room before that.

There’s only a few dresses in the closet, heels scattered on the floor like they’d been picked over, and a white comforter over the bed. All things you leave when you have to grow up and have babies. Susie had left her favorite shirt on the bedroom floor before she left the house. It had been lazily swept under the bed, where all things went when wewere supposed to clean the house. Andres retrieves it as if he knew it was down there.

He puts it over his clothes and it fits like an oversized dress. “Did you wear my shirt? It feels bigger then it was last week.” His impression of Susie was flawless. And it helped that they looked the most alike. “That’s perfect!” I laughed. He even held his hands like her. His green eyes glowed as he twirled his dress. I think he forgot that I was in the empty room with him. “Kids!!! Andres, not again, why do you like to do that. Your sister has been harassing me for this thing.”Andres yanked the dress off, walks past my mother, and grabs my hand. We walk back to the kitchen. I wanted to ask him what mama meant but he had the dead trees look in his eyes, so I thought otherwise.

I look up to see Marisol’s face she has the same green eyes as before, as always. Even when Andres became Andy and only looked at me when he was tapping on my bedroom window after mama locked him out for skipping curfew, or because she found his makeup bag, they never changed. They always seemed too say, I wish we could be kids forever.
“The redwood forest is the only place where the redwood tree grows.” Andres closes the book because that’s all he needs to know. Marisol is like a red wood herself, she was forced to grow in one place until she convinced others to cut her down and take her with them.

We had both tried to escape the pattern our sisters created. I struggled in school and landed a job on the bottom of the journalist food chain writing for angry lesbians. Marisol worked gods know where to pay for her surgery and then took up photography. She was lucky enough to gain a kudzu like following and is comfortable at 32, at least financially. But we both lost everyone even each other. We should have just been normal and had babies as teenagers.

I sigh and agree to all of the conditions Marisol mentions, she graciously pays for our meals and I wave goodbye not yet ready to embrace her. We had opened a wound and had barely begun to treat it. I would have to wait for the 16th of September when Marisol débuted her photography exhibit titled Funeral.

I didn’t want to be there but questions that need answers. More importantly I had bills to pay. Bills that did not care if I hated the crappy “how to” pieces I was forced to write to prove myself to the magazine. When I first received this assignment I thought it would be the piece I had been aching to write: “How to Spot Queer Art: Today’s Top Ten Queer Artists”. Since art had many interpretations I thought I would have free reign but Shawn who was not only the editor of Grapefruit but a controlling Octabitch already picked the artists. Once again I was still stuck writing for someone else.

That night I stood in front of the gallery and held a promotional card in my hand. Behind the when and where was a photo of six manikins four girls make a perfect row in the back a younger girl and a younger boy are in the front, They are in a forest with bare trees. Although this was the opening night, the title of the exhibit: Funeral, told me everything. I knew what she was going to do and a familiar unease settled inside me. She was going to kill my brother, again.

I stepped into the gallery the typical white walls were painted sandstone and made my red button up and black blazer standout as I maneuvered through the entrance. The first photo I see is called Hermana and is the same one that is on the card. The photo has a captive audience around it. They unknowingly swoon over our childhood. I look at the photo and feel sick. I hated the day that photo represents.

That day, my hair was slicked back and braided tightly to keep in the wildness. My dress was 66% starchy tool and 34% polyester. My neck and belly itched underneath it, my sprit itched underneath that. I am holding Andres' hand and he is wearing a stiff maroon button up shirt with a bolo tie, black slacks and crocodile boots with a metal toe that matched his aglets. We grasp each other's hands hoping we could teleport somewhere else. But instead we are ushered to my sister’s wedding reception which would not end until 8 am the next morning.

After five hours of our drunk “tios” telling us to get them more beer, Andres and I ran to a back room and with little dialog, exchanged clothes. In our innocent joy we returned to the party and resumed our waitressing roles. Mama was furious when she saw us. The next week she shipped Andres to our Tio Mario’s house for the whole summer, figured he needed a male role model. That summer I begin to slip into the pages of the stories I read and when that was not enough I would write my own. Before I walked to the next photo I realized that the younger girl has green eyes. Mine are brown.
There is a nervous smile on my face. A survival skill I learned from my mother. I smile to save face and so I am not judged for burning inside as she did that day she shoved us to the bathroom to lock me back in my dress and Andres in his pants and tie. When we saw that smile as we walk through the party, we knew our mother was hurting. The guilt seeped into our small chests and we began to hurt too.

Marisol must have kept that smile with her as well because her next photo is a remake of our mother. The woman in the photo had a scarf over her head and was starring into the candles that lined a mantle. My mother prayed to the Virgen many times a day hoping for answers and all she was given was the strength to cope. Although she would never admit it, after awhile, she began to think she was cursed for leaving Mexico and her husband. Curse or no, the strength she had to leave that day was what helped me love her even when she no longer loved me or Andres, or Marisol.

I pass many other photos and after the seventh one they had begun to tell stories about a world I only saw hints of in those green eyes as we grew older. One of the last photos was of a figure balled up back against a white wall. Everything was blurred except the hands. The nails were manicured and painted magenta, the hands covered in makeup covered the face. The photo was titled Andie. My throat tightened and it was hard to swallow to breathe. I began to understand. Andres was burden, a lie my mother tried to mold Marisol into. Here in these photos Marisol was trying to kill the burden that laced the beautiful parts of the Mestizaje our mother shared with us in the womb. Tears escaped from my brown eyes and soothed my burning cheeks that were still trying to maintain my pride with a smile.

In a startling motion I am disoriented and find myself in an embrace. Marisol has found me and I have found her. I quiet the rush of emotions inside and hug her back. She smells like the children we will never have. She lets go and we look at one another there was so much to recover and I had only just begun to understand. Her eyes held back tears, they were the only part that still hurt like she used to when she was merely a secret hidden behind a body.
That night I realized that I had been running from many of the answers I had been looking for. There is something in our family, in our culture that kept us from growing into the people we wanted to be. And it wasn’t my mother’s fault alone, someone had taught her how to limit her expectations and her identity. What else could she do but perpetuate the cycle? To transcend the norm meant an internal loneliness because no one really gets you, you don’t even get it all the time. I guess I am lucky to have Marisol at least now we can be lonely together.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Queer Sci-Fi

I love science fiction and reading the excerpt from Octavia Butler's Wild Seed has forced me exam how sexuality is represented in the sci-fi shows, movies, and books I love. There's a lot out there in the sci-fi world which is overtly sexist or homophobic. But there's hope! In the vast ocean of science fiction, there are many books, movies, and tv shows which is not!

Torchwood is a more adult spin-off of the long-running Doctor Who series. I'm fairly certain all of the main characters from the show are queer. Russell Davies, the creator of the show, was intentionally trying to break the idea of sexuality being fixed or stable. While the relationship between the characters Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones develops through the series, we learn about their past relationships with men, women, and aliens as well. There is an episode where Toshiko Sato is in a relationship with an alien who takes the female form, but later in the series, she attempts to create a relationship with another main character, Owen Harper.

While this show celebrates the fluidity of sexuality, it is also problematic. The three male characters, Jack, Ianto, and Owen, are fluid in their sexualities, but there is no fluidity in their gender. They are stereotypical “manly” men who are violent, aggressive, and in charge. They show few emotions other than anger. They are able-bodied and white. Toshiko is a problematic character because of how she's portrayed, stereotypically asian and feminine. She's portrayed as passive, overly academic, strait-laced, and unobtrusive. Gwen Cooper is complex character. She demonstrates her sexual fluidity, but for most of the series, she's one half of a typical heterosexual couple. While she has a more apparently masculine, aggressive role (she's always seen kicking alien butt where as he is usually seen in their home), she's also the one who ends up pregnant (once with an alien baby and once with an actual human baby she wanted).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name

In the excerpt we have of Zami, Audre Lorde predominantly reflects on her relationship with different women throughout her life, and her relationship to the New York Village lesbian community in the fifties. The first chapter focuses on Audre's problems being fully accepted into the lesbian community. She was one of the few Black lesbians at the Bagatelle, the club she went to. She was also less accepted because she didn't want to role-play people she wasn't, and she was a college student. Her intersectionality made her feel like an outsider in every community she was in. If she was in a lesbian setting, she felt alienated for being Black. If she was at school, she felt like she wasn't even able to be gay there, and was an outsider for her race.

In the next few chapters she details her relationship with Muriel, a schizophrenic white lesbian. Muriel used to work the same job as her, and "wrote poetry," a euphemism for being a lesbian that is used for a few chapters. Much of their relationship was sustained through poetry and literature, both things they wrote or things they borrowed or stole to share. She also reflects on a terrible job she had as a "secretary" to an insufferable female accountant. As her relationship with Muriel gets more and more serious, the job becomes the worst part of her life, and the chapter culminates in her being fired for trying to take off to spend a day with her lover.

Lorde's former roommate, Rhea, was a progressive white woman who liked having affairs with men in her political circle and tried to pretend she didn't know her roommate was gay. Audre would have parties with her lesbian friends while Rhea was out with a man, and apparently didn't tell Rhea about them. Though Rhea was progressive, she frequently said that gay rights were not part of the political movement, which seemed to have a big effect on alienating Audre from the progressive movement. Rhea decides to move out to pursue a political job in Chicago, and shortly before leaving discovers Audre and Muriel in bed together. She cries over this, and Audre wonders if she is crying for the fact that Audre is gay, or the fact that her gay roommate is happier in love than her.

The next chapter revolves around the different intersectionalities of Muriel and Audre. Audre is Black and lesbian, Muriel is mentally disabled and a lesbian. Muriel insists that all lesbians are "niggers" for how they are treated by mainstream society. Audre demonstrates through her narration that she doesn't agree with this, but doesn't argue because she can understand why Muriel thinks that. Audre also seems to let Muriel have her way in arguments because she doesn't want to upset her schizophrenia, which I feel has some problematic elements to it. Audre sees some of the "gaps" forming in the relationship, but her joy at being in love and living with a lover make her want to insist that love will fix everything wrong in their lives.

In the last chapter of the excerpt, a mutual friend of Audre and Muriel's came to live with them, Lynn. After some time and much discussing, they decide to attempt a polyamorous relationship. Audre talks about how revolutionary they felt about this since no one talked or wrote about it. They had to establish their own rules and boundaries with nothing to guide them. Eventually, though it was never spoken about, everyone came to realize that Lynn was just the visitor, the guest star in a threesome as opposed to an equal participant in a triad. The chapter ends with Audre and Muriel coming home to find that Lynn had left and taken their entire savings and the house keys with her.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Excerpt from Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler was one of very few black women science fiction writers. Her work is also understood to be afrofuturist, meaning it queers notions of time, race, and often has supernatural themes. Wild Seed is the first book in the plot development of her first book series know as the Patternist Series.

Anyanwu is an African healer who lives in a small village in the middle of the African content. She is discovered by Doro who is drawn to her magical abilities of healing and transformation. When introduced in the story, she is already 150 years old though she naturally looks like a young woman in her twenties. Doro is thousands of years old, his spirit jumping from body to body to stay alive. He convinces her that she should come with him to meet other unique people with special powers like them. She agrees and they set out for the new world, America.

Though she goes willingly, she soon realizes that Doro does not have good intentions. They are lovers but then she realizes that he wants her to marry his son Isaac and have babies that have both her powers and those of Isaac (he can fly). She reluctantly agrees but realizes that Doro has breeding plantations all over the world where he is trying to create a master species of beings like him. He is mean and makes people have children with their relatives. Often these magical children suffer because of their gifts and they take on too much from the world around them. They can never escape Doro because he can hunt them down where ever they go.

She does escape! Because she is able to transform into animals, Doro is unable to find her because he can only track her when she is human. We begin reading after he has found her, over a hundred years after she escaped. When he finds her he is surprised that he doesn't want to kill her immediately. He learns about her new life as a White Plantation owner name Edward Warrick. Through her neighbors, he finds out that she takes the shape of a black dog and had been married to a white woman for some time and that they had kids.

When Doro arrives at her plantation, he meets her son who knows who he is and tells him about his own ability to heal. Doro meet Anyanwu and they have a long talk about her life since she escaped him. She tells him of her time living as a dolphin and how she and her white wife married despite their fear of the racial and gendered taboo of their relationship. She tells him of the other people with powers who live on her plantation and their relative freedom compared to the lives of the people who live on his plantations.

As she is telling her story, you can tell how much power Doro has and his never ending desire to control her. She's defeated but she tries to negotiate some protections and some freedoms for her people, that they be able to marry once and that they get to decide who they marry. He grants her these small things and she tries to be ok with it. The excerpt highlights his absolute power and her small acts of resistance, her resignation to her identity as a slave but also her disidentification from that role in its entirety. She is both female and male, black and white, human and animal, even as she resists the animal like breeding Doro wants to force on her people. She is also a slave owner even as she grants her people more freedom than he would. Her existence troubles all binaries and dichotomies and even the notions of what's good and bad.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Helen and Frida

Helen and Frida

The article Helen and Frida takes place in a theatre where Anne Finger directs. Although it is a short script, it encompasses many details that are meant to question and challenge the way we view disability and sexuality alongside able bodied people. Able bodies are simply defined as members of society who are healthy and physically strong. Thus, they can go through society without physical assistance in the form of a device or person. Through imagery and perception, Anne Finger brings two American icons to life. In her script she imagines a conversation between the two heroines. Provoking acts that are contrary to what history would allow them to do and say. Through the script, Anne gives Helen the chance to explore her sexuality, while Frida is allowed to talk about the pain that she feels as a disabled woman. Finger attempts to accomplish what the writers of history have failed to do; Finger gives the disabled women a chance to tell their own story, in their own bodies.

Fingers first main point is unraveled as she struggles with the idea of performing gender roles. As a nine year old child, stricken to a cast and bed rest, Finger could not grasp her sexuality. According to her understanding, straight women were straight because they could properly perform gender roles. Once disabled, one cannot properly be heterosexual. A disabled bodied individual is often acquainted with being asexual because of their socially inferior positions. For this same reason, Helen’s mother denied her the chance to marry Peter. In the minds of many able bodied individuals, desire towards a disabled individual is not radical. Disability lies outside of normative expectations and societies idea of perfection. Finger believes that society creates a more immobilized space for the disabled by creating spaces and ideas that enhance the lives and roles of able bodied individuals. In history Frida is known to be well sexually desired, but only at the lost of displaying her disabilities. Finger does not believe the writers of Frida’s history would’ve comfortably written about Frida’s sexual life had she been portrayed as a disabled icon. Images that explore her disability have often been marginalized and ignored.

Frida intends to reiterate the lives of two disabled women from the voice of her own disabled body. Often in media, especially film, able bodied actors play the roles of the disabled. Historically, notions and ideas of disability have been constructed and construed via able bodied individuals. In film, the eyes of the blind are not displayed, but often covered with sunglasses. Finger is not afraid to shock her audience. She writes a plot that suggests they are more than what history has alleged. She gives the two women complexity through the writing of her script. Helen is given the chance to explore sexuality and desire. Finger created something for Helen that others, including her mother denied her. For Frida, the script gives her the opportunity to speak of her disability and pain.

Finger as a child did not believe she could perform femininity and was unable to find examples of women like her on television. This lack of supportive images put Finger in isolation as it did Frida and Helen. Her isolation felt at the start of the article exemplifies the isolation that disabled bodies deal with routinely. In bringing the two together in the plot, finger provides an opportunity that disabled individuals are often denied. Helens denial of love stems from societies idea of love and how it is felt. The connection that sparks the kiss between Helen and Frida is queer. Helen cannot see and eyes are the key to ones soul. Helen cannot hear which further makes her incapable of sensing desire. Helen however can sense. Frida’s and Helens disability created a queer possibility. If Helen could feel without seeing or hearing then the rubric for sensuality is in need of redefining. Thus, the general projection of our senses as sexual enhancers is false as is so our projection of disabled bodies.

Capitalism and Gay Identity

In this article, John D’Emilio proposes that modern-day gay/lesbian identity is a product of the social conditions that capitalism has created.

It is important here to recognize the difference between behavior and identity: while behavior transcends time and location, its significance varies in each time period and each place (a concept examined more thoroughly in A Queer Time and Place). For example, a man having sex with another man meant something very different in ancient Rome than it does in modern-day San Francisco. So by saying that capitalism has created contemporary gay/lesbian identity, D’Emilio suggests that the significance of gay/lesbian behavior in present-day US is shaped primarily by our economic system.

The article begins by describing seventeenth century colonial families, in effect small economies of their own. Sex was strictly for procreation, and the family unit was interdependent. Each family member—men, women and children—needed each other for different steps in the production of necessary items like bread and clothes. And while homosexual behavior did exist, there was no space for an individual (or even a gay couple) to live outside the family economy, so this behavior did not evolve into a way to live or identify.

But as capitalism began to take hold, individuals worked for wages, became more independent, and no longer needed the old model of the family economy because they could buy food, clothing, etc. with their own wages. The function of relationships and sexuality shifted from procreation to emotional and sexual satisfaction, which created a space where homosexual behavior was an acceptable form of expression. The subsequent rise in homosexual behavior created a community of individuals who were attracted to their own sex, and this community created a new way to identify. In this way, capitalism created gay identity.

After presenting this theory, D’Emilio argues for a new, more effective political strategy for LGBTQ Americans that focuses on supporting individual autonomy and strong community, rather than emphasizing the false importance of the outdated “family unit” and normalizing gay identity (as legalizing gay marriage would do). The main concern, not just from D’Emilio, but from large queer political factions, is that the current strategies (like the work of HRC, EQCA, and similar organizations) are, simply put, appealing to the heteronormative majority for acceptance into their world of nuclear families and traditional gender roles. The problem with this is that, as the timeline from 17th century to modern-day illustrates, the things we are trying to achieve are outdated. Their irrelevance is proven by our very existence as contemporary queers. So supporting individual autonomy as well as stressing the importance of community is the much more forward-looking route to take. Real life examples of this strategy are embodied in political actions like supporting pro-choice, welfare, and affirmative action for people of color and women.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rush Limbaugh

I come form a family of pretty much nothing but Republicans. All of which are huge fans of Rush Limbaugh and are constantly referencing him and pushing me to follow him as well. I never had really cared all that much to follow Limbaugh until this class. This is because he is a perfect example of the misconceptions of the LGBTQ Community by outside communities, all of the negativity around the LGBTQ Community, and the over generalization that takes place when discussing topics.

When reading and listening to Limbaugh when discussing topics such as Gay/Lesbian Rights he is rarely ever positive. He claims that his extremely radical views are how all American's feel. Limbaugh demonstrates this over generalization in his show titled, One Leftist Judge Slaps Down Seven Million Voters in California (http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/daily/site_080510/content/01125106.guest.html ). . During this particular show he makes the claims on multiple occasions to the American people as a whole. In regards to proposition 8, Limbaugh claims that, "The American People are boiling." As if all American people are against LGBTQ rights. He proposes that all American people like they are the victims rather than the underprivileged of the LGBTQ community. Even more interstingly in this particluar article, Limbaugh;s reasoning for the immense amount of anger is that the Liberals and Democrats are lying about the constitution, misinterpreting it, and redistributing their interpretations to their own advantage. Yet, the LGBTQ community is lacking proper healthcare, the right to wed, constant harsh and unfair treatment. All of which stems form these particular views, like Limbaugh's, leaking out and spreading to others and increasing this unfair treatment and as a result setting them further away from advancement.

Additionally, like many other communities outside of the LGBTQ Community, Limbaugh constantly addresses Gay Marriage and the assumption that this right is all the LGBTQ people want. He does not discuss their desire and need for healthcare or their cry for their to be an end the their victimization due to their sexuality and gender. In the same show previously mentioned he instead points out the problem with a lack of healthcare, education and welfare benefits for illegal immigrant children and labels this as unconstitutional like that of Proposition 8. He bashes Proposition 8 and and constantly focuses on the LGBTQ's desire for the right to marriage and then bashes California for helping children! It's one extreme to the next with Limbaugh. As, previously discussed in class and through our readings, Limbaugh has clearly been misinformed that this is the center of the LGBTQ Community.

I encourage you to check out his page. Not only is he bashing the LGBTQ community but so are his callers. Callers who come from all different backgrounds and become the generalized face of their community because of the remarks made on a show with as much attention as Limbaugh. His talk show is the most widely listened to talk show in America. Broadcasted on more than 600 stations and heard by millions. Misinterpreted thoughts on this community that needs accuracy and the truth in order to have change. He broadcasts these topics with his language style and people do listen and believe. All of which produces more misinformed American's to bash the LGBTQ Community.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Summary of Exile and Pride-- "Stone in my Pockets, Stones in my Heart" by Eli Clare

Many times throughout this essay-- I read glimpses of beautiful poetry. Eli Clare is a poet and an essayist--and in his writing, he does an extraordinary job in conveying information to a wide audience. The excerpt, "Stones in my pockets, Stones in my Heart," was thought provoking.
Eli disrupted our normal thinking patterns in the way he wrote of the potential causes of his homosexuality and transgender identity. The purpose of this article was to question and challenge our current understanding of what causes homosexuality and transgender identity.

Clare allows the reader to have a glimpse of his life from childhood to a short while past college. From a very young age, Eli shares that he never felt like a girl nor a boy. Clare looks back to his childhood--recounting a question to his mother; he asks his mother, “Am I feminine?” (What a question to ask when you are a young child). He states that even in his childhood he did not relate to the female gender--stating he never felt comfortable in skirts, or heels, or make-up.

There are strict rules in our society when it comes to femininity and masculinity... The idea of what gender should be, should look like, should act like is derived from our society's social and cultural values. But what happens if you do not fit into these two categories? I think we know all too well what happens if you do not fit into the categories of masculine or feminine--society others you--you become denoted as 'queer;' you are cast outside of the norm. Clare remarks about how confining and harmful the gender binary is in this country. The social construction of the gender binary has been a recurring theme in queer theory. As defined by GenderQueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary (Alyson), (Joan Nestle, Clair Howell Co-Editors) 2002, Gender binary "is the classification of sex and gender into two distinct and separate forms of masculine and feminine. The term describes the system in which a society divides people into male and female gender roles, gender identities, and gender attributes."

Several times throughout the article Eli talks about how his body was stolen or taken from him. He discloses that he was raped several times by his father-- and his mother stated she was unaware. Clare disrupts our understanding and current thought patterns by addressing his sexual abuse and neglect and connecting this to his homosexuality and transgender identity. Eli makes a statement by contemplating this connection.

A quote from the bottom paragraph of page 126,
Eli asks about his father...
“How did his gendered abuse reinforce my sense of not being a girl? How did his non-abusive treatment of me as an almost son interact with the ways in which fists and penis and knives told me in no uncertain terms that I was a girl? ... and later “How did my mother’s willful ignorance of the hurt he inflicted on me influence what I absorbed about femininity and masculinity?”

I was personally uncomfortable by this connection--confused as to why he would make such a connection. After some thought and consideration, I realized Eli does not confirm that the sexual abuse and neglect he endured was a cause of his homosexuality or transgender identity.
Eli states matter-of-factly that he does not know and will never be sure if the abuse or neglect he was exposed to in life caused him to be transgender or homosexual.

This brings us back full circle to the nature-vs-nurture argument. In this article, Eli Clare challenges the idea that the cause of homosexuality is biological--that it is naturally innate within an individual. Clare dismantles the notion that homosexuality or other ‘queer’ sexualities are acceptable as long as they stem from a biological source.

There are many sights and articles online that discuss potential causes of homosexuality and transgendered identity. Doctors have conducted studies of research to try and find a 'potential' cause of homosexuality--but there has been no solid cause found. The nature vs. nurture controversy continues. For a person that is unfamiliar with the nature vs. nurture argument concerning homosexuality, a good article may be found at this link. http://gayrights.change.org/blog/view/nature_vs_nurture_debates_over_sexuality

In the second paragraph on page 128, Clare discusses the ways in which certain people are carving out new ways in being or acting their specific identity--or carving their way for a new identity. There was a quote that really got my attention. A transgendered woman said to Eli about the public, “You don’t have pronouns yet for us.” When I read this, something stirred within me. I felt that this quote was powerful--even though it is placing the emphasis on you--the greater public--or ‘the people that decide.’ I felt the quote was empowering because this woman was marginalized, yet here she was still living and existing without the necessary pronouns, without the affirmation or approval from others. Did anyone else read this quote differently?

Clare spent a lot of time discussing children--and how they are socially controlled from a very young age by adults for the purpose to teach children the power dynamics within society. Clare states, “What better way than to drill the lessons of who is dominant and who is subordinate into the bodies of children.”

Clare states, that his father’s act of violence taught him what it meant be female--(less strong), to be a child, (lacking power and authority), to live in my particular body (disabled), and those lessons served the larger power structure hierarchy well.”

Do you think we also have all had our bodies stolen in some way--either by the media which elicits false images, or stereotypes, or violence or abuse whether physical or emotional...? Do you think the gender binary is the main thief of our bodies?

Clare states that his body was reclaimed when he came out as a dyke--that he felt more at peace and comfortable with his inner being. He states on the bottom of 133 that his coming out wasn’t about discovering sexual desire as much as it was about dealing with gender identity. He says he discovered a definition to be a woman that was large enough for him to be comfortable for many years.

Eli Clare is an activist for many causes including issues of disability and LGBTQ issues. Eli is an activist for many marginalized groups and frequently teaches and organizes presentations that discuss race, disability, and gender. In the article, however, Clare states that there have always been an assortment of genders among the disabled. In conclusion, Clare states that the process of unraveling one's inner self is difficult and the path to a reclaimed body is not without its challenges.

Eli Clare's blog may be found at this link. http://eliclare.com/blog


Has anyone heard about this? I was on CNN.com and searching around and found this article. I read the title--and considering ALL of the terrible incidents of this last month--I was shocked that this was once again coming up in the media... (I guess that’s my good old fashioned optimism that schools were going to take action against hate crimes and form anti-bullying policies in response to recent events).

An Arkansas school board member, a member of the Department of Education, Clint McCance, made several appalling anti-gay statements that were posted on his Facebook page. Some of the comments can be found on the link. I don’t feel that they should ever be posted again on another blog, so I’m not going to post them, but I encourage everyone to read the entire article. Mr. McCance said he will resign from the school board.

Many of the recent hate-crimes and publicity surrounding these incidents have made school officials want to take action to form anti-bullying policies. It is very evident that LGBTQ youth need civil rights protection, but is this the right--is this the only solution?

Bullying and abuse violates individuals’ federally protected civil rights. Many people have discussed that schools need to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and bullying in response to McCance and in response to last month’s tragedies. So you may wonder... What has been the response from trans activists--and the LGBTQ Community, what is their next move?

From Gender JUST news, they have a different approach and reaction to anti-bullying policies--stating that anti-bullying policies would be an oversimplified solution to the problem-- and that the problem lies within the culture of thought in the school system itself. Below is a statement from Gender JUST. http://www.genderjust.org/home

“The real bullies we face in our schools take the form of systemic violence perpetrated by the school system itself: a sex education that ignores queer youth and a curriculum that denies our history, a militarized school district with cops in our schools, a process of privatization which displaces us, increasing class sizes which undermine our education and safety. The national calls to end the violence against queer youth completely ignore the most violent nature of our educational experience.”

“Our greatest concern is that there is a resounding demand for increased violence as a reaction, in the form of Hate Crime penalties, which bolster the Prison- Industrial-Complex and Anti-bullying measures which open the door to zero-tolerance polices and reinforce the school-to-prison pipeline. At Gender JUST, we call for a transformative and restorative response that seeks solutions to the underlying issues, takes into account the circumstances surrounding violence, and works to change the very culture of our schools and communities.”

The response from the article we were assigned in class (from the Sylvia Rivera Law Project) discussed demands of the activists from Trans Day of Action 2009. Their response is similar to Gender JUST in that they both disagree that the solution to end Queer youth violence rests in zero-tolerance anti-bullying or harassment policies. Below is a statement from the SRLP website. http://srlp.org/tdoa

“An increase in hate crime laws will not solve the problem but will give increased power to the state to put more people in jail. Instead we call for a unified effort for all of us to address the root causes of why these incidents happen. As a society that seeks social justice we seek to find ways of preventing attacks on TGNC people by building strong and knowledgeable communities and using transformative justice to hold people accountable.”

School officials might want to ask specific communities their opinion as to what policies should be implemented to give every child a safe environment to learn and live.

I also want to remind ourselves--that we all must take personal responsibility and accountability for what we write in blogs, facebook, texts, emails, and in what we say in person.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

it gets better- critique two


“For LGBT and having a difficult time being whom you were born, if you’re in high school, if you’re in middle school, and you’re finding it difficult to go to school, to be excepted by your family, I’m here to tell you- it gets better. Not everything gets better...but most everything in life will get better- because you’ll be older, you’ll be wiser, you’ll have experience and if you’re in a really unpleasant situation, in a year in two years in three years in a few years you’ll be out of there. I know it may seem like a lot of time now but when you start to get older and your thirty-two like myself a year two year three years is not that long.”

Hilton’s video starts with a great message by saying “it gets better, [but] not everything gets better”. The way that Hilton says it in the video you can tell that he really does mean it, and is being truthful to whoever is watching this video. One problem with the videos is that they seem to talk about problems and then it gets better and there doesn’t seem to be any more issues. Hilton’s message is great because it’s the truth. Not everything gets better. Since Hilton is a celebrity more people will probably see his video instead of some random persons, like Henry’s. So this message of not everything getting better is great to broadcast to a wider audience.
I think that many older people will understand exactly what Hilton is talking about with time in this section. Two years can be a long time—especially for a younger person with fewer years on this planet. Hilton tells these kids probably what they’ve heard before, but it’s also the truth. They will eventually be out of high school. The environment will eventually cease to exist (for them). The same thing goes for living in your house—the individual person is much more responsible for this—they have to make it happen—but living at home does not last forever. You can eventually get out. Hilton doesn’t address what to do in the mean time while you’re waiting years to get out of school—which is a problem, maybe one he doesn’t even want to grapple with. It’s a depressing statement kind’ve, but Hilton’s message in this area is simply, these environments do not last forever, you will eventually get out of this, and in his opinion, that is when it gets better.

Perez Hilton is very gay. And proud of it. So you should be proud of who you are because it’s not a choice to be who you are, you were made this way…So if you’re having a hard time, talk to someone, talk to a friend, talk to your parents if you feel you can, talk to a stranger, call a hotline, talk to somebody online, talk about your feelings because suicide is never the solution to difficult times—I have been there. I went through a point in my life where I was suicidal daily. I was so depressed and miserable, hating life. I felt like I was in a black tunnel and I saw no light at the end of it. I was thinking daily of how I would kill myself…But you know what got me through that? Time. Over the course of time my problem got better, things changed. I got fired from that job that I hated and it was a blessing. So things that you may be experiencing now that you think are bad, in hindsight, in the future, may turn out to be some of the best things that ever happened to you…So also, email me. My email is perez@perezhilton.com. If you need somebody to talk to, if you want advice, if you’re having a hard time, I am here for you. Okay? So know that you are special, and you are loved…and your life, and your spirit is of great value.”

Saying that someone should be proud of who they are is probably not helpful to the person. Especially when the person is dealing with abuse at home or school. At a time like that it’s like saying to the person that they should have be proud of something that, in their immediate world, everyone hates and is against. It would be very hard to feel proud of one’s self in that situation, and would take a lot of work. What Hilton says next is amazingly startling. He relates that he himself was once extremely suicidal. This takes a lot of personal strength—especially from a celebrity, whatever one thinks of his character. He states that for him, time, is what got him through that dark tunnel. Getting fired was a blessing. Who knew? Hilton touches on, maybe, a universal truth in this video. Things that are miserable, bad, really just heartbreaking, are maybe some of the things that will ever happen to you, paradoxically, because they propel you to places you otherwise would’ve never gone. The gift of pain is immense, a sunken valley, it's odd but it teaches you. But a lot can happen in that valley—eventually. Hilton ends by extending a hand out, and seems very genuine.

Compulsory Able-Bodiedness and Queer/Disabled Existence

In this article, Robert McRuer compares compulsory able-bodiedness to compulsory heterosexuality, an idea popularized by Adrienne Rich in her essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence”. Compulsory heterosexuality is the assumption that it is natural and “normal” for men and women to be attracted to each other and any identities outside of this system are “alternatives.” McRuer suggests compulsory able-bodiedness (the idea of an able-bodied norm) as a parallel to this, claiming that the two are “thoroughly interwoven” with each other. One similarity he points out is that ideal able-bodiedness and ideal heterosexuality are both things to be striven for but are impossible to achieve. “Able-bodied identity and heterosexual identity are linked in their mutual impossibility and in their mutual incomprehensibility…each is an identity that is simultaneously the ground on which all identities supposedly rest and an impressive achievement that is always deferred and thus never really guaranteed” (93). He also states that there is no such thing as true able-bodiedness. To further this parallel, he takes a passage from Judith Butler’s “Gender Trouble” and replaces words like “heteronormativity” with “compulsory able-bodiedness” and refers to it as “ability trouble”.
A related point McRuer makes is that compulsory heterosexuality creates queerness and compulsory able-bodiedness creates disability (even though society likes to pretend that it’s the other way around). These “alternatives” are reminders that there is still a superior “norm”.
In the second half of the article, McRuer makes the connection between being queer and being disabled, rather than just paralleling them. He states that if you are heterosexual, having a disability queers you. If you are able bodied, then being queer disables you.
Last, he discusses the difference between virtually vs. critically/severely queer/disabled. Virtual queer identity is “experienced by anyone who failed to perform heterosexuality without contradiction and incoherence” (95). In other words, everyone. Similarly, McRuer says that everyone is virtually disabled, both in the sense that able-bodied norms are ‘intrinsically impossible to embody’ fully and in the sense that able-bodied status is always temporary” (96) (age will eventually disable you).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

it gets better- critique one

The two following blogs are a commentary on the popular “It gets better” videos on youtube right now. One is just from a randomly picked video—an average citizen. The other was purposefully chosen as a celebrity who many people will view.

"Life after high school gets so much better for you gay kids out there who are considering suicide or who just feel really really lonely and sad about life because you just feel so isolated and there's no one like you..."

Two things about a lot of these videos is that they over generalize and over exaggerate. For many people, life will definitely get better outside the culture of high school and middle school. But for many others, it may not. If a non affluent lesbian who can’t go to college, and is stuck in a small town with all the same people and ways, will things get better? Yes and no. Since every single person has a one of a kind experience on Earth, it is difficult to justify universal truth’s—which is what these videos are trying to do—establish a universal truth that “it gets better”. Maybe a new project should be started called “it gets better, but”.

"I lost every friend I'd ever made since elementary school because I came out, people started treating me pretty badly- I was called fag a lot. It was pretty detrimental to my self-esteem..."

This is where the “It gets better” project is probably really helping people. A large part of Women’s Studies that is very unique to the academy is the strong sense of narrative’s backing up theory. Women’s Studies is about studying lives and often times the ways that lives have been hurt or stunted by other people or simply by intersectionality. Isolation is a key piece to most people who are in pain—they are not in this—whatever this may be—with someone else. Being able to go online and watch endless amounts of videos with people saying, for ME, it got better, is undeniably hopeful. Power and results form out of large numbers of people. Yes, as said in the October 26th “It gets better critique” post on the blog, a lot of these people are white, and a lot are male. Things may and probably will be different if you are not white, or not male. In the end, it seems that stories and testimonies—from people in similiar situations (being lgbt or queer)—are still worthy and valid, regardless of what sex, skin color or class they belong it. It seems equally discriminatory to sort of disregard white males…just because they’re white males. If they’re the ones showing up for the cause then their the ones showing up.

"And that was basically the worst of it. I didn't have friends for basically most of high school until senior year..."

Henry recalling a specific, vivid memory is also where he does a good job. Sometimes, the more specific the story is, the more relatable it is. Many kids watching this will no doubt be very touched by Henry’s anecdote. Mentioning several times throughout the interview that didn’t have any friends is also a very provocative declaration. Admitting that out loud—no less on the internet, having the capability to reach many people, some who you might know—takes real courage. A lot of these videos are very forthcoming with their personal stories—there is some real tenderness and vulnerability in them.

"And it was just uh really detrimental to my ability to socialize with people and it was just really terrible."

Henry goes on to really put emphasis on how hard people made it for him during school. Again, I believe that saying this is a great message—he’s relating back to them that he’s been there.

"I kind've struggled with a lot of really intense depression from lack of self-esteem from, you know, the years of getting bullied, um but I had, I made some of the best friends that I'm probably going to stick with for the rest of my life- um people who were nothing like the immature bullshit crap people who I knew in high school and middle school. It was just like literally like this magic place where I could basically come into my own and it was the greatest experience of my life"

This is where Henry goes wrong, I believe, is not clarifying that for him it got better—not everyone will go to a “magic place” where they “come into” their own—let alone have “the greatest experience” of their lives in college. Henry mentioned that it was an art school. Based on his environment it may have been easier for him there than let’s say a state school, or a community college. In his environoment, people changed. In other people’s environoment, it could be a change of address but the same exact kind of people. Henry does not mention this which is unfortunate.

"Please don't kill yourself. You have no idea how terrible it is for people like me who were able to endure all that, you know, tormenting..It sends a terrible message to other kids out there who are like me and who are like you, you know, um, like it's infinitely better after high school. You learn who you are and you actually learn that because you are gay...you are going to have ten times much more of an exciting and interesting life than the assholes who were trying to make you feel bad about it...You're life is going to be amazing, it's gonna be amazing, I'm telling you right now...My life for the past two years..after I got over all that depression I was having has been the most rewarding ever..when I first came out to her [his mom] she said some of the most beautiful things I have ever heard from anybody..It was great; and if you kill yourself in high school you can't have those rewarding experiences. You're denying yourself um the chance to meet people who are going to make you feel amazing. You're destroying your parents, you're destroying your friends, imagine the future person you could eventually get with. If you don't kill yourself you may find someone and fall in love. At the very least don't deny us the chance to meet you, and to get to know you, and to love you, and et cetera et cetera- and to like go to pride parades and stuff-that'd be so cool...Don't kill yourselves. And e love you so much. Get through it...It's going to be so much better and you're going to be amazing happy and glitter and sparklies and rainbows..."

A lot of people are saying something to the effect of, don’t kill yourself because it sends a bad message to other kids. Well, yes, it doesn’t send an extremely positive or happy message to anyone. But Henry doesn’t define what “message” these kids are sending. If these videos really are for struggling LGBT youth than it seems odd to ask someone to stay alive for the other kids—that is partially the problem! They often don’t know anyone else like them. These kids have often never seen other kids like them. And if a kid/teenager is suicidal it is probably not wise to (I’m sure unintentionally) essentially try to guilt them into not killing themselves because of the effects it will have on other kids. A suicidal kid’s last thoughts (one who has been bullied) are on the kids it will effect—they’re probably only familiar with deep sadness over the pain other kids have had on them. Henry also says “you know, um, like it's infinitely better after high school”. Again, what Henry fails to do is say that it was infinitely better for him. It may not get better, it may actually get worse. A lot of these videos are very optimistic—and that’s their point. But there’s optimism and then theirs also just plain truth. Henry talks as if he knows the person, saying that “you’re life is going to be amazing.” That’s sweet, but if you don’t know who you’re talking to I don’t see justification for saying it over and over. Henry has no authority to say to anyone how their life is going to be. Henry then goes on to mention his mother’s welcoming arms after he came out to her, saying that “if you kill yourself…you can’t have those rewarding experiences.” When one chooses to willingly die, they are killing not only themselves but the future—which, for the majority of people, probably had one positive experience somewhere in it. They kill not only the hard parts of the future, but also the fun and lovely parts too. Henry also doesn’t seem to have experience with family not being able to accept him. This is much different from friends. He makes it out to be that coming out is always a rewarding experience—and while it is empowering and freeing, I’m sure, I doubt it is always a rewarding process. Again, Henry kind’ve places blame on the suicidal kids watching this saying that “you’re destroying your parents…friends…[future partners].” Henry neglects to mention that they may be “destroying” very few people at all, unfortunately. Not everyone has a family. Certainly not everyone has friends, as he himself is very aware. Suicidal people don’t want to be hearing things about how horrible the people they leave on Earth will have it. Often the people closest to you are the ones who hurt you the most—simply because they have the power too, but also because they are just conveniently right by you. He ends by saying “you’re going to be amazing happy and glitter and sparklies and rainbows…” My one question for him is this: how do you know? And his answer should be “I don’t”. And that is the problem with tons of these videos. It got better for all of these people—and that’s fantastic. But it will not get better for everyone. That’s a fact that not many people are facing and that no one seems to know how to solve.

Queering the Vagina Monologues

Here's the e-mail I talked about in class on Friday.

*Calling all students, artists, activists and performers!*

Georgia State University’s BlackOUT (the queer black student organization), Faces of Feminism (the undergraduate Women's Studies organization), and Students Promoting Engagement through Activism and Knowledge (or SPEAK, the graduate Women's Studies organization) are delighted to announce the upcoming collaborative performance, "Subversive Desires, Revolutionary Dialogues: Women of Color, Working Class, and Queer Voices on Sexuality." We are calling performers and artists of all genders to submit performance proposals.

We aim to account for the *women of color*, *working class*, *immigrant*, *trans*, and/or *queer voices *largely absent in The Vagina Monologues. Although we are responding to and engaging a critique of The Vagina Monologues, there is no preset script. Instead, content will be entirely created by performers. We welcome abstracts of no more than 250 words describing what your performance would entail. Live performances should not exceed ten minutes and could include the recitation of prose, poetry, or song
depicting your understanding of/engagements with sexuality, and how this perspective has been shaped by your identity/ies (including class position, ability, race and gender). We are also happy to accept abstracts for short films, performance art, dance, or any other medium you feel is appropriate. The abstract serves as Part One of the submission process. Selected abstracts will be invited to audition in January. Final casting will then be determined for the live performance held in March.

Please submit abstracts (as well as any questions) to sewsa.party@gmail.com by 6:00 P.M. on November 30, 2010. This event is in conjunction with the Southeast Women’s Studies Association (SEWSA) 2011 Conference
http://www2.gsu.edu/%7Ewwwwsi/conference.html, hosted by the Women's Studies Institute at Georgia State University. The conference, featuring keynote speakers Lisa Duggan and Julia Sudbury, will take place March 24-26, 2011.

it gets better video critique-1


"Life after high school gets so much better for you gay kids out there who are considering suicide or who just feel really really lonely and sad about life because you just feel so isolated and there's no like you..."

"I lost every friend I'd ever made since elementary school because I came out, people started treating me pretty badly- I was called fag a lot. It was pretty detrimental to my self-esteem..."

"And that was basically the worst of it. I didn't have friends for basically most of high school until senior year..."

"And it was just uh really detramental to my ability to socialize with people and it was just really terrible."

"I kind've struggled with a lot of really intense depression from lack of self-esteem from, you know, the years of getting bullied, um but I had, I made some of the best friends that I'm probably going to stick with for the rest of my life- um people who were nothing like the immature bullshit crap people who I knew in high school and middle school. It was just like literally like this magic place where I could basically come into my own and it was the greatest experience of my life"

"It would be so sad if people like me and other gay people like just kept killing themselves all the time and I know there are a lot of kids who kind've do that"

"Please don't kill yourself. You have no idea how terrible it is for people like me who were able to endure all that, you know, tormenting..It sends a terrible message to other kids out there who are like me and who are like you, you know, um, like it's infinitely better after high school. You learn who you are and you actually learn that because you are gay...you are going to have ten times much more of an exciting and interesting life than the assholes who were trying to make you feel bad about it...You're life is going to be amazing, it's gonna be amazing, I'm telling you right now...My life for the past two years..after I got over all that depression I was having has been the most rewarding ever..when I first came out to her [his mom] she said some of the most beautiful things I have ever heard from anybody..It was great; and if you kill yourself in high school you can't have those rewarding experiences. You're denying yourself um the chance to meet people who are going to make you feel amazing. You're destroying your parents, you're destroying your friends, imagine the future person you could eventually get with. If you don't kill yourself you may find someone and fall in love. At the very least don't deny us the chance to meet you, and to get to know you, and to love you, and et cetera et cetera- and to like go to pride parades and stuff-that'd be so cool...Don't kill yourselves. And e love you so much. Get through it...It's going to be so much better and you're going to be amazing happy and glitter and sparklies and rainbows...

Friday, November 5, 2010

"Monstrous Discrepancies" Comic

This image is a clip of a comic titled "Monstrous Discrepancies" from the "Subnormality" comic blog. Defining sexuality is a problem that often plaques queer theory, but this image provides an accessible way to define sexuality. Sexuality is fluid, not binary. Every different variation of sexuality has a different term (hence the "alphabet soup" phenomenon). This comic simplifies the problem of identifying sexuality with clear imagery. Every monster is a little different from the others, which is similar to sexuality. Everyone's sexuality is a little different, even within identified groups. This comic relates to every article that has tried to define queer and to every article's underlying definition of queer. Some of these articles are "Dueling Dualisms", "Who's That Queer Queer", and "Introduction: Queering Black Studies/'Quaring' Queer Studies."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hidden Voices: The Lives of LGBT Muslims

On November 4th, 2010 guest speaker Faisal Alam paid a visit to Agnes Scott do deliver a presentation called "Hidden Voices: The Lives of LGBT Muslims", an event geared towards exploring the relationship between Islam, sexuality and gender identity for queer Muslims. Hidden Voices has been featured at over 75 universities and colleges state wide. This presentation not only highlights the struggles and challenges of queer Muslims but it is also geared towards eradicating common western stereotypes regarding Islamic people. Through the expression of Faisal's personal Muslim queer experience in the United States, we learn of the history in regards to
the queer Muslim movement in the U.S.

This presentation was very interesting because it covered many issues that have been both mentioned and semi mentioned in previous articles read throughout the course of this class. I have outlined these issues below:

-The western ideal of "coming out" and how it is a necessary right of passage for members of the LGBTQIQ community to experience.

The obligation to go through the western ideal of "coming out" to achieve complete liberation in regards to identity has been discussed as an idea that is not an obligation. It is not the next step for every queer identifying person. At times, the passage of "coming out" can unbalance a person's life and/or complete disconnect them from their families. This western idea does not take into consideration that many people to not want to give up their families or the rest of their support system. Individual economic status needs to be taken into account also. Meaning one has to think about whether or not they can financially survive being completely cut off from their family. As Faisal had reiterated, there are in fact times where "coming out" simply won't work or their has to be a waiting period into between a person discovering their identity and fully revealing their true selves to their family. Simply because there is a lapse of time between discovery and "coming out" that does not mean that they are any less "gay" then the next queer person. This western ideal of "coming out" does not complete you as a queer person. Every situation is simply too different to apply necessary steps for queer people to fully embrace themselves and force their families too also. I believe that there are many queer minorities or queer people in general who are afraid to embrace their queer identity because this idea of "coming out" is viewed as an obligation.

-The idea of the toxic body in regards of homosexuality as being contagious and threatening to others through mere physical interaction.

The idea of the toxic body is an idea that continually resurfaces in the issue of social stigma towards the queer community. This was shown through a brief clip of a documentary shown during this presentation where one queer Muslim described how his mother began to treat him after he came out to his family. Whenever he would go to his prenatal home she would only use a specific plate and cup that were only meant for him. By not allowing anyone else to use these utensils because he had used it made him feel like a leper. His mother, merely by doing this, conveyed her belief in homosexuality as being contagious and toxic to the "purity" of the normal heterosexuals in her family. His physical interaction with his own children was completely taken away by his ex wife because he was seen as an influential danger to his children. This illustrates the idea of physical interaction being a doorway to "infecting" heterosexuals with the "disease" of sexuality. Of course this is simply not true and is definitely a myth.

-Disidentification and the struggle of embodying multiple minoritorian identities.

Disidentification is the idea of a normative identity having a polar opposite that goes against it with a group hovering in the middle that doesn't identify or counter identify. This group in the middle experiences what Jose Quiroga was describing in his article "Latino Cultures, Imperial Sexualities". Those who disidentify can experiences the struggles of embodying two identities that are of marginalized groups. For queer Muslims they did not fully fit with the normative idea of what is was to be a Muslim because they did not believe in the condemnation of LGBTQ people nor did they really fit into the white mainstream image of lesbians and gays. I do realize that when disidentifying you completely don't identify with the normative group. Meaning a person would state that it is not in any way who they are but Muslims still choose and want to be Muslims. I am merely pointing out the middle group that develops in between the two. In my opinion, Muslims who don't identify with Muslim homophobia based off of religious reasons while not wanting to completely disregard their religion to fit in with the queer society that lies at the other end of the spectrum falls within this middle group. Queer Muslims embody two minoritarian identities that creates an entirely unique struggle for them. With the Islamophobia occurring in the U.S after 9/11 and the still struggle of LGBTQIQ equality in the U.S, queer Muslims struggle to find a balance between the two while suffering the marginalization twice over. To hear and see such a struggle vividly by the use of a documentary was very powerful for me.

-The pressures of the white mainstream "gay" that now also includes a level of homonormativity for a semi black and white mainstream "gay" in the eyes of other minorities.
After briefly mentioning the mainstream idea of an acceptable level of "gayness", I will further dive into the pressures of the white mainstream "gay" also know as homonormativity. It was
very interesting to discover that in the eyes of other minorities, not only have white upper class lesbians and gays been privileged to a level semi acceptance but socially so had people who fall underneath the category of being "black". This is not saying that black and white are on a equal level of acceptance, it is merely pointing out that their is a queer racial and cultural hierarchy that exists on the ladder of the privilege of being almost fully accepted. Meaning one race/culture will not only have more acceptance than another but there is an order in which these races/culture get accepted.

-The importance of establishing communities amongst queer minorities

When queer minorities have such unique struggles because of the mixture of multiple identities, the importance of establishing a support network and sense of community is usually the first to pop up. As mentioned in S.O.N.G, the southern organization looking to create
community in the south and other articles regarding grassroot organizations, community is key to helping people such as queer Muslims understand that they are not the only one in the world who embodies identities that can be very conflicting. Faisal mentioned how in the beginning, he searched and searched google for queer Ismalic support and could find nothing other than how wrong and sinful queer Muslims were. He stated that within minutes after deciding to create an emailing list to create a safe space for dialogue between queer Muslims and advertising it, up to fifty people had joined but for months no one posted anything but him. This revealed the intense silence and stigma of shame surrounding the combined identity of queer Muslims. This story was absolutely shocking to me because while the white, american pride movement and then all of the minorities who trailed after having movements and meetings and progression, a safe space for queer Muslims had been completely neglected. It made me realize the importance of community because to feel as though no one else has an identity like you and you are all alone in the world is a very heavy and depressing feeling. Especially when you have to hide a large part of who you are.

-The tension and conflict that arises between religion and sexual identity.

Of course we can not forget the main reason behind the creation of "Hidden Voices" which is ultimately reconciling religion with sexuality. This faith-based activism is not unique only to the Muslim religion. Catholics and or members of the many branches of Christianity have dealt and are still dealing with reconciling with believing or being raised in a religion that condemns all LGBTQIQ people to hell. It can be emotionally unsettling and traumatic for some to struggle through the fight between their sexual identity and religion when they feel as though both completes and defines who they are as a person. What is important to remember is that it is not necessarily the religion itself that condemns and ostracizes people of queer identity. It is those who practice the religion that condemn members of the queer community. Faisal illustrates how it is possible to embrace your queer identity without the need of giving up your religion. However he also informs us that while there are now queer friendly Catholic and different Christan based churches there has yet to be a gay friendly Mosque, a Muslim house of worship.

Overall I can honestly say that I learned so much from this event and I would like to thank him on behalf of Affinity for coming to our college and educating the Agnes Scott community on a topic that has been kept silent and invisible for far too long.

For anyone who wishes to contact Faisal Alam you may do so at
Alam.Faisal@gmail.com or you can visit his website: http://www.hiddenvoices.info/ for more information.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


While reading many queer news stories or articles in Queer Academia, I have found that the most common, underlying problem occurring in the queer community is underrepresentation. What is really happening in the queer community? I have one answer--underrepresentation among many groups.

There is a hierarchy within the academy, and a hierarchy within the queer community. Queer studies is a focus of study that gives voice and representation to marginalized groups-- a study that is supposed to empower those that are lacking power, but this is not currently a reality for all marginalized groups. The article that I will discuss highlights some of the current injustices taking place in the queer community.

First of all, this article discusses the ever-popular American Apparel brand. I understand that this company has current controversies in terms of their treatment of workers, gender-sex issues, etcetera, but let’s address those issues at another time.

In response to the passage of proposition 8, the American Apparel company made itself a definite presence at rallies and marches and other LGBTQ events. You may own or recognize American Apparel’s popular shirts of assorted colors that have the script writing “Legalize Gay.” These t-shirts have become a fairly mainstream symbol for the movement.

Asher Kolieboi, a 25 year old, transgender activist, who identifies as queer and transmasculine states that the ‘Legalize Gay’ campaign has a narrow focus that fails to mirror the full diversity of the LGBT and gender equality-movements. "Going on their website, they talk about the LGBTQ community, but the T-shirt only says 'Legalize Gay.'"

I don’t think I could have said it better myself. Not all LGBTQ individuals label their biggest obstacle as the legalization of gay marriage. Sometimes daily living is a struggle, whether it is concerns of being outed, or criminalization because of their otherness, or fear of threats. Some gay, bi, trans, lesbian, individuals face verbal, physical, and psychological abuse daily and some may have their lives in danger because they cannot come out. In lieu of more current issues affecting the American community in the beginning of October, hate crimes against people that are different, or queer, needs to be back on the radar... and not overshadowed by the topic of gay marriage. It is unfair that certain groups’ voices are not being represented.

In order to combat the narrow mindedness of American Apparel’s campaign line and the narrow mindedness of the movement in general, Asher Kolieboi has come up with a more inclusive campaign--similar to American Apparel but Asher’s will be called ‘Legalize Trans.’ This line began on July 27.

Asher states, "I hope it will become a public education campaign, not just about gender justice but about intersectional justice, that it creates dialogue about what types of agendas we want to be pushing as far as public policy," Asher says, noting other important issues facing LGBTQ people: healthcare, safe schools, eldercare and more.

More often than not, individuals that fall under the homonormative category are given more privileges than others that do not fall under this umbrella term. Homonormative individuals have ample representation in their group while others that do not fit into this category are invisible. Typically, homonormative individuals are middle to upper-class, white, able-bodied, and educated. Perhaps this is why-- the legalization of gay marriage has overshadowed other LGBTQ issues because middle to upper-class, white, able-bodied, and educated individuals are speaking for an entire group of differently marginalized groups that have varying needs and concerns.

If you are interested in reading the entire article, the link is above. If you are interested in buying the t-shirt, the link is www.legalizetrans.com.
Revenue from the T-shirt sales in the first year will be used to pay for the campaign's operating costs and part of Asher's gender-reassignment surgery -- an operation that is not covered by insurance. Individuals can sign up as affiliates, sell the shirts, and keep some of the money for their own surgeries or other causes as well.

The other campaign funds will go to trans youth or ‘intersectional work’ that addresses a plethora of issues.

So, what do you think? Do you think this slogan “Legalize Trans” will effectively combat- and include more people into the movement? Do you think it will be effective in gaining attention to LGBTQ issues? Do you think there is something missing ?