Queer Culture in Japan

When the nail sticks out, it gets hammered down. Although Japan continually leads as an innovative country, it is still a very traditional nation. While queer culture in Japan has been apparent since ancient times, it has always been overlooked. Even today, queer culture is almost entirely ignored in Japan.

In Japan today, most people in the queer community are not open about their sexuality. They will even marry someone of the opposite sex (if they are homosexual) to conceal their sexual identity. While there are currently no laws in Japan that completely prohibit homosexuality, there is one in place for ‘safety concerns’. This particular law regards to the age of consent, which is higher for homosexual adults than heterosexual adults.

Same-sex marriage is not yet legal in Japan. As of 2009 couples can now able to travel to countries where same-sex marriage is legal and get married there. However, these marriages still are not fully recognized in Japan. In modern Japan, there are a few individuals that are leading the way for a progressive queer community. 640_b86a7bfefcb2c094dbc129e4ccf2c0f3Aya Kamikawa was one of the first elected officials that was a part of the transgender community. Just two years later in 2005, Kanako Otsuji (who was an assembly woman) came out as lesbian. Today, legal rights in the queer community are mainly overlooked in Japan. They are a very minor topic in Japanese politics and national laws do not extend to sexual identity discrimination. Although there has been little progress, Tokyo is leading the way in a progressive queer community. The city has banned discrimination based on sexual identity.

In Japan’s popular culture, a handful of ‘idols’ have come out as homosexual. However, they have almost all been males. The comedian Ramon Sumitami uses homosexual stereotypes to gain popularity. Increasing in popularity is the anime/manga category Yaoi which typically features two masculine men in an equal relationship. While this may have helped spread awareness for the queer community, the Yaoi genre is almost entirely pornographic. The Yuri genre focuses on lesbian relationships. Some shows and stories in the Yuri category do contain pornographic plots, however, the majority of the time it does not contain that so it can easily market to straight and homosexual (mostly lesbian) viewers. The majority of homosexual identity that Japan has access to is often hypersexualized and thus is looked down upon by the real homosexual community.

Because of the progress Japan has made over the years, I believe they will slowly move towards a day where the queer community can openly exist. For now, as long as queer culture stays a minor political subject and homosexuality is seen as a pornographic tool in popular media, it will not be taken too seriously. In Women’s Studies 247, queer culture is often discussed and readings date back to time periods in America when homosexuality wasn’t part of the public scope. However, Japan is progressing today in very different ways than America. They focus on technological innovations rather than the individual. As long as Japanese culture still follows traditional gender roles, there will likely be no progress. However, like the rest of the world, growth and change is inevitable, especially when so many other countries have already begun to openly accept the queer community.

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Folsom Street Fair

“The world is not divided into people who have sexual fetishes and people who don’t. There is a continuum of responses to certain objects, substances, and parts of the body, and few people can disregard these and still enjoy having sex.”

This quote from Pat Califia exemplifies fetishes and why we have them, and no fetish community is more prominent than the BDSM community, with its harrowing triple acronym (bondage & discipline, domination & submission, sadism & masochism) that includes most all fetish and kink acts. There is also no larger
BDSM fair than the Folsom Street Fair held in San Francisco. With the fair comes 400,000 visitors who are into all sorts of things, including leather, bondage, sadomasochism, drag, and petplay, to name a few.

Advertisement for Folsom

The Folsom Fair itself can be traced back to the origins of leather culture, which is a huge part of the BDSM community and one of the earliest communities for those into BDSM. Leather culture started in San Francisco in part because of the blue discharge, a discharge from military service for being gay. With these came multitudes of gay men who were dropped off in San Francisco and decided ‘why not just stick around.’ Among the areas that became popular among gay men in this early San Francisco, from the mid-40s on through the 80s were the Embarcadero and Folsom. By the 70s there were 30 different leather bars, leather clubs, and leather merchants on Folsom Street.

An extensive list of what each color and placement represents in hanky code

From this time the hanky code also originated, an excellent example of the structure that the leather community, and typically other kink communities, take on to communicate desires and rules. The hanky code is where someone has a colored hanky on their person, with the color and the placement indicative of what they are interested in, placement on the left meaning they are a top, and placement on the right meaning they are a bottom. Some common colors are red for fisting, grey for bondage, and black for s&m. Parallels can be drawn between this informal but almost official set of guidelines with Califia’s explanation of the guidelines the dictate public sex and turn it into more of a “quasi-public” act. Folsom can certainly be identified as quasi-public, as it occurs in the open but is confined to several blocks that are cordoned off so nobody just wanders in. To those inside Folsom though, everything is more public, which is part of the appeal of the fair. Being present at the fair is participation in some form, and as Justin Bond said in Shortbus, “voyeurism is participation.”

What is the appeal of Folsom and BDSM anyway? In Califia’s article “Feminism and Sadomasochism” she states that: “wearing leather, rubber, or a silk kimono distributes feeling over the entire skin. The isolated object may become a source of arousal. This challenges the identification of sex with the genitals.” Certainly appropriate, as the BDSM community deals with fetishes and fetishes by definition are sexual arousal towards something other than genitals. This erotic sensation that can be had from wearing leather and rubber underlies the BDSM community and the Folsom fair, with many participants wearing some or mostly leather and/or rubber. This challenge of arousal at the genitals also extends to other sub-categories of BDSM, most notably petplay. Petplay is a very common sight within Folsom, either very obviously, like wearing the gear that is involved in petplay, to more subtlety, like wearing a collar. Petplay also tackles on the idea of arousal and affection being directed at something other than the genitals. The arousal can come from the dominant and submissive roles that the two partners engaging in the act take on, it can also come from the intimate moments that are shared within the action. These moments also skew the classic sense of what is romantic and erotic by replacing verbal action with non-verbal action such as petting, holding, or stroking. Within this subset we can also find guidelines and rules established by the community, like collar etiquette. If one is wearing a collar, at Folsom or outside of it, one is assumed to have a partner. For those who like wearing collars but who do not have a partner or are not exclusive, having a collar with an open lock signifies this. Within this community and all the communities at Folsom rules and codes create an ordered environment where everyone can have safe and erotic fun.

Someone in full pony gear engages in an aspect of pony play at Folsom, pulling the dominant partner in a cart

Folsom stands out as a very intimate fair that challenges many norms. It is a BDSM fair that occurs outdoors, where many would consider such acts inappropriate. It also has a very large attendance which may contradict those who think that BDSM is a fringe thing and that fetishes are not common among people. The fair itself stands to challenge norms and it also establishes its own norms which is a wonderful thing in itself. On top of this all, the fair raises money for charity so head on out to it with your best leather and rubber gear because you are doing so for a good cause.

Human Puppy Play

Puppy play, or dog play, is a form of animal roleplay that first appeared in the United States in the leather community around the 1960s. Today there is a growing community of human pups and handlers who gather to socialize and play at events all over the United States and Europe. While the majority of the puppy play community is gay men,  people of any gender and sexual orientation can be involved in the subculture. Puppy play is a variation of dominant/submissive relationship that emphasizes the fun dynamic between an owner and their pet. Papa Woof, a long-time member of the puppy play community, described his interest in the roleplay in an interview with Vice.

” ‘Have you ever owned a pet?’ Papa Woof asks. ‘How many times have you come home from a stressed day and thought, what a wonderful life they have? Someone to pet, feed, play with them. They are happy, mostly carefree… That’s what the headspace of puppy play is all about.’ “

Pups have the opportunity to be free of their human personality and embrace a new, carefree headspace. Puppies take on the persona of a biological canine and embrace animal instinct. Most of all, puppies love getting pet and getting love and praise from their handler. Puppies may like to play with chew toys, play fetch, bark, walk on all fours, explore and get in to trouble. Many pups wear gear to enhance the play. Most commonly collars and masks are worn,but all sorts of rubber, leather, and neoprene gear is used in puppy play.

The relationship between a puppy and its handler is a spin off of the master/servant dynamic present in BDSM culture. There is a lot of variety in the relationships between handlers and pups. Some handlers may be more strict and controlling, focused on having a well-trained, obedient pup. Others can be more playful and nurturing, caring for pups in a less strict way. While the dominance of the handler is maintained in all puppy play relationships, there is a lot of flexibility in the way that the handler plays their role.

For many people, puppy play is not necessarily sexual. Many events, such as the popular Pup
Social
 are purely fun, social events that do not allow any kind of sexual play. At such gatherings, puppies play with each other in a puppy mosh pit while handlers observe and socialize. Some events may have vendors, dances, contests, gear demos, classes and more. These events allow people involved in puppy play to meet up in a safe social environment

In this course we have discussed a lot about sex and sexuality and self-identification. Puppy play is definitely to be erotic and sexual, usually restricted to private households and clubs, though it does not necessarily involve sexual acts. The genders of a pup and its handler can conflict with their individual sexual orientations. For example, a gay male pup may have a lesbian handler. Each participant can get pleasure and satisfaction from their role in the role-play, though they may not be sexually attracted to one another. The dominant/submissive relationship and emphasis on gear in puppy play is definitely erotic, but it may not make sense to identify yourself in the puppy play community exclusively by your sexual orientation. For some people interested in non-sexual puppy play, it may make more sense to identify only as a handler or pup than as a gay man or lesbian woman.

 

Korea Queer Culture Festival

Korea Queer culture festival is the largest queer cultural festival in Korean and second largest in Asia. It first took place in the year 2000 and usually happens in late May to early June annually for about 15 days. Different year the event takes place at different locations throughout South Korea. Korea is a conservative country and many people see homosexuality as a foreign phenomenon. Homosexuality remains largely taboo in South Korean society and same-sex people are seldom seen in public. LGBT people in South Korea face discrimination that heterosexual people do not. However, unlike many similar events photography is limited in this event. This is done to minimize public exposure of LGBT people to avoid discrimination.

Even though there is no law against homosexuality in Korean history, homosexual couples and households are not entitled any legal protection from the government, unlike heterosexual people. Transgender people are allowed to have surgery to reassign their gender after age 20. People in dominantly religious country are more likely to reject the idea of homosexuality according to the Pew Research Center survey published in Washington Post. According to the survey 18% people in South Korea support homosexuality only. Homosexual people are often stigmatized and sometimes not classified as humans, as the country remains largely conservative on matters of sexuality. Political parties and most elected politicians of South Korea tend to avoid addressing LGBT rights issues except the Democratic Labor Party. The Democratic Party is the third largest political party and has a political panel known as ‘Sexual Minorities Committee.’ Their agenda includes discrimination against homosexual people and discrimination based on sexual preferences and equal rights for sexual minorities. I chose this event for my post because it shows even though Korea is a developed country but still the way people thinks is greatly influenced by religion and political influence. It relates to our class discussion of how politics and religion shapes a person’s view and on a much border scale a nation’s view. Military service is mandatory for all men Koreans. Active homosexual military members are categorized as ‘personality disorder’ or ‘behavior disability’ and honorably discharged. Korean Queer Culture festival receives no support from the government except the Democratic Labor Party.

The festival normally begins with opening events followed by a parade and after-party at club Pulse in Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood, although celebrations continue in all LGBTQ clubs across the city People attending the event wear mask to avoid recognition on a website or newspaper for fear of reprisal by family, friends or co-workers. Demonstrators continue to disrupt the annual gay pride of South Korea where all gay and transgender Koreans meet together for a series of events and parades, recognized internationally as a gay pride month. The number of participants attending the event increased over time-but the increased visibility of LGBT supporters has also meant that the number of protestors also increased. Christian groups ran a campaign for weeks to try to block the parade. In May 2015, they camped out for weeks in front of the police station where parade organizers had to apply for permit and filed a counter request to hold the parade. Police initially ruled in favor of the anti-LGBT response committee, however a court ruled on June 2015 that the parade had to be allowed. The parade was banned in 2015 and this has attracted international attention to the event. This progressed LGBT rights in South Korea. Photography was banned in this event until 2010. The organizers issued no photography stickers, ribbons and bands. People who will allow photography will have to register or else faces will be blurred before publishing online.

senhanced-9237-1435489058-1Parade

Largest counter-protests was organized by merging some of Korea’s largest Christian Church associations together as anti-LGBT response committee. The committee held a worship service across the street from the gay pride event and the committee was blasting sermons, hymns and prayers loudly enough to overwhelm the sound system of the event. Protestors held sign on their laps which says, “We pray for Korea not to be diseased/sick with homosexuality.” Girls performed ballet which resembles God’s angel and purity and to show what real beauty looks like. Some protestors laid down on the street to block the parade. But they were immediately removed and the parade went off without any major incidents.

korea-queerPictured, a demonstrator protested the 2014 Korea Queer Festival by holding a sign to obscure the view of the performance behind him

General awareness of homosexuality remains low among people in Korea because people are afraid if they come out, they will be face difficulty both in work place and among families. However there is increased awareness of homosexuality and gay-themed entertainment in the media can be seen now. According to a number of advocates for sexual minorities, two major issues are holding LGBT human rights- lack of awareness in society and strong opposition from the Christian Church.

Marco Marco: Going Against the Heteronormative Grain

Marco Marco has been a buzz word in the fashion industry since his beginning in 2000. Having styled movie stars and pop artists, the brand Marco Marco enjoys making a big statement and utilizing pop icons to display extravagant pieces of fashion that has redefined modern fashion. The start of its fame began in 2013 when a video of the Collection 2 Runway was posted on Youtube. The fashion show launched a social media craze when the show began and the models were not slender female models and hyper masculine male models, but actually drag queens and transgender women modeling the dresses and gay men, thicker models, “vogue-ers”, and transgender men modeling the underwear and hoodies.

Marco Marco is renowned for his use of geometric shape, neon color, and form fitting clothing. His clothes, unlike the haute couture brands of modern fashion, are made specifically for the personalities wearing them; meaning each garment fits perfectly with the style and body shape of the model wearing it.  Yes, all fashion runway clothes are made to fit their models, but Marco Marco makes it apparent that with his clothing he is trying to emulate the personality of the model. For example during an interview with The Huffington Post Marco himself said the following about what started his whole perspective in fashion and the use of non-traditional models, “There is a (drag) queen named Vicky Vox… All I wanted was for her to open the first show, and when she said yes, that was the first seed… It’s also nice to give credence to a social group that doesn’t get the appropriate type of attention they (drag queens) deserve. I wanted a legitimate opportunity for my friends to show the world what being a ‘bad ass bitch’ is really about.” Through his experience of watching Vicky perform he became inspired by what she does daily: perform. The bright lights and atmosphere of where he saw her perform became an inspiration for him and he knew he had to make a clothing line inspired by it starring her as the entrance look. Marco Marco succeeded in combining his style with the character of an LGBTQ+ icon from the beginning of his show when he styled Vicky in a beautiful robe and bathing suit that she would wear off the runway as her character.

The use of LGBTQ+ models in Marco Marco’s runways makes a giant statement on heteronormativity. Utilizing models who aren’t all the same shape and size pushes the boundaries of what his fashion can do. He is making a statement on what fashion and gender is when he styles drag queens and transgender women in extravagantly colorful gowns and masculine and feminine gay men in underwear with full faces of makeup. For the aforementioned reasons, Marco Marco’s playfulness with the gender binary and the normativity of feminine women and masculine men in the fashion world has revolutionized the fashion world and redefined what is “normal” in fashion today.

 

The Rockland Palace

rockland

Nowadays, we tend to think that gays were hidden until the 1960’s when the sexual revolution happened. People were protesting for women’s rights and gay rights. In 1973 psychology even removed homosexuality from the DSM’s list of mental disorders. This may lead people to conclude that before the 1960’s, non-heterosexually oriented people were secretive and hiding, right? Wrong! In the 1920’s until the early 1930’s, there were huge balls and parties that were very open about different types of sexuality. A very well-known place is the Rockland Palace in Harlem created by a black fraternal organization.

Historically, blacks migrated up north into urban area such as Harlem because they were transitioning from the slavery era to working up North at factories. Most of the African Americans moved to Harlem. Nowhere else in the country could you find an area so large and concentrated by African Americans. Harlem became known as the “new negro capital.” There was a variety of African American people ranging from black schoolteachers to black millionaires, giving life to Harlem with their youth, music, and openness. Harlem became very huge in their art and music styles, in particular, jazz and blues. Blues music was used by African Americans to express their sexual feelings and their hardships they had previously faced starting from the civil war when slavery was still present. African Americans accepted homosexuality and thus created a culture in the 1920’s-1930’s in which people could have fun and sexually express themselves.

The Rockland Palace was famous for throwing balls in which men would dress up as women. It was known as the “faggot’s ball” or costume balls. The palace attracted many people such as high class white men and women, it was a very diverse crowd. Not everyone there was homosexual, though it was very evident that there were gays, lesbians, and transsexuals, it was accepted. Some people just came there to observe the balls.

The Rockland Palace is related to queer culture because it represents how queer culture isn’t this new phenomenon that didn’t exist or was hidden until the 1960’s. Most people believe that homosexually orientated people didn’t exist or came into the public eye during the sexual revolution. The Rockland Palace proves that it is not true and that there were places where people overtly gay or transsexual would go and be themselves. Another way the Rockland Palace is related to queer culture is because it was created by a black fraternal organization. This is important because nowadays, people tend to think that African American culture is more homophobic than white culture but in reality, when Africans were first brought to America they were very sexually open. They believed that homosexuality is just a natural part of life.

In class we discussed Chauncey’s work. He pointed out how there was a “whole gay world” before World War II but multiple people don’t know that and believe in these myths. The three myths were: myth of isolation, myth of invisibility, and myth of internalization. Harlem and the Rockland Palace is an example that debunked all of the myths that Chauncey believed people had. The myth of isolation is not true because at the Rockland Palace, people were openly gay there and everyone knew that it was a place to go if you wanted to immerse yourself in queer culture. This also disproves that queer culture was invisible because people went there knowing that it was a spot where other gays, lesbians, and transsexuals hung out at. Lastly, Harlem clearly did not internalize the dominant culture. They used the Rockland Palace to express their differences in art and sexuality through jazz and blue music and the costume balls.

Celebrity Coming Out: As Told by the Ellens

Coming out is a huge and often difficult part of the lives of any non-straight individual. However, coming out as a public figure takes those anxieties and subjects them to an entire nation of scrutiny. Our current idea of “coming out” is one that developed throughout a complicated LGBT history. October 11th, 1988 marks the first national coming out day, and really signals a switch in our popular discourse on gay and lesbians in society. Celebrities are generally praised for their courage in coming out in such a high profile manner, however it was not always this glamorous. In order to understand the progression of the celebrity coming out process, we will look at the experiences of two American comedians, Ellen DeGeneres and Ellen Page.

Ellen DeGeneres starred in an ABC sitcom of the same name, Ellen, which ran from 1994-1998. Ellen’s on screen and off screen love life became a huge topic of conversation as rumors began to circulate around her sexual orientation. DeGeneres decided to tackle these reports head on by coming out in character during a monumental episode titled “The Puppy Episode” which aired April 30, 1997. Oprah Winfrey made an appearance as her psychiatrist, and the dialogue was as follows:

“It’s not like I’m looking for perfection,” DeGeneres’ character said. “I just want to find somebody special, somebody that I click with.”

“Has there ever been anyone you felt you clicked with?” Winfrey’s character asked. “What was his name?” 

“Susan,” she replied. Laughter and applause followed.

ellen d

Ellen and the show received extremely negative reactions shortly after this. The show was canceled the following season. Oprah received aggressive hate mail. Companies including JCPenney, Chrysler, and Wendy’s decided not to advertise during the show’s airtime. ABC put a parental warning on Ellen at the start of every episode.

Ellen’s incredibly bold and unprecedented public coming out shocked the nation in 1997. She was the first gay main character of a mainstream show and provided a totally new idea of queer celebrities. Fast forward to 2014 and we see Ellen Page following a modern approach to her high profile coming out. She chose to share her identity in a serious call-to-action speech that she did for HRFC’s Time to Thrive conference. The two coming out stories of these famous Ellens truly highlight the change through this short history on the expectations of coming out as a public figure. DeGeneres interviewed Page in celebration of Page’s coming out, while reflecting on the process of the whole thing. What is most interesting about the conversation, though, is the understanding that coming out is an unspoken duty of a celebrity, and that idea is something that has changed dramatically since DeGeneres’ 1997 announcement.

History has not always allowed for this high profile coming out. As we discussed Walt Whitman extensively in class, we never came to a conclusion on a proper identity, because Whitman literally did not have the vocabulary to come out himself. But even when his sexual identity was questioned in personal letters, Whitman denied the claims because it was unheard of at the time. When Ellen DeGeneres came out in 1997, DOMA was enacted a year prior and the public perception of LGBT individuals was less than positive. When Ellen Page came out in 2014, DOMA was struck down the year before and the expectation to represent the LGBT community in a public manner was, and continues to be, extremely important.

Silent Warriors, Silent No More

“We had heard about these very frightening psychiatrists who were going to grill you. We thought they were the all-seeing people. . . .  So, I walked in and I sat down and he look, he called me by name and he said, ‘Private, do you like girls?’ I said, ‘Well, of course I like girls.’ My best friends were girls, and I love girls. ‘Next!’ That was ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t tell’ in those days.” Jack Strouss WWII Veteran

Jack Strouss, WWII Veteran at 90 years old.

For centuries gay and lesbian military members have bravely fought for Americas freedoms. They have sacrificed, endured, and relinquished themselves. They have suffered through hardships, pain, experienced combat, have lost their brothers and sisters in arms, seen and committed acts that no human should ever be asked to commit, have sustained service connected disabilities, and some have even paid the ultimate price.They served proudly, and fought bravely. All this, only to be degraded, hunted down, discriminated against, forced to live in fear, silence, and eventually for some, discharged from the military and left with no benefits.

Here are some of the stories these veterans have to share during there time in an unaccepting service.

Denny Meyer, Navy and Army Veteran who served during the Vietnam war.

“In those days, we served in silence. And not one day passed when you didn’t worry that you were going to be found out . . . . When men are at sea, they horse around. And so, they’d wrestle on the floor with 30 guys shouting. But when anybody wanted to do that with me, I would grab their neck and bounce their head against the bulkheads — ‘I don’t go for that,’ you know.” In an interview with NPR, Meyer explains how his unwilliingness to partake in wrestling lead his shipmates to percieve him as the “straightest guy around”. Ironiclly this perception of him later lead to officials requesting for his aid in the “witch hunt for homosexuals”. His response to this was, “I don’t know nothing about that.” Meyer admits that during his time in the military he lead a lonely life. For fear of any kind of slip up or suspicion directed towards him could result in a discharge from service.

Measurments and screenings were in place to filter out any gays and lesbians, however the efficacy of the medical practices used were unethical and questionable. Gays and lesbians who were identified during their service were sent to psychiatric wards where psychiatrists would perform experiments on them to see how they might be able to identify gays during recruitment, one such experiment was the “gag test”. If the recruit did not show a gag reflex when a tongue depressor was inserted in the mouth then they were presumed gay. Before the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy if any service member was found to be a homosexual they were given a blue discharge, or undesirable discharge; however, some were actually given a dishonorable discharge. Whether given a blue discharge or a dishonorable discharge the service member was stripped from all military benefits, they were not entitled to VA health care or compensation benefits for injuries sustained from service, they could not apply for VA home loans, and could not receive any benefits under the Montgomery G.I. bill.  To make things worse a service member’s hometown officials were notified of their sexuality; some service members could not return home due to the stigma that was placed upon them.

“Back then, the treatment was barbaric. . . . These are queers! These are lesbians! Stay away from these homosexual women. . . .They tried everything they could to try to break us down to what they thought we were.” Lisa Weiszmiller

Lisa Weiszmiller, U.S. Army Veteran.


Lisa’s trauma and struggle is just one example of a service member who was victimized and criminalized, but there are well over 100,00 service members who suffered the same treatment due to their orientation. The introduction of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 1993 did not change the environment for gay and lesbian service members and over 13,000 service members were seperated from the military under the DADT policy.Many speculated that lifting a ban on gays and lesbians would affect unit cohesion, cause great damage to the military, or result in higher military deaths. Given the circumstances it is difficult to find straight members of the military community speaking about serving alongside gays and lesbians. This could be because of the policies put in place, or for the fear of placing a fellow service member in danger, or maybe because orientation in the military doesn’t matter.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” censors their reality from our public conscience. The policy’s scheme, however, has one substantial flaw: the truth. Gays are serving, and always have. We have 1 million gay vets to prove it.” Jeff Cleghorn

DADT did increase the level of stress and created a fearful living environment on top of an already stressfull military lifestyle. Fortunately for some gay and lesbian service members their dedication to duty and outstanding service was all that mattered; “you’re a good soldier”, was the response some gay and lesbian service members recieved after being investigated for their sexuality, while their case is pushed aside and ignored; allwoing them to continue their service.

Having served alongside gay and lesbian service members myself I was compelled to make an archive post in their honor. This small post by no means exemplifies the full sacrifice and hardships our gay and lesbian service members have endured.The military veterans of the LGBTQ community have never stopped fighting. I find these brave members to be among the most resilient and courageous of all warriors who have ever served. For not only have they sworn to defend Americas freedoms (even freedoms they were not entitled to) they have continued to fight and have led the way towards equality rights and justice for all.

Rupert Starr, WWII Veteran and gay rights activist.

“When I was in the military they gave a me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one”. Leonard Matlovich

Leonard Matlovich, U.S.A.F. Vietnam Veteran and gay rights activist.

Lesbian Veterans marching against institutionalized silence in Washington D.C.

 

The repeal of DADT in 2011 has now allowed for gays and lesbians to serve freely and openly in the armed forces. Veterans who have received other than honorable discharges due to their orientation can file a claim and upgrade to an honorable discharge.

 

The “It Gets Better Project”

On September 21, 2010, the “It Gets Better Project” was launched by gay activist and journalist Dan Savage in response to the suicide of gay teenager Billy Lucas, and other queer teens who took their lives because of bullying revolving around their sexual orientation. Savage posted a video with husband Terry Miller sharing their stories of life as LGBT teens, stating “I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.”  The intention of the video was to prevent suicide among LGBT youth by providing a sense of hope for the future. By hearing about the lives of gay adults who lived through these difficult times, the youth could see that it really does get better.

The “It Gets Better Project” is an excellent representation of the empowerment that LGBT supporters can have in the community. By promoting change through personal accounts of success, it shows that we are all human and that if we band together, we can make it to tomorrow. No one truly knows if things will get better in the future, but the one thing that keeps them going is the hope that it will. “If every day is terrible, and worse than the day that came before it, the only thing to do is to hold out for the “better” one.” (Doyle, 2010) This project exemplifies the strength that queer people have; they have made it and they are flourishing.

Although the “It Gets Better Project” was acclaimed strongly for bringing forth a strong message of hope for the day, some queer activists criticized the campaign stating that it diminished the struggles that some have. One argument states that although we are promoting change, we are not providing an avenue for those who are under privileged to get help. Youth with depression are not going to “get better” if they do not have access to proper mental health care. Another criticism posits that “It Gets Better Project” caters to the privileged white gay man. Diana Cage states that although the concept o the movement is beautiful and inspirational, it does not help you if you are a gay member of color, or transgendered. The argument continued on stating that life doesn’t necessarily get better, but you become stronger. You learn to block out negativity, you learn to love yourself, you learn to survive.

it-gets-better1This project fits well in to the context of the history unit because this archive is timeless. As time will pass, the message started by Savage will continue on. A message of hope and a better tomorrow. Although critics have had arguments against the project, I like to that the project does more good than harm. When I look at this page, I feel a sense of joy. It gives me inspiration and meaning, and I think that this is what each piece in the history unit was intended to do. Each provided us with a sense of hope. My favorite piece from the unit was “One Today” by Richard Blanco. It parallels the “It Gets Better Project” by forming a sense of unity; a sense of belonging.

“…of one country
— all of us —
facing the stars
hope —
a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together…”
Savage’s message exemplifies where we are currently at with LGBT issues. There were movements concerning free sex practices, feminism, and of course the AIDS epidemic. One of the goals of today is to cease the bullying brought against the LGBT community. Campaign’s such as the one brought forth by Savage exemplify just that, sending a message of hope that tomorrow will be better.
Dan Savage and Terry Miller

 

Gay Sex Clubs, Poz4Play, and Serosorting

http://www.poz4play.com/

 

Stigmatized Gay sex club culture is based on the idea that gay men are spreading diseases through the use of unprotected sex and drug use. While some of these stereotypes can ring true with some people, it seems that gay sex clubs and gay men fall under much more scrutiny then straight sex clubs and straight people in general, because of the higher frequency of gay men of any race being infected with HIV. Why such stigmatizations? In the clip linked above, Mark King, a gay man living with HIV, takes a tour of a gay sex club. He eludes to the fact that he chooses to no longer frequent gay sex clubs because of the way he affiliates the clubs with a drug he had previously been addicted too. The culture he felt was something that would strike up his drug use again, but he is very familiar with what actually goes on in the sex clubs, so he is not someone making opinions about something he is completely unfamiliar with. He takes a mostly unbiased tour of the sex club while seeming to be only rather critical of the fact that there is “bare backing” (sex without protection) that occurs in the club. The man giving him the tour explains that he provides protection at all the parties he hosts, however it is the own individuals choice as to whether they want to wear protection or not knowing that there is the potential for a partner to be infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.

This is where the idea of serosorting comes in. Serosorting is the idea that a person chooses to limit their sexual partners to someone whom is of the same HIV status as themselves. The Poz4Play party allows HIV gay men whom choose to participate in serosorting, to only interact with other men with the same HIV positive status as them. This in turn attempts to allow HIV positive men to experience the same type of sexual experience of a sex club while not infecting people who haven’t already tested positive with HIV. I think what concerned Mark King with the idea of serosorting is that this may encourage unprotected sex assuming that you are with a partner whom has the same HIV status as you. Other sexually transmitted diseases could potentially be more easily spread, and it may cause men who are not HIV positive to assume that those that are HIV positive are only attending these parties and not attending sex clubs regularly.

 

The idea of claiming your status and being proud of it is, in my opinion, a great one. I think that this topic directly relates to our class topic of sex, as it discusses and tries to come up with a way for HIV positive people to feel comfortable with their status and own it in a scene, the sex clubs that is, that most likely would not be welcoming to people on a regular basis who are openly HIV positive. HIV and sexually transmitted diseases is still a very tough topic in that no one is required to tell someone else if they are positive for anything. Hopefully with an outlet like a HIV positive party night at a gay sex club, it will open up a greater dialogue and comfortable level to make everyone comfortable to being open and honest with the partner they choose.