The Relevancy of HomoEroticism

Homoerotic is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as: “marked by, revealing or portraying homosexual desires.” It is important to note that the concept of homoeroticism does not necessarily lead to acts of homosexuality. There is a very fine line between homoeroticism and homosexuality. Homoeroticism and homosexuality existed as far back as the ancient civilizations of mankind. They were well documented through paintings, sculptures, and scriptures from Ancient China 650 BCE, Ancient Persia, Ancient Egypt and the Ancient Greeks. Homoeroticism of the Ancient Greeks was introduced into mainstream media through shows as the television network STARS’ show Spartacus. For the purpose of this post, I will focus on the relevancy of homoeroticism as it is still as pertinent today as it was thousands of years ago.

egypt SPARTACUS4-1

Many would argue that there are many different concepts to homoeroticism. I will argue that the two most important core concepts of homoeroticism are masculinity and the presence of a heterosexual man. Without these two core concepts, there won’t be such a thing as homoeroticism. My argument is further supported by JD Samson & MEN’s music video “Make Him Pay.” In this music video, the homosexual rhetoric is prevalent but it never crosses over to an act of homosexuality. There are images and scenes of bombs, explosion, soldiers, guns, fire, cops, mechanic, fighting, blood, muscle men, and contact sport; which is everything that is associated with masculinity. It is also important to note that although this music video is very homosexually suggestive, it never showed any men kissing or engaging in any forms of homosexual intimacies with each other.

The presence, no matter how little or how obvious, of a heterosexual man is needed for it to be homoerotic. As mentioned earlier, homoerotic is defined as “marked by, revealing or portraying homosexual desires” thus never mentioning anything about the actual sexual act of homosexuality. Contact sports, such as wrestling, are prime examples of the homoeroticism because it does not portray acts of homosexuality nor the pertinent sexual desire to be with that person of the same sex.

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The military is also a place where homoeroticism exists. The normative nature of the military is a very masculine environment that nurtures and bonds the camaraderie between men. That same nurturing and bonding might eventually lead to homoeroticism but NOT homosexuality. It is evident that the majority of men in the military are heterosexuals. As my time in the military, I can say that that same majority are the same ones expressing and involving themselves in more homoerotic situations than the actual gay men in the military themselves.

Homoeroticism existed for thousands of years and is still relevant in today’s culture and society. It is important that it is not to be confused with homosexuality because the two represent very different outcomes. In my opinion, the two core concepts that are important in homoeroticism are masculinity and the presence of a heterosexual figure. Homoeroticism will never disappear from society or human civilizations as it has lasted for over thousands of years. Though I do believe that the line between homoeroticism and homosexuality will eventually become thinner and thinner as we progress into the 21th Century.

 

 

The Try Guys Open Eyes

From Left to Right: Ned, Zach, Keith, Eugene

The Try Guys is a group of four guys that tries things most men have never considered or would never consider trying. Buzzfeed conceptualized The Try Guys in September of 2014 when Buzzfeed released “Guys Try On Ladies’ Underwear For The First Time // Try Guys.” Since then, The Try Guys have exploded on the internet gaining increasing popularity among Buzzfeed’s avid YouTube viewers. The group consists of a fairly standard circle of four guys: Eugene—the cool, talented, and pretty one; Ned—the cute, silly, and fatherly figure; Keith—the kooky, awkward, intellectual; and Zach—the nerdy, weird, omega of the wolf pack. Together, these four have experienced anything from trying drag to nude sushi modeling to pseudo-childbirth to BDSM, all while allowing the YouTube audience to vicariously experience such activities accompanied by the guys personal insight.

This group is an important addition to this archive not only because of their willingness to cover taboo topics publicly for anyone to see (such as drag, nude male modeling, and male stripping), but because of who the four guys are. Aside from the civil rights oriented Eugene (who happens to be the only non-white member of the group), the group consists of fairly normative, presumably straight, white guys. This makes the group have so much influential potential; the group reaches out to a demographic of people who are arguably a conservative and judgmental group of people—straight, white guys—and allows them to see that a lot of “gay” things to do may not be stupid, weird, or “gay,” but actually very interesting, fun, and even liberating. Additionally, it also gives out the message that, “if they did it, and they’re cool and normal, then I guess it isn’t weird.” More importantly, Buzzfeed also has other audiences of many different demographics that these videos are viewed by both in the U.S. and around the world; to these audiences, this can send out the message that not all straight, white guys are the stereotypical, closed-minded person that many think. All of this added together just creates a recipe destined for positive influences.

We can see The Try Guys’s influence to multiple demographics (including worldwide audiences) in this clip from a video posted November 21, 2015 (from 2:30-2:37).

In two specific videos, “The Try Guys Try Drag For The First Time” and “The Try Guys Try ‘Fifty Shades’ Style BDSM,” The Try Guys cover topics directly related to this class. In these videos, The Try Guys explore the topics by performing them personally; this allows the guys to ask the very common questions anyone unfamiliar with the topics has and also bust any myths or misconceptions about the topics.

As we experienced in the Gender Performativity unit, specifically RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag performance is not some crazy act by men to get into the pants of other men, nor is it strictly for the purpose of “being a woman.” Instead, we saw that drag is like a theater performance; the actors do it for their personal desires—whether it be to enact a persona, entertain an audience, or to be a queen for a day, etc.—and the audience watches for entertainment, for a unique experience performed with skill creativity, and heart. The Try Guys give us all of this and more; we get to see their personal journey of a day in drag along with how their closest family and friends felt about the experience. Throughout their journey we find that the experience was one of hesitation at first, but ended with a finish of satisfaction and liberation. We see this best when Zach says, “there’s a fear of compromising your masculinity, but who cares.”

The Try Guys and their endeavors continue in another video where we get to watch and learn about BDSM with a professional, The Try Guys, and few female Buzzfeed coworkers. We start off with the Buzzfeed employee’s personal misconceptions about BDSM followed by an explanation by the knowledgeable Buzzfeed workers. This parallels Pat Califia’s explanation of BDSM; Califia shares what many think of BDSM followed by her explanation of why these misconceptions are not accurate representation of what BDSM actually is. Just like for Califia, Buzzfeed and The Try Guys are trying to dismantle the taboo of BDSM and show its true inner workings, specifically that BDSM is not crazy and violent sexual assault, but rather a consensual role playing coupled with a power dynamic and strong physical sensations. Together, I think the video and Califia’s work exemplify that, as Califia explains, BDSM is a fantasy where participants are enhancing sexual experience, not impeding it.

Because of such progressive work reaching out to a vast and varying audience, I believe The Try Guys are just one step in the right direction to help thwart misconceptions of taboo topics in our world. Much of their content is enlightening and entertaining; I highly recommend that, if you haven’t already, check out the rest of their videos. They have done plenty to bring a little perspective to their audience, and it looks like they have just scratched the surface.

The Rockland Palace

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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.

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.”

Gender Diversity Creeping Into Society

For so long, we have only been able to choose our gender from a dichotomy: male or female. However, within the past two years, there has finally been some progressive activity towards recognition of multiple and varying gender identities. One of the most popular social media websites, Facebook, created a multitude of gender options for its users at the beginning of 2014. Now, in 2015, there are a few progressive universities following suit. While not as diverse as Facebook’s options, the University of Vermont, the University of California, the University of Albany, and Harvard University have all taken steps towards more open gender expression and recognition. While the simple pronouns of he and she may not seem important, to many people in the world, these small recognitions are giant leaps forward in gender acceptance.

Referring to someone not by their name, but by their gender pronouns is so second nature to the human brain that most of us put little to no thought into it after we see what a person looks like; more often than not, we recognize an abundance of masculine or feminine qualities in a person which is then followed by an immediate and subconscious assignment of the pronouns “he” or “she.” What a good chunk of people do not realize, though, is that there are a significant number of individuals who either do not identify as the gender those individuals outwardly express or who do not even identify as the traditional male or female genders.

“Gender’s very flexibility and seeming fluidity is precisely what allows dimorphic gender to hold sway.” -J.J. Halberstam

As we have read from Leslie Feinberg, transgender habits, thoughts, and ways of life are not new concepts or practices, and, in fact, they have not only been around in most documented cultures, but they have even endured through the worst of hardships. This furthers arguments made by J.J. Halberstam as well; Halberstam understands that we as a society don’t have strictly male and female identities, but rather masculine and feminine qualities which we designate as male or female. Consequently, this leads him to ask why we don’t already have multiple gender expressions and identities in our society. Perhaps we, as a society, have made little progress due to the male and female categories being “so elastic” as Halberstam describes; or perhaps Feinberg’s gender continuum already exists—not in the form of multiple gender identities, but rather with these “elastic” categories of male and female. Maybe this is why the gender binary has endured for so long; maybe the elastic male and female continuum is adequate. However, contrary to what the mass populous has deemed satisfactory for so long, many people and institutions have determined the current gender binary to be sub par.

“It is apparent that there are many ways for women and men to be; everything in nature is a continuum.” -Leslie Feinberg

Fortunately, in the past two years, progressive institutions have taken steps forward to queer our normative culture by forcing alternative gender identities into our binary system. These institutions are not simply radically suggesting that individuals should have more than two options when trying to identify one’s gender; instead, they are recognizing these identities by enforcing the various identities under the domain of their own institution. While not standardized between the institutions, each is making small steps towards a, hopefully, national change.

Examples of Gender Pronouns

Some Facebook Gender Options

Recognition as simple as a third gender of neutral—like that at the University of Vermont—or just the option to choose your own gender pronouns—like Harvard University—could make a drastic change in the lives of transgendered and gender-nonconforming people. These smaller changes nationwide could be a more conservative addition to our society’s tight gender binary; after people get used to the small changes, options to have multiple and varied gender options like that at the University of California and the University of Albany—universities at which students can choose between six or more options ranging from the standard male to trans woman to gender-queer—could be a progressive outlook for the future. Although our society may never get to official public recognition of the 50+ gender options listed on Facebook, these institutions are creating a path for future movement in gender expression.

If we’ve learned anything from the past, it is that gender differences and ambiguities exist within the seemingly everlasting male/female binary. We may be destined to stay within dichotomies, but I think we are starting to see that change is eminent. Because of these small, yet revolutionary, changes in gender recognition, I believe these institutions deserve a spot in this archive.

The Harvey Milk Foundation

Introduction

For my third post I decided to analyze Harvey Milk, “the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California”. In my analysis I also take a deeper look into the Harvey Milk Foundation http://milkfoundation.org/, a foundation that is guided off of Harvey Milk’s dream.

 Historical Context

It was not until the age of 40 that Harvey Milk was open about his sexuality. Around 1972 he moved from New York City to San Francisco to the Castro District, an area where a migration of gay men was occurring at that time in history. It was not until 1977 that Milk won a seat in San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors after unsuccessfully running for office three times prior. His mission was “to build a better tomorrow filled with the hope for equality and a world without hate”.

While in office he was accountable for a strict gay rights ordinance for the city being passed. Milk grew to be a local celebrity in the gay community of San Francisco. Sadly, 11 months after winning his seat in the Board of Supervisors he was shot and killed in City Hall by a former supervisor, Dan White.

When was it created

The Harvey Milk Foundation (HMF) was created in 2009 by Stuart Milk and Anne Kronenberg. Stuart is the nephew of Harvey Milk and is a global LBGT human rights activist and political speaker. Anne Kronenberg is a LBGT rights activist and was Harvey Milk’s campaign manager during his 1977 campaign, when he won office.

HMF is a non-profit organization geared toward empowering local, regional, national and global organizations to live out Harvey Milk’s dream for a better, equal tomorrow. The organization focuses on the equality of all individuals within society to be able to participate equally. May 22 is dedicated to being Harvey Milk day. One of the HMF’s main missions is to see this day celebrated in as many communities as possible to help educate the world on inclusion and acceptance. A set of online and news media materials are always accessible on the foundation’s website and work hard to build events and monuments that have an educational focus.

I chose to include this artifact in the digital archive because Harvey Milk was a prominent figure in history in the uprising of LBGT acceptance. He empowered individuals to stand by who you are and educate the world on equality in all aspects of life.

Some could say that Harvey Milk was the leader of gay culture in San Francisco. He was looked at as an icon in the 70s and brought individuals of all cultures together to realize they are all equal. Even though he was assonated shortly after entering office, his legacy has been continued through his foundation to build a better tomorrow. Milk gave other individuals hope to pursue what they believe. He was the first openly gay person to be elected into public office, that in and of itself is an accomplish that changed the “political game” forever.          

To this day the Harvey Milk Foundation is utilizing their voice to educate and empower. On their website they have a section dedicated to education. There you can find a list of books which can be useful resources to help educators teach their students more about equality, Harvey Milk, and nonviolent activism. The HMF founders are frequently speaking to audiences about gay rights and pursuing LBGT equality.

The Harvey Milk Foundation was built on the history of Harvey Milk and his dream for a better tomorrow. Without Milk a new path to gay politicians would have been taken and San Francisco may not be the city it is today. Milk’s legacy is being continued and his lessons are always being passed along.

Walt Whitman’s poems could be related to the HMF. Whitman described his sexuality through his writing and attempted to expose his homosexuality to his readers. Unlike Milk, Whitman had a change of heart and re-structured his poems so his readers would not know what he was trying to exemplify. Milk stood by his beliefs and found for equality and positively impacted the lives of so many. IF Whitman would have done the same he could have reached a number of his readers as well.

HMF2HMF

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.

 

LGBT History is American History

There are many forums that document American history, but few dedicate themselves to documenting LGBT history. These forums might appear as collections of literature, art, or music. However there is one website in particular, which puts all of LGBT culture together, and celebrates LGBT History Month one icon at a time.

LGBT History Month is a website that revolves around its name, which is celebrated October of every year. “LGBT History Month celebrates the achievements of 31 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Icons. Each day in October, a new LGBT Icon is featured with a video, bio, bibliography, downloadable images and other resources.” The website also highlights historical information about the LGBT community, among the 31 icons featured during the month itself.

“Rodney Wilson, a Missouri high school teacher, believed a month should be dedicated to the celebration and teaching of gay and lesbian history, and gathered other teachers and community leaders. They selected October because public schools are in session and existing traditions, such as Coming Out Day (October 11), occur that month,” the website explains. LGBT History Month has many supporting organizations. These organizations include the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Education Association, GLAAD, and other national organizations. The Equality Forum also began to coordinate, promote and contribute to LGBT History Month in 2006, which has since helped the website grow and share information. Equality Forum undertakes high-impact initiatives and presents the largest annual national and international LGBT civil rights summit, as well as produces documentary films for LGBT History Month.

There are many prominent figures that are featured among the 31 days in October. These icons are all members of the LGBT community. Some of the 2014 icons included Marc Jacobs, Frank Ocean, Lord Byron, and June Jordan. Evident in just four of the 31 names is the diversity of these prominent LGBT figures. From fashion designers to athletes and political leaders to poets, LGBT History Month does an incredible job highlighting the many accomplished members of the LGBT community.

The website also features ideas for students, educators, GSAs, schools and colleges as to how to appropriately celebrate LGBT History Month. This is a crucial aspect to the website because it engages the user and intends to spread the message of the vitality of LGBT history. There is also an area for users to nominate LGBT History Month Icons for the following year, which explains how the icons are chosen. These icons can all be found in the database, which features 279 icons from 2006-2014. The icons can be searched by name, or even tag, such as “Academy Award,” “Chicago,” “Politics,” “Composer,” and more.

George Chauncey, Samuel Knight Professor of American History and Chair of the History Department at Yale University, is featured on the website, explaining the importance of LGBT history. “LGBT History Month sends an important message to our nation’s teachers, school boards, community leaders, and youth about the vital importance of recognizing and exploring the role of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in American history.” His words resonate with any user who visits the website, because American history cannot be complete without its LGBT contributors.

The importance of LGBT history is apparent in the way LGBT History Month chooses the icons. As a young student wishing to be educated on prominent LGBT figures, there is a name that most everyone can recognize. Being able to feature icons from the 18th century to present day is crucial in showing how much music, art, literature, political progress, and more have come from members of the LGBT community. The successes of these individuals have shaped American society and history, just as much as they have shaped LGBT history. It is important to understand that without LGBT history, much of American history would not be complete.

TJ’s Lasting Impressions Lifestyle Club

The American history of swinging is relatively recent. The modern swinging movement emerged in the 1960s (Gould, 1999) and the term “swingers” was developed in the early 1970s, along with the establishment of the North American Swing Clubs Association.The swinging lifestyle seemed to originate around the same time as the sexual revolution; in the 1980s the push for the term “lifestyle” began to take off, as it was thought to more positively reflect the lifestyle choice that a couple made (Gould, 1999). It is believed that during the 1990s the swinging lifestyle became more prominent because of access to internet, which increased the ability for one to learn about the lifestyle and also meet other swingers.

There doesn’t seem to be one official definition of swinging. Dictionary.com defines swinging as “free and uninhibited sexually” and “exchanging spouses for sex,” while Urbandictionary.com defines it as “A lifestyle of non-monogamy where sexual relations occur outside the established couple.” TJ’s Lasting Impressions, a popular swingers club, defines swinging as “engaging in sexual activity with someone other than one’s spouse/primary partner, with the full knowledge and consent of that spouse/primary partner” (Friend, Pearlmutter & McGinley, 1989). There are many different ways in which swingers can connect with and meet other people who are interested in the lifestyle, such as through advertisements, phone and internet services, off-premise events such as socials and bars where no space is provided for engaging in sexual activity, and on-premise events such as a house party where there is a space provided for engaging in sexual activity.

My archive post will focus on TJ’s Lasting Impressions, which boasts being the largest and most luxurious lifestyle (swingers) club in central Pennsylvania. Larry and Elaine have managed the club for 16 years and are now the current owners. TJ’s is located only 10 miles from Routes 22/322 red-light district, which is known for having many striTJp clubs in one small area because of the lack of zoning regulations. When I asked members of the club if they felt there was any relationship between the location and the type of club TJ’s is, and they said that they felt that it was just a coincidence. They pointed out that strip clubs and swinger clubs target two very different groups of people, and they did not feel as though TJ’s would want to be affiliated with strip clubs. I feel that if there is any correlation, it may just be that people are more open about sexuality in that geographic location.

TJ’s provides a safe, open-minded atmosphere for both couples and singles to meet others who share similar interests. TJ’s is a private club, which means that you must either be a member or have a reservation in order to enter. TJ’s hosts many exciting and interesting events including TJ’s Threesome Night, Milfs and Cougars night, and TJ’s Slumber Party Night. TJ’s also has the Intimate Impressions store, a restaurant, a large Roman hot tub, VIP suites, 12 large party rooms, and a dance floor. TJ’s is on-premise, which means it provides a safe space for engaging in sexual activity, which the owners feel allows couples and singles to freely express their sexuality and sensuality and gives them greater opportunity for social interaction and activities. TJ’s puts a lot of effort in making sure that everyone feels very welcome at the club, and does not encourage anyone to do anything that they are not comfortable with. TJ’s targets both couples and singles, with different event nights targeting both groups. Members who I have spoken with state that they felt that females drive the lifestyle; even TJ’s website states that they believe the ladies are in charge of this scene.One female member stated that she had experienced the most sexual empowerment at TJ’s than anywhere else.

I choose to incorporate TJ’s Lasting Impressions lifestyle club into our digital archive because I felt that it queered normative culture by providing a safe and open-minded environment for non-normative sexual behavior and interests. Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner state in their article Sex in Public, “Queer social practices like sex and theory try to unsettle the garbled but powerful norms supporting that privilege -including the project of normalization that has made heterosexuality hegemonic- as well as those material practices that, though not explicitly sexual, are implicated in the hierarchies of property and propriety that we will describe as heteronormative.” I think that Queer culture attempts to challenge people’s concepts of what sexuality means, develop new ways in which to look at pleasure and the erotic, and redefine the social rules for who can become intimate with who. I think that TJ’s attempts to do those very same things. Our society tells us that sexual relations must be dancefloorstrictly monogamous, between one man and one woman, and in the privacy of our own homes – alone. I think that both Queer culture and TJ’s attempts to tear down that social norm, and build a new way in which to look at sexuality. Both Queer culture and TJ’s embrace the many dimensions of sexuality as a lifestyle, and do not view sexuality as something negative or abnormal. Some swingers and those who identify as LGBT may feel the pressure to not be open about their sexuality or sexual lifestyle with others, because both groups of people have faced a lack understanding from people with very normative and conservative views.

I, however, have noticed that, although Bisexual women are very welcome and common at TJ’s, they do not seem to target the LGBT community. Of all the event nights, there are no LGBT events. Members of the club have also told me that it is not very common to see gay and lesbian couples there. I personally think that TJ’s would receive even more guests if they reached out to the LGBT community. When searching through their website, I found that on their Terminology and Facts page that many of their definitions seemed very heteronormative. For example, they define a couple as a man and a woman, threesome as having to involve at least one person of the opposite sex, and “petting” as something seen among opposite genders. So, although I think TJ’s and Queer culture have some overlapping goals in redefining sexuality, I think that TJ’s is still stuck in a very heteronormative way of thinking about gender dynamics within a sexual relationship.

I think that TJ’s Lasting Impressions lifestyle club really fits in with our sex unit of the archive. I think that there are several areas in which TJ’s reflects topics we discussed in class. TJ’s reminds me of the public sex prevalent with gay men in the early 1980s. TJ’s also seems similar to  the bars in the Cruising film, where public sex and uncommitted sexual encounters were a part of the culture. TJ’s Roman hot tub reflects the gay bath houses we discussed in class as another location for public sex. There are some differences though; TJ’s website mentions that “other cultures” aka bondage, sado/masochism and watersports are uncommon and even shunned at most swing events, where the bars depicted in Cruising seemed to promote those types of activities.  Cruising also focused a lot on cruising, although TJ’s does promote a similar interaction, they frown upon what they call “bedroom cruising” where a male goes around to private swing areas attempting to get involved with something. I find it very strange that these places seem so similar, yet they are both so restrictive in their acceptance of other sexual orientations, and you do not see many clubs/bars which really target all sexual orientations. It makes me wonder why these places which promote open sexuality still set certain boundaries. TJ’s seems to have very strict rules and regulations on what is and is not acceptable within the swingers lifestyle and within the club, suggesting their own set of norms and etiquette. I think that it reveals that even groups which go against the “typical” norms tend to in turn create a new set of norms.

http://tjslastingimpressions.com/main.php

Museum of Sex (MoSex)

Museum of Sex Store“Museum of Sex Store”

The Museum of Sex (MoSex), located in New York City is a relatively new establishment that opened in 2002. The museum has many guided and guest curators that make up an advisory board and contribute research resources, collections and relevant artists to the establishment. The goal of the museum is to maintain and showcase the history and evolution of human sexuality and its cultural significance. The museum features exhibitions, publications and programs that highlight sex and sexuality to a wide range of audiences and aims to enlighten, spark conversation and engage the public. The institution serves as a museum, sex store and restaurant/bar making a visit to the 5th avenue location extremely diverse and holistic. Patrons come for the fun, educational experience where you can learn about all things sex and leave (hopefully) with a buzz from a Sex on the Beach and and a buzzing pink sex toy.

 Funland “Funland”

In terms of queer culture, this artifact is important because it gives the opportunity for discourse and education on sexuality. When sexuality is kept taboo, conversations are hindered and education is limited which creates confusion, lack of answers and lack of resources for anyone exploring their sexuality, most often the queer community. This artifact takes sexuality, a usually unspoken entity, and turns it into an opportunity for education. When I personally visited the museum, there were many examples of homosexuality displayed. An entire exhibit was dedicated to animal sexuality and contained examples of homosexuality in the animal world. Aside from just queer sexuality, it encompasses exhibits on all things sexual and attempts to normalize sexuality in society through education and discussion. An artifact like this is important for the queer community because it legitimizes the concept of non-normative sexuality through exhibits and art that strives to preserve sexually relevant information. Without knowledge, it is impossible for individuals to grow. Having a museum dedicated to the preservation of sexual knowledge can only further grow our society and continue the acceptance of new information and concepts related to sexuality.

Animal Sexuality“Animal Sexuality”

In class, especially in the unit on sex, we have discussed all things sexual, perverse, hetero and homosexual, normal, abnormal and beyond. This course and this unit is extremely educational and sexually liberating through eliminating “politically correctness” and “appropriation” in societies terms. We talk about sex, jizz, fetishism and sexuality in an open and honest forum. This completely mirrors the experience that the Museum of Sex provides to its audiences. It displays beautiful, historical, cringeworthy concepts of sexuality and everything in between in an educational institution. The work we discuss in class is just as informational, bizarre and erotic as the exhibits featured in the Museum of Sex. It inevitably relates to sexuality but whole heartedly relates to our class because of the content of both educational experiences. This institution greatly contributes to our archive as a resource of LGBTA representation through its material, mission and successful conservation of sexual and queer knowledge.

Linda Lovelace“Linda Lovelace, first pornstar”