Trans vs. Drag: A Clash of Terms

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Left to Right: Manila Luzon, BenDeLaCreme, Pandora Boxx, Jinkx Monsoon

In the wake of the “Female or She-male” controversy surrounding RuPaul’s Drag Race and transgender activists, in which the segment was deemed degrading and offensive, ThinkProgress writer Zach Ford penned a very comprehensive and balanced article titled “The Quiet Clash Between Transgender Women And Drag Queens” where he delved into the growing tension between the transgender and drag communities concerning terminology and representation. Transgender activists were upset by the nature of the “Female or She-male” segment and its use of the word “shemale,” which asked the contestants to look at pictures of bodies and they had to guess if they were biological, cisgender women (“Female”) or drag queens (“She-male”). Although LogoTV and Drag Race addressed the controversy by pulling the episode and cutting out the “You’ve Got She-Mail!” intro, Ford writes that “the incident has continued to be a flashpoint about how the visibility of drag culture on Drag Race impacts public understanding of what it means to be transgender. Questions about the appropriate use of words like ‘shemale’ and ‘tranny’ speak to a larger conflict over media representation and the authenticity of identities.”

Ford then incorporates interviews with four Drag Race alumni (pictured above) and a genderqueer individual, who speak about the usage of these terms and what it means to be in that conflict. He then goes on to discuss the conflict of representation and identity, in which it is said that because of the visibility of drag queens (and their usage of words like “tranny” and “shemale”), those not in the LGBT community are not privy to the nuances, and therefore can confuse transgender women as drag queens (a.k.a. men in dresses). This strips transgender women of their identity. The questions provoked by this are “Are transgender women drag queens?” and “Are drag queens transgender?” In regards to the former question, transgender women are not drag queens, unless they participate in drag as a profession (much like transgender performer Kylie Sonique Love). As for the latter, the answer is a bit more complex. Ford writes that the answer “[depends] on who is considering the question and how, the answers “Yes,” “No,” and “Sometimes” could all be accurate. That’s because the word “transgender” can mean different things in different contexts.”

Kylie Sonique Love

Kylie Sonique Love Click Here for Kylie’s opinion on the RPDR controversy

Les Feinberg wrote in “Transgender Liberation: A Movement Whose Time Has Come” about the ever-evolving nature of terminology within the transgender community, with words and identities going in and out of fashion and shift definitions. this can be plainly seen in the complexity of answering the aforementioned question, in which transgender is both the term for people assigned a gender at birth and realize that they identify with another gender and transition and as “an umbrella term, the “T” in “LGBT” has also been long-used to encompass all gender identities that are nonconforming to society’s gender norms. […] These various interpretations accommodate gender identities and expressions that are not easily measured by a man-woman binary.”

Ford then brings in various voices from the transgender community, like transgender activist Riki Wilchins who states that “Transgender was intended as an umbrella term, then a name of inclusion. But umbrellas don’t work well when one group holds them up.” This is the opinion of those who were outraged by the “Female or She-male” mini-game, who believe that the transgender community is just for transgender men and women. Other transgender activists, like Harper Jean Tobin, Director of Policy for the National Center for Transgender Equality, who addressed her position in her keynote speech at the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, discussing the complex overlap of “transgender” identities. She touches the place of gender nonconforming individuals (genderqueer, agender, genderfluid, etc.) and all forms of gender expressions outside the binary within the Transgender community. She states that “there is also a fear, I think, on the part of some trans men and women that even acknowledging the existence of non-binary identities will threaten our right to be recognized as the men and women we are. We must resist the fear that there is not enough dignity and justice to go around. Our movement must recognize and elevate the voices and the rights and the leadership of trans folks who are not men or women.”

Casey Plett

Casey Plett

Casey Plett blogs about this very issue, and seems to be able to see both sides of the conversation, acknowledging the history of these terms and also the pejorative uses of these terms and how they can invalidate transgender identities. She states that she has a connection to terms like “tranny” that is positive. She seems to be in the middle of this conflict, though “the vocabulary game can’t be won.”

Cara Delevingne

“Just when the Caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”

Cara

 

Coming out is probably one of the most difficult part of the lives of all non-straight people. However, coming out for a public figure such as Cara Delevingne who is a 23 year old model from London, United Kingdom, can be more of an obstacle when being examined by thousands of fans and critics. The modern idea of term “coming out” was developed throughout LGBT history, which soon lead to the creation of the first national coming out day which was marked on October 11th, 1988.

 

In 2015 Cara did an interview, that covered some personal topics one of them happened to be her love life, with one of the most popular magazines in today’s society, Vogue, which caused controversy after the article seemed to suggest that her bisexuality could be a phase. During this interview she chatted with Rob Haskell about how modeling was not the main dish and that acting is and always will be the thing. Cara also began chatting about her love life stating that “ Being in love with my girlfriend is a big part of why I’m feeling so happy with who I am these days. And for those words to come out of my mouth is actually a miracle.” By starting off her response about her love life with that one sentence was Cara Delevingne’s way of clearing all rumors about her sexuality and love life. Cara started to explain that she felt confused by her sexuality as a child, and the possibility of being gay frightened her until she fell in love with a girl at the age of 20 and recognized that it was time to accept it. She continued saying that her parents also seem to think that girls are just a phase for Cara, and Rob Haskell agreed with what her parents said. Rob Haskell’s thoughts on Cara’s bisexuality during this part of the interview is what caused uproar over the Internet that caused 13,000 people who were against Rob Haskell of Vogue stating that Cara’s bisexuality was a phase to respond to the Vogue interview. This brings me back to a line from the article “ The Straight Mind,” by Monique Wittig that reads “ Lesbian is the only concept I know of which is beyond the categories of sex (woman and man), because the designated subject (lesbian) is not a woman… for what makes a woman is a specific social relation to a man, a relation that we previously called servitude….” I referred back to this line because it is useful for the “ its just a phase” reactions about Cara’s sexuality, those such as Cara’s mother and Vogue’s Rob Haskell fall into this category of non- straight people not taking the people of the LGBTQ community serious when it comes to their sexuality. Heterosexual people have a tendency of not respecting the sexuality of lesbians and bisexual women who are dating females, because the thought of a woman not marrying a man starting a family with that man is unenvisionable because that is not how society is “supposed” to be.

 

 

 

 

 

Queer Culture In A Home At The End Of The World

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A Home At The End Of The World is a movie that was released in 2004 and directed by Michael Mayer. Pulitzer Prize-winning Michael Cunningham wrote the screenplay as well as the novel that the film was based off of in 1990. The film was shot in New York City, Toronto, Phoenix and Schomberg and its premiere was at the New York Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

Cunningham is a gay novelist and lecturer who wrote about what it was like to be a child in the 60’s and 70’s as well as an adult in the 80’s. The movie spans about 12 years and follows the lives of two best friends­— Bobby Morrow and Jonathon Glover. Bobby has been through many hardships in his life. He loses both his parents and his older brother and turns to Jonathon and Jonathon’s family for comfort and friendship.

Jonathon and Bobby develop a sexual and emotional relationship in their youth. They’re reunited in young adulthood when Bobby needs a place to stay. Jonathon lives with a colorful bohemian named Clare whom he is very in love with. However, Jonathon ends up falling for Bobby, his first and eternal love, all over again. The three roommates end up developing a three-way relationship and having a child together. Clare eventually moves away with baby Rebecca and leaves Bobby and Jonathon to themselves. Bobby cares for Jonathon in his last days while he dies prematurely of AIDS.

I chose to include this film in our digital archive because it shows what it was like to be homosexual as a child and having parents that aren’t necessarily accepting. I feel that this is relevant to our class because most of us are still young enough that our parents have some sort of dictation over our lives, and coming out might cause significant problems in our relationships.

This film represents a different type of queer culture. The beginning took place in the 60’s and 70’s when people were a lot less accepting over homosexuality than they are today. While Jonathon’s mother wasn’t necessarily unaccepting when she caught Jonathon and Bobby together, she was definitely less than happy. This speaks volumes coming from a mother who does drugs with her son; she’s clearly very open but still was uneasy about her child’s homosexuality.

To quote The Straight Mind by Monique Wittig, “These discourses of heterosexuality oppress us in the sense that they prevent us from speaking unless we speak in their terms. Everything which puts them into question is at once disregarded as elementary.” This really sums up how I think Jonathon’s mother acted. She sees heterosexuality as the norm and is confused that her son is straying from it.

Gender was represented in this film through Carlton. His part in the film was brief, but he broke away from gender norms. He wore feminine clothing, had long hair and talked about how beautiful the world was. Sex is represented in this film through Bobby and Jonathon exploring their sexuality together when they were young. Jonathon is beginning to come out as homosexual, but it seems as though Bobby is just open to everything. Even when they’re adults and Clare says in regards to Bobby, “The good ones are always gay,” Jonathon insists that Bobby isn’t gay.

This film clearly represents history well since the time period is set between 35 and 55 years ago. As I previously mentioned, it demonstrates how much harder it could be to be a homosexual person during a time period where things weren’t so acceptable. As far as the contemporary goes, some things really never change. Parents are still often upset about finding out that their child is gay. People still struggle to define their sexuality like Bobby. And people still go through tragedies and hardships, lean on their friends and come out better for it.

Fried Green Tomatoes

DVD Cover of Fried Green TomatoesOn January 24th, 1992, Universal Movie’s “Fried Green Tomatoes” opened in 673 movie theatres across the nation. Directed by Jon Avnet, the movie was a silver screen adaptation of Fannie Flagg’s 1987 novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. While Flagg was (and still is) generally credited with writing the screenplay for the film, the director, Jon Avnet, actually composed the majority of the script.

To follow the narrative of “Fried Green Tomatoes”, one needs to understand that the movie is really the composite of two stories. Set in southern Alabama, the film vacillates between the present day (or, what was the present day in the early 90s) and the early 20th century. While visiting a member of the family at a nursing name, Evelyn Couch meets 82-year-old Ninny Threadgoode. Rather open with strangers, Ninny begins sharing with Evelyn the life of Idgie Threadgoode, a woman who grew up in Whistle Stop, a neighboring town, nearly sixty years ago. From there, the past begins to chronologically weave itself into the present, and Idgie’s world becomes just as real as Evelyn’s. From the death of her brother to train side cafes to cancer, the audience follows the cultivation of a relationship between Idgie and Ruth Jamison. As Evelyn learns more about these women’s lives, she is inspired to take charge of her own and concurrently develops a profound friendship with Ninny, the present-day Idgie.

Marketed as a tale of friendship and how it can transcend across time to unite mere strangers, the film (to this day) seems to be largely written off by the public as innocuous in content and significance. Anyone with a keen eye, however, can immediately recognize that Ruth and Idgie’s relationship can’t fully be conceptualized by heteronormative standards of female interaction.

Sprinkled throughout the film, there are subtle interactions between Ruth and Idgie that lend themselves to suggest something more between them. These range from word choices, to tonality, to facial expression, etc. In an earlier scene where honey is retrieved and shared, Idgie’s imploration for Ruth to taste the honey and the looks they exchange almost bespeak of allegorical sexual exchange. Later, when Ruth announces she’s getting married and then pecks Idgie on the cheek, Idgie looks off in what can only be described as wounded and confused.

After she is married, Ruth quickly becomes the victim of domestic violence and the first person she turns to is Idgie. She then moves in with Idgie and the two open a café together. It is also during this time that Ruth has a child and Idgie along with another female character, Sipsey, help her raise the boy. When Frank, Ruth’s husband, shows up vowing to bring his wife and child home, he also intimidates the household with his ties to the Klan. Subsequently following these threats, Ruth asks Idgie whether she should “move on” to let Idgie settle down. Without a beat, Idgie replies that she’s “as settled as [she’d] ever hope to be”.

After Frank is killed and Idgie is on trial for his murder, Ruth is called to testify. Upon being asked why she moved in with Idgie, she replies, “Because she’s my best friend and I love her”.

From my perspective, the Ruth-Idgie dyad is best understood in Rich’s terms “lesbian continuum” and “lesbian existence”. Ruth and Idgie do many things together without or with minimal assistance from men, particularly jointly living and working together (lesbian continuum). While evidence of sexual desire between the two women might be disputable in the eyes to some, we can say with certainty that they do lead a voluntarily chosen life together where men do not dictate their movements and where they are economically independent (lesbian existence).

Drawing on the erotic, I think one could argue that Ruth and Idgie derive a sense of personal fulfillment and satisfaction from each other. Before they began spending time with each other, each woman was constricted to some degree by a sense of powerlessness; Idgie perpetually grieving for her brother and Ruth checked by scripture and the expectations of her gender role. Once they truly embraced each other, however, those personal limitations melted away and they became unwilling to allow themselves to concede to that position of vacuous living ever again. And, while Ruth did suffer at the hands of her husband for three years, I’m not sure she would have ever left if it hadn’t been for the personal agency she cultivated in her relationship with Idgie. Indeed, Ruth and Idgie are truly women-identified women.

Beyonce’s relationship with the LGBTQ community

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Beyonce is a global superstar who is highly respected in not only the music industry, but every where around the globe. She manages to relate to many different races, genders, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds. The 20 time Grammy winner has been deemed the best entertainer of our generation. Even while she is riding high off of her success she still manages to surprise people with more creative and artistic music and performances.

In 2015 Beyonce’ performed for a festival over the summer called “Made in America” where she performed a magical show. Before her performance of “Diva” one of her hit tracks off of her 3rd solo album “I Am Saha Fierce” she played a snippet from Ronda Rousey’s “Do Nothing bitch” speech. In the speech she speaks on how “just because her body was developed for a purpose other than fucking millionaires it doesn’t mean it’s masculine”. Beyonce’ wants to push the boundaries of what is feminine or masculine. The LGBTQ community looks up to Beyonce’ as a icon and some will say even a legend. Lavern Coxx has spoke on how Beyonce’ lifts and empowers women all around the world. She has the ability to bring us together more because of her talents and creativity. The Halo singer has also shown her gratitude towards marriage equality by dressing in all rainbow color clothing dancing around the her hit song “7/11”. In the speech by Ronda her claims will make you reconsider what really is masculine or feminine or if there are any boundaries at all. In the article “masculinity without Men” it states that people trust in the idea of what masculine is now and people don’t really know. With Beyonce’ she try’s to get people to see that being female doesn’t mean you can’t be muscular in the body or extremely successful. Women that are transmen in particular can relate to the idea of being more muscular. Even though Beyonce’ dances in her leotards she defies the norms of what is deemed a typical women or typical feminist. Through her performances she shows the LGBTQ community how to defy the laws of what is masculine or feminine or right or wrong and to be you for you.

While Beyonce’ is a actual women her performances speaks volumes to so many across the world. The LGBTQ community lives for her strong anthems and powerful messages that promotes good thoughts and breaks social norms. Beyonce’ has been looked at as the “it” women where she is the new standard. By her using her power for good it sets her apart from artist who might not be as involved. Helping the LGBTQ community be more confident will help shine more light on topics of transgenders, gays and lesbians which will show we are all one of a kind. I believe that she is a wonderful voice through her messages in the LGBTQ community.

 

 

Know Your Meme: “It’s Okay 2 B Gay”

During a discussion of sexuality, a friend of mine so kindly shared her expansive internet knowledge by showing me this video:

“It’s Okay 2 B Gay” by Tomboy was published to Youtube in 2007. Results as to what inspired Tomboy, Danish drag queen and TV personality Thomas Bickham [1], were inconclusive in my research, though that didn’t stop the video from going viral. Over the years several fan-made montages have surfaced in response to Tomboy’s original work. Rather than merely being read as an expression the way to be gay, the music from the original video has been played over a wide array of pop culture creations, from erotica/yaoi, to cartoons (such as Yu-gi-oh or Naruto as featured on Know Your Meme [2]), and even film. With seemingly no regard for the original contexts that these works were conceived in, fans “shipped” the homo-erotic relationships they perceived and celebrated despite what any author or screenwriter could say about the original characters.

This montage comes from the movies series inspired by J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Though a more commonly known fact today that Dumbledore is a homosexual character in the series, fans did not stop there. Rather, Dumbledore becomes the equivalent of the gay fairy/Tomboy character from the original video as Harry’s alternative story unravels in this retelling of the young wizard’s trials at Hogwarts.

I think we could all acknowledge some of the awkward moments in The Goblet of Fire, though this interpretation seems to be a bit more explicit in Ariel333Lindt’s “20th video special – about… gayness in Harry Potter XD” [3]. In contrast to the original plot of Harry Potter, Harry seems to have found himself lost in some alternative reality of Narnia as he steps into the closet to join Tomboy and friends on this montage.

Another great work, rainbowwinx’s video inspired by The Lord of the Rings trilogy manages to take the film adaptation of devout Catholic J. R. R. Tolkein’s epic fantasy and add a twist. Every gaze, embrace, contact, or sound byte that could be reexamined through the lens of Tomboy’s message was…which brings me back to the first thing that struck me about Tomboy’s video to begin with: the erotic-ness of its message.

There’s not much to debate about the explicitness of Tomboy’s original work, from the overt references and innuendos about sexual contact to the numerous pelvic shots (not to mention the hard-hat orgy). We can definitely quality these images on the more sensual side of the scale when it comes to discussing the erotic. What becomes surprising is the innovation of fan bases to interpret other actions of “the erotic” and place them in a new context that becomes fulfilling of their own perceptions. While this is executed directly in featured art work in the videos (in the “HEY-HO-MO!” sections of the bridge, HP – 3:15, LOTR – 2:10), this extends to other behaviors that might be considered more romantically or sexually neutral in normal contexts. The gaze, for one, is a great area of debate since so much can be communicated through the eyes. While Aragorn and Legolas may share a moment in the immediate opening of the LOTR adaptation, what’s taken from Tolkein’s brotherhood context is reinterpreted in the extremely erotic alongside Tomboy’s musical accompaniment. Throughout each video then, every glance, facial expression, gesture, and sometimes even sound are phrased in a way that the viewer picks up on what’s being perceived as some as homoerotic to some degree. Mostly strikingly for me were instances of pain or violence being reexamined as orgasm or sexual contact (foreplay perhaps), respectively.

To this effect, the normal spectrum of what’s considered “erotic” becomes more confusing as behaviors on the lower end of the scale that are normal in the everyday are portrayed in these erotics contexts that Ariel333Lindt describes as “gayness”; any contact between two-male characters, even a glimpse, is sexual from this point of view. This isn’t true in our day-to-day lives however where communication in other facets of life are dependent on these means of connection. Still, I find it odd how many people at large will avoid eye contact in passing, as if to not relay an erotic message like those in these videos.

Despite the questions these reinterpretations bring to the idea or definition of “gayness”, this videos also do great work in going beyond these sexual contexts. Though it could be argued that Tomboy’s portrayal of “the Gays” is exclusive in its scope, its portrayal of drag culture may be true to his experience and relative to others. In the same sense, we experience new overlaps through the culture of fan-fiction as Hollywood Blockbusters intertwine with interests of homoerotic consumers.

[1] https://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Bickham
[2] http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/its-okay-to-be-gay
[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-2AXXWRB4w

A Marine Story- Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

A Marine Story, is a 2010 drama film about a female marine officer, Major Alexander Everett, who was honorably discharged from the military. She unexpectedly returns home (a southwestern desert town) from the Iraq War due to the charged filed against her for “Conduct Unbecoming of an Officer”. She accosted a young woman, Saffron Snow, and her boyfriend for illegal drug and theft at a convenience store. Saffron, a disturbed woman turned out to be her neighbor’s granddaughter, who requested her to prepare Saffron for boot camp as the Judge gave her one week to prepare or else she was going to jail. The film is set in 2008 and was filmed in Los Angeles in 2009. A Marine Story is directed by Ned Farr and was premiered at the Frameline Film Festival on 2010. It also won the “Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Feature in 2010.

I chose this film because the film is a good example of the United States “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy and the damage it does to the troops. The film focuses on Lesbian feminism and Native Concept of Gender and it targets audience of all gender and sexual orientation.

Lesbian Feminism: Everett reconnected with her old friends from past, Leo and Holly after returning. She could easily come out to Holly and explain why she was discharged and her sexuality and was accepted immediately with open arms. However, she couldn’t explain it to Leo until later and was surely not pleased to hear that. This shows she is not accepted anymore, because according to the society a “woman” has to be heterosexual. Also she is not a one dimensional soldier, even though she is tough she has a softer, maternal humorous side as well which is often seen when she is around Saffron or her close friends. This concept is also demonstrated by Monique Wittig’s “One is Not Born a Woman” where she says if someone if not heterosexual they refuse to be either a man or a woman and lesbians have to be something else, not-woman or not-man.

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Native Concept of Gender: J. Jack Halberstam said “In other words, female masculinity are framed as the rejected scraps of dominant masculinity in order that male masculinity may appear to be the real thing” in “An introduction to Female Masculinity: Masculinity without Men”. This concept focuses most part of the movie. There was a scene where Everett and Leo went to a bar with Leo’s friends. The egoistic males were criticizing women marines as ‘WM’ (waste of money). According to them they are only good for secretarial work. Someone then said, “Males are better at most jobs due to muscle mass and that females are only as strong as the weakest males”. Leo then suggested the weakest of them should arm wrestle with Everett, where she easily defeated him breaking the traditional norm of men being stronger and masculine.  Even Saffron, who was first shown as a disturbed, brooding woman proved herself to be a capable woman and endure all the pain and hardships to achieve her goal.

The movie goes back and forth between Everett’s present and future leaving the audience in suspense. The flashbacks were about her deployments, her drills and her pride for being an American Soldier. The present was mostly about how she trained Saffron to be tough and pushed her off of her limits to make Saffron like her and the about the conflict she had to face for not being enough feminine. When her Commanding Officer interrogated her, Everett lied the whole time by referring to her marriage (which was basically a sham marriage) to hide her identity. This shows how dedicated she is towards her country. Throughout her life Everett tried to hide her sexual preference in order to be a marine. Her commanding officer advised her to resign before they can find something solid against her, in order to be honorably discharged. This whole situation was horrible to me because for any soldier, regardless of their gender, goes through inhuman training at boot camp to serve the country are advised to leave their passion based on their sexual preference. She was an officer, a drill instructor and Amphibious Warfare School graduate, yet she was looked down as someone weak who could be a potential threat to the military family when it came down to her sexual orientation. The Commanding officer also asked whether she had an affair with any ‘male’ soldier. She replied adultery is also forbidden in military, however, her commanding officer replied it was lesser of the two evils. One of Leo’s friend Dyke was so angry at her that he secretly took pictures of her being intimate with other girls and posted flyers all over the town which jeopardize Saffron’s future of getting into the boot camp. As people assumed she was having an affair with Everett.

The script writer’s main point was we should support troops regardless whether they are homosexual or heterosexual. Everett was punished under the United States Military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy for who she was. She lived a closeted life with secrecy throughout her life. The movie portrays what other queer soldiers have to endure unfortunately. The following statement was posted at the end of the movie which represents discrimination to a whole new different level. Discrimination against queer soldiers and further more discrimination against ‘women’.

“Women are far more likely than men to be kicked out of the military under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” Policy against gay personnel, according to government figures of 2010. Gender aside, more than 13,500 service members have been fired under the law since 1994”.

 

Joan Jett, it’s all in the Lyrics

Born Joan Larkin, Joan Jett soon became a name that was the foundation of a major change and movement in the world of rock and roll. Little did everyone know at the time, Jett would later become a name in rock and roll that will never be forgotten. Jett formed her first actual band, The Runaways, at the age of 15 in 1975. The Runaways, which was the first all girl rock band mainly produced music that was considered hard rock. Though The Runaways only lasted a couple short years before breaking up, Jett continued to fight the status quote by being a strong woman in the predominately male dominated world of rock and roll. Jett eventually went on to try to find a record label which would accept her work only to be turned down 23 times. Jett was so frustrated that with a help from Kenny Laguna she created her own record label, Blackheart Records. This made Jett the first woman artist to not only own, but also have direct control over an independent record label.

jett

Throughout her career, Jett often pushed the envelope by being not just the average woman who sang in a band. Jett was the only woman on the scene throughout the late 1970’s and on who was not dressed in a cute outfit singing the words to some song about her boyfriend or what have you (like all the other female singers did). Jett, on the other hand was the lead singer and guitarist for her band, which produced hard rock music such as I Love Rock ’n’ Roll. The almost grunge rock sound in her voice and the way she was not afraid to really get into her music like the men in rock and roll did set Jett apart from all other female singers at that time. The songs she wrote and produced through her record label also set her apart from all the other female singers at the time.

Jett’s music was often geared towards those of us in society who feel like social outcasts. Even though Jett does not really step into the spotlight much to speak on such social issues, some of her songs such as Androgynous tell a story of people who do not necessarily feel comfortable with their gender. Throughout Androgynous Jett tells a story of a man and a woman who are similar to what someone today might consider as being gender fluid. Meaning that one day they wake up and want to wear a dress, and the next day they might want to wear a leather biker jacket with chains (clearly not being very girly but rather masculine instead), both of the choices being available regardless of their assigned genders. As we have discussed in class this is not uncommon for people to want to dress in the opposite manner that society decides is appropriate for their biological genders. Though Jett does not outright publicly advocate these ideas in terms of speaking on behalf of such issues, she does advocate them through her music and personal style.

Pariah

Dee Rees’ 2011 award winning film Pariah   starring Adepero Oduye, Charles Parnell, and Kim Wayans   is about a young black girl accepting her lesbian identity. When the movie begins, Alike (Oduye) is shy and uncertain, but she slowly learns and comes to embrace all of herself.

Alike is a junior in high school whose only friend is the openly lesbian drop-out Laura (Pernell Walker). They hang out in lesbian clubs, in which Laura frequently pressures Alike to find a girl to have her first sexual experience with. Neither of Alike’s parents know about her sexuality, though her mother Audrey (Kim Wayans) has her     suspicions. Disapproving, Audrey forces Alike to wear more feminine clothes and spend less time with Laura. She pushes Alike to befriend Bina (Aasha Davis), a much more feminine girl from church.

Though their relationship starts out rocky, Alike and Bina grow to like each other. Their indifference becomes deep discussion about music and sharing their love for writing, while Laura slowly fades out of the picture. One night after a concert, they end up kissing. Because she has not had any previous experience, Alike is reluctant. But eventually she opens up and it is assumed that they sleep together. The next morning, Alike tries to discuss their relationship but Bina responds by saying they don’t have one. She says she’s not actually gay, just “doing her thing” and urges Alike not to tell anyone. Alike leaves abruptly and, once she gets home, cries her eyes out.

Alike wakes up to her parent fighting. Her mother is screaming about Alike being a dyke while her father Arthur (Charles Parnell) is consistently denying it. Eventually Alike gets involved and finally comes out to her parents. Her mother attacks her, the punches only stopping when Arthur pulls her off. Alike flees to Laura’s house.

Some time later Alike’s father finally comes to visit. He urges her to come home, saying that things will be different. Alike doesn’t acknowledge his statements, instead telling him that she got accepted into an early college program for writing. Alike leaves for California, unable to reconnect with her mother. The film ends with one of Alike’s poems.

Heartbreak opens onto the sunrise
For even breaking is opening
And I am broken
I’m open
Broken to the new light without pushing in
Open to the possibilities within, pushing out
See the love shine in through my cracks?
See the light shine out through me?
I  am broken
I am open
I am broken open
See the love light shining through me
Shining through my cracks
Through the gaps
My spirit takes journey
My spirit takes flight
Could not have risen otherwise
And I am not running
I’m choosing
Running is not a choice from the breaking
Breaking is freeing
Broken is freedom
I am not broken
I’m free.
This storyline definitely has parallels to the narratives of many LGBTQ+ community members, regardless of race, gender, or class. The trauma of being abandoned and seen as a freak by the people closest to you is not something new.
Judith Butler’s concept of gender performativity is prevalent throughout this film. Butler argues that gender is not something we have, but something that we continually act out. In the beginning of the film, we see Alike on the way home from the club. While she is still on the bus, she slips out of her baggy clothes and into something more fitted and feminine. Audrey buys and makes Alike wear girly clothing, despite her daughter’s protests. During the scene where Alike comes out to her parents, Audrey tells her husband that Alike is turning into a man. This is what really emphasized the performance of gender. It is not her daughters gender identity or even sex that determines whether or not she is a girl, but how she is acting. And baggy clothes are not something that girls wear. Audrey’s motivations for buying Alike the clothing are so that she will become a “true woman”, and true women are always heterosexual. Of course, Monique Wittig would say that Alike never was and never will be a woman, and somehow I think her mother would agree.

Steven Universe

Steven Universe is an animated television show currently running on Cartoon Network. The show features Steven Universe, a young boy growing up with the “Crystal Gems”; three alien rebels who protect the earth from the other extraterrestrial Gems. Through missions, battles, and interactions with the Gems and his human friends, this coming-of-age story follows Steven while he discovers his abilities and learns about who he is. This show is groundbreaking in its representation of gender roles and its queer-positive message.

The show was created by Rebecca Sugar and is Cartoon Network’s first show solely created by a woman.

“My goal with the show was to really tear down and play with the semiotics of gender in cartoons for children” -Rebecca Sugar

Steven, being half-gem and half-human, is the first and only male Gem. The Crystal Gems whom he lives with are all female and assume a motherly role for Steven. He looks up to and learns from these heroines, a big twist on the normally male-dominated hero role in young boy’s cartoons. It’s through this sort of gender-role shifting that Steven Universe shows boys that it’s okay to look up to women as role models.

Amethyst

Even though all of the characters that Steven learns from are female, they all embody different elements of femininity and masculinity. In her book “Female Masculinity,” Judith Halberstam sought to identify what constitutes masculinity. In one example in her book, she talks about the James bond classic Goldeneye. Halberstam claims that though she is female, M is the most masculine character in the movie. In Steven Universe, Garnet is perhaps the most masculine of the Gems. She is strong, intelligent and is the new leader of the Crystal Gems. Many of the Gems also appear tomboy-ish, exhibiting more masculine qualities. Amethyst is one such tomboy. She is bad-mannered, loud, messy, and impulsive, lacking most traditionally feminine qualities.

In addition to its strong and diverse female cast, there are not-so-subtle queer overtones in Steven Universe. Their former leader and Steven’s mother Rose Quartz, gave up her physical form to create Steven. The Crystal Gems all looked up to Rose Quartz, and Pearl had a particularly close relationship with her. When reminiscing about Rose Quartz, Pearl is very loving and even calls Rose Quartz “beautiful.”  Emotional connections and relationships of all kinds are major themes in the cartoon.

Stevonnie

One major power of the Gems is “fusion.” By joining together, two gems are able to create one entirely different entity, sharing features of each individual gem and growing in power. The writers of the show use this ability to explore emotional connections. In one episode Steven accidentally fuses with his female friend and romantic interest Connie. Together, they become the androgynous ‘Stevonnie‘ who is never referred to using gendered pronouns. In this body, Steven has a gender-bending experience where everyone in the city sees Stevonnie as a very beautiful person. This exploration of gender for Steven shows the viewer his more feminine side in a fun way.

While Stevonnie was present only once in a light-hearted episode, the season one finale was perhaps the most serious demonstration of a romantic fusion. It is revealed at the end of season one that Garnet, the current leader of the Crystal Gems, actually exists as a near-permanent fusion of the gems Ruby and Sapphire. These two Gems are deeply in love and decided to stay fused forever a a sign of their strong bond. This perceived homosexual relationship between Ruby and Sapphire is portrayed beautifully in the show. Parallels can be drawn between their fusion and marriage, where two people join to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. This clip shows the reunion of Ruby and Sapphire after they were captured and forcibly separated. It’s clear that there is a deep emotional connection between these female gems and Steven takes it completely in stride.

Representation in television shows has a great effect on children. Studies show that when kids see people like them portrayed positively in media they are positively impacted. Steven Universe’s queer-positive and heroic female message reaches kids at a critical time in development, when children are still discovering and exploring gender and identity. Because of the cartoon’s unique perspective on feminine role models and queer-positivity I feel that Steven Universe deserves a spot in this digital archive.