Sexism and the Law

LGBTQ Studies needs to be concerned with sexism within prison/law enforcement in a broad sense because it is an institution that enforces the practice of associating femininity/feminization with submission and masculinity with force and dominance and authority. The threat of prison and trouble with the law is deeply connected to the history of normalizing the male-female dichotomy and very strict and specific gender roles for each. Because of this, any LGBTQ movement that ignores issues of abuse by police, or other authority figures and/or neglectful and abusive conditions within the prison industrial complex is severely missing a key mechanism in the larger machine of society. To ignore the PIC or Police Culture is to dismiss something that actually perpetuates and reinforces gender norms with violence. And it’s not new, it’s like, really, really, really, old.

And sexism isn’t just built into the law it’s a building block within it…

Continue reading “Sexism and the Law”

Redefining Marriage

(Preliminary Note: This became extremely long. My apologies. It turned out I had a lot to say.)

Introduction:

As most of my ‘Queer News Bulletins’ are updates on the progress of same-sex marriage legislation in the United States (35 states and counting!), I am obviously in favor of same-sex marriage. However, as I have alluded to in my previous blog posts and comments in class, my perspective on the issue is a bit more complicated than the typical cry of “yay gay marriage!” often chanted by well-meaning allies. And, while I could go on and on (and on) about all of the other necessities of the GSRM community that are ignored by the mainstream media and mainstream gay rights movement, I addressed these to a large extent in my blog post for the second unit. So I’m going to talk just about marriage, starting at the beginning.

Terminology:

At the risk of repeating myself for the five-hundredth time during this class—the term “gay marriage” makes just as little sense as the term “straight marriage”. Both same and opposite sex marriages can involve individuals of any sexual orientation and any gender. Even the term ‘opposite sex’ makes little sense in light of the complexity of sex as discussed in Anne Fausto-Sterling’s Sex/Gender: Biology in a Social World; rather than a strict male/female binary determined solely by chromosomes, sex is composed of “layers” starting with chromosomes (of which there are at least six functional possibilities and possibly more), and continuing with fetal gonadal sex, fetal hormonal sex, genital sex, internal reproductive sex, brain sex, etc. (Fausto-Sterling 5). Referring to one sex as being ‘opposite’ another ignores not only the similarities between sexes but also the complexity of sex itself. Worst of all, it erases or marginalizes intersex individuals. So the term ‘gay marriage’ is unpalatable, the term ‘queer marriage’ is also not necessarily accurate, and even the term ‘same-sex marriage’ is still not perfect.

What about ‘marriage equality’? When not calling same-sex marriage ‘gay marriage,’ most mainstream media outlets discuss ‘marriage equality,’ as though now the entire GSRM community has the same marriage rights as the non-GSRM majority. In addition to not being true in practice (since many areas with same-sex marriage are still denying newly married couples social security benefits and other rights), the idea of ‘marriage equality’ is also not true in theory. While nearly always left out of acronyms (other than the inclusive GSRM) and often marginalized within the queer community as being somehow “damaging to the cause,” the polyamory community is real and important and is still not included in ‘marriage equality.’ Like many other parts of the GSRM community, they have been erased by the narrative of mono-amorous upper-middle class white gay cis men. So, since what we now have in 35 states is not ‘marriage equality,’ I usually opt for the still-inaccurate-but-at-least-a-bit-less-so term ‘same-sex marriage.’ But with reservations.

Asexuals and Marriage:

Before I go any further in a discussion about marriage, there are major misunderstandings about the ace community and its relationship to marriage that I’d like to discuss and correct. I think this is particularly important in light of the next section, ‘Redefining Marriage.’

During our class discussion of asexuality, the question “are asexuals really part of the queer community?” was brought up. One of the arguments against our inclusion was that we do not “have the same issues as other queers.” It was stated that since there were/are no laws illegalizing our relationships, it does not make sense for us to join with the ‘more oppressed’ LGBT communities to fight for rights. It was also assumed in this argument that the ace community as a whole has no interest in marriage. I would like to address these points one-by-one:

In general, it makes no sense to talk about “having the same issues as other queers.” The issues of white cis gay men are very different from the issues of non-white transgender individuals. My issues as a white suburban ace in Maryland are different from the issues of a white rural ace in Indiana. The reason that people of various gender, sexual, and romantic minorities in the past have organized together (or at least tried to) is that major structural changes to a heteronormative/cisnormative society can help to solve our individual issues. If gender and sexual/romantic orientation are no longer policed constantly and forced to fit narrow molds, our own individual struggles are lessened. This is also why it makes sense for GSRM rights supporters to support other rights as well—rights for minority races and ethnicities, rights for women, rights for people with disabilities, rights for non-Christians (who are often persecuted in a country that claims to have freedom of religion), etc. Intersectionality makes it essential that the movements for civil rights and a just society work with each other and learn from each other. Trying to exclude aces from the queer community because we might not have the issues the mainstream media and mainstream gay rights movement have recognized as ‘queer’ is silly and can only be damaging.

In response to the comment that there had never been any laws illegalizing asexuality, someone (unfortunately I cannot remember who) brought up the excellent point that refusing to have sex with one’s husband was once criminalized. While this legislation was not specifically targeted at asexuals (since this term and an understanding of the ace identity did not exist when the laws were made), the point remains. In addition, the argument that the ace community never faced discriminatory laws ignores demisexuals and gray-A’s (as well as aces in sexual relationships with non-aces). The laws that essentially criminalized certain sexual orientations did not do so by specifically criminalizing those sexual orientations, but by criminalizing practices of those orientations—practices anyone can take part in, including aces and straight individuals. In addition, the goals of GSRM rights movements do not just include changing the law—they include changing the structure of society and destructive societal norms.

Finally, marriage. I am an ace of hearts (ace biromantic, to be exact), and I have no interest in marriage. However, this is for reasons entirely unrelated to my sexual orientation, and it is also by no means the opinion shared by the entire ace community. Some aces marry non-aces. Some demisexuals and gray-A’s marry each other or aces or non-aces. Some aces marry each other. Some aros marry non-aros or demiromantics or gray-romantics or each other. Some aces and aros have no interest in marriage. Some aces and aros want to end the institution of marriage entirely. The ace and aro communities are not homogenous. When aces and aros do marry, they might have a definition of marriage the same as the so-called ‘traditional’ one, or they might have a similar definition, or they might have a completely different definition. None of those marriages are less legitimate, just as none of our relationships are less legitimate because they might lack sex or sexual attraction or romantic attraction. At UMD’s ace/aro group, “Ace Space,” I was introduced to a new term—‘queerplatonic’—which was created to denote serious platonic relationships and to stop the marginalization of these non-romantic and (usually but not necessarily) non-sexual relationships. While you do not need to be ace or aro to be in such a relationship, some ace aros (as well as others) in queerplatonic relationships have been or are now getting married—and this brings me to my next point.

Redefining Marriage:

The conservative Right very much enjoys throwing the line “you’re redefining marriage!” at same-sex marriage supporters. The mainstream gay rights movement and its allies will often respond with statements like “no, we’re not—these marriages are just the same as any other marriages,” or “our love is just like yours,” in an attempt to appeal to a heteronormative society otherwise frightened by queers.

But this is a lie. We are redefining marriage—for the better.

The critiques of same-sex marriage in Against Equality: Queer Revolution, Not Mere Inclusion tend to focus on the current oppressive nature of marriage, with one essay stating that “marriage is a coercive state structure that perpetuates racism and sexism through forced gender and family norms” (Spade and Willse 32). Kenyon Farrow’s essay also brings up the excellent point that thus far, the movement for legalization of same-sex marriage has focused solely on upper middle class white cis gays (and sometimes lesbians), and that white (and usually very racist) religious organizations have attempted to exploit the black community for their support against same-sex marriage (Farrow 41).

I will not dispute that marriage has in the past and continues to this day to hurt women and minorities, nor that the gay rights movement tends to completely ignore intersectionality in its push to help the white, cisgender, Christian, gay upper-middle class. However, we have an opportunity to change that. Rather than pushing for ‘inclusion’ in the current structure of marriage, we need to reframe our struggle for same-sex marriage as redefining marriage. Rather than remain an institution that oppresses women and enforces gender roles (and other heteronormative-type structures), marriage has the opportunity to become something entirely different—something naturally inclusive rather than something we have to be ‘included’ in.

This is already happening. As discussed above, the existence of married couples in queerplatonic relationships is already redefining marriage as something that does not necessarily need to involve sex, sexual attraction, or romantic attraction. I am extremely excited about the opportunity for interested individuals in the GSRM community to redefine marriage (as well as many other heteronormative concepts/institutions) to make them naturally inclusive and non-oppressive. So my answer to the question “do you support same-sex marriage?” is not “yes, please include me in your oppressive marriage structure!” or “no, the structure of marriage should not exist at all,” but instead:

Queer

Actually, I think this is my answer to most questions.

 

Works Cited:

Farrow, Kenyon. “Is Gay Marriage Anti-Black???” Against Equality: Queer Revolution, Not Mere Inclusion. Ed. Ryan Conrad. Oakland: AK Press, 2014. 33-44. Print.

Fausto-Sterling, Anne. Sex/Gender: Biology in a Social World. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2012. 70-98. Print.

Spade, Dean and Craig Willse. “I Still Think Marriage Is the Wrong Goal.” Against Equality: Queer Revolution, Not Mere Inclusion. Ed. Ryan Conrad. Oakland: AK Press, 2014. 31-32. Print.

URL for photo: http://www.quickmeme.com/img/fd/fdd792a0ca8cede0a20322635274b1dc41e9dd1c1a36eaf83c98d3dba8268821.jpg

 

LGBT discrimination: deeper than physical abuse

Yes, hate crimes (particularly those done against members of the lgbt community) are abhorred, and yes, law enforcement should be doing everything in their power to prosecute the guilty. However, these acts of violence should not be acted upon after they are committed, but should instead be seen as a constantly pressing issue. It seems as though, in most cases, the police bring some type of justice only because it is their job, and not because they see it as their moral and ethical duty. The idea of going above and beyond in protecting every member of a community is overshadowed by prejudices resonating from the police force itself, a concept that is all too relevant to lgbt people, particularly transgender folk.

One article, written by Jordan Flaherty in October of this past year, is entitled “Are police profiling transgender Americans?”, and covers the depressing truths of increased police brutality against transgender individuals. Although many of these cases don’t explicitly cover physical aggressions, just about every one encompasses a possibly worse treatment: unjust emotional abuse and an overall lack of empathy that should push police to care for every victim equally, without gender playing any type of role. Over the past few weeks we have seen racial profiling by law enforcement running rampant throughout the media, most notably the Ferguson and Eric Garner cases. Although not as exposed, the same type of profiling is being done by police against the lgbt community. If you are transgender in certain communities, you are automatically three times more likely to fall victim to police violence. Also, 48 percent of transgender individuals who went to the police for help with hate crimes were treated unfairly, and not given the proper attention they deserved (Flaherty). In the article, Mytchill Mora, a young male cross-dresser, touches on the lack of safety felt throughout a once peaceful and pro-trans area, due to explicit and implicit harassment by police officials (Flaherty).

The article covers the vicious cycle that many trans youth go through: a lack of acceptance by their families, forcing the teen to enter the foster system, or even the juvenile justice system. As is very common in most establishments, such as universities, the individual is placed in the wrong living quarters (such as trans women living with all men, and vice versa) making them feel even more out of place, forcing them to yet again, pick up and move to the only place left: the streets. Homeless trans teens face a brutal existence, and are highly profiled by the police, who usually throw them into the juvenile justice system. Such a process is unfortunately common, and ends with an overall lack of justice stemming from the police. The concept of law enforcement has been reversed for innocent victims; it’s a scary world to live in when those who are supposed to protect you, are wholeheartedly against your ideals and beliefs.

 

Belated Disability Post

I’m really stuck on the part of Eli’s The Mountain chapter, where he expounds the difference between impairment and disability as theorized by Michael Oliver. Eli explains that in Olivers theory, impairment is thought of as having a faulty limb or poorly working mechanism of the body. But the definition of Disability was really interesting to me. “the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused bye contemporary social organization which takes no or little account of people who have physical {and/or cognitive/intellectual} impairments and thus excludes them from the mainstream of society.”
I actually haven’t before read such an appreciable way to think of disability before. I’m used to associating the term disabled with an individual persons lack of ability to fulfill social expectations or norms, either because of their body or mind. The term disability seems to just make people think of a person who can’t do so wing, but not why. Never before had I heard disability referred to as the condition created by a social network, community, or system which lacks the ability to offer a decent and wholly recognized and legitimized way of life to differently bodied or minded people. That’s some hella cool shit.
If a large number of people made it more common to think of disability as based on a problem with society instead of a problem of persons, I think many would find it easier to navigate the problems they face.

I started thinking about how even though the dominant narrative about transgender people, as told by mental health professionals, is about how they all start very early wanting to be the opposite sex and displaying conflicting feelings about their sexual bodies and their gender. Thinking about how Dean Spade talked about people who don’t fit the dominant narratives but who have used the assumptions doctors made about them to access the hormones and medical care they needed. 
Although the necessity to fabricate a story is unfair, getting the diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria can sometimes help facilitate insurance coverage to help them. At the same time, embracing a diagnosis can help alleviate the stigma still associated with mental health issues. Sometimes doctors think of people who don’t fit in as mentaly deficient and as far as I can tell it seems like the more you try to reason with them the more they raise their standards to judge patients by. But if a minor difference such as the way one thinks or what one thinks of onesself is the main reason people are disabled by society, and the ideas of the most powerful people in that society are the ones that make them so significantly differentiated, maybe it makes sense to roll with the diagnosis and amass a large population of officially diagnosed people demanding disability benefits.

Since all I can think about lately is racial tension, I started thinking about how young black men in America are treated Like adults by law enforcement by the time they are around age 12. Statistically more young black boys are tried in court as adults than white boys, even though when I say boys I am talking about being a juvenile, legally not of adult age. 58% of youths incarcerated in adult prisons are minorities. The physical reality of having dark skin has been treated like a disability since the days of Empire. So is there some way to take advantage of that? The white-supremacist culture that dominates so much of the United States has treated dark skin as an impairment for such a long time, that I started wondering if it could be used against white supremacist systems if their idea was used utilized like some clever transgender people have done. Black people have been targeted since the early days of “Amerikkka” (as I’ve heard some people refer to it), by law enforcement, individuals influenced by dominant stereotypes, and social groups bent on controlling their access to wealth, health and survival. So I might be trying to suggest that people of color take advantage of any diagnoses they can receive and any opportunity to request special accommodations for what whites perceive as a psychological issue and to constantly seek disability benefits might actually be a meaningful or just very useful route to making life more comfortable. But, since disability benefits have dropped off the last several years and don’t even effectivly support the quality of life for disabled people, I’m not saying this is a solution, but just something curious and work thinking about… I also realize that the “Welfare Queen” stereotype has been used to shame minorities for several years as well. But perhaps more open discussion of the underhanded tactics of the racist system can dispel that. Especially if we can start to more openly acknowledge that the effort involved in getting the most basic of needs filled even with disability and assistance is actually too much effort to be dismissed as the lazy route.
What if people of color went ~IN~ on the racist white patriarchys accusations that brown skinned people are not as capable as whites to the point of insisting on receiving some disability benefits? I mean, when you look at the numbers of incarcerated people of color, and the rate at which they are systematically denied benefits when it comes to unemployment and public assistance, and lacking representation, and if you appreciate the theory of disability which separates impIrment from disability and which explains disability as a fault of society, not a fault of a person. 

Also I can’t help but leave this here because this lecture by Dr Joy De Gruy feels really relevant to the topic of the selective nature of diagnosing and treating people of different races or classes. :
http://youtu.be/XRQ-Ci6LwVw

To clarify: I am in no way saying that I consider dark skin to be a impairment on its own, it only becomes so in terms of functioning when a person with dark skin exists in a racist society. The disability is a statement of the relationship between a person and the society that perceives that person as flawed and does not make a significant effort to function beyond that perception and include that person as fully as possible. (If I am understanding the Disability theory of Oliver correctly).

LGBT Representation in Spain

Spain is the world’s most LGBT-friendly country

According to a study done in the article above, Spain seems to be the country most accepting of homosexuality. Out of the top 10 LGBT friendly countries, Spain came in first place with 55% of its citizens approving of homosexuality, and only 6% thinking that it is morally unacceptable. This means that more than half of the country agrees that the LGBT community should have equal rights. Its also surprising to see that the U.S. didn’t even make it into the top 10. They were number 12 on the list with 37% of people thinking that homosexuality is morally wrong. According to another article in the The Atlantic, views of homosexuality in many countries have not changed much over time. Spain still makes the top of the list with 88% of people agreeing that homosexuality should be accepted. The U.S. is making progress but it’s still less progressive with 60% of people who agree. As much as we would like to view the U.S. as a progressive society, our views on homosexuality are still not where they should be. Other countries that were very accepting were Germany and the Czech Republic.

One of the reasons why Spain has such a significant amount of LGBT supporters is because of its strict policies against all types of discrimination. Gay marriage was legalized in 2005 and since then, strides have been made to ensure that the gay community gains and maintains their rights. While researching LGBT rights in Spain, there was still one question that plagued me which was Why Spain? or basically what makes Spaniards more open and accepting of the LGBT community. I found that it has a lot to do with Spain’s history, specifically Roman Spain. At this time emperor Hadrian was in charge and was apparently gay but at this time there was no term for it, he was simply more attracted to men. There are countless other examples of gay writers, artists, leaders and common people from this era. In the Roman time period, anal sex, and other sexual actions that included two men were not seen as homosexual.Men could be attracted to whoever, and the use of anal sex was more of a way to express their power or status. Though there is much talk about gay men, there is not much talk about L, B, T and other letters in the acronym. It seems as if men had power to do whatever they liked I took it to mean that Spain’s history is more “man-power” than “queer-power”. However in the long run, it led to Spain being a much more open-minded society than many others. I think that since Spain has come so far in LGBT rights, the US can learn a great deal from them, not vice-versa. As we’ve seen in the readings about African countries, the US can be quite narcissistic and inaccurate when it comes to their ideas on LGBT rights.

Sources:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/06/the-country-thats-most-accepting-of-homosexuality-spain/276547/

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/03/07/why-does-spain-love-gay-marriage-but-hate-abortion.html

The truth about sexuality in ancient Greece and Rome

http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/DEISENBE/Other_Hispanic_Topics/escondida.pdf

http://www.gay-art-history.org/gay-history/gay-literature/famous-homosexuals/hadrian-antinous-gay/hadrian-antinous-gay.html

 

Normal

“What’s wrong with being normal?”
That’s something I’ve been asked before, many times.
“What’s wrong with normal?” is a loaded question.
“Normal” is a loaded word.
If the queer community becomes normalized? Are we going to get better about funding and demanding research for STI’s across the board? Or are there just going to be a big cloud of “normal queers” don’t have any sexual health issues and don’t help the ones who do? Or will be just have a lot more queer business and fit into the various levels of class and status in society?

There’s a lot of “normal” things I can think of right off the bat that don’t sit well in my soul. For example:
60 to 80% of Americans have herpes, (either HSV1 or HSV2) but as far as I can tell herpes jokes are still being made as though getting it is not “normal.” A lot of people still find laughable even though 90% of people with the viruses don’t know they have it, (they mistake herpes for zits and ingrown hairs).
Not only that the CDC doesn’t recommend testing for herpes (unless you’re a gay male or admit to having multiple sex partners, thus using testing practices mostly for anyone who doesn’t identify as “normal” even though it’s “normal” for many people to have several monogamous relationships one after another over time which actually means they’ll end up having multiple sex partners, but over a period of time and thus exposing their partners to risk one-at-a-time.). Herpes tests are also rarely if ever part of a “standard STI screening”, even though people like to think “A FULL PANEL” would mean testing for every possible thing. Doctors by and large DO NOT test for herpes (yup, not even here at University of Maryland), even though it’s now known that even if you aren’t showing symptoms (which many people don’t), having either the HSV1 or HSV2 virus nearly doubles your risk for contracting HIV.

Something else to swallow: Apparently 50 to 60% of men in college admitted to rape when they indicated using force or coercion to engage in sexual encounters. So, that’s more than half of them. So that means rape is “normal” right? Should I just relax and stop talking about sexual and relationship violence then? At least, that should be what i deduce if being “normal” is pretty much fine and not problematic right? Majority rules right?

Know what else is normal? Body hair. It even covers the majority of your body! So why do we have so many socio-culturally enforced rules about that fuzz? Why might I have a hard time getting hired at an upscale retail outlet if I don’t wax my upper lip? Why did my mom start telling me I should shave my legs at 15? Because it’s normal? Why isn’t polygamy legal since it’s considered pretty normal for guys to want 3 ways? That’s pretty normal. Why isn’t it as normal for women, and why aren’t other genders or identities admitting to wanting other kinds of three ways or four-ways sexual encounters considered as normal? If, according to various polls, 80% of women fake orgasms during sex,(this particular poll taken from a pretty heteronormative place) WHY is heterosexuality considered “normal” by so many people? Does that then imply that women’s pleasure and frequent orgasms are abnormal or exceptional, thus enabling men who are being lied to about how great they are in bed to feel that much more like they have the superior sexuality?

If trans and genderqueer identities become “normal”, will there end up being outlet stores specifically for our most popular clothing style tastes? Maybe that store Rainbow would have a different selection… Will having a “normal” queer place to shop like that make us happier if everything is still made in a foreign sweatshop as per the “normal”? I mean…Feminism has some issues with it’s normalized styling…

Will the broad spectrum of sexualities becoming “normal” enable big polyamorous familes of every size shape and skin tone? That would be nice but somehow I don’t know how queerness becoming “normal” would help people communicate well enough to have such great bonds. Maybe yes, but I don’t know what other factors would have to play into this to have it turn out this way. If queerness is normal can we all get on the same healthcare plan and will it let us have the healthcare we need to feel each of our own version of normal? Will “normal” help us stand out or blend in? Is normal helpful? Is normal natural? Is natural normal? Are humans apart from nature?

Monoculture is a thing, but It’s not natural. Most of the carrots (in major grocery chains) are orange. Some people would call that “normal”, but did you know carrots used to come in a massive rainbow spectrum of purples red and yellows too? Now you can find them for double or more the price of the grocery chain at the occasional farmers market or special order organic farm. We used to have lots of different kinds of bananas and corn too, but now only a few industrial breeds reign supreme. And we use the corns basic chemical structure to make everything from plastics to ketchup to diapers and lotion. Is that…normal?

We drop crates of expired food and expired vaccines from planes over impoverished, war torn areas of the world and call it “foreign aid”. What’s normal about that? Then we send nice godly men to build shoe factories and employ everybody so they can use the money to buy imported food sine they don’t have time to work the land. We provide guns and money to the parties who appear to have the most power in those regions and if they seem to intend on working toward American interests in the future, and the government might that “normal”. Political figures call the rape and violence inside those cultures we “help” abnormal, but 100 years ago they called it “civilizing” when they did it themselves.

Americans eat approximately 31 5lb bags of sugar per year (additive). Liking sweets is considered pretty “normal” and most people don’t “normally” think about where that sugar comes from, but instead about how fat they can get before “normal obesity” is a problem. But most of our sugar (aside from corn syrup) is imported from countries like the Dominican Republic and Brazil where “others” are working with guns pointed at them on sugar cane plantations. Often worked to death or deformity. For as long as this has been going on and since it’s essentially just Americas outsourced slavery, and a way to keep hands at home looking clean isn’t this… “normal”? Isn’t normal bittersweet…?

But… hey! C’mon working at a job you hate is normal, right!?… is that why so few people in the United States show up at rallies and protests to increase their own minimum wage and working conditions? But they don’t have guns pointed at them… that would only happen if they behaved too abnormally right? Is it because being “normal” and having a “normal” life and a “normal” job makes us think we shouldn’t be complaining? Does normal = content? Normal = good enough? Normal = not a big deal? If inflation goes up every year, and so do costs of living, but minimum wage stays the same is it then normal to make due with less every year?

Out of left field, if we think of cops as brutish, racist and dumb, does it become abnormal for anyone smart want to become a defender of their community? If a judge can rule it acceptable policy for a police department to refuse to hire someone with an IQ that’s too high, did the people help to make dumb cops become “normal”? Why can’t what’s “normal” about a career like public service as an officer change? Was this always normal? Do we help make normal? Does the public make this normal by not normalizing resistance or do they just normalize police brutality? Does normal make us or does normal undo us?

If I were normal, would I be happy? Or would I just have to defend myself against the accusation of being “too happy”? If we seemed “too happy” we could be at risk of losing our “normalness”, so we might need to work harder or just be harder on ourselves in order to fit in with the very normal rising rates of depression and antidepressant use.

But… I wonder…
If I want to be a queer academic but I have to stifle a great deal of my discontent to present myself as a respectable part of a University system, am I helping or hurting myself? If I think I’m help others by increasing my visibility and the visibility of the wide range of human identities and sexualities and intersectional oppressions in order to stir the emotions and interest of students but, I have to turn myself inward to appear objective and rational, am I helping or hurting our movement? Will students believe that becoming a well composed, emotionally-mild and calm adult academic who writes about other people’s problems will free them from the worries they have now?
If I keep thinking it’s normal for deep, complex and intelligent people to be depressed, will I seek help when I’m not able to feel good enough to carry on, or will I sink deeper into myself and chide myself for not toughing it out like all the other moody artists normally do?
If privatization of all the things is “normal” but, the marketing of one’s self and services “neo-liberal”…
Is academic work some kind of martyrdom?
Does martyrdom then become “normal” as one person’s private, sacrificial implosion for a greater good?

A lot of academics appear downright heroic in their effort to speak up for others, but to do so they must conform to some degree. Being “normal” is rarely all encompassing for every part of a persons life or identity, so if queerness is normalized, will it obscure other difficulties in their life?

If we lose one person,
or even part of one person is lost and unheard,
even if they were working for others
even if they meant well for everyone else
if they model self-suppression,
or let go of other aspects of what makes them who they are in effort to become or appear “normal”…
is that still “inclusive”?
Am I being “included” by becoming “normal”,
or am I being “normalized”, when I join what is “inclusive”?

Is worrying about being included or being normal going to help me eat, have a place to live, and get my laundry done regularly?

Or is being a little dirty good for everyone?
I don’t know.
I’m always confused.
All I know, with some certainty…
is that regardless of what’s normal for who is or isn’t married or monogamous or what gender or sexuality is:

If loving you is wrong,
I don’t wanna be right.

A Queer And Pleasant Optimism

From Punks, Bulldaggers and Welfare Queens, “The radical potential of those of us on the outside of heteronormativity rests in our understanding that we need not base our politics in the dissolution of all categories and communities, but we need instead to work toward the destabilization and remaking of our identities.” (pg 481)

This sentence has a lot of power in it and I wondered how many people reading it actually understood even partially what it might infer.
To my understanding, Cohen is suggesting that what’s most transformational about non-heteronormative people is our ability to rethink and rename ourselves while not necessarily rejecting labels or the categories of types or communities which individuals tend to consider themselves a part of. So for example, a person may come out as transgender in their 20’s and transition FtoM but still consider himself a member of the womens community, while at the same time identifying as a gay man because he primarily participates in sexual and romantic relationships with men or other trans men. So while he’s been destabilizing and remaking his identity at multiple levels, he’s still able to embrace and utilize the categories which he finds useful and pleasurable and fulfilling, not calling for an end to all gender categories or sexual names, but simply moving through and into those spaces which he wants his identity to live, even if it’s temporary. If the same trans man eventually found a man he wanted to buy a house and live with he might opt to get married and sharing a home with his partner may lead to a lack of interest in seeking outside relationships, incidentally, yet he might call himself and his partner monogamous for simplicity’s sake, even if a few years later they decide to go on a swinger retreat together where they each enjoy playing with both male and female sexual partners. The point of the scenario being, that stepping outside heteronormativity is the first step to a more fluid state of identity. Once one realizes something about one’s self can change, even unexpectedly, it becomes less important to clarify and maintain a stable sense of self, and might potentially allow for more freedom and options in life.

It reminds me of the way what “sex” is can be redefined, which was a highly individualized experience for each person when AIDS hit and the LGBTQIA community needed to figure out how to protect themselves and encourage each other to take safety measures. It also somewhat reminds me of Spade’s essay about how people who are classified as “this” or “that” kind of person may sometimes have expectations placed on them to fulfill a basic well-known storyline for developing or inheriting that character. Spade points out that reality and real people are much more dynamic than the categories and communities which they are assigned to or gravitate to, yet there are also those who may never alter certain aspects of their identity and still move away from or toward a category or community that makes them feel at home.

It seems Cohen puts forth a bit of a hefty assumption that most non-heteronormative people are aware of not needing to dissolve all categories and communities though. I think that’s a bit optimistic. I think I’ve met a number of young LGBTQIA youth who genuinely hate gender categories or race categories or the definition and size and scope of a community name MORESO than the identities within it or their own and are relatively stuck in attempting to stabilize their identity as much as possible. I think I have been that person more than once. There are many “we are all one”, kind of gender-nonconforming hippie-types who reject some labels very specifically and aggressively, yet adhere to and promote the ones they apply to themselves with equal aggression…

So maybe Cohen said that as an inspirational statement? It’s worded as if it were fact for all non-heteronormative people everywhere. I wouldn’t change it, but I had to address how it might be perceived as a little presumptuous.

I wanna believe tho.
Just sayin’.

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!

https://www.facebook.com/events/732365750177647/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

 

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.

Laverne Cox Presents: The T-Word

Actress and trans advocate Laverne Cox presents an eye-opening documentary about seven brave transgender youth who are showing the world what it means to defy expectations and live their lives – and truth – as authentically as possible.


If any of you are familiar with Laverne Cox from Orange is the New Black, she is the host/presenter of this awesome documentary that was released this past Friday.

It’s super interesting and if you’re done watching stuff for tomorrow’s class and find this kind of stuff interesting, you should totally watch this. The entire episode is 42 minutes.