I discovered my sexuality,
Discovered that woman were what I wanted
I looked to society and was daunted,
By the lack of me.
All I saw was women of lighter complexion
What would these women see in me?
Who would give this black girl affection?
I am by no means a poet and as poems go I’m not sure if this is a good one. It’s a couple of words that defined a big problem for me when I came out. Though it’s changing, all my images of being queer were white people. SO I thought that most gay people were white (I was 16 and stupid). I was extremely worried that white women wouldn’t find me attractive and that in turn led to some internalized racism that I’m not proud of. I didn’t like my dark skin or my “ethnic” hair.
What does this have to do with queer conceptions of race? I think we’ve all heard that being gay was or is considered a white thing by different cultures. What we don’t hear about is the girl who thinks she’ll be alone because white girls aren’t attracted to her.
I realize that there are plenty of interracial relationships, but this was my truth at 16.
I thought it would be interesting to consider the use of queer themes in music, especially since lately it has been seen a lot. A particular genre that has always been favored by the gays is that of the pop diva, which I do consider separate from pop as its own genre. Today it seems like these female musicians have really embraced their gay audience, as opposed to years ago where it might have taken years for someone like Cher to openly admit “this album was for the gays,” even though in the back of our minds we knew it always was. Now you have artists like Christina Aguilera who before even releasing her latest album came out and said she had the gays in mind when recording it. Britney Spears recorded a video message for the Logo Awards, talking about her love for the gays, and Beyonce basically reinvigorated her career by changing her persona to match that of a black queen. Interestingly though, not many in the mainstream might recognize this, so it brings up the question, are the gays getting the credit they deserve and is this credit giving them the appropriate kind of attention?
As I watched the premiere of this Christina Aguilera video today, I couldn’t help but notice the bondage theme, which is heavily associated with the gay culture, and of course, the woman she’s giving a lap dance to. She even says in the song “she’s kissing boys and girls” but the song is still called “Not Myself Tonight.” I get that the video is just for fun, but the abundance of sexuality in the video, along with the homosexual themes, is being used for shock value. She saves her reputation by stating several times “she’s not herself tonight,” so at the end of the day the idea of this girl-on-girl action is just being used for controversy, lacking any kind of substance, which is not what the queer culture needs. I didn’t really appreciate that Katy Perry song either, for the same reason. It’s not that I can’t appreciate the entertainment value of these songs, but I feel like they are using gay themes in the form of sexuality to grab people’s attention. People say, “wow look how far we’ve come,” but really I look at it as a step back because all we’re doing is alienating the gay culture as something that is inappropriate and not typical of normal human behavior. Christina happens to state at the beginning of the song “she’s out of character, and in rare form,” which I understand, because she’s heterosexual, but people should consider why it is she’s even using the gay scenario anyway. To represent her gay fan base? I don’t think so. What these divas can do to show their appreciation of the only people who *purchase* their records, is stop using gay themes for the sake of controversy, and just let people know who inspires their music. I don’t recall Beyonce stating any kind of formal support of gays yet, and we all know if it weren’t for her gay choreographers, she wouldn’t have won all of those Grammys. Christina might have made her latest album with the gays in mind, but she could have gone without featuring the homosexual scenes in her video, which obviously aren’t being used for any kind of advancement in awareness. If people hear about her interviews and how this album is inspired by her gay fan base and then watch this video, it would be very easy to associate them with ideas that only strengthen the stereotypes that we’re trying to move past.
Don’t get me wrong though, I LOVE this video. 😉
The cutest pair of ballerinas you’ve ever seen
The sharpest blazer south of Newark
The loudest gown Ru could imagine
Cable Knit, Enormous
Ivory, Cowl Necks
The warmest wardrobe not beside a fire
I am Jamie
I am Taylor
I am Jordan
I am Sam
Who are you?
What’s in you’re closet?
Are you in there too?
This poem was inspired by the following musings:
The other day I was thinking about the concept of “the closet”. People can be in the closet until the day they come out… of it. Why a closet? Why not a room? Why not… something big like a house? or skyscraper! Why not something tiny like a drawer? Or a cupboard? Or a shoe box?
I guess there’s no way to change the saying to “coming out of the hat box”. The closet is here to stay… or to spring out of. Even though I would prefer an elevator or a some kind of cabinetry, the closet makes sense as the space that one’s authentic self sleeps in before emerging. A closet is suitably small and an extremely private space. Closets also hold… Our clothes! Our clothes say a lot about us. They are a means of personal expression, creativity, and what the world sees first. Some might venture to say our clothes represent a piece of our identity, meaning that our closet holds our true self.
In 2008, my friend Sean and I made the pilgrimage to San Fransisco for the pride festival. Here are some pictures I took at the main parade. I thought that it was especially interesting to note how the different race-based organizations expressed their queerness. I chose to show pictures of the parade because it is one of the ways that queer people use public space (but only on the day of the parade). I take a lot of amateur- candid photos, mostly of garbage, flowers, animals, and industrial plants. I feel like my DIY/ point-and-shoot aesthetic really worked for something like a parade where I do not have control over the subject/lighting. Photography critiques as well as queer/race comments welcome!
It was hard to pick my top favorite pictures- took a couple hundred! I hope you enjoy (sorry for the quality, it looked way better before i put it on youtube).
Note: this clip will be deleted on May 15, 2010. I apologize if you are trying to view it after that.
“White: a blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole through design, composition, tension, balance, light, and harmony…”
– From Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George”
These lyrics open one of my all-time favorite musicals. While the show has nothing at all to do with the intersection of queerness and race (aside from being composed by a gay man), it explores the nature of art and its relationship to the artist, who is often defined by hir creations.
Since I was 16, I’ve been using the media of costume and makeup to communicate my art to the world. As I grew up in the theatre, I discovered the transformative power of makeup and costumes and fell in love with it. The aesthetics of makeup have the power to create entirely new races, genders, sexualities, and identities, so it gives me the freedom to become anything I so desire.
Below is a small sample of my work. From zombie, to mutant, to clergy, to alien transvestite, and back to scruffy butch dude, these pictures represent the intersection of queerness and race as it is manifest within me. I view my gender and sexuality as a perpetual blank canvas – I am an easel on which to paint any gender, race, or sexuality that suits the whim of the moment. Every single one of these looks is an external manifestation of how I felt inside at that particular moment.
I believe that creativity gives us power. In my case, my art gives me power over the social categories in which people seem to want to put me. When I’m in makeup, I needn’t be white, male, heterosexual, or even Irish-American. I can claim any identity I wish, and I believe that that has always been the goal of every queer movement.
This is my art, my creative soul. Enjoy 😀
Conversation with one of my friends yesterday:
“So I read this really interesting thing in my queer literature class today…” -Me
“Wait…since when did you become bisexual, I thought you had a boyfriend!” –More than slightly annoying frenemy.
I don’t understand why I can’t be an 100% heterosexual and still 100% support gay rights. The reason why I’m taking this class is an absolute mystery to my politically right identifying family members and they’re somewhat concerned that the material I’m reading and listening to in class through lecture and discussion will somehow convince me that I like girls. (That will never happen, girls have too many parts and I like my men.)
Essentially, I let my family and friends get to me about this subject and as a result of that, I felt too uncomfortable to go to the Queer Symposium on Friday. I began to be paranoid and thought that if people I was close to would automatically assume that my preferences are going to change, so might everyone else. Now more than ever, I realize how ridiculous this makes me sound so this blog post is my stand- an issue that deserves more attention is the quiet and unstable movement of straight people trying to contribute to gay rights.
My theory is that many people assume that if you are genuinely interested in LGBT issues, you therefore must identify yourself as LGBT. This is, of course, wrong. Homosexuals don’t just spring out of all homosexual families; they have heterosexual relations in some way whether is through familial, platonic or working relationships- all individuals of which support them, despite the fact that their orientation is different.
In Joshua Holland’s article “Why Straight People Need to Get Into the Fight for Marriage Equality,” he writes about the challenges that positive gay marriage legislation faces because it lacks supporters from those that aren’t sympathetic to the cause because they don’t see the point in paying attention if it doesn’t directly affect their lives. “Too many straight progressives see it as a second-tier issue, relegating it to a kind of “gay ghetto,” Holland says. “Now, it just so happens that I’m straight, and yet I think it’s crucial that same-sex couples enjoy full marriage equality — and not just ‘civil unions.’” While this article is interesting in the way that it provides a heterosexual man’s account of why it’s important to support gay rights, it is published on alternet.com, an activist news site that has a staunchly liberal slant on most of their articles.
It is difficult to serve a comparison on the current state of the issue since the issue of readership on gay rights is still primarily only those of LGBT identification. However, I still felt that this was an issue that was important to bring up for the “Look Over Here!” blog post since I am passionate about it, we haven’t discussed it in class and the issue of a more widespread testimony to full rights for homosexuals definitely deserves more attention. The attention it merits: news on all forms of media from different political affiliations. We, as consumers, are so used to placing in boxes corporations based on their slant: (e.g. that FOX is conservative, CNN is liberal) that we forget news should not have a bias at all: it should inform us and entertain us in an impartial way. If it would be possible to get coverage on all news networks, regardless of whether we initially check them in a box of “Republican” or “Democrat,” then the vitality of gay rights will not only be publicized, but change could happen. It only reverses the process by putting this news on solely liberal or LGBT readership sites because then to the mainstream media it just seems like an LGBT issue that can be handled by the progressives, and not looked at as real news or a legitimate problem to heterosexuals. Therefore, I suggest that news of movements, general announcements or exciting progressions in policy should be taken notice of by all media which can start from our very own campus and people our own age. Although I am a heterosexual woman with a boyfriend (thank you useless frenemy) and no gay friends, I wish to publicly announce that I fully support gay rights and wish to become a proponent of them as long as the problem of inequality persists.
We’ve all taken literature classes. At UMD, they’re usually called “English.” In my middle and high schools they called them “Language Arts,” and in elementary school we just called it “reading” and “writing.” But no matter what name you use, the classes almost always have the same gist: this is literature, read it. We’re taught that literature is narrative fiction (not non-fiction or poetry) that is well-written (as based on a Westernized, patriarchal, upper- or middle- class white aesthetic) with themes that are relevant to that same aesthetic. There’s a Western canon of literature from the Greeks through the Romantics and the Humanists to the Modernists, and it’s easy to identify its contents: The Iliad, The Great Gatsby, Romeo and Juliet. The books that everyone reads if they want to know “literature.” I did had some great teachers in high school that tried to stray from this limited vision of literature, but even they were constrained by student/parent expectations and department/ school district curriculum policy. These policies and expectations generally boil down to this lesson plan: teach “literature” all semester, but you can add one “other” book of your choice.
This unfortunately-common practice is much like the practice of random inclusion we discussed in class last week. We talked about how the presence of, say, one woman of color at a conference of white feminists makes the conference neither diverse nor inclusive. The fact that not every woman at the conference is white does not necessarily make the group more open to challenging or changing the dominant perspective– to use our language from class, this presence does not say anything of the proximities of the woman of color within the movement or of the movement to the woman of color.
The same random inclusion is very popular in literature-education today. As an English major, I’m irritated by the major’s relatively specific course requirements for American and European writing (basically five or six required courses) but sole course requirement for “Literature of African Americans, Peoples of Color, Women, and/or Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals.” I think the issue is even more acute in the area of teaching English, so I looked at the requirements for the English side of the English education program. I’d like to clarify that I’m not criticizing the English or Education departments, but rather the systemic issues that make these things necessary to maintain accreditation.
There are 13 required courses: 5 core courses, 5 British and American concentration courses, and 3 miscellaneous courses. Out of the dozen or so emphases offered for English majors (from Film and New Media Studies to Mythology and Folklore), education majors have their emphases literally chosen for them: American and British. Three credits of the English-ed program are in the “Women/Minority” category, and unless the student chooses carefully from one of the miscellaneous categories, they’re likely to graduate without having taken any course with literature outside of the US and Europe.
While I understand the benefits of having some sort of consistency in curriculum across the country, I think the ethnocentricity of focusing on only the Westernized, patriarchal, upper- or middle- class white aesthetic has severe consequences in limiting the ways in which students can imagine alternative ways of thinking, knowing, and doing.
In class we have discussed Stuck Rubber Baby and Fun Home, two graphic novels that deal with issues such as sexuality, coming-of-age, and more. It occurred to me during these lectures that this isn’t my first experience with these themes in comic form.
I read a lot of webcomics—it’s part of my daily routine after stumbling out of bed and fixing a bowl of cereal. The list spans several genres. Around half of the comics I frequent handle sexuality as a major or recurring theme. It’s interesting to note that, unlike the works we’ve read in class, the city is a major setting instead of a more rustic place. For the most part the relationships portrayed are, with the exception of Penny and Aggie, played just as casually as anything else.
Something Positive, Questionable Content, and Girls with Slingshots are overall comedy/slice-of-life works that contains story arcs instead of one major plot. All three are set in New England cities (Something Positive has lengthy times in Texas as well), the stories revolve around the (mis)adventures of the characters, who are adults in their mid-twenties. Sex, love, life, and relationships come up often and in more or less humorous ways.
Much along the lines of South Park, Something Positive isn’t afraid to make any and everyone a target, going as far as the artist’s specific email for people—who can’t take a joke—to send hate-mail.
Penny and Aggie contains a large, predominantly female cast that gets a little hard to keep track of at times. Unlike the above comics I’ve mentioned, it is set in a suburban high school and all of the dramas associated with those four tumultuous years. Penny and Aggie focuses on a more coming-of-age story than the others. The teens deal with family, friends, enemies, and acceptance of self and by others. Brings back memories of high school cliques and why to avoid them.
The question I want to pose as food-for-thought is: Why comics? What makes comic (or graphic novel) form a seemingly popular medium for handling sexuality and growing up?
*Sorry for the influx of Youtube videos*
Throughout this course, when discussing queerness and race in entertainment, we tend to decipher meaning through videos made by heterosexuals, for heterosexuals. There may be queer themes in Beyonce’s If I Were a Boy and Single Ladies but what about queer videos made by queers? Much earlier in the semester, Professor Macharia asked when LGBT background dancers’ stories would be told. Luckily for us, Youtube has made available many expressions of queer art; whereas before there were no venues to discover artistic proximities between queerness and race, now exists many different ways to view proximities between the two entities. I included the above Youtube links because they explore race-queer intersections in different ways. The Nhojj video explores a black gay male relationship- it is rare to find this kind of representation in a music video, much less one that was apparently a popular MTV video. The Jonte video explores queerness in a much more assertive manner. Vogue dancing, ridiculous costuming, and lines such as “I will make your pussy tickle” make this an over the top video- one that is quite aware of its niche audience. Cazwell’s I Seen Beyonce queers heterosexual performer Beyonce (who already has established queer elements in some of her music videos). Beyonce’s character is portrayed by a man in drag and one can argue that the video lacks any kind of comprehension. However, gay-identified Cazwell, the drag Beyonce, and various other aesthetics (dancing, crazy outfits) undeniably transmit the ways in which we understand queerness. The last video I included, Will You Marry Me Boy?, takes the politics of the same-sex marriage debate and explores it via entertainment; despite its display of male on male love and general campiness, the video is no different than the average heterosexual rap video. There are many other videos and songs available that I could have included but I wanted to express the variety of queer/racial music videos- made by and for the queer community.
I realize there might be some confusion about what exactly Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) is. So I’m going to provide some basic facts about DADT and then I’m going to post the U. S. Army Homosexual Conduct Policy (HCP) so that everyone here can read it for themselves and know that they understand it.
DADT is formally entitled: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass. HCP draws its authority from Title 10 United States Code (USC) 654, Department of Defense (DOD) Policy, and Army Regulation (AR) 600-20.
Every soldier is familiarized with HCP upon initial entry into the Army. While no soldier is supposed to be asked about their sexual orientation, they are required to initial a document that states they are aware of HCP and that they can be discharged for violating it. I’ll try to find that document later and then update this post.
The U. S. Army Homosexual Conduct Policy:
U. S. Army
Homosexual Conduct Policy
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,
U. S. Army
Homosexual Conduct Policy
Implements 10 U.S. Code § 654
Implements DoD Policy
AR 600-20, chapter 4-19
Army policy is a balance between the legal prohibition of homosexual conduct and the privacy rights of soldiers
What does the Law Say?
“The presence in the Armed Forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.”
10 U.S.C. § 654
The Law and Army Policy in Everyday Language
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Homosexual Conduct is:
Admission of homosexuality
Committing a homosexual act
Marrying or attempting to marry a person of same sex
Train the Force
What Does ‘Don’t Ask” Mean?
Applicants for enlistment will not be asked nor required to reveal their sexual orientation.
Applicants for enlistment will not be asked if they have engaged in homosexual conduct.
While on active duty, soldiers will not be asked about their sexual orientation or conduct unless there is credible information of homosexual conduct.
What Does “Don’t Tell” Mean?
“Don’t Tell” is the opposite side of the coin from “Don’t Ask.”
Soldiers should not disclose or discuss their sexual orientation or conduct.
If a soldier admits to being homosexual, the commander will begin the process to determine if credible information exists which would warrant separation.
What is Credible Information?
A statement by a reliable person that a soldier has:
engaged or solicited to engage in a homosexual act
heard the soldier state that he or she was homosexual
heard the soldier state that he she had married or attempted to marry a member of the same sex.
A statement by a reliable person that they had observed a soldier admitting to or engaging in homosexual conduct.
What Is Not Credible Information?
Rumors that a soldier is homosexual
Others opinions that a soldier is homosexual
Going to a homosexual bar, reading homosexual publications, associating with known homosexuals or marching in homosexual rights rallies in civilian clothes
Reports of being harassed shall not by itself constitute credible information justifying the initiation of an investigation.
What are Grounds for Investigation?
Credible information must exist.
A commander must have a reasonable belief that a soldier has:
Engaged or solicited to engage in a homosexual act
Stated that he or she is a homosexual or otherwise indicated a propensity to engage in homosexual conduct
Married or attempted to marry a person of the same sex
The initiation of any substantial investigation into whether an admission of homosexuality was made for the purpose of seeking separation from the Army and/or determining whether recoupment of financial benefits is warranted must be approved at the Army Secretariat level.
Definition of substantial investigation: An investigation that extends beyond questioning the member, individuals suggested by the member for interview and the member’s immediate chain of command.
DoD Directed Policy Changes
Installation Judge Advocates will consult senior legal officers at a higher HQ prior to the initiation of an investigation.
Initiation of substantial investigations into admission of homosexuality for the purpose of separation will be made at the secretarial level.
The IG will inspect homosexual conduct policy training.
Zero Tolerance for Harassment
Definition: Derogatory, persistent, threatening or annoying behavior directed toward an individual or group.
Possible types of harassment
Verbal (on or off duty)
Jody calls regarding homosexuals
Derogatory language or references about homosexuals
Graffiti in latrines, bulletin boards, etc.
Anonymous threats; telephonic, electronic, etc.
What Can a Soldier Do If Threatened, Harassed or Accused of Being Homosexual?
Report harassment at once to the commander
Commanders will take appropriate action to protect the safety of soldiers who report threats or harassment.
Who Can a Soldier Talk with Confidentially?
Legal Assistance Attorney
The challenge to all soldiers is to comply with the law that prohibits homosexual conduct while at the same time respecting the privacy and dignity of every soldier.