When we had a discussion about labor/public vs non-labor/private it reminded me about an experience I had in D.C.
One day I went to a book reading at busboys and poets. This reading was promoted through the organization HIPS “(Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive) was founded in 1993 by a coalition of service providers, advocates, and law enforcement officials as an outreach and referral service. HIPS mission is to assist female, male, and transgender individuals engaging in sex work in Washington, DC in leading healthy lives.”
During this event. A man (we’ll just call him ‘Joe’) who said he was “in the life” for about 9 months and a woman who was a dominatrix for six years talked about different experiences and the reason why the became sex workers.
You can get into sex work many different ways and these two people were examples of that. The man told us, the audience, about being kicked out of his home and meeting a man who subsequently raped him. After working at a frying chicken for a month and getting little pay; his boss approached him and asked if he wanted to make “real money.” He got into it blindly and without much thought.
The woman (we’ll call her ‘Jane’… yeah i know its typical) became a dominatrix fully aware of what she was doing, answering an ad that stated she could “get paid to be a bitch.” Jane was in college and need a way to make a lot of money quickly, waitressing what not cutting it.
Joe’ s first clients was a elderly widow. He expected the experience to be horrible and serious wondered if he could “perform.” Instead he had a nice evening with her and found that he genuinely liked her as a person. After listening to her talk about her love for her late husband she reveals that he had never performed oral sex on her. During the act of performing this duty he felt appreciated and vulgarly explained that 83 year old pussy tastes good. Joe’s last experience as a sex worker was what got him out of the business. He was asked to humiliate a Judge. The Judge wore his robe and nothing underneath it but a diaper. While his head was on the Judge’s chest he felt this pulling motion on his hair. He looked up only to discover the Judge sucking on his hair and he saw red. He beat up the Judge and destroyed the room they were in. He broke all the rule and of the sex worker- client relationship and realized he had to get out of the life.
One other part that was significant about this was the political aspects of sex work. The speakers spoke of the legalization of prostitution. There are two opposing arguments to whether prostitution should be legalized among actual sex workers. I was surprised to find out that there’s a difference of opinion between a high priced call girl and a poor drug addict on the street. The main arguments for the legalization is for health and safety. I believe this is incredibly important and was disheartened to hear one audience member talk about a cop who is a pimp at this moment and collects his money in the back of his car. Over all this was a very enlightening presentation.
This topic in inherently queer because its an atypical profession that is non-heteronormative. I think this is a very important issue that need to be highlighted by the mainstream. prostitution is seen a deviant as is being queer.
In fact many of the sex workers in Washington D.C are Trans. I believe there should regulations to ensure the safety of the sex worker and the client, whether that prevents a broken arm or an STD. I believe sex wok is going to happen legal or not so why not make its safe?
Something that I think is worth looking closer at is how the ideas of queer and racial identities evolved in our class over the semester. I think it’s interesting to note how our discussions of both queer and racial identity have been framed. Queer has been equated to a gay man or lesbian and race is either black or white. At the beginning of the semester we discussed what queer might mean in theory and what the “umbrella term” might cover. But all of our reading assignments, which heavily frame out discussions, have stuck to this dichotomy. Both queer and race have become so narrowly defined that they became exclusive rather then inclusive.
Watching this slow narrowing of terms that I had always envisioned as incredibly broad suprised me a great deal. Maybe I was expecting a more diverse range of authors and stories from this class. Sure there were glimpses of diversity with Arnaldo Cruz-Malave, some references to queens , and a little talk of different fetishes. But where are the bisexuals , transgendered, or those queers so enigmatic as to be unclassifiable? Where were the Asians, Indians, Middle Easterners, Latin Americanss, etc? Does literature by Persian Transgendered individuals just not exist? (Or maybe it’s just not very good literature?)
I can rationalize the lack of both queer and racial diversity in out course materials because it may not have been as productive of a class or the class may have lasted for near five years if we had discussed everything and everyone under the sun. However, I think it’s very interesting that in our discussions we never strayed away from the texts to discuss these various aspects of queer and racial identities. We strayed to things like the House of Gaga and Noah’s Ark but not to transsexuality?
But there is a wide range of literature by a plethora of Queer authors out there. Here are some interesting links that I found that I hope will act as a leaping off point for further exploration:
I’m a little late with my third blog post, but here is the issue I want to talk about: representation of queer peoples or people of race in the media, my main focus being on Queer as Folk. Now, I love this show but it is horribly flawed as a representation of queer life. First, there are no characters (none) that have any sort of significant role who are not white. This is true of many shows, however. There is usually an all-white cast or all-black cast or all-latino cast; take your pick of which race and you can usually find a show that shows a certain “racial culture” without actually including anyone of any other races. Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part certain shows target certain audiences with a certain race, age, gender, and queerness. I guess my question is: is this lack of diversity of race a product of the television/film industry, the audience or a true representation of reality?
Now, while there is very little racial diversity in Queer as Folk, there is a wide representation of “queer” people, including porn stars and drag queens and Queer as Folk does address a lot of queer issues and the realities of being a queer person. Yet, there is a lack of “normal” or heterosexual people on the show. The only people I can think of that have a significant role as straight people are Debbie and Daphnie. While I understand that it is a show designed to show queer life (and Debbie and Daphnie could count as queer, despite being heterosexual) it seems that the characters have little contact or interaction with heteros(except when they are causing problems), which would be very unlikely in the heterosexual-dominted world. It seems as if they are living in their own little world of queerness and when something disrupts this, it is a big shock to the outside world of heteroness.
Most shows in general do this. Friends is completely set in their own little world wih no queerness or race to stir things up, and it does not change anything in the world we live in. Queer as Folk I feel had a large impact on the way others view the queer world, whether good or bad, the show tried to make a difference and put some controversial issues out there. While this show suffered from a lot of issues that are more than likely to present in television shows (overgeneralization, character exaggerations, radical plot changes, etc) I think it did make a difference for the queer community, whether within it or how others view it. I just want a show that can accurately depicts queer and race in reality and still be fun, witty and entertaining. I realize this is next to impossible, but I think it is important for people to realize that these shows are not accurate representations of queer life, although some of it can be.
However critical I am of the show, I absolutely love Queer as Folk! And, here is a video I found which I thought was interesting and kind of supports my post. Also, you can see how realistically all of the background dancers are extremely well-built and attractive, which if this depiction is true, I am immediately moving to Pittsburgh to dance at Babylon where everyone (besides Ted) is extremely attractive.
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.
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.
“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 😀
In an article Published in USA Today titled “Both sides on gay adoption cite concern for children”, a reflection not only on gays adopting children comes into debate, but also how by doing so can help ensure a child’s well being and keeping them out of prison. A step into the lives of Harold Birtcher and Thom O’Reailly, a couple from Ohio who have been together for over 25 years, address that when traveling to the state of Oregon to adopt a child, were denied the advantage. Butcher mentioned that in this occasion, “no one is stepping up to adopt these children”, in turn, leaving them in the hands of both abusive families (both biological and foster care families) and over-crowded, sometimes unsanitary orphanage’s.
Children, in these situations, tend to look for, and find, dangerous outlets that put them in contact with drugs, gang life, or worse, prison life, in order to fill the void of a family life (or poor family life) they lack. The situation most certainly creates a double standard. Birtcher says that “our prisons are full of people who were in foster care, and those people were in, quote unquote, straight family homes. If I can provide a loving, stable home, that’s the goal.” This in turn raises further questions of fair adoption to couples, although homosexual, can provide a loving stable home for a child in need.
In a study conducted by the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) cite that children with gay or lesbian parents “fare as well as those raised in families with a mother and a father.” Other studies have determined that these children receive equal nourishment and have the same opportunities, both in child and later adult life, as ones to a heterosexual couple. The article states that there are about 520,000 children in foster care and are in desperate need of adoption. The issues surrounding gays allowing to adopt is in desperate need of recognition in order to allow children in foster care a chance to lead a normal, positive life and allow a couple that opportunity to provide them with love.
“We’re gonna let you off with a warning. And that warning is: that lipstick doesn’t go with that eyeshadow, mate.”
Come sit down and have a cosmo with me, I’m gonna get personal for a minute…
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been attracted to the feminine and all but repulsed by the masculine. To me, masculinity has always represented an unattainable goal that quashed my natural proclivities and severely limited the types of identities that I could have in this life. I grew up your standard American boy: played little league, did karate, roughhoused with my friends, etc. But I knew that I was different from a very early age. I knew that I was more sensitive, more attracted to aesthetics, more cooperative than competitive, and sweeter than my male counterparts. Yet I still fell for the prettiest girl on the playground…
It wasn’t until I got to be 14 that I first formally acknowledged a queer identity. Given my limited knowledge of such things, I self-identified as “bisexual,” because I knew deep down that I was attracted to females. For the next few years, I bounced back and forth between every queer identity imaginable, desperate for a way to define myself. Then I discovered Eddie Izzard…
This hilarious British standup comic taught me that it was ok and even cool to be a heterosexual crossdresser (yes, we do exist). From the very first time I went out in drag, I have been so enamored with makeup and femme dress that it has come to the forefront of my identity. Explaining this to other people is, however, a refined art form that I’m not sure that I’ve mastered. Ironically enough, the straights are more accepting of me than most of the gays. 🙂
I stumbled across this article called “The Truths of Those who Cross Dress” by Ellen Sherman. FINALLY! An academic article that tells MY story. This article outlines the eleven most common misconceptions about heterosexual cross dressers, and I have personally dealt with each and every one of them. The issue that hits closest to home is when Sherman writes that “In fact one of the most difficult areas for cross dressers was how to deal with the women with whom they wanted to be involved.” Apart from being painfully shy around women in whom I’m romantically interested in general, I also have to find a way to artfully work the fact that I look better in a dress than they do into the conversation. Most women aren’t huge fans of that 🙂
Luckily, I’ve always gotten a pretty positive response to the whole thing. A friend of mine just commented to me recently that I seem a lot less extroverted without my “war paint.” I’ve been doing a bunch of really butch roles lately that require me to be hairy n such, so I’ve not worn makeup or nail polish in quite awhile. I too had noticed a decline in my self-confidence, but to have my friend phrase it that way really put things into perspective for me. There are many reasons why we straight men cross dress – for me, it’s a statement of power. The most punk-rock thing we can possibly do is be exactly who we are in our dress and mannerisms without shame, fear, or apology. When I shock people by wearing makeup, I feel the surge of power that comes from knowing that I’m displaying myself at my most honest. It is an affirmation that yes, I am different, and to love me is to love ALL of me. Plus, in my favorite pair of heels, I’m 6’7″, so I defy anyone to screw with me! rawr.
In summation, my aim is to make a queer space out of wherever I am simply by being myself. If I’m waving my freak flag and getting glitter in everybody’s eyes (not pleasant, trust me), then hopefully someone will see me and have the courage to express themselves however they might wish. Our identities are whatever we wish them to be whenever we want; there doesn’t have to be a set persona. I leave you with this quote from my favorite poet, Andrea Gibson: “No, I’m not gay. No, I’m not straight, and I’m sure as hell not bisexual, dammit. I am whatever I am when I am it.”
Oh, and this should help you understand Eddie Izzard as well as myself. Enjoy! 😀
This article is against “queering the census” or rather adding an option on the census about sexual orientation. This argues that LGBTQ peoples are struggling for the same rights as heterosexual people and therefore categorizing non-heterosexual individuals would be against the idea of the LGBTQ community being ordinary Americans.
Instead of getting a part on the census where one can indicate sexual orientation, the lesbian and gay individuals can now check the “married” box if they believe that reflects the status of their relationship. On the census form they are allowed to participate an acknowlege their relationship as a marriage while legally they are not allowed to have this title.
President Obama filled out his census form and when asked about race he checked the “Black, African Am., or Negro” box despite being half white. The government is trying to encourage people to check whichever box they feel expresses them best, which for Obama was black/African American/negro instead of “multiracial” or “white.”
So, the census is a very big deal and highly publicized to the point where I do not want to do it because it is being shoved down my throat too much. But, some recent articles have taken a very critical view of the census and how it applies to the LGBTQ community and racial communities, specifically black peoples. The first article, “Don’t queer the census” has some good points about the LGBTQ community being just Americans instead of the “gays” or “queer” population. Not having a box to choose sexual orientation integrates queer people with the normative, heterosexual population.
Also, there are way too many ways for queer people to identify themselves (gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, I just like to experiment, etc) and trying to define queer people in specific ways is hard to do while including every definition and combination of definitions. Each individual has his or her own identity and sexual preferences, should we include on the census the type of person we are attracted to (big muscles, blonde, tan, really smart guys with glasses-this is for an example and not true as to who my type is, so if you qualify, don’t waste your time. Unless you’re the character Ben from Queer as Folk…)?
This somewhat segues into my next point about race on the census. Obama checked black/African American/negro. Yeah right. Obama is the whitest black person ever-he’s even half white! So, why is he checking this box instead of white or multiracial (which would make most sense)? He’s trying to appeal to the black community as well as any other liberal community (LGBTQ, democrats, lower class) that finds his race appealing and a good reason for him to be President. Now, I don’t really have anything against Obama (I’m a Hilary girl) and I think he’s doing OK as President (well, everyone looks good after Bush) but he needs to stop trying to appeal to an audience of black Americans, like by checking the black race box.
The race box is kind of annoying to me because I am not just “white,” I’m Irish and English and some other European countries. But, how come I do not get to express my heritage and background? Just because I am white I am simply an American and white is my race? Is black a race now? I thought that race was a cultural or geographical heritage or background, not simply the color of our skin. In a couple months when I’m sunburnt, can I check a “red” box?
Or, my great-great-grandmother was Native American, so can I check the Native American box? It seems that the race box is trying to access one’s background and heritage, but the boxes that are on the census do not really determine a person’s culture and upbringing. Obama may be half black and check the black box because that’s what he identifies with, but he is one of the most culturally white-black people ever.
I want to briefly mention the article about LGBTQ people being able to identify their relationship as a marriage in the census, but not legally. The census is allowing people to be very liberal with describing themselves and statuses (as liberal as possible with boxes) which may distort the results. While it is open-minded to be able to allow people to choose their relationship statuses and races based on how they feel they identify them, the results may also be misleading because multiracial people identify themselves as black and two lesbians living together identify as married when they legally are not. The census is taking a scientific, precise way of accounting for every American and making it more illogical and imprecise, which is good in some ways and bad in others.