Archives for category: LGBT

I wanted to discuss Janelle Monae’s contribution to gender studies further, and I think the best possible way is through this blog post. Monae’s music, lyrics, and presentation all ignore boundaries set for sex and gender, even sexuality. Her androgynous look with coiffed fro, tuxedo, and the most amazing fucking dance moves on stage anyone has seen since Michael Jackson have put her in not-quite-woman and yet not-quite-man. Although her female sex seems to be very present in her feminine facial features and small frame, she still demands attention equal to that of her male counterparts in the music industry. When I went to see Janelle Monae this past Fall at the IU Auditorium, her messages of free love and understanding were very apparent. Her band, backup singers, and small orchestra all matched her tuxedo-themed show, but nobody seemed to be designated as wearing masculine or feminine clothing. When she sang “Mushrooms and Roses”, she painted a distinctive female body with accentuated curves to maybe hint at sexuality. Her ambiguous sexuality, to me, is the most shocking. She is signed to Bad Boy Records, the hip-hop label started by Diddy (That’s his name still, right?), which is many times very homophobic. The show only became even better after it was over and I looked over at what I got out of it.

Before the show, people were handing out flyers that contained “The Ten Droid Commandments”, which I read once I got home. The sixth, and most realistic commandment states “Abandon your expectations about art, race, gender, culture and gravity.” I believe in this commandment and others, as well as in her songs, that she is confessing that freedom is only found when one breaks free from sociocultural constraints. It’s obvious she has done so through her actual freedom when moving through people’s minds by way of her lyrics and visuals.

-Eleanor Stevenson

 

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Being a student at a Indiana University in Bloomington and a gender studies major at that I feel am I a little spoiled with the LGBTI friendly environment around me. Spending time in my small hometown in northern Indiana over break showed me just how different communities can feel towards GLBTI issues. As I was searching the internet tonight trying to decide what I wanted to blog about, I came across many news articles that highlighted the struggles that exist with the rights of the LGBTI community all over the world.
In my Gender 215 class this term we watched a movie entitled, Missionaries of Hate that documented the recent anti gay bills that have been in the works in Nigeria. As described in an article as draconian the bill will call for harsh punishments such a prison time for simply identifying as homosexual. The article and film both explained that many Africans feel that homosexuality is a product of Western Influence. This claimed is protested in the film, but I began to wonder if instead of homosexuality, homophobia was brought over by Americans. Missionaries of Hate explained how many American evangelicals have traveled to Africa and shared false information about gay people to the local Nigerians, fostering homophobia out of fear.
As I looked through articles online I found that homophobia in American stems from many people not just evangelicals as I read of the high numbers of youth committing suicide as a result of gender/sex discrimination. Though the number of tormented GLBTI youth is alarming it was reassuring to see that seven specialty GLBTI suicide prevention groups were founded this week, to further these strategies.
Throughout my research this week I gladly noted that treatment and understanding of GLBTI issues are growing and is not just reduced to the very accepting community I am surrounded by. Though this news is comforting I realized I must not overlook the many other issues such as anti gay bills, and ever present discrimination, because even though GLBTI acceptance may be on the rise there is still much hate and discrimination that must be stopped.

-Claire Amick

A recent hot topic in the news today concerns “hormone blocking therapy” and its use to delay puberty in children. At least one story has made headlines over this controversial topic. A lesbian couple in California has given their child, a biological 11-year old boy, hormone blockers in order for the child to decide what sex he wants to be (http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/10/17/controversial-therapy-for-young-transgender-patients-raises-questions/). The boy, Tommy, has expressed his desire to be a girl and go by the name “Tammy,” but some say the boy is not old enough to be making these kinds of decisions on his own. Opponents of the decision are worried about the side-effects of such treatment, especially at such a young age. Dr. Paul McHugh, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, says that this practice is child abuse. This raises several concerns over not only the moral and ethical dilemma but also potential backlash by the gay and lesbian community.

Most transgendered individuals go back and forth for a number of years before making a decision as to what sex they want to associate with. Is allowing an 11-year-old child who cannot speak to decide such a major life choice the right thing to do? One also may wonder what role Tammy’s parents played in his choice to live as a female. “Undue influence on the child simply has to be ruled out” says psychiatrist Keith Ablow. Another point of controversy for the opponents of hormone blocking is the question of whether a young child is psychologically and physically capable of making such a vast decision. Does an 11-year-old really know that they want to live as the opposite sex. This is where the questions about parental influence lie. Since it is such a major life choice, many believe that such drastic decisions that may have a physical effects on the body should wait until a later age.

-Meredith Light

The more Eric Sawyer spoke about his challenges of being a gay man in a time period when that lifestyle was particularly frowned upon, the more I felt for his particular situation. I was so surprised at the amount of opposition he faced when advocating for the rights of individuals who were HIV/AIDS positive and the blatant disregard of his advocacy by the US government. I was also marveled by the fact that he conquered so much, even in the face of this opposition. Sawyer started his own advocacy group, ACT UP, which has made strides in gaining support in fighting the AIDS crisis and started a housing program for homeless people fighting AIDS. Seeing as how the government or President Reagan did not even mention the term “AIDS” until the last year of his presidency, it is so surprising to me that Sawyer and his colleagues were even able to get their programs off of the ground.

In addition, the 1970s were not a great time for the understanding of the effects of certain diseases (particularly AIDS) on the human population. Public health seemed to be a foreign concept to some agencies, seeing as how their solution for housing homeless AIDS patients was to put them up with patients suffering from Tuberculosis. Today, as we now know that AIDS is an immuno-deficiency virus, we can conclude that housing them with a TB patient would almost surely result in certain death. However, some argue that this was the goal of government officials, to weed out those with AIDS by infecting them with other life-threatening diseases. This mirrors other “genocide-type” practices, but people didn’t notice because it was happening behind closed doors. The fact that the US government was ostracizing a certain group of people as recently as 50 years ago is very unsettling. One thinks of these practices as happening to an ignorant, uninformed societies in far off places when it has in fact happened here on our very own soil.

-Meredith Light

Wednesday night, I had the pleasure of viewing a very queer play being presented by the IU Theatre Department. The play was In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play, by Sarah Ruhl. That’s all I knew about it, going in. The reason I went is that I love vibrators (DUHHHHH), but it ended up being super queer as well! Wahoooooo vibrators and queer activity being presented as normative(ish)!

Allow me to briefly outline the queerness of this play:

1) The (male) doctor ‘provides treatment’ (a.k.a. vibrates until orgasm) both female and male patients (stimulating the prostate gland in males, the clitoris in females). Oh, and he uses THIS:

2) A female patient, Sabrina Daldry, falls for the nurse, Annie, and they have some super sweet moments together- including a kiss! None of their homoerotic interactions were presented as ‘bad’ in any way– after the kiss Sabrina says something along the lines of “We can never speak of this,” but also she’s married, so the emphasis there seemed (to me) to be less on the homosexual nature of their trist than on the fact that it was extramarital.

3) The doctor’s wife, Annie, Sabrina, and Elizabeth (the wet nurse) engage in mutual masturbation as they use the machine on themselves and each other several times throughout the play (bravo on the fake orgasms, actors!).

4) I definitely felt like I was having a queer experience simply by sitting with a host of other theater-goers and watching men and women touching each other and orgasming and talking about sex onstage. It was so nice to be in an environment that was mature enough and nonjudgmental enough to sit back and enjoy the comedy of In the Next Room.

-Blair Dietrick

 

 

After looking at the displays for lesbian pulp fiction, I began to wonder what categorizes a novel as lesbian pulp fiction? I knew that there must be two female characters that were in love with each other but what else? The display said that these novels were written at a time when homosexuality had legal and societal consequences so then how were these novels published? I read that early gay and lesbian fictions have a few common occurrences: the gay/lesbian character was either unhappy or crazy and the gay/lesbian relationship ended bitterly – there were no happy endings. Overtly gay and lesbian themes were permitted, in so far as the characters were abnormal and the ‘homosexual’ relationships hopeless because of their moral failings. I also noticed that on the surface the lesbian pulp fiction novels paralleled the heterosexual romance novels in many ways. Both novels are about romantic, secretive fantasies that woman commonly share. The main difference is the object of desire. Both are used as a way to forget about the world and get lost in the characters in the book. Many read pulp fiction novels to escape their routine lives. Both lesbian and heterosexual women readers divulge in pulp fiction (romance genre) for many of the same reasons. Some are even ashamed to admit that they are avid readers of pulp fiction. Many consider it their “guilty pleasure.” I also found the novels to be interesting in their appeal. They are presented similarly to the romance novels for women. The romance covers are wistful and ambiguous. The titles are suggestive. The cover models are usually two women for lesbian pulp fiction while the more recent heterosexual romance novel covers picture a blonde and Fabio.

While walking through the displays I was also reminded of a film I watched about Gay Rights movements and how members of the LGBT community felt through the decades when they basically had no outlets to express themselves to feel free and safe from harm and judgment. Many women said they looked to novels and movies depicting LGBT relationships and fantasies. The women said it helped them not to feel alone and that they weren’t weird or “abnormal” they were just like many other women who also hide their true feelings and desires to save themselves from public humiliation and ridicule. These women found hope and entertainment from these novels and movies that fictionally chronicled their lives. The documentary brought to light the power of books and movies. The documentary also touched on the production of documentaries about LGBT individuals and their struggle in their daily lives and their “coming out” process to both family and friends. I found these documentaries to be enlightening. It showed that homosexuals have the same feelings and desires as almost all heterosexuals.  Just because they were gay, bi, or transsexual did not give others grounds to dehumanize them. The documentaries gave a window into a world foreign to heterosexuals to prove that homosexuals are people too and they are more like heterosexuals than heterosexuals think.

After reading blogs and websites about the LGBT community, I found that pulp fiction was present on just about every site stating the importance of the novels in lesbian history. Another blogger (The Gender Offender) stated that “Lesbian pulp fiction novels served as a means of communication between lesbian women, at a time when coming out and self-identifying publicly as lesbian would mean being marginalized, ostracized and criminalized. These novels were purchased for pennies, hidden away under mattresses, and passed secretly between lesbian women, looking for themselves in the pages. They were cheap to buy, and disposable and they served as the information-highway for lesbian women, who moved into the cities that the books identified, trying to find others like themselves.” “In spite of the never-happy-endings, lesbian pulp fiction novels (and gay pulp fiction), allowed for the beginnings of community establishment – gay and lesbian people collected and traded these books, learned that there were others like themselves.” We all connect with characters in books and get wrapped up in the lives of the characters. It is always nice to know that someone feels the same way you do or has gone through similar situations (even if the book is considered fictional).

I also realized that I have not seen an advertisement that was aimed solely at lesbian women. I may be looking in all the wrong places though. Can lesbian women see something that I (a heterosexual) cannot? Advertising agencies have a difficult time advertising to lesbians. The reason being that advertisers do not want to gear their campaigns toward a subordinate group as to turn off the dominant group from their apparel or product. In almost all cases the advertiser will take the most economically powerful route. However, advertisers want to reach lesbians without turning off their potential heterosexual buyers. They are supposedly using more covert methods of advertising. This has become more obvious to me lately with many models looking androgynous. Historically, lesbians do not like the objectification of women in advertising, which includes the fashion codes that go along with it. They (generally) do not like heels, tight clothes, spanks, or anything that turns women into objects for men. The lesbian dress code of the 1970s especially resisted this objectification by wearing flannel and denim. They opted for a more natural and comfortable style. Their anti-style effort was done in resistance to both capitalism and patriarchy. Flannel and denim do not objectify women’s bodies. Fashion runs on the idea of taste which means you have to keep up with your wardrobe, but by wearing fabrics that are durable and long- lasting (flannel and denim) they went against this notion.

-Melissa Brake

The very idea of a queer pop up museum is a step forward for society. By recognizing “queer” as a culture progress has been made from the time when it was considered a disorder. That being said, the museum itself tells a story of oppression and persistence.

The most interesting part of the museum, to me, was the photo of the gay “porn” that was passed off as athletic models. This was important to me because of the importance of labels and labeling. IT is obviously NOT athletic modeling, but by labeling it as such it went unquestioned. This reminded me of the label “Woman” which we have talked a lot about in class and the connotations that may or may not be true of women.

Another interesting aspect of the museum was the book that told the stories of lesbian women for the past 50 or so years. This book included photography which was jokingly referred to as “a look at lesbian fashion for the past 50 years”. This book tells these stories of women who managed to “survive”, for lack of a better term, being queer in an anti-queer society. That book breeds hope and understanding inside of the queer community because it shows that as bad as it may be now, it used to be worse.

The overall message of the museum was a message of hope, yet it told a story of sadness. Through the oppression and fighting of the people depicted and the stories of these people the rights of the queer community have been advanced.

-Ashland