What’s at Stake?

June 17, 2010

I’ve written before about the euphemizing (euphemization? Neither of these appear to be actual words) of queer relationships–how it marginalizes us, how it feels when straight friends or family do it to us. But lately I’ve been thinking about the dynamics at play when we euphemize ourselves versus when others euphemize us.

What’s at play when I refer to my girlfriend as merely my friend?

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May 28, 2010

There’s an interesting post over at Feministing on a scene from a recent episode of Glee, wherein a (straight) dad takes his girlfriend’s (straight) son to task over the teen’s use of “faggy.” I haven’t seen the episode yet (I haven’t been watching it live due to the timeslot conflict with Lost until recently, so I’m several episodes behind) and I have pretty conflicted feelings about Glee on the whole, but I’m intrigued by the discussion at Feministing about the context of the scene. While I was mulling it over, I came across this comment:

I was annoyed with the parenting that led up to this moment. What the hell kind of parent rooms two teenagers of sexually active age together, when you know that one of them could be attracted to the other? You wouldn’t ask an unrelated teenage boy and girl to room together, surely it’s a bad idea to ask unrelated gay teens of the same gender to do so. It’s just asking for trouble of some kind.

A couple of things strike me when I read this comment. First, apparently it’s only an issue when unrelated boys and girls (or pairs of any gender when one is gay) room together. And secondly, you should always err on the side of caution when one teen could be attracted to the other?

Maybe this just strikes a nerve with me because all too familiar with the perception that queer teens are sexual predators.

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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

February 2, 2010

This afternoon I got so angry at the radio that I had to turn off the heat in my car. I was boiling in my own rage. I don’t think I’ve so forcefully yelled a string of expletives at an inanimate object since since that one time I kicked an irrigation pipe really hard. (Safety tip: bad idea.)

What had me so steamed? Why, former California Representative Duncan Hunter, of course!

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Out of the Mouths of Boys

January 20, 2010

[Mild trigger warning for language]

Since I started working schools, I feel like I’m constant Language Police duty. At my last school it was “no homo.” Here, it’s “That’s gay,” variations on the f-word (no, not the four letter one), and something I didn’t expect at all: rape analogies.

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Rethinking Safe Spaces

October 30, 2009

The concept of “safe spaces” is often the subject of debate in the blogosphere. Is it ever possible to create a completely safe space for everyone? Can we avoid triggers? Can we eliminate hate and ignorance?

I first became acquainted with the idea of safe spaces as physical spaces during my freshman year of college, when a letter published in our student paper endorsed a secret court from the 1920s that investigated and expelled several students suspected of homosexual behavior. (I can highly recommend William Wright’s Harvard’s Secret Court: The Savage 1920 Purge of Campus Homosexuals. It’s quite a read.)

Campus reaction to the letter was swift, and heated. The main queer organization on campus, then called the BGLTSA, responded by distributing Safe Space signs across campus, which are now a staple of materials distributed for occasions like National Coming Out Day.

But do they work?

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You Know How I Know You’re Gay?

January 18, 2009

When was the last time you saw something overtly racist in a mainstream movie?

Okay. There’s probably a lot of institutional racism in American cinema. I’ll go ahead and admit that I probably don’t even notice a lot of it, what with my white privilege and all. If I were taking notes, I might notice how often the people in power are white, or how class plays out on the screen–I’ll go ahead and confess that I haven’t been paying that much attention.

But really–when was the last time you heard an off-color joke (pardon the pun) with racial content in a movie?

Now ask yourself the last time you watched a homophobic joke play out on the silver screen.

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Quick hit: more movies

January 10, 2008

Did I mention that we go to a lot of movies? We go to a lot of movies.

Sweeney Todd: Very good. I was vaguely familiar with the premise of the musical but had never seen it. Not ordinarily a huge musical fan, but this one was entertaining. Bloody, which shouldn’t be a surprise if you know the plot. Helena Bonham Carter is extremely good.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets: Surprisingly good. I’ve been disenchanted with Nicolas Cage lately but I was able to mostly ignore him and enjoy the movie. Also, Harvey Keitel. Wait, what?

Atonement: Now I see why it’s been getting all the buzz. Super good. I particularly enjoy the style of the first half and the typewriter suspense music. A little sad, but I didn’t have to get my kleenex.

PS I Love You: Too long. Too sappy. Interesting at times, particularly in how they managed to make Gina Gershon’s lips look normal. (Note: I usually try to stay away from critiquing women’s bodies, because the mainstream media does enough of that to enforce traditional gender and body norms, and we all feel shitty enough about our bodies as it is, and on and on and on…. So I’m being hypocritical here. I will totally own up to that. I just happen to find Gina Gershon and Angelina Jolie utterly distracting in the lip area.) Anyway some of Lisa Kudrow’s lines were hilarious, but the movie just dragged too much for me. Also there was some odd gay humor thrown in.

Though you’re vermin

January 1, 2008

[Insert apology about not writing more, though said apology probably falls on deaf… uhm… eyes.]

In order to make the commute to the airport as efficient as possible for my parents, who live two hours away from said airport, I went ahead and got a ticket so that I could leave on the same day as my brother. (I only had a one-way ticket lined up because my mom and I had planned to attend my great-aunt’s 100th birthday celebration; but, alas, she didn’t make it Quite to the century mark, and we decided to nix the trip.) Unfortunately I could only get a flight that left a few hours after his (and, after some airline runaround, a flight that left a few hours after That, and went through two entirely different cities… but that’s another story) so my mom and I decided to a see a movie in between. The timing worked best for us to see Enchanted, so that’s what we did.

I should say here that I like Disney. I like Disney movies, I love Disneyland, and I will give you a really dirty look if you ever suggest that I’m too old for having my picture taken with Pluto. This doesn’t mean that I don’t understand how problematic Disney is, as a corporation and an American icon, or that I think all their movies are totally hunky-dory with super keen messages for kids (and little girls in particular). But I do like Disney, and I like to have a good time when I see a Disney movie. And that’s just what I did when I saw Enchanted.

It’s a very self-aware film. Totally over the top with the princess (and Disney) cliches, songs that are totally preposterous (see title of this post), Amy Freakin’ Adams as the heroine… it’s great fun, really.

My one problem: why the gay jokes, Disney? Yes, it’s funny to have the prince go door to door in the apartment building and run into several wacky characters before he finally finds his true love. But why does one of those characters have to be a leather daddy who gives him a lusty smile? It seemed… unnecessary.

Oh, and I also saw No Country for Old Men, which is totally fabulous, as just about everyone in the world has already said. I would watch Tommy Lee Jones in just about anything when he’s workin the accent, frankly, but the rest of the film delivers as well.

I’m sorry, come again?

May 15, 2007

I’ve been thinking lately about how I came to feminism. I wouldn’t really have called myself a feminist until about a year ago, despite clearly holding feminist ideals dear. In fact, I was pretty turned off by what I saw as feminism when a woman told me that the movement could use “women who look like [me].” I didn’t feel like being anybody’s token dyke, and I was more than a little offended.

Are we really some kind of endangered species? I’m sure she meant well, but the whole thing was really off-putting. But lately it’s gotten me thinking about where feminism and sexuality and gender identity collide, because that’s where most of my writing and my thoughts these days fit in.

I’d like to think that the days of “We’ll get to you when the bigger issues are hammered out, ladies” are gone (If These Walls Could Talk 2, anyone?), but unfortunately I think there’s still some friction between “mainstream” feminists and so-called “lesbian feminists.” In my mind, there shouldn’t be a distinction. But I don’t want to bash anyone’s chosen identity, and it would be equally wrong to ignore the ways that feminism and lesbian feminism fail to overlap.

Part of the problem, as I see it, is a problem of representation. When we talk about sexual harassment, we often don’t talk about how frequently lesbians are harassed. When we talk about wage and job equality, we often fail to mention that lesbians in many states aren’t protected from being fired in the private sector due to their sexual orientation. When we talk about balancing career and family, we often ignore the fact that many women who would love to be starting a family face serious obstacles because they can’t legally marry.

As for gender identity, unfortunately it seems there’s still considerable backlash against lesbians and trans folk. A lot of women still seem to see us as the patriarchy. If we’re dressing in men’s clothing, adopting male pronouns, or taking on “masculine” behaviors and identities, we can’t possibly have a stake in women’s equality, right?


Let me put it bluntly: The fact that I wear boxer briefs and neckties is never going to magically bestow male privilege upon me. I’m still at risk for rape and sexual assault. I still may face significant barriers accessing birth control. I can still recognize that women all over the world are being oppressed, abused, and killed because of their gender. And because I’m a lesbian, and a gender deviant at that, I face the additional risk of being fired for my sexuality, having my access to health care blocked, not being able to have children (either naturally or through adoption), not having my (future) marriage recognized throughout the country, and getting security called on my ass in the bathroom.

I should say that a lot of the feminist blogosphere gets this. Feministe, Pandagon and Feministing are all very inclusive. But even on those sites (and elsewhere), every once in a while the tiny cry of “What about the homos?” gets shot down immediately.

Queer issues are feminist issues. Gender issues are feminist issues. We should be forging alliances, not splintering. Why can’t we get more straight women to fight for same-sex marriage? Why don’t more lesbians speak out about the wage gap? Until we find some kind of solidarity, divide and conquer is working against us.

This and that

May 9, 2007

Phew. Winding down my first year of grad school while suffering a relapse of my chronic back pain and a killer round of seasonal allergies has meant I haven’t posted as regularly as I’d like. Heck, I even missed shameless self-promotion Sunday this week, which is a travesty. Anyway, until I can get to some of the things floating around in my wee brain (like the hunger strike over at my alma mater, butch visibility, rural queerness, and how it’s possible for Boston to support so many different queer women’s dance nights with such distinct clienteles), here are some quick hits on things that I’ve come across at work lately. (Shhh…)

In 1995, California became the first state to specifically ban gender differences in pricing for services. Assemblywoman Jackie Speier (D- San Francisco) had introduced AB 1100, The Gender Tax Repeal Act, a year earlier, but the first version was overturned by the governor. From a press release:

Upon introduction of this year’s bill, Speier met with the Administration and carved out a compromise agreement which reduced the scope of the bill to include only services and not products. Language was also added to clarify that price differences based specifically upon the amount of time, difficulty or cost of providing the service are not prohibited.

The only good link I could find was to a Harvard Law Review article in JSTOR, so apologies to those of you without fancy-pants institutions.

I also uncovered the text of “A Million Jockers, Punks, and Queens: sex among American male prisoners and its implications for concepts of sexual orientation,” a lecture delivered by Stephen Donaldson at the Columbia University Seminar on Homosexualities in 1993. Here’s a bit from the beginning that I found particularly interesting:

Considering the numerical significance of the prisoner population, not only at any one time but in terms of the enormous cumulative number of American males who have experienced the subculture of confinement, it is remarkable that the sexuality of prisoners has barely been examined by academically-affiliated scholars. Remarkable, but understandable: the walls exist as much to keep civilians out as to keep the prisoners in, and academics are generally more interested in studying middle-class people like themselves.

Donaldson goes on to point out one of the signs that language isn’t universal when it comes to notions of sex and sexuality (he’s referencing a study by Nacci and Kane of homosexuality in federal prisons):

The federal employee doing interviews asked prisoners: ‘Have you had a homosexual experience in prison as an adult?” The middle-class researchers think this refers to any same-sex involvement, but the lower-class prisoner thinks he is being asked about passive behavior, since he does not consider penetration of another male to be a ‘homosexual’ act; he may be fucking his cellmate every night but will truthfully, as far as he is concerned, answer ‘no.’ And many of the researchers and interviewers have been employees of the authorities whose main purpose appears to be to justify existing policies of blanket sexual prohibition rather than to understand actual behavior.

Interesting stuff. You can read the rest (I plan to) at Stop Prison Rape.