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.

Policies Affecting the Queer Community in Georgia

Age of Consent:

Consensual sex between same-sex couples is lawful at aged 16 years [R1.1].

In 1996 the law was amended to prohibit marriages between same-sex couples and declared same-sex marriages from out-of-state as null and void.
Constitution of the State of Georgia, Article I Bill of Rights, Section IV. Marriage [L1.1] provides as follows:

Paragraph I. Recognition of marriage

(a) This state shall recognize as marriage only the union of man and woman. Marriages between persons of the same sex are prohibited in this state.

(b) No union between persons of the same sex shall be recognized by this state as entitled to the benefits of marriage. This state shall not give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other state or jurisdiction respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other state or jurisdiction. The courts of this state shall have no jurisdiction to grant a divorce or separate maintenance with respect to any such relationship or otherwise to consider or rule on any of the parties' respective rights arising as a result of or in connection with such relationship.

In July 2006, the Georgia Supreme Court reinstated a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and legal benefits to same-sex couples in civil unions [R2.1].
In May 2006, a state judge in Georgia struck down a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage approved by voters in November 2004, saying the measure violated the state constitution's procedural requirements, which exist to prevent voter confusion and protect the constitutional process [R2.2].

Children: Access, Custody, Visitation:

In June 2009, Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham rejected a custody agreement saying, "The prohibition against [the children having] contact with any gay or lesbian person acquainted with [Eric Mongerson] assumes, without evidentiary support, that the children will suffer harm from any such contact. Such an arbitrary classification based on sexual orientation flies in the face of our public policy that encourages divorced parents to participate in the raising of their children." [R1.1].

In May 1999, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Manis awarded joint custody of a toddler to his lesbian mother and to his father, saying the dispute had nothing to do with gay rights, only with the child's best interests [R1.4].

In January 2002, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that Susan Freer and her lesbian partner could not seek child-visitation rights because they are not married. The couple established a civil union in Vermont in 2000 [R1.3].

Civil Unions, Partners: Domestic, Registered:

There is no State-wide statutory recognition of Civil Unions, Domestic Partners or Registered Partners

On 27 April 2001, the DeKalb County Commission voted to offer DP benefits to its county workers [R2.1].

In July 2003, Fulton County Board of Commissioners voted to offer DP benefits (medical insurance, bereavement leave, county jail visitation rights and other benefits) to its gay and lesbian county workers on their completing a form declaring they are in a "committed relationship" [R2.2].

In December 2001, the Atlanta City Council passed an equal benefits ordinance [R3.1].

In August 2001, Decatur city commissioners approved a domestic partner benefits to take effect from 1 January 2002. The partners of gay and lesbian city employees will then be eligible for the same benefits as the wives and husbands of heterosexual employees [R3.2].

In September 1999, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Wendy L. Shoob firmly rebuked Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine's attempts to block implementation of Atlanta's domestic partner ordinance, ordering him to lift his statewide ban on domestic partner coverage in insurance policies [R5.1].

In November 1997, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld a policy allowing Atlanta city employees to include aging parents and heterosexual or homosexual partners in the insurance coverage that is one of their job benefits [R5.2].


In February 2006, the Georgia House passed a bill that would require students to notify their parents before joining school clubs, a measure that gay rights advocates say will discourage students from joining gay organizations [R1.1].

In November 2009, Chamblee City Council passed a Bill to prohibit discrimination against gay and lesbian municipal workers (but not transgender employees). Clarkston and Doraville reportedly have similar ordinances; Doraville includes gender identity protections [R2.1].

In December 2001, Atlanta City Council passed an equal benefits ordinance requiring city contractors to offer equal benefits for GLBT and straight employees [R2.2].

In December 2000, Atlanta became the first city in Georgia to enact a comprehensive nondiscrimination law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity [R2.3].

In June 2000, the Decatur City Commission voted to ban discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation, sexual preference or transgender status" in personnel regulations governing the city's employees [R2.4].

In December 1997, Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell signed an administrative order requiring all companies seeking to do business with the city to adopt employment policies that ban anti-gay discrimination [R2.5].

Gender Identity, Intersex, Transgender, and Transsexual:

In December 2000, Atlanta became the first city in Georgia to enact a comprehensive nondiscrimination law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity [R1.1].

In June 2000, the Decatur City Commission voted to ban discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation, sexual preference or transgender status" in personnel regulations governing the city's employees [R1.2].

In September 2008, Georgia's Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of a transgender politician accused by her rivals of misleading voters by running as a woman [R2.1].

In September 2003, State Court Judge Duncan Wheale granted a transgendered woman the right to change her name [R2.2].


In May 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that a Georgia school district can be held financially responsible for the sexual harassment of a fifth-grade girl if officials with the authority to help her knew about the harassment but were "deliberately indifferent" to it [R1.1].


It is unlawful for persons who know they are HIV-positive to engage in unprotected sex without disclosing their status [R1].

Homosexuality, Sodomy:

In January 2003, the Georgia Supreme Court gutted the 'fornication' law that also made all gay sexual relationships illegal, ruling unanimously that the 170-year-old law that banned all sex outside of marriage violates the right to privacy guaranteed by the state constitution [R1.1].

In 1998, Georgia's 182-year-old sodomy law was overturned by the state Supreme Court holding that the sodomy law was unconstitutional based on the right to privacy guaranteed by the Georgia Constitution [R1.1], [R1.2].

Parenting, Adopting, Fostering:

There is no statutory ban preventing gay men and lesbians from adopting in Georgia.
There is no statutory ban preventing gay men and lesbians from fostering children in Georgia [R1.1].

All foster candidates must take the Model Approach to Positive Parenting test, undergo a home study by a DFACS official, have a physical and criminal background exam and other children or adults in the home must be in good health [R1.1].

In September 2009, an appellate Court reportedly rejected the trial court's "conclusory finding" that leaving a child with unmarried straight foster parents because of their purportedly "immoral" relationship "would have an adverse effect on her moral character," stating, "Regardless of the trial court's moral views about unmarried people living together and its conclusion that [the state] acts in contravention of the law by allowing unmarried people to adopt or serve as foster parents, the adoption statute clearly does not prohibit this adoption". The case has potential ramifications for gay adoption in the State [R2.1].

"India's third gender gets own identity in voter rolls"

This article highlights India's 2009 decision to add an extra gender choice - "O" for "Other" on voter forms. The story seems to refer to Hijras, but does not mention them by name. The author instead refers to them as "eunuchs", and also mentions intersex and transsexual individuals. While the government's acknowledgment of these people is a sign of major headway for India, terms like "third gender" and "other" continue to promote gender binary. The latter implies that male and female are neatly-boxed norms, quite literally "othering" anything else, and packaging it all into one (much too broad) category. "Third gender" has similar implications - that there are only meant to be two genders but special exceptions can be made for another one. In the context of the article, this would also mean that intersex and transgender people and Hijras are all the same gender (the "third" one).
Like I said before, the author seems to be really uneducated about Hijras. Take this quote from the article:
"Intersexual people are seen as a marginalized community in India. Many end up begging on the streets, becoming prostitutes or earning their livelihood by dancing at celebrations."

On another note, India did finally legalize homosexual sex between consenting adults in the summer of 2009. This may or may not lead to the legalization of gay marriage in the country.

Queer Bollywood Movies? Or Not Quite?

I have a love/hate relationship with Bollywood movies. Bollywood is a genre of Indian movies. Not all Indian movies are Bollywood. Bollywood movies are vibrant and epic musicals, and usually have happy endings. They're tend to be about patriotism, family, or love. They rarely address disability or interracial relationships. Bollywood movies can be full of stereotypes and cliches and can be pretty contrived, but many Bollywood movies are fully aware of this and embrace it in a cheeky way.

Sexuality in generally is a taboo subject. The act of sex is rarely seen, let alone alluded to, despite how sexual the movies can seem with bare-waisted women and shirtless men are dancing about every ten minutes or so. Until I did some research, I honestly did not think there were any Indian (Bollywood or not) movies which positively portrayed homosexuality. I mean, homosexual intercourse between consenting adults was decriminalized in India in July 2009 (one and a half years ago). So, where does one go to figure out what queer Bollywood films are out there and popular? Well, I go to my family, and the only movie they thought of as having gay characters or themes was Dostana from 2008.

Dostana, which is Hindi for “friendship,” is a romantic comedy about two men, Sameer (Abhishek Bachchan) and Kunal (John Abraham), who pretend to be gay to get a place to live. They rent a couple of rooms of an apartment from an older lady who has beautiful niece, who lives in the apartment as well. It was a problematic movie. Every single character who is actually gay is a stereotypical caricature, and there is nothing to balance these crazy characters. The movie is set in Miami, and going back to the article “South Asian (Trans)nation(alism)s and Queer Diasporas” by Jasbir Puar, it portrays Western countries as the place to go if one is queer because everyone would be more open and accepting.

There are a couple of things which I did like about the movie. The mother of Sameer finds out that he is gay, that he's in a relationship with Kunal, and she flips out initially. She eventually becomes accepting of the idea of having a gay son, and she does a ritual with Kunal which she would have done with the bride if Sameer had actually married a girl. It was heartening that the mother, symbolic of an older, more conservative generation of Indian people, came to accept that she might have a gay son. It was also troubling because of the homonormativity the situation takes on because the acceptance came as a result of adherence to traditional gender roles.

Also, at the end, Sameer and Kunal, after their lies about being gay are discovered, kiss each other. Throughout the movie, there was a definite chemistry between them, and they come to rely on each other. The movie ends with them recalling the kiss they shared and being uncomfortable with it. I read it as them being uncomfortable with new feelings the kiss may have brought them, as being uncomfortable with the idea that they actually may be attracted to each other. A sequel, Dostana 2, is supposed to be released in 2011, so my questions about Sameer and Kunal might get answered, hopefully with a more balanced depiction of queer people.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Representation & the Media

In his lecture entitled "Representation & the Media," Cultural theorist and sociologist Stuart Hall highlights many fundamental ideas of queer theory:

Though he focuses on race rather than queer people, his scholarship raises many important questions about queerness:
- How are queer people represented in the media? As caracatures of themselves
- Who creates the images that serve as mainstream representations?
- How powerful is language in relation to the meaning of "queer," as defined by our society?

Hall brings attention to the distorted representations of underrepresented people (i.e., people who do not fit the social standard of being male, white, heterosexual, etc.; queer people). Though his focus is on black men in the media, this idea can be applied to representations of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender people, all people of color, disabled people and many more "queer" groups. He gives examples of stereotypical representations, which apply to all queer people who are visible in the media. For example, gay men most frequently portrayed in the media as flamboyant, feminine, promiscuous and comedic. This stereotypical representation has a strong influence on the meaning society as a whole attaches to "gay man."

He also reveals that these mainstream representations of queer people are more often than not created by white, heterosexual males.

Hall explains that language is extremely powerful when it comes to how a culture portrays, views and treats queer people. He asserts that representations, by nature, are depictions - when something already present is re-presented, like a representative is someone standing in for someone else/others. Therefore, people form meanings based on how they see something represented.

Rejecting the Gender Binary in Fashion

Rejecting the Gender Binary in Fashion highlights Kasemeneo, a man who decided that he didn't like that department stores are categorized into gender-specific areas. He also calls attention to acceptance of women wearing menswear and societal disapproval of men wearing women's clothing. Keeping with the definition of queer being all those who fall outside of the social norm (white, male and masculine, heterosexual and able-bodied), the concepts of gender binaries and classification by gender give this article relevance to Queer Theory, in that Kasemeneo acknowledges that gender is performed rather than biologically predisposed, and thus can be expressed in many different ways. The images provided of his everyday dress illustrates the fluidity of gender expression.

Hide/Seek exhibit at Smithsonian

I recently found an article that reveals that the Smithsonian has a new exhibit about the impact of gays on art history that reminded me of The Celluloid Closet, which we discussed in class.
The Smithsonian exhibit showcases art by LGBT artists and attempts to "lift the veil on what has been hidden in the discussion of American art history."
Both the film and the exhibit are meant to demonstrate that although it has been masked in some ways and often forgotten, homosexuality has always been present, and represented, in our culture.

Fat Sex as Queer Sex

(Disclaimer: I am 5'7" and 275 pounds. I use the word 'fat' because I don't attach any sort of moral platitudes to the word. It is just a descriptor, and that is how I mean it.)

The online fat acceptance community blew up several weeks ago when Maura Kelly, a writer for Marie Claire, wrote about her opinions regarding the new sitcom Mike & Molly, a show about two fat characters who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting and start dating.
So anyway, yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.
When I read this, obviously the first thing I noticed was that I was very angry, but aside from that, it made me think of complaints people have about shows with gay characters, usually gay male characters in particular, since it's acceptable for conventionally attractive women to kiss each other on television.

A blogger I adore, Lesley Kinsel, made a post on how fatness queers people. I wish I could find it to quote it, but she recently moved to a new site, so my favorites don't work. When men gain weight, it tends to make them rounder. Our culture teases men for "man boobs" when they have what is deemed an "excess" of fat on their chests. Fat feminizes men. When women gain weight, it tends to go to the hips, thighs and breasts first, and can be written off as "curvy" for a while, but once enough weight is gained, women get broader and the curves start to be diminished by the fat present all over the body. Thus outward gender presentation of fat people can be queered by something outside their control.

In college drinking culture, there is also a prevalent notion of being "drunk enough to pick up fat girls," the idea being that a person (generally a man) will only go after someone seen as fat after they are drunk. Sometimes the implication is even made that these drunk people are doing a favor to fat girls by hooking up with them. Similar things can also be said for homosexual behavior in people who identify as straight when they drink. Songs like "I Kissed A Girl" by Katy Perry discuss the notion of being "club bi[sexual]". It seems to be a common phenomenon in our culture for drunk women to be expected to make out with one another, and depending on the venue, sometimes this is expected of men, though this is much less common.

Queer issues and fat issues are very clearly difference, and I certainly am not trying to make the case for all fat people being queer, or even that anyone who has sex with a fat person is queer. Some of the similarities in cultural attitudes toward queerness and fatness are just eerily similar in troubling ways.

Gay Youth Suicides & Anti-Gay Bullying Are REAL!

Words of the video producer

Suicide becoming common amongst gay young men
Five Young men have committed suicide in relation to the harassment they’ve experience within weeks of one another.
1) Johnson and Wales student Raymond Chase, 19, took his own life this past Wednesday, according to the Advocate.
2) Chase, a sophomore reported as openly gay, apparently hanged himself in his dorm room. According to Now Public, the circumstances surrounding his death are not yet known.
3) This weekend, Rutgers University honored the life of freshman Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide last week.
4) Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge sometime after Sept. 22 after he discovered that his roommate, Dharun Ravi, had broadcast a sexual encounter that he had without his knowledge.
I feel that his is a question worth addressing in my blog. As an activist for gay rights I question the power I may have to stop such acts of hate. It is never ok, for someone to feel so little that they are forced to claim their life. Authorities and parents should take more precaution and pay closer attention to their children. In order for these acts to stop, authoritative figures have to lead by example and take lead. Activist especially, needs to reach out to colleges and spread the word of gay acceptance.
The issue at hand shouldn’t be that the dead teenagers were gay. The fact that young adults and adolescents are claiming their lives shows the backwards pace of gay acceptance in society. These acts show that we are not improving as we should. The cycle of hate crimes is getting worse and is in fact affecting children. Being gay and accepted into society has fallen into the social sphere of the youth.
It is also important to realize that the gay youth are predominately men. In the gay community, we should make sure that a safe space is provided for the gay men. Lesbianism seems to come with less hassle from heterosexuals. The word must get out about this phenomenon so that we who believe in equality for all can say we were successful in making the educational sphere one that is safe. These young men who are attending college are facing hardships that enable them to finish there career. In search of themselves and acceptance, they choose to die before they lose who they are. Through bullying and the inability to be accepted they are forced into making a choice of life and death. Now I question, are we willing to fight, let known die for what we believe to save lives.


Fla. Teen Commits Suicide With Live Web Audience

Morehouse ban

Many gay activists argue that gay is not a privilege. Therefore it should not be inflicted upon with laws or regulations in the public sphere. However it is necessary to define what the public sphere is and where the line between the private spheres is drawn. Activist believes that being gay is an identity. Therefore it comes with action, language, dress and other cultural attributes. In being gay, many believe dress attire should be represented of how they identify. A gay male who is also a cross dresser, may find it necessary to wear what is commonly thought of as women attire. In a college setting, these laws were imposed upon causing a lot of debate and public attention. It is only when the LBGQTI are fighting for common rights that the media and heterosexual powers of authority get involved.



At More house college Dr. William Bynum, Vice President for Student Services, issued a ban on clothing. He felt that it disturbed the learning environment and other student’s professional space. He attributed the ban on clothing specifically to five gay students of Morehouse who cross-dress. Many in the student body felt that this was very obvious because only five students who attend actually cross dressed. The vice president felt that the gay lifestyles they live are not appropriate in relation to the mission of Morehouse and how Morehouse men should live.



Ultimately the rule was passed and did not interfere with constitutional rights because Morehouse is a private institution. In both the homo/hetero sexual community the debate is split and leads up to two main questions. That is to ask if it is appropriate to mix your “personal life” in a professional setting. A lot of people believe that college is a professional setting and that men dressing as women undermine the professional atomosphere of college. The last question at hand is rather it is appropriate for a gay male to attend an all men’s college. Many feel that it is arbitrary and should be of little interest to gay men. This attitude also leads up to the assumption that a gay man attending an all men’s school does so in hope of per suiting possible relations.



I believe this issue shows how divided and bias the world is when it comes to gay issues. We as activist and non-activist are still unsure of how to treat people. Right of equality should extend to all. In reality, deeming cross dressing to be distracting is very opinionated. There is a lot of clothing that can be seen as distracting. I believe we all should take a step back and consider the rubric we have sat in society. Some things should be left out of the public sphere. Some of us may still need to examine what we believe.

GAY SHAME: a celebration of resistance

GAY SHAME is an organization in San Fransisco dedicated to the eradication of assimilation to the "mainstream gay" a.k.a homonormativity. They also focus on many political issues either from a queer perspective or issues that connect to the queer community itself.
The following excerpt is their statement of pursose quoted directly from their website

"GAY SHAME is a Virus in the System. We are committed to a queer extravaganza that brings direct action to astounding levels of theatricality. We will not be satisfied with a commercialized gay identity that denies the intrinsic links between queer struggle and challenging power. We seek nothing less than a new queer activism that foregrounds race, class, gender and sexuality, to counter the self-serving “values” of gay consumerism and the increasingly hypocritical left. We are
dedicated to fighting the rabid assimilationist monster with a devastating mobilization of queer brilliance. GAY SHAME is a celebration of resistance: All are welcome"

The main page lists their meeting times and past or current flyers of events and issues they are focusing on. Pink appears to be the color of choice to represent their organization. Their website also includes an archive of past events, an image gallery, links to for a visitor to continue "resisting assimilation" and contact information.

A few of the images on GAY SHAME's website were in a way reminiscent of Dean Spade's image in regards to gay marriage included in his article It's So Queer to Give Away Money.
Both Dean Spade and GAY SHAME recognize the mainstream "gay politics" and how it caters to homonormative couples. The fight for "true equality" in reality appears to be only a fight for legal and monetary benefits therefore making the fight for marriage equality in a sense very selfish and ignorant of other important queer related issues.

Both Dean Spade and GAY SHAME in my opinion appear to be expressing the idea of moving beyond the current excluding face of the pride movement. They express the idea of how our focus should actually be on dismantling political and social constructs that create inequality in the first place.

Dean Spade's mention of a "different queer politics" where grass root organizations focus on social issues such as "the growing wealth divide in the United States, the stagnation of wages..." etc appears to include politically radical organizations such as GAY SHAME. GAY SHAME's focus on gay rights beyond marriage and their strive towards "a new queer activism" that goes beyond the current boundaries set by homonormativty directly connects to the idea of non-mainstream queer politics. It also recognizes and takes into account the existence of a mainstream gay politics and it's effects on the queer community. These politics have been shaped to exclude parts of the queer community based on class and race. The acceptable gay is usually white and middle class. These politics have also been shaped with the idea of normalization and acceptance being directly connected to assimilation to heteronomativity through homonormativity. GAY SHAME resists
this idea of assimilation being the only doorway to acceptance and equality.

Spade also mentions of the concerns in regards of how the professionalism of queer and trans activism has changed its messages and its demands". The idea of acceptable queer professionalism and activism would not include GAY SHAME. They most certainly redefine queer professionalism with their pink banana uniform and the covering of their faces that is reminiscent of gang flags and acts of crime. Going through their website I still do not fully understand why multiple members of GAY SHAME were arrested at gay pride in 2003. Their website does not come off as drastically radical or violent but something must have triggered not only their arrests but the large number of officers needed to do so. Taking into consideration that I found GAY SHAME through Bash Back's website the potential violent side of GAY SHAME is possible.

Bash Back is an organization that is defined as "Gay AntiChristian Terrorists" and on their website they are blatantly violent and vulgar. I hate to admit that simply by association with such a radical group it is hard not to think that GAY SHAME could potentially be just as radical in person.

I Love You Phillip Morris An Analysis

In our class we discussed queer cinema and queerness in movies for comedic relief. Although many of the film clips we viewed in class were dated it looks like Hollywood is still using this technique. I Love You Phillip Morris is a comedic movie about a Steven Russell, (Jim Carey) who after a tragic accident decides to come out. The trailer has many interesting moments specifically quotes like “I soon realized being gay was expensive.”
Carey becomes a con-artist and who pulls many cons to get Phillip Morris (Ewen McGregor) his soul mate whom he meets in jail out. He then pulls even bigger cons to provide for McGregor when they are out of jail. E online gives the movie a C+ and notes “To their credit, Carrey and McGregor don't shy away from kissing and other PDA, but as more and more gay clichés sashay by, their sexuality seems more like an opportunity for the movie's mockery. (Stevens, “Movie Review: I Love You Phillip Morris? More Like Let's Just Be Friends Phillip Morris)
The comedic relief is thus set up by the actors’ queer relationship. This is particularly interesting because McGreggor is actually gay. I wonder if he realizes that this movie could harm the queer community by playing into the one dimensional portrayal of queerness that is always presented in the entertainment business. Although a queer con man is somewhat original, McGregor’s character is stereotypical and over done because he remains naive to Carey’s cons throughout the majority of the film.
This film relates to Bakshi’s comparative analysis of Hijras and Drag Kings because as Bakshi notes that we must consider the cultural lens through which these two queer identities are viewed, we must considered the cultural lens through which this film is viewed. Is this film being directed from a queer perspective for a queer audience, from a queer perspective for a heteronormative audience or from a heteronormative perspective for a homonormative audience? The tagline for the film is “A story so incredible it could only be true.” The film was “directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the writing team behind "Bad Santa." Based on a book by Houston Chronicle crime reporter Steve McVicker” this film was adapted for heteronormative entertainment. (About: I Love You Phillip Morris) Wikipedia note that there were issues during the production of the film. “After original difficulty finding a U.S. distributor, likely due to its explicit gay sexual content, the film was re-edited.” (Wikipedia: I Love You Phillip Morris.)

The Eddie Long question.

If you can try to take yourself back to late September early October, you may remember the scandal that shook New Birth Baptist church here in Lithonia. You know, the one involving Bishop Eddie Long and four students’ suing Long for allegedly forcing them into sexual acts. The evidence is startling; the boys have text messages, pictures of Long in tight fitting clothes and not to mention his summer camp he hosts for the male youth of his congregation. What is even more startling is the cultural stigma that has oppressed many Queer black people. Some of our communities openly claim their homophobia and teach their children to do the same like Bishop had done for many years. Jamilah King requotes Julian Bond the former NAACP Chair from his Georgia Voice interview:
“[Long] said that homosexuality is worthy of death. He is a raving homophobe,” said the civil rights legend and former longtime Georgia legislator. “If [the allegations] are true, it’s just sort of typical of people who are raving homphobes who are secretly homosexual. And who are homophobes because they are filled with so much self-loathing and self-hate that they’ve got to let it come out in some way, and it comes out in homophobia.” ( King, Eddie Long Scandal Forces Taboos to Surface in Black Church)

Bond has always been a supporter of queer civil rights and even refused to enter Long’s church in 2006 for Coretta Scott Kings funeral because of Long’s homophobia. In this quote Bond introduces the concept of self hate as the underlying cause for Bishop’s possible double life.
It isn’t something new right? The term DL has been one of the few queer labels talked about in the black community. Men who partake in same sex relations but who won’t call themselves gay. Why? Perhaps because the term does not in fact encompass their identity or perhaps its because many of the pillars of their community and racial identity condemn anything outside of the heterosexual identity. Thus we have developed a black homonormativity that is perpetuated by black heterosexuals. Most times the story line follows that of the Lady in Red as portrayed in the For Colored Girls movie adaptation. (Sorry for the spoiler.) In which Janette Jackson’s character contracts AIDS by her husband who is on the DL.
The Long case gives light to how the being on the DL can lead to harming others. If the allegations are true this young adults where targeted in their early teens specifically because of their naiviety. Kai Wright’s article reflects on Jamal Parris’ personal suit and notes:
“As in other suits, Parris charges that Long used his role as a “spiritual mentor” to establish a unequal sexual relationship, which began with a “Covenant Ceremony” in which Parris was made into one of Long’s “Spiritual Sons.” It’s as if Long was building a cult around the pantomimed power and masculinity in which he had already trapped himself; he plotted to pull those he believed to be weak into that abyss with him.” (Wright, Bishop Eddie Long and the Lessons of Self-Hate)
Whether the allocations are true aren’t as important as the need for dialog to commence. I think Jamilah King worded it best in her article: “The case against Long is shedding much needed light on issues of faith, sexuality and childhood sexual abuse—all issues that black churches have too often refused to address.”

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"Year of Gay" in China

"Homosexuality in China". It's something I've always been curious about. So, I "google'd" it. It led me to this article in a English-Chinese newspaper, China Daily. Like many non-Western countries, China is not as progressive as the United States when it comes to the queer movement. However, this article talks about the year 2009, a "monument year for China's LGBT community". China's first annual PRIDE in Shanghai! The article further describes other events that were geared towards the queer community that happened throughout the year. From Rainbow in Motion, a Bike-a-thon raising awareness on International Against Homophobia Day to Annual Lala Camp, there were events through out the year!

However, I tried to find some information whether there was a second PRIDE festival in Shanghai in 2010, but did not find anything. According to other records, it took China a long time to abolish the "hooligan law", and it was not until 2001, when the Chinese Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. Slowly but surely, China is progressing. There has even been some new terminology emerging for the gay community.

Similar to what we read in Wenshu Lee's article, "Kuaring Queer Theory: My Autocritography and a Race-Conscious, Womanist, Transnational Turn." Lee talks about how there is not a variety of words for the queer community, and makes up her own. The term Lee coins kua'er, is very similar to the one the community uses, ku'er. La'la is a term lesbians refer to and tong'zhi is commonly for what gays refer to.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Queer Theory and it's link to Feminist Theory

Throughout the semester I have been struck by some similarities between feminist theory and queer theory, especially with regards to similar approaches to oppression. This makes sense, because both Women's Studies and Queer Studies address the issues facing minorities. But it also makes sense simply because this course is listed as a Women's Studies course. I thought that briefly explaining approaches to feminism (what is sex oppression and how can it be solved) and comparing them to ideas and articles we've discussed in class would be interesting.

The sameness approach to feminism argues that women are the same as men (capable of the same things, both human, etc.). In the queer community there is often a push to show that queer people are just the same as everyone else. For example, they can also make families, raise children, get married (or want to).

The difference approach to feminism argues that there are differences between men and women (or between femininity and masculinity) and that those differences should be valued. The same argument can be made in queer theory. Several authors have discussed the subversive effects of queer identities and the value of subverting white, heteronormative society. For example, Sandeep Bakshi analyzed the disruptive potential of drag queens and hijras.

The dominance approach to feminism describes sex oppression as the systematic structuring of femininity as subject to dominant masculinity. Sex oppression should be discussed in terms of the power relationships at play, i.e. a relationship of dominance and subordination. This is definitely a problem in the queer community because queer people are a minority with fewer rights than non-queer people. Because heteronormative society holds legal power they can decided whether gay couples can get married or not. The article "Compulsory Able-bodiedness and Queer/Disabled Existence" describes how the "normal" people (who hold the power) create "abnormal" people (without power.)

Postmodern feminism describes sex oppression as a problem in our use of language. They argue that to change sexism we must change the language that is used to discuss women and their lives. Foucault is a postmodernist and studies how the use of language (ars erotica and scientia sexualis culture) has created people and identities. These two discourses on sex affect how gay people are talked about and treated.

Politics of identity feminism talks about how women's identity is affecting their lives. Things happen to women because of their identity and no matter what you do, you can't escape it. I think this is at the root of queer theory. At the beginning of the class we tried to define queer, to define the identity that people gather around. Jose Muñoz explicitly discussed identities, counter-identities and disidentifications.

This is just a brief glance at all of these approaches, but I think each has something to offer to the queer community and to the women's movement. I encourage you to think about other arguments and articles that are related!

"What Does a Lesbian Look Like?" - reflections on fashion and gender presentation

"What Does a Lesbian Look Like?" - from

Having stumbled across this article on Autostraddle (and admittedly scrambling to think of what to blog about for this class) I figured this might be an interesting thing to talk about.

Obviously, there's no clear cut answer to that question, and the round table-style discussion on the site makes that clear. But the varieties of responses made me think about something I've noticed more and more... that is, the queering of fashion, especially hipster fashion. For all its obvious flaws (including the appropriation of trends from marginalized cultures and the simplification and misrepresentation of political stances), hipster culture has at least had a hand in the popularization of androgynous fashion, and I can't help but think of it as a good thing.

(picture from

Whether it's girls in suspenders and men's suits, or boys in skinny jeans and scarves, this kind of gender-play may seem simple (and I'm far from calling it revolutionary) but the fact remains that if hipster culture (as irritating as it sometimes is) helps to normalize gender-bending trends, it could have far-reaching consequences. I'm thinking, for instance, of my haircut. I've had shortish hair for a while now, but over Thanksgiving Break, my amazing and talented hairstylist uncle cut it even shorter, into what my friends call "my gayest haircut ever." My (extremely conservative & Southern Baptist) grandparents didn't say a word. I think if it weren't for the presence of straight women in the mainstream media who've rocked short hair, that would've been the end of their believing that I'm heterosexual... or that I would have, at the very least, gotten a lecture about "looking like a boy."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that it's a good thing that things have to be "okay-ed" by straight celebrities... but I am thinking that the more representations we have of people playing with gendered fashion in the mainstream, the more it will trickle down, so that young kids in grade school may have a wider variety of images of what is acceptably "masculine" or "feminine" to pull from, thus (ideally) making the persecution of students who fall outside traditional, narrow gender roles a thing of the past.... Because gender roles, really, are the heart of the bullying issue (see this article, for example, or this one).

Gender roles are the simplest guides we get to "how to be a human" when we're born, and so when they are challenged, many people who unwittingly cling to them from insecurity (and who isn't insecure?) are made even more insecure. Narrow and strictly defined gender roles give us a guide, and guides make us feel better. When the guide is taken away and there are no rules, we suddenly have to examine why we do the things we do. Rather than participate in this self-examination, though, bullies instead will do and say terrible things, laying down their humanity in support of the "way things are"... so what if the way things were became a little more free? As the "counter-culture" style of hipsters bleeds into the mainstream, will we begin to see "average Joe" in skinny jeans and a tank top? Or "soccer moms" with buzz cuts? Do you think this could truly change anything?

(picture from

At any rate, the responses at Autostraddle are interesting if only for how clearly they illustrate how useless stereotypes really are. Here are some of my favorite points from the article:
Being a lesbian has allowed me to interpret femininity through a totally different lens. From the days of my tomboyhood, I’ve gotten to redefine what it means to be a girl. Trying to strike a balance between butch and femme in my appearance was exhausting, and I finally realized that I didn’t need to try to “look” like a woman or a lesbian, because I was already both those things. - Katrina, on p. 3 of the article
If it weren’t for ladies like Portia de Rossi, no one would have a point of reference for a girl like me. - Robin, p. 4
See; something is changing. Whereas a few years ago I noticed most women identified strongly with one end of the gender spectrum or the other, something lately has granted so many of us permission to not make that choice — and we’re not talking about androgyny. We’re talking about wearing a dress on Monday and a tie on Tuesday. - Riese, p. 5
I think fashion is increasingly blurring the lines with regard to gender and orientation and I like it. I personally appreciate that it’s becoming more and more difficult to look at a girl and guess her orientation – I find getting to know people is far more interesting when there’s more mystery and less room for assumptions. - Crystal, p. 2
On a personal note, since I came out I've been kind of uncertain about if/how much I wanted to play with my personal appearance and "looking" gay. Appearance is such a public thing, and it's a thing people don't feel shy about judging or commenting on (one of the articles I looked at about anti-gay bullying pointed out that while gender presentation and sexuality was the second most prevalent "theme" of adolescent bullying, the first was still plain-old physical appearance).

I used to have really long hair, and while I wasn't super-feminine, I did own a lot of cute dresses and skirts. Still, even before I was out, I always felt more comfortable in jeans (I own a lot of jeans - it's kind of embarrassing) and I frequently felt awkward and out of place in dresses.

In some ways, coming out has made me feel better about embracing tomboyish styles and playing around with cutting my hair (it just keeps getting shorter...) but in others, I felt a pressure not to seem like I was "trying too hard". I already felt a little stupid for taking so long to come out. I had to deal with peers and family members who thought I was faking it or just going through a phase, as if it were impossible to be gay unless you had been aware of it since early childhood. I thought the best way to prove that it wasn't a phase or something superficial like that was to just keep being the same old me, while happening to date girls. But by trying so hard to police my own style, I was missing out on so much! And, looking back, I had been doing the same kind of thing in the years I spent "playing" straight... even when I had short hair, I'd try extra-hard to be feminine in other ways to make sure I didn't appear gay. I never consciously thought about it as much as I do now, but I definitely did it.

Now, I've realized that:
  • genderplay in fashion is so fun, not to mention liberating;
  • boxer-briefs are so much more comfortable than thongs (or anything made primarily of lace);
  • lesbians come in a lot of varieties, and sometimes when I think I'm coming across as gay, I'm actually just coming across as a hipster;
  • but most of all...
  • my parents, friends, or anyone who feels like they can make judgments about the validity of my sexuality based on what I wear, or what I don't wear, or "how hard I'm trying" can get lost. I'm the only person qualified to say who or what I am, and that's not going to change whether or not I wear jeans or dresses or full-body glitter leotards.
What do you think? What are your experiences with stereotypes about "looking" gay, or gender presentation? Do you think these stereotypes are any better within the queer community itself?