Orange is the New Black – LGBT Representation

One of the first things I think of when I hear LGBT representation is this beautiful show

There are so many aspects to the show that I find amusing but also super informative and they introduce truths or facts about members of the LGBT community that aren’t necessarily common knowledge to the rest of society. There is a good variety of women of different races and sexualities that were seen on the show.

If you want to understand the context of the conversation in this scene, you can watch the whole video. But I skipped the the last minute to show the main point. This clip is  from Orange is the New Black, season two episode four and it aired June 6, 2014.

Several reviews came up concerning this episode from websites like tvovermind, pastemagazine, doux, and a bunch of others. The two characters i wnated to point out the most were Poussey and Sophia. Poussey is the one attempting to explain to her friends the existance of another hole which women urinate through, and Sophia is the trans woman who finally confirms the truth to the other girl’s in disbelief.

Sophia is one of my favorite characters on the show, and I really liked the way the actress presents her character. Whoever wrote the script did a damn good job for this scene because there were no insults or mocking when Sophia educates the girls on the workings of their vagina. Being a transwoman, she was even able to say that she “designed [her vagina] herself” which made a funny and appropriate joke. I think that her character does a great job of appropriately representing the transgender community even with how widespread and varying it is.

Referencing back to Ciausllo’s piece which we read and discussed in class, the two types of lesbians that were invisible somewhat seen in the show overall. Butch and femme lesbian characters are seen casually interacting with the “softer butches” and others too. Poussey, form the video clip above, is known to have had a sexual relationship with another girl some time before she ended up in prison. However her character is neither sexualised nor desexualised from what I have seen in the show.

While a lot of the girls in prison are seen having sexual relations with other girls, it isn’t made clear how they identify themselves unless they explicitly state it. For example if we hadn’t seen the flashbacks of Lorna Morello’s life before prison then I would have asusmed she was lesbian. And because of her mannerism and appearance, she could have fit the femme lesbian type. But because we as an audience don’t know what they are thinking, we cannot make any declarations.

Long story short, I really like this show 😀

Additional Blog post—Culture Representation

The reading that our group worked on was written by Ann M. Ciasullo, “Making Her (In)Visible: Cultural Representations of Lesbianism and the Lesbian Body in the 1990’s.” The text was written to draw attention to lesbians not seen in media today. It was an article that was interesting to me it told the difference between the two kinds of lesbians that I didn’t know much about. The two kinds of lesbians told in the passage were focused on butch and femme. Butch is the masculine identity with its associated traits, behaviors, and styles. Femme is the feminine identity that associates with traits, behaviors, and styles. There were a few examples in the book which talked about famous people at the time coming out. Ellen was one of the people that came out. We started talking about how she was presented in a friendly matter. She still put on make up and was casually gay, not hardcore showing it off. Another was from the movie bound, the two characters were not shown kissing in the movie. These two women on the cover aren’t dressed like they are lesbians. The lesbian wedding from Friends is not a normal wedding. Susan and Carol were dressed more femme than something close to wedding dresses. This was one of the first lesbian weddings that was shown on TV which was something cool because not many people saw gay weddings on TV or reality.  They put these celebrities on the cover of magazines because they want the public to accept people that are gay.

Our groups chose the question to ask the author of  “What was the reason to write the text?.” We came to the conclusion that Ciasullo wrote it to make the world more aware. Not just aware of the existence of femme and butch, but also the difference between the two. I thought that we got a good discussion out of the class because they could connect with the shows and celebrities. They came up with different shows that would show lesbianism within the show such as “Orange is the new Black.” I thought this reading was a good one because I learned more about the difference between femme and butch.

The New Normal


The trailer I picked to discuss this week is for The New Normal, a TV show on NBC that aired in 2012 and was cancelled in 2013. It is a pretty recent attempt at gay male main characters. It aired after the more successful show Modern Family had already reached its level of fame. The dynamic of the gay couple is actually very similar to that of Cam and Mitchell on Modern Family- one of the partners is a little more feminine and expresses their identity a little more “stereotypically”. Their sexual orientation detracts from their masculinity. The other partner is more masculine and represents the other side of the spectrum of gender expression.

These masculine gay men are the attempts to pull what Andy Medhurst would call the normalizing strategy. These gay characters are written to make straight people feel comfortable. They are normal people with the same values and social goals as you, except they just happen to be gay, similar to Rob and Michael, the characters Medhurst used as examples. While Medhurst has problems with this representation of gays in the media, I am still unconvinced. In most cases, my first instinct would be to think of this point of view as accepting. Medhurst’s problem with this kind of representation seemed to be that it didn’t deal with any real gay issues. The reason I am in a way okay with that is because the average gay man isn’t on the forefront fighting for gay rights. Of course they experience homophobia on a daily basis and that should get dealt with, but these men are just simply trying to live their lives the way they want to. For them, that just means having a baby and being a happy family. Just because this goal is mainstream does not mean it is unrealistic or valid for gay men.

The alternative in my mind from accepting gay men as “just like us” seems to be stigmatizing gays as some different breed of human who need to be quarantined and studied. From my heterosexual cisgendered perspective, gay people are just like straight people in many ways. I don’t think or say this to detract from gay culture or deprive the community of its history but to down-grade the fear or isolation this belief might evoke.

I can also only ponder the kind of reactions someone from the gay community might have on The New Normal characters individually. There is one effeminate gay man, and there is one more “straight-acting” gay man. I would imagine that some people in the community might be satisfied because it is already showing a sort of range within gay behaviors. Others might feel that it is the two stereotypes and extremes of gay men’s gender expression and does not portray gay men well. Once again acknowledging my status as a straight woman, I feel that this situation is very realistic. Each man has his own identity, his own personality, and they are just living life the way average people do.


Queer representation in Wonderfalls (online writing task)

(watch from about 2:28 – 3:22)

This is a scene from the first episode of Wonderfalls. The show aired in 2004 and was produced by Bryan Fuller, who is openly gay (and is also responsible for Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me, and Hannibal). The blonde woman is the protagonist’s sister, who, in the scene before this, comes out as a lesbian. The other woman in this scene is her love interest for the rest of the show (if I recall correctly).

I don’t know how viewers responded to Kirsten’s character/story arc  — the show never gained a very large mainstream viewership, and it was cancelled after 4 episodes (the rest was released on DVD) so the story arc never played out on air — but I did find some interviews in which Fuller discusses the network’s responses. Specifically about the never-aired fifth episode, he says there was “a very significant lesbian B-story” which “was sent to a higher-up’s office, and [the higher-up] said ‘no fucking way.’ And the next day no one was talking to [the show’s creators].” (1) (Fuller semi implies that his pushing for a queer storyline had something to do with the show’s getting moved to the Friday night death slot and taken off the air.) The lesbian B-story, as it turns out, was “just two women relating to one another as a loving couple.” (1) In particular, Fuller and the show’s other creators were not allowed to show an onscreen lesbian kiss. They apparently “[got] letters from the network’s standards and practices saying ‘Under no circumstances are their lips ever to touch,’” (2) but at the same time, “other shows on Fox were having kisses between women that were more exploitative.” (1) (i.e., oriented toward the straight male gaze.) They were also “advised not to say the word ‘lesbian’ quite so much, and to not make that such a focal point with Sharon’s character.” (2)

This relates to several of the readings we’ve done for class. For one thing, it’s worth noting that Sharon conforms to the mainstream lesbian narrative described by Ciasullo in “Making Her Invisible” — she is white, cis, and comfortably middle class (she is often contrasted to her sister, who is a sales clerk at a gift shop at Niagara Falls and lives in a trailer park). But even then, it was difficult to get her story on TV. José Muñoz writes about the status of queerness on TV at the time that The Real World was aired: “Although some advertisers seem to have become more accepting of queer representation … very few queer characters on television have, as of this writing, performed their sexualities on the screen.” (153-154) This was written in 1999, and the network’s responses to the character prove that it held true for the (very short) time that Wonderfalls aired. This also connects to what Andy Medhurst wrote in “One Queen and His Screen” about the way queer people are often portrayed in mainstream media. Medhurst puts a lot of pressure on the idea that the “right” (as determined by cis straight people) kind of queer representation is the kind where characters “just happen to be” queer; their queerness is minimized, portrayed as “a relatively minor signifier of difference that shouldn’t be overstressed.” This point is definitely proved when you think about the many ways that Fuller and the show’s other creators were told to “not make [Shannon’s being a lesbian] such a focal point.”

1. Fuller, Bryan. Interview by Robert Taylor. Comic Book Resources. N.p., 26 Oct. 2006. Web. 30 Oct. 2014. <>.

2. Fuller, Bryan. Interview by Sarah Warn. N.p., 23 Mar. 2004. Web. 30 Oct. 2014. <>.

LGBTQ Representation in Degrassi

This is a video montage of the relationship between Paige Michalchuk and Alex Nunez. Their relationship aired on Degrassi in 2005 in the US and Canada. Paige and Alex are high students when they first meet and they initially hate each other until they eventually become friends. Alex develops feelings for Paige first but Paige comes to reciprocate them. Both of them had been in relationships with guys before and this was both of their first relationship and experience with a girl. The portrayal of Paige and Alex justifies was Ciasullo reports in her book. They are “heterosexualized” as to not make anyone uncomfortable. Paige is a popular, white, upper-class, preppy, beautiful girl and Alex, although she is portrayed as slightly more masculine, her appearance is still feminine, with her long hair, makeup, and long earrings. The only masculine aspects of her are that she’s tough and part of the group of troublemakers who are mostly guys. They are both very femme and, as Ciasullo puts it, “palatable for mainstream consumers to consume.” One thing that sets Alex apart from other lesbian portrayals in the media is that she’s hispanic, although her ethnicity is rarely mentioned. Throughout its run, Degrassi has tried to cover most social issues that arise in teenagers’ lives. They usually do pretty accurate representations, and while I’m sure Alex and Paige accurately represent some lesbians or bisexual women, they conform to the media’s depiction of a friendly, non-threatening lesbian. They were also depicted slightly less “lesbian” because they had both been with guys before and Paige went back to dating guys after her and Alex’s relationship ended.

This was one of my first experiences seeing a lesbian couple on television. I knew they weren’t the only type of lesbian out there, so I don’t think they affected my views very much. Now that I’ve read this unit’s readings however, I look back on all the lesbian couples portrayed in television and films and most of them are similar to Paige and Alex–they are usually very feminine, attractive, and popular. This confuses me because society’s general idea of a lesbian is the opposite. It’s usually of a butch lesbian, someone who’s masculine with short hair and wearing guy’s clothing.

Sex In the Fish Bowl

Theta Pi Sigma is hosting an event called “Sex In the Fish Bowl” which is a fishbowl discussion among a panel of multicultural, intersectional individuals.  The discussion will be led by Scott Turner Schofield, a famous trans story teller and TED speaker.  The panel will be discussing their individual experiences with sex and gender.

The event will be on Monday November 10 at 8pm in the Stamp Grand Ballroom Lounge.  I attached the link to the FaceBook event.  Even if you can’t make it you should invite all your friends!


Online class: responses to readings for November 5

This post is a place for you to respond to any or all of the readings assigned for Wednesday November 5. These are short excerpts of some widely read articles in academic queer studies. All of them are quite a lot sexier and more political than most academic writing! Here are some brief outlines/advertisements:

1. Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner, Sex in Public. The article that first used the term “heteronormativity.” Features discussion of sex toys and a scene of “erotic vomiting.”

2. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Queer and Now.” An article about being a queer scholar that reliably has the capacity to make your professor cry.

3. Cathy Cohen, “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens.” Why “queer” and “gay” are sometimes in opposition, especially when we take race into account.

4. E. Patrick Johnson, “Quare” Studies, or (Almost) Everything I know about Queer Studies I learned from my Grandmother.” The title should be intriguing on its own!

By 9am on Wednesday November 5, reply to TWO of the comments below: one about something you found difficult to understand or confusing, and one about something you found engaging or exciting.

1 point per comment, counted in your class participation score (not as a blog comment, since this is an online replacement for class).

Surviving and Thriving

This past week, my group and I were able to share and lead a discussion with the class about the Surviving and Thriving exhibit. This exhibit is located here on campus at the School of Public Health, right on the main floor. It is also available on the NIHS website.

The exhibit shows viewers a timeline of AIDS. How it first came, and what was going on in the world because of this outbreak. The exhibit shows descriptions of the main facts that were going on in society, along with things that other authors have written, and what sort of news was coming out of this. Viewers are able to look at the photos and see that many people were protesting the fact that the government was totally inactive, and researchers wanted to find a cure but were always denied their research towards it. This was not very understood by society because even though some people wanted to help, and were trying, they only saw the bad, and that everyone was against them.

During our presentation we decided to show the class a comic strip, and a short video. The comic strip was about a female being intimate with a man and asking him to us a condom, when she ask he was so mad and stormed out. When AIDS first broke out, it was due to the fact that many people didn’t us protection. And many people still weren’t, but those who did, did it for the safety of their partner, and themselves. But it was sometimes difficult for a significant other to understand that you just wanted to be safe.  We also showed a clip about a protest when a gay man we preaching to the audience about the inaction by the government. The man says something along the lines of “if it were a straight man, it would have been taken care of.” We wanted to show the class these two things to give them an idea of what it was like for people back then, and for them to think about how things are now.

We presented to the class first by telling them our question for the creator, which was “what did you want people to take away from this exhibit.” We received some good feedback from the class and they agreed that the creature may have just wanted people to understand what was going on, and to have knowledge not just rumors to rely on.

We also asked the class that if the government had shown support, how would the epidemic have been altered? Many classmates said that we would have lost a lot less lives, and that we may have been better able to control such an outburst.

I was very pleased with how much the class participated and got in on the conversation. I think we had a strong topic, and were able to properly convey it to the class and keep it interesting. I was pleased, as I’m sure Megan and Julia were as well.

AIDS, STI, herpes, and other things ignored…

There’s so much to react to from reading about the public and political reaction to thousands of people’s dying from Accuired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, connected to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. At first I thought things were better now, but the more I’ve been digging around for AIDS and HIV related media and text to comment on, the less I believe that.

I found this Democracy Now interview with Peter Staley a founding member of ACT UP (aids coalition to unleash power) and David France who produced a documentary about the fight to save lives called “How to Survive an Epidemic”. I was surprised with some of what they had to say and not-so-surprised with other remarks.

I wasn’t surprised that a white, male, former-bond-salesman was able to get away with being arrested 10 times and keeping a clean record but, I was glad that someone with that kind of privilege was fighting on the right side of history. I wasn’t surprised by his story of being at work and leaflets demanding recognition of the thousands dying of a largely ignored disease prompted his coworker to say “Those people are better off dead anyway!”

I was more surprised by the hearing from Staley that there are now around two to three million dying every year.

It sounds kind of surreal when they say that more people are dying of AIDS now than back when the disease first started killing people in the United States, because I don’t think I hear much about it.
At first my brain recalled that I’d read elsewhere about how HIV did not appear first in the USA, because it didn’t, but then people start a derailing, unproductive conversation about somebody having sex with monkeys.
Think about it how strange that sounds if you can’t think of anyone other than a couple celebrities in a world that has as much information being transmitted every day as ours does. Why is it that these millions of dying aren’t as in-our-face as they were for the brief respite created by ACT up’s activism in the 80’s and 90’s?

I can think of two specific friends off the top of my head that I know are living with the HIV virus, and I figure I probably know others and have just forgotten that piece of information about them. I must also recall that those are two people who seemed incredibly courageous to come out about their infection, in a world quick to judge and slow to help. The which the vast majority of people with any sexually transmitted infection are pretty terrified to tell anyone, even when it’s something as common and pervasive as herpes, which is currently carried by at least 80% of the American population, but which is not tested for on most, if any, standard “full panel” STI screenings but which is a huge sham- secret It makes me think about the spoof song called “Aquired Dread of Sex” from Douglas Crimp’s Promisuity in an Epidemic.
because people are so scared of people with HIV or other STI’s that is almost like they create ADS, and become a threat to people with HIV or STIs by way of their potential reaction.
I’ve found that most of the people I’ve met at college say they’ve never met someone with HIV or AIDS. But that seems awfully strange when considering that more people than ever before are dying of the disease, despite pharmaceutical developments.
But it makes me wonder if now, is really ANY different than the beginning of the spread of AIDS. We have a bigger population, and we have made some room for some types of promiscuity to have a blind eye turned, and there’s some medications we can give to people when they are diagnosed that helps them live much longer, but we still have millions dying every year. I really don’t recall hearing that in any of the PSAs about getting tested for HIV lately. There’s numerous clinics in DC and testing available at the Prince George’s County Health Department, and the UNiversity of Maryland Campus Clinic, but the focus is on how many people are diagnosed every year and living with HIV or AIDS. That is a semantic improvement that doesn’t make everybody diagnosed with HIV sound doomed to a fast approaching death, but that also doesn’t imply that there’s any hope for finding a cure.

Even the “Faces of HIV” campaign, as humanizing as it may be, sounds really surrendered to “living with HIV”.

What happened when Russia sent something to space? Didn’t America get all competitive and spend a bunch of money to inspire kids and high schoolers and college students to pursue science and technology and figure out how to shoot an impressive phallic rocket to the moon? Why don’t we get more passionate about saving lives like that? Where’s the media push to inspire young people to be healers and chemists? Why not a great sense of awe for experts in biotechnology and pathogen research?

Well that seems obviously related to the other thing that somewhat awed me about the interview with Stanley and France, which included demonstration techniques I’d only ever associated with Earth First activists. At 5:33, Stanley is involved in a “sit in” at a medical office where a doctor who has received blood samples carrying the HiV infection weren’t being put to serious research and use. They used an arm-locking tactic that would require officers trying to pull them apart to seriously injure them and to have to use brute force displays to accomplish it. That makes a statement when you put your life on the line, but I recon most of them were only able to do what they did because they’re lives literally were on the line, they were dying of HIV. And despite having means and access to research methods that would have extended and saved lives sooner, that man in the office, one of many medical specialists, wasn’t making an effort to help.

Stanley mentioned that the data about how much research was going on before ACT UP was mobilized shows that there was not much research being conducted at all. Or it was spotty. That was years into people knowing something was killing people. The response was just skewed because it was already incredibly hard to come out in a culture that had just barely stepped out of the McCarthy era of villianizing gays and pushing propaganda to cast them as communist/socialist pedophiles. Years later it was even worse because now they were cast as disease spreaders and the justification for hating them came from a pathetic attempt to erase them by ignoring them.

While those in denial tried to kill them by playing dumb, the virus was then able to spread more rapidly to groups of the population who were not having gay sex. How did that happen? Well obviously the assumption that gays are just straight-gay and that straight men and women never have sex with them and that disease could not pass between lovers of any body type and sexual identity is a false one. This is a perfect example of how a house divided falls. If you ignore your neighbors plight, your community’s plight, humanity’s plights long enough, regardless of how rich and desperate and cruel and exacting you are, their problem will become your problem.

But when people who don’t really want to help try to appear helpful, they’re help is often expressed with passive aggression.
Personally, I feel whenever I go in for my own regular STI treatments, I am getting treated with discrimination similar to those shown HIV and AIDS positive people before anything is known about my status. Since I am a person who does not adhering to popular norms of sexuality and relationship, I still get an occasional chiding or general passive aggressive experience from an intake coordinator.

All of that was magnified in the 80’s and 90’s and is an example of how heteronormative and monogamy-obsessed the culture still is. We have had years to work on this and we still don’t have a cure and we still don’t have a cure.
This culture still shames the sexual body.