Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Queer Atzlan by Yessica

In this article the author tries to find away to merge her multiple identities in a way that they could all exist. The author is female, Chicano, and queer. Her identity as queer clashes with identify as Chicano due to the harsh criticism against it. She goes on to talk about how the Chicano culture bashes against its own brethren who have the courage to actually come out. Being female in her world, forces her to take a back seat, and she feels as if the women in her culture were the ones who helped the Chicano Movement get to the point where it is now.

While going on with the article, the author discusses how she came about this ground breaking nirvana that leads her on the path to combining her identities. She also establishes her belief on how she believes that the large stretch of land that goes for nearly one end of America to the other. While driving through Atzlan she started to sing a song that helped her understand exactly who she is. Since then she wanted to find a place where that could exist at that was her Queer Atzlan. She believes that separating or bashing these identities cause the troubles that we see in the Chicano community now.

As the Article ends, the Author goes on to talk about the environmental movement and how it relates to the struggles that Chicano face. One struggle the Movement face is how the Movement is not going anywhere. The movement, she feels, has been pushed under the rug. Almost as if is died out without fully starting. It seems almost like the author feels like if the Chicano receive the land that they deserve that they could cure the land from all the environmental groups fight against.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Paul Guest in relation to Compulsory Able-bodiedness

As we know, compulsory able-bodiedness is a problem that is evident in every day life. Perhaps the most moving example I have found of someone who is not able-bodied recognizing and pointing out the flaw in compulsory able-bodiedness is in the work of Paul Guest. The first poem in My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge is titled “User’s Guide to Physical Debilitation”. I am posting it here with the understanding that I am not profiting from this post, and in fact, I encourage everyone to buy any and all of Paul Guest's work, as it is simply amazing. Paul Guest is paralyzed from the neck down as a result of an accident when he was twelve years old. Through his poetry, Guest shows what it is like to be paralyzed, and recognizes the phenomenon of compulsory able-bodiedness in relation to himself.

“User’s Guide to Physical Debilitation”

Should the painful condition of irreversible paralysis
last longer than forever or at least until
your death by bowling ball or illegal lawn dart
or the culture of death, which really has it out
for whoever has seen better days
but still enjoys bruising marathons of bird watching,
you, or your beleaguered caregiver
stirring dark witch’s brews of resentment
inside what had been her happy life,
should turn to page seven where you can learn,
assuming higher cognitive functions
were not pureed by your selfish misfortune,
how to leave the house for the first time in two years.
An important first step,
with apologies for the thoughtlessly thoughtless metaphor.
When not an outright impossibility
or form of neurological science fiction,
sexual congress will either be with
tourists in the kingdom of your tragedy,
performing an act of sadistic charity;
with the curious, for whom you will be a beguilingly blank canvas;
or with someone blindly feeling their way
through an extended power outage
cause by summer storms you once thought romantic.
Page twelve instructs you how best
to be inspiring to Magnus next door
as he throws old Volkswagens into orbit
above Alberta. And to Betty
in her dark charm confiding a misery,
whatever it is, that to her seems equivalent to yours.
The curl of her hair that her finger knows
better and beyond what you will,
even in the hypothesis of heaven
when you sleep. This guide is intended
to prepare you for falling down
and declaring detente with gravity,
else you reach the inevitable end
of scaring small children by your presence alone.
Someone once said of crushing
helplessness: it is a good idea to avoid that.
We agree with that wisdom
but gleaming motorcycles are hard
to turn down or safely stop
at speeds which melt aluminum. Of special note
are sections regarding faith
healing, self-loathing, abstract hobbies
like theoretical spelunking and extreme atrophy,
and what to say to loved ones
who won’t stop shrieking
at Christmas dinner. New to this edition
is an index of important terms
such as catheter, pain, blackout,
pathological deltoid obsession, escort service,
magnetic resonance imaging,
loss of friends due to superstitious fear,
and, of course, amputation
above the knee due to pernicious gangrene.
It is our hope that this guide
will be a valuable resource
during this long stretch of boredom and dread
and that it may be of some help,
however small, to cope with your new life
and the gradual, bittersweet loss
of every God damned thing you ever loved.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shhh! Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell… Who Cares?

The ongoing issue of whether or not the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which restricts gay and lesbians from openly serving in the military, will be repealed recently reached an interesting point. As The New York Times reports, a recent Pentagon study states that 70% of people currently serving in the military believe that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would have either a positive impact, mixed impact, or no impact on military units.

With numbers like this, it seems hard to understand what the hold-up is with repealing the 17-year-old policy. Often, those who oppose the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” say that it will interfere with combat readiness and unit cohesion. That is, that having gays and lesbians serving in the units will cause trouble and prevent the units from doing their job. Also, homophobic concerns that are based in religious beliefs, fears of getting raped by gay soldiers, and general “discomfort” around gay folks usually come up whenever repealing the law gets talked about.

However, Roderick A. Ferguson’s essay “Race-ing Homonormativity: Citizenship, Sociology, and Gay Identity” mentions how the obsession with issues like gaining the right to serve in the military, getting married, and coming out of the closet all perpetuate homonormative ideals that focus on the needs/wants of white, middle-class gay men instead of focusing on urgent needs of other queer people like transgender people, queer people of color, working-class people, queer people who are immigrants, and other marginalized groups. There is nothing wrong with pushing for equality on all fronts, including the right to serve in the military. However, when many urgent needs like the need for job security, food, shelter, safety from violence, etc. are overlooked because mainstream queer organizations care more about being able to serve in the military industrial complex, then it is time to reprioritize.

“Trans Atlanta: A Look inside an Evolving Community”

The Georgia Voice, a news outlet that focuses on LGBT communities, recently posted a story called “Trans Atlanta: A look inside an Evolving Community.” The post featured an interview with a black transman and discusses trans visibility, violence and discrimination against trans people, trans healthcare concerns, community building, and economic hardships. Also, the story has a list of trans-related definitions at the end of it, which is super-helpful for those who want to learn more about trans issues!

Dana Prosser, the transman interviewed in this story, speaks candidly about the decisions that he must make in order to stay safe on a daily basis. He speaks of the discrimination that he faces as a black man in the South (ranging from people crossing the street to avoid him to racial profiling by the police), and shares that the reality of possibly being arrested and imprisoned factored into his decision to keep his sex listed as “F” (for “female”) on his driver’s license. That way, in case he is ever arrested, he will not be placed in a men’s prison facility, where he would likely be assaulted by the other inmates. Prosser also says that while he doesn’t go around telling everyone that he is a transman, he will tell people if they ask him. “It’s about opening people’s eyes. I want people to know there are different people walking amongst you,” he says, “I am who I am.”

Prosser’s story of being black and trans made me think of Johnson and Henderson’s “Introduction: Queering Black Studies/ ‘Quaring’ Queer Studies.” As Johnson and Henderson note, in the phrase “black queer,” “black” and “queer” mark difference. “‘Queer’ challenges notions of heteronormativity and heterosexism, ‘black’ resists notions of assimilation and absorption. And so we endorse the double cross of affirming the inclusivity mobilized under the sign of “queer” while claiming the racial, historical, and cultural specificity attached to the marker ‘black’” (7). Basically, what the authors are saying is that the words “black queer” identify a different experience than just saying “queer” or “black”. For example, by identifying as trans, Prosser may be seen as being queer (especially in the sense of using the word “queer” as an umbrella term for LGBT folks); however, as he states himself, he is also black. He may not fit in with the black community because he is trans; he may not fit in with the queer community because he is black; and he may not fit into mainstream society because he is black and trans. However, by saying “I am who I am” and expressing a willingness to share more about himself when he wants to, Prosser proudly claims his identity in the face of a society that may devalue his experience, and negotiates his way in a world that can be hostile to him just because of who he is.

Monday, December 6, 2010

P•P•O•W | One Day This Kid

Quare Studies and Gay Hip Hop

Gay hip hop, homohop, lesbian hip hop, transgendered hip hop -- all these are the domain of, or OHH. OHH's goal

is to be the primary destination on the internet for ALL 'out' hip hop artists (and their FANS) - an all inclusive home for Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgender (Male to Female AND Female to Male) artists who make ALL forms of rap and every variation of hip hop and are 'out' with their sexuality. Rappers in the closet won't touch us with a 10" pole!

This website represents a group of voices who are not widely represented by the "queer agenda" found in queer theory and mainstream queer movements. E. Patrick Johnson's in his article “Quare Studies” (blog entry on this article by Allison found here) speaks to the invisibility of people of color and working class people in these mainstream movements, particularly in queer theory. Johnson articulates a race- and gender-focused critique of queer theory which he terms 'quare' theory. He describes his theory as a "theory in the flesh:"

Theories in the flesh emphasize the diversity within and among gays, bisexuals, lesbians, and transgendered people of color while simultaneously accounting for how racism and classism affect how we experience and theorize the world. Theories in the flesh also conjoin theory and practice through an embodied politic of resistance. This politics of resistance is manifest in vernacular traditions such as performance, folklore, literature, and verbal art. (p. 127).

Out hip hop is a striking example of this "embodied politics of resistance" of which Johnson speaks which affirms the diverse experiences of queer people of color. Refusing to be closeted, these mostly black hip queer hop artists refuse to be silenced by homophobia, despite the stigmas they suffer from being out. A black lesbian artist, Lady L.U.S.T. speaks to this stigma in an interview with OHH:

I understand the internal battle that it takes to even come out to your own family, let alone the world. You literally have to be prepared to go to war for yourself and a whole community of people, this path is not for everyone.

Johnson names the place where this stigma happens through bell hooks' concept of 'homeplace' – “the one site where one [can] freely confront the issue of humanization, where one [can] resist” (hooks cited in Johnson, p. 148) – saying that

it is from homeplace that we people of color live out the contradictions of our lives.... I do not wish to romanticize this site by dismissing the homophobia that circulates within homeplace or the contempt that some of us (of all sexual orientations) have for 'home.' (p. 148-149).

Homeplace represents the unique experience of black family and community in which queer black people must deal with their identities and homophobia. It is in this space that Lady L.U.S.T. finds she must fight in order to defend her queer identity. And yet it is through hip hop, a product of what Johnson calls African American vernacular tradition, which she expresses and empowers her marginalized identity.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: A Queer Time and Place

I have seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show (RHPS) performed live about six times. I went just this last weekend with a bunch of my younger friends, many of whom were "Rocky Horror virgins." For people who go into a Rocky Horror screening without preparation, the environment can be shocking and even offensive. I have seen it at two different venues, but both of these places took on very similar auras. When inside a place that will be showing RHPS, one of the first things someone might notice is lots of scantily clad people. They will also see many people in... gender non-conforming clothing, such as men in glittery corsets. A friend of mine mentioned having to de-tag himself in facebook pictures after RHPS because he knew that his parents wouldn't understand why he was wearing a green dress over black sparkly lingerie.

While certainly not everyone who sees RHPS is queer by any means, the space these screenings are held in are basically assumed to be queer places, and the time spent there can definitely be described as queer time, I think. Characters in the film are of flexible sexualities and gender expressions, and because people seeing the film flock to it knowing this, the space created is queer-friendly by necessity. I've met people at RHPS who, when encountered in any other situation, are completely different people. The RHPS creates a space where people can laugh inappropriately at pretty much everything, where people can feel free to experiment with how they present themselves in a place where everything is met with acceptance and most likely encouragement.

RHPS is a very bad movie, but in a way that makes it more loveable, and the cult following that has grown up around the movie has created its own incredibly unique space for queering oneself. People who have never been to a Rocky Horror screening, or who is unfamiliar with the atmosphere surrounding the movie can't really understand why the movie has the following it does, but in the society we live in, the experience of Rocky Horror, of the ability to go to a movie theater and have an extremely funny and horribly inappropriate time, is a place where people can experiment and laugh and be themselves in ways they can't elsewhere.

Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe, producer of thrilling music, great style, and general foxiness, is producing music with themes of anti-oppression and racial and class empowerment; though in some ways she is queering the way black women can perform gender and sexuality in pop culture, her music is not overtly criticizing homophobia or subverting heterosexuality.

Ruth Goldman's “Who is that Queer Queer?” discusses queer theory's tendency to ignore race and class in its project of disrupting heteronormativity, and thus calls for greater attention to race and class. In the case of Janelle Monáe, the marginalization of black and working class people is what she is critiquing. However, despite her displays of open support for the queer community and her habit of leaving her sexual orientation ambiguous (saying in an interview with Rolling Stone that “I only date androids” without specifying who qualifies as an android), some of Monáe's most popular music does not overtly address the oppression of sexual minorities. Thus, Monáe's work in some ways exemplifies Goldman's articulation of the alienation of people of color and working class people from queer theory due to its tendency to universalize the experiences of white, middle-class people and leave out people of color and working-class people.

Monáe is queering a number of things: she performs working class identity and a sort of androgyny by donning a tuxedo, bowtie and saddle shoes, terming it her uniform in homage to her working class roots: “My mother was a janitor and my father collected trash, so I wear a uniform too.” In her song “Many Moons,” she interrupts the song's melodic verses with a spoken litany of often marginalized characteristics or identities (Many Moons: minute 3:39), including 'hood rat,' 'crack whore,' 'closet drunk,' 'outcast,' 'black girl,' 'welfare,' 'HIV,' 'overweight,' 'tomboy,' 'heroin user,' 'coke head,' and 'Jim Crow.' Monáe names these markers of oppression – mostly class- and race-based with brief mention of size oppression and gender identity marginalization (tomboy) – as a call to those whose “freedom is in a bind” to “just come and I'll take you home” to Shangri-La, a mythic utopia. However, in comparison to her overt messages about race and class empowerment, homophobia and oppression based on sexual identity go remarkably unmentioned in this song. It's a bit of a bummer, really, that she doesn't take this opportunity to include a critique of the marginalization of black queer people.

Despite this leaving out of queer people, Janelle Monáe has set up her music, message and aesthetic as a powerful medium of criticism of social and injustices and oppressive systems; she could perhaps quite easily incorporate the oppressions of sexual minorities into this critique. I'm rooting for her, too, because she's already indicated that she supports queer rights, and because her presence on the music scene is so vibrant, thrilling, and powerful that if she gave a critique of sexual and gender normativity, people would listen.

The Mean Girls of Morehouse: Defying the Norms of the Renaissance Man

The article entitled “The Mean Girls of Morehouse” was published in the October issue of VIBE Magazine. 5 men who call themselves “The Plastics” defy the standards of dress that are enforced by the very conservative policies at Morehouse College. The dress code that is being enforced does not allow students to wear “women’s” clothes as have these harmless men. Morehouse, a historically black college for males is an institution that is outwardly homophobic in its dress code policy and treatment of queer students and is very intolerant of the personal beliefs of students in the expression of their gender and sexuality.

A panel discussion was held at Morehouse the week that the article was published asking these students about their experiences at the institution and allowed for them to voice their opinions on different issues and how the administration has handled these situations. Many of the students discussed the difficult time that the administration and the general campus has given them in regards to the dress code and their sexuality during their years at Morehouse. The dress code prohibits caps, do-rags, sagging pants, and sunglasses as well as “women’s clothing” such as purses, tunics, tops, and heels; however, what is more strictly enforced according to the men in the panel is the part that prohibits them from freely expressing their gender. Although they consider themselves men, most of the students who spoke on the panel do not abide by the hetero-normative standards of dress as well as the norms in general and resist these standards daily.

This issue reminds me of the article “Sexuality and gender in the Native American Tribes” because of the ideas of femininity and masculinity and how they are not honored by the traditional Western standards. The ways in which some of the Native American tribes dressed and their ability to switch roles amongst the various gender identities indicates that queerness is natural and normal. The idea that in order to be natural one must adhere to the constructed notion of gender and match their daily interactions to their biological sex is proven to be a constructed idea in itself and is rejected by the culture of gender expression and roles in the Native American tribes. In the same way, the norms that The Plastics at Morehouse are rejecting have legitimate reasoning behind them that show us that gender and sexuality are ideas that cannot be placed into a box and vary based on the different cultures that we cross as well as the people that we cross. Everyone does not have the same formula for how they express their gender and sexuality in the same way that gender and sexuality are expressed differently in various cultures.