Keith Haring’s AIDS Activism

Keith Haring was an American artist and activist in 1980s New York, whose artwork raised awareness on social issues at the time. One the main awareness campaigns Haring participated on was AIDS awareness and activism. As an openly gay man Screen Shot 2015-12-13 at 19.40.18and someone who was suffering from AIDS himself, Haring wanted to break the silence and stigma on AIDS as “gay cancer.” Through Haring’s style and images he was able to reach a larger audience and spread the awareness of AIDS.

 

Haring’s main style for his artwork were cartoon like figures with bold colors and lines as seen in pop art and graffiti art. He believed that art was not only for the rich and elite but rather for the average everyday folk. He was quoted saying, “My contribution to the world is my ability to draw. I will draw as much as I can for as many people as I can for as long as I can.” Because of this, most of his artwork was seen in public spaces like subways and street. Haring would turn empty ad spaces into his artworks. This idea of art for the common person helped his AIDS awareness campaign as many people who would be affected by AIDS were able to see his artwork.

One of his more famous artworks for AIDS awareness and activism is called Silence=Death. In this piece, there are stick figures outlined in bold white lines inside a pink triangle. The figures vary from covering their ears, their eyes, and their mouths. The figures inside the triangle represent all of the people suffering from AIDS who felt as if they havSilence-Deathe been silenced and casted away from society because of this disease.The pink triangle the figures are inside of adds to this message of oppression since the pink triangle symbol was used during the Holocaust to indicate the people that were being singled out for their homosexuality. Haring wanted to give all the people
suffering from AIDS a voice and have their concerns be heard since at this time not much was being done on AIDS awareness.

Another artwork of his that raised AIDS awareness was a piece titled Ignorance=Fear, Silence=Death. The piece has three yellow figures outlined in think black lines behind an orange background. Like the figures in the previous work, each figure has their eyes covered, their mouth covered, or their ears covered. The figures also have a pink “x” across their chest which represents that actual disease of AIDS. The figures again represent people with AIDS, who are too afraid to voice their concerns and have been silenced by society. The top of the piece has the words “Ignorance = Fear” and the bottom has the words “Silence = Death.” During this period, there was a lack of knowledge on what AIDS and HIV actually was because people were afraid to speak up about the condition. People were afraid of the stigma behind the disease. Before the term AIDS and HIV were used, it was called GRID, which means gay-related immune deficiency. So the lack of knowledge leads to fear of the disease. The “Silence = Death” part is about all the people that
refused to get tested or recognize the seriousness of the illness will die. The public’s silence on the issue of AIDS was leading to more death, and Haring wanted to make this known.

ActUpBThrough Haring’s artwork, AIDS awareness and prevention was brought to the public’s eye and it opened up conversations about the disease. As someone who suffered first hand from the disease, Haring wanted people to speak up about AIDS so more research could be conducted in order to understand a disease that was and still is affecting millions of people.

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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Jin Xing: I don’t want the world to change me too much

Jin Xing is probably the most renown representative of the LGBT society in China. She entered the military’s dance troupe in ShenYang, China, at the age of 9. She was the first Chinese who received full scholarship from the United States and she came to New York to study modern dance. She then went to Europe, including rome, to travel and teach modern dance. In 1995, 26 years old Jin Xing decided to perform a sex reassignment surgery and become a woman. As a well-known choreographer and dancer, Jin Xing now owns her own dance company, her own talk show. She knows five languages and she is a wife, and the mother of three children.

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One unique thing about Jin Xing is that, she does not see herself as a transsexual, she see herself as a woman instead. She is successful not as a transgender, but as a person, a woman. People also do not refer her as a transgender woman. If you ask a Chinese about Jin Xing, I believe most of them will regard her as “the legendary female dancer and choreographer”, instead of “a successful transgender woman”. In contrast, Caitlyn Jenner, who just got the ESPY award, is still having an public image of a transgender. Jenner’s speeches, including her show “I am Cait”, emphasize on her process of becoming a women and how hard was it. During our discussion in class, many people said they think Caitlyn was really fake in her show. This is completely opposite with Jin Xing, who is also known as the “poison tongue” in China, because she only say the real words. Jin Xing Also, While Caitlyn Jenner is trying to influence the world of transgender people with her experience, Jin Xing is being a role model herself, as a transgender woman, who is a dancer, choreographer, a talk show host, and a talent show judge. Jin Xing is trying to influence the world by being successful while still being herself.

On the other hand, JinJXg Xing’s determination led to her success. At a young age, Jin Xing was determined that she wants to pursue a career as a dancer. She used hunger strike to persuade her mom to let her learn dancing. Being a transgender in China is definitely more difficult than in the U.S., especially at that time when Jin Xing did the surgery. Transgender was still kind of a taboo and being homosexual was a crime in China. Also, the technology was not that advanced. One has to be really determined to make this decision and to be willing to bear the consequence. An accident during the surgery almost paralyzed her leg and doctor told her she may never be able to walk again. However, she practice hard with her paralyzed leg and believed that she will be able to dance again, and she did.

Jin Xing is definitely one the most influential women in China. She has her own unique way when looking at things including politics and problems in China, and they are always presented in a humorous way in her talk show. Those are her personal ideas and she is speaking by heart. She said that, “I don’t want to change the world, but I also don’t want the world to change me too much. I just want to be myself.”JX2

Real Man Adventures

Real Man Adventures, shown below, is a novel by a transgender man named T Cooper. It was published in 2012 making it a pretty recent book. This book is essentially a transgender memoir. Although the word memoir is never actually used to in the book, that’s basically what it is. Cooper talks about many different things throughout the novel ranging from sex to violence to transgender violence to when he “knew”.

t cooper

My favorite chapter in this book is called “A Few Words About Pronouns”. This chapter starts out with “what’s the first thing people ask when a woman is going to have a baby? Is it a boy or a girl?” Everybody cares about a baby’s sex and nothing more. The main concern of people is what’s in someone’s pants. The question second to that is, as T Cooper says, “is it healthy?”, but that isn’t the main concern. This links in to queer culture because as we all know sex does not necessarily correlate with gender. Within the chapter Cooper goes on to talk about how when he first started using male pronouns people would screw up, and he would be like no it’s okay, it’s probably hard for you. He then said “I stopped being so goddamn accommodating and started gently correcting people”. That’s a big deal. The point in which you stop letting people screw up because they don’t feel like getting it right is a big step. It is an uncomfortable thing but as he said “…you know what’s mildly uncomfortable? Not being seen for who you are, especially by people who are supposed to know and love you”.

This chapter of the book as well as the entire book relates back to our class very well. I think it connects very much with Susan Stryker’s transgender rage. The novel itself is all transgender rage filled. Throughout the book, Cooper words things in a somewhat bitter and cynical way with a hint of some “dark” humor. In the chapter I spoke about, when he wrote “…you know what’s mildly uncomfortable? Not being seen for who you are, especially by people who are supposed to know and love you”, I believe it channeled the anger and bitterness of how he felt when people screwed his pronouns up without really trying. I personally understand that feeling of anger and bitterness about things like that. It’s easily equated with Stryker’s description of transgender rage.

Tomboy

Tomboy is a graphic novel authored by Liz Prince, and published in 2015. It humorously, and very simply, illustrates the many struggles gender-nonconforming females experience growing up. While specific to Prince’s own life, it is a fantastic representation of youth (and typical youth struggles – parents/family, developing friendships, romantic attraction, ideas surrounding sex) intertwined with the struggles of being a masculine presenting girl/young woman in a culture that is largely unaccepting of this type (“tomboys”).

The novel opens with a scene of four year old Liz Prince in emotional disarray from the thought of having to wear a dress that her grandmother bought for her and ends with a humorous layout of her preferred display of masculinity. As she explains the recurrent theme of her own masculinity throughout childhood and young teenage years, along with the resulting emotional turmoil she experienced because of bullying and the general lack of acceptance from her peers, she continually breaks down her own evolving gender display with humorous commentary.

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A particular struggle for Liz Prince was trying to date boys. A boy she admired and fell for was a boy every girl in her school dreamed of dating; he was a school heart-throb. She was not the typical feminine presenting girl – she presented as more masculine, wore men’s clothes – and he rejected her because of it. This seemed to contribute to her struggle of general acceptance, understanding, and good-feelings of herself.

In An Introduction to Female Masculinity, Judith Halberstam asserts that displays/modes of female masculinity are perceived to be the rejected scraps of heroic and legitimate masculinity, in order to make legitimate masculinity legitimate – the right way to be masculine. It instead, according to Halberstam, is a window through which we can see how masculinity is constructed. When Liz Prince began realizing that she embodied a gender display that is not in line with traditional display for females (being feminine), she captures the emotion perfectly in a single page:

The second image on the page shows the pervasive idea that female masculinity does not equal legitimate masculinity because legitimate masculinity can be found only in males and this is the only way to have a legitimate masculine identity. In the first image, female masculinity also means not being legitimately female (female = co-occuring femininity under this logic), and the last illustration shows utter confusion – a sort of, “what am I?” crisis. If not considered – looking through the lens of the binary – to be truly feminine or truly masculine, where does that leave the gender non-conforming female/woman? It leaves them with no legitimate identity. Judith Halberstam points out that tomboyism is harshly punished (including attempts to “reorient” the individual) and seen as a real problem only when it continues into adolescence and adulthood. As Liz Prince grows up, her continuing tomboyism is more harshly punished by peers, and I believe that the partial results of this punishment of the tomboy individual is the emotion that can be seen in the image above. To quote Judith Halberstam, “Female adolescence represents the crisis of coming of age as a girl in a male-dominated society.” Living within this male dominated society, it is possible to assert that whatever most legitimately masculine males perceive as attractive is the rule, and legitimately masculine males are not attracted to displays of masculinity – so not attracted to Liz Prince; I consider this to be one of the many forms of punishment. She felt this strongly and couldn’t seem to figure out why she was never fully accepted throughout her childhood and young teenage years.

I like Tomboy because it illustrates in pictures, as well as words, the struggles of gender non-conforming females, but with the comfort of humor. Thinking of my own childhood, teenage, and adult experience as a tomboy, I can relate strongly to the experiences of Liz Prince, which made this a very enjoyable read for me.

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-Towards the end of Tomboy, Liz Prince illustrates a time when she discovered the works of Ariel Schrag – another graphic novelist. I highly recommend reading Awkward and Definition, Potential, and Likewise if interested in a story about a masculine presenting woman’s struggle with discovering her sexuality throughout high school…and if you’re as enthralled with graphic novels as me.

Here is a pretty great illustration from Potential –

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House of Ladosha

House of Ladosha, musically starting in 2007, is a hip-hop group unlike any other. Composed of Antonio Blair (Dosha Devastation) and Adam Radakovich (Cunty Crawford Ladosha), House of Ladosha was inspired by New York ball culture. Not only do they throw shade with the beats of their music and their lyrics, but they also dress mostly in drag.

Their music is not a force to be reckoned with. Their performances can be described as ‘an explosion of glamor and terror.’ When watching their performances, you are likely to see Adam dancing more than Antonio, but the atmosphere of the places they perform is definitely like one of those rave clubs. They get their inspiration for their music as they are sleeping at night or while meditating. Antonio normally finds wealthy suitors at her feet, sex with mythological characters and a royal house of cannibalistic “cock pussy bitch faggots” that wear elaborate costumes. Respecting her body, Antonio abandons the usual references to the penis, vagina and butt replacing the hyper-sexualized language that goes with these words. The metaphors she uses instead almost describe interpretations of Salvador Dali paintings.

Both Antonio and Adam had very different childhoods, but they had one thing in common: their parents accepted them for who they were. Antonio grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. His parents were both “art-raging,” so he was always surrounded by everything art related. His parent’s did not care about gender norms either; he had over 30 Barbie dolls when he was younger, and he also wanted to be a gymnast as a child because of their outfits.

Adam grew up in a small town in Ohio. Although his parents were conservative schoolteachers, they always let him explore and do what he wanted to do. His older brother, Brian turned him onto rap music. As a child, he also loved any sort of television show that made him feel excited and fashionable.

As well as music, House of Ladosha is also considered to be like a second family. The starting members of the house all met in New York. They had all traveled from all over the country to attend New York’s fashion school. They started out going to parties together, but then it became much more as they got more comfortable with each other. Their family is described differently than the standard American family, however: this family consists of people that they have ki ki’s with. Those who are apart of this family also have dinner together and talk on the phone with each other. As a whole, the House of Ladosha family is a group of artists who rage.

Sharon Needles

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Sharon Needles is by far my favorite drag performer. She embodies a drag persona that consistently challenges it’s own culture – the high-femme of drag queens – with her love of shock value. Her persona is strongly androgyne, and at other times “dusty-femme,” (defined below) but is presented within an art that most often deliberately acts in strict opposition to traditional gender display. Traditional here meaning consistent with one’s biological sex and accordingly masculine or feminine. Drag performers typically embody the opposite side of the gender binary to an exaggerated degree, which often produces a parody and theatrical performance of culturally constructed traditional gender – this can be seen in Ru Paul, Adore Delano, Alaska Thunderfuck, Courtney Act, etc. Sharon Needles does not seem to follow this “rule” of drag queen culture.

I consider dusty-femme to be a persona that is not traditionally feminine, but still is feminine: it is hard to see (it is “dusty”); it is rough around the edges, blunt, and/or crude, yet ultimately femininely styled. The mode of dress, including makeup and hair, is not always finely groomed, or elegantly presented, but the bodily movements are. This aesthetic is exemplified in the video “Kai Kai” with Sharon’s frizzy yellow hair, dark lipstick, and marijuana-leaf dress paired with femininely stylized movements. It is exemplified also in the glam-goth aesthetic of “Dressed to Kill” and “Call me on the Ouija Board.”

 

Call me on the Ouija Board

In both of these videos, Sharon Needles embodies a glam-goth aesthetic, which I consider to fall under the category of dusty-femme. In my observations and understandings, goth-aesthetic embodying females are generally viewed as unfeminine in relation to traditional female identity as a “pretty woman” (the woman we see in mass media) and thus mostly undesirable to our heterosexist and misogynistic culture at large – it is not the “proper” way to be feminine and female. It’s heavy and dark, blunt and overt, as opposed to light and passive.  Sharon Needles is the goth woman with traditional power, creating glamorous femininity with elegant movement on the fashion runway in “Dressed to Kill.”

Note: Not that upholding traditional values of the necessity of femininity in females and/or women is a great thing, but drag is an intentional performance of gender, and Sharon Needles performs well.

However, in “Call me on the Ouija Board” for a portion of the video she creates a sort of meta-drag with goth aesthetic – a male, impersonating a female, dressed in partial men’s attire. She pulls it off well, maintaining an air of femininity with elegant movements, but in partial male dress – producing a very powerful androgynous glam-goth woman complete with dark eye makeup, short black hair, long black nails, red eyes, red tie, white button-up, black dress, an aesthetically pleasing black hat, and words of ouija boards.
Sharon Needles
The androgynous figure she embodies in “Call me on the Ouija Board” calls to mind Judith Halberstam’s An Introduction to Female Masculinity as well as Judith Butler’s explanations of performance and performativity.

 

Kai Kai – Sharon Needles and Alaska Thunderfuck

I’d like to consider the approach of this video to be a parody of Pure Camp. According to Susan Sontag in “Notes on Camp,” Pure Camp is essentially naive and serious, in that the seriousness fails to be serious. This means that Pure Camp cannot be obtained with the intention to produce Camp because then it is not naive. The very statement of “going camping” is an act of deliberate Camp; deliberate camp is produced with the intention to be Campy. Alaska and Sharon fantastically, with exaggerated inflection, refer to going camping declaring, “It will be Pure Camp!” I analyze this to be a statement with deliberate intention to be paradoxical. It is not Pure Camp, and is thus a parody of Pure Camp. It is Camp that knows itself to be Camp while claiming the opposite. Camp itself has an element of parody, and self-parody, seeming to make this production a parody of parody, and under this analysis, is unquestionably humorous.
It’s certain that “Kai Kai” is Camp – it is very stylized, very exaggerated, and essentially contentless – much like John Waters film “Pink Flamingos.” In “Pink Flamingos” it is impossible to draw symbolic meaning. Every image is exaggerated and stylized to a point of unreal-ness. It is a great example of Camp (maybe even parody Camp) and is a fantastic representation of, to quote Susan Sontag, “things-being-what-they-are not.”

 

“Notes on Camp” – Susan Sontag: http://faculty.georgetown.edu/irvinem/theory/Sontag-NotesOnCamp-1964.html

Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan is a young adult novel released in April 2010. The novel surrounds two main characters, both with the same name, Will Grayson. The novel is different from many other novels we see today because it has two alternating points of view, both written by different authors.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson was the first ever LGBT novel to make The New York Times children’s best seller list.

Will Grayson , written by John Green, narrates the odd numbered chapters. All of his chapters are written in proper grammar and punctuation. However, will grayson, written by David Levithan, narrates the even numbered chapters. His words are all lowercase with no proper punctuation.

Will Grayson , who goes to a high school in Chicago, Illinois, tries to live his life without being noticed. His best friend is named Tiny Cooper, a very large homosexual boy. Will Grayson  is the only straight member of the Gay-Straight Alliance at his school. He lusts after a girl named Jane Turner who goes to his school.

will grayson, a homosexual high school boy from Naperville, Illinois, crushes on a boy named Isaac who he only knows from the internet. They communicate secretly through instant messaging online.

When will grayson  tries to set up a meeting with his online love, Isaac, the two boys accidentally meet at a porn shop and their lives intertwine.  Isaac turns out to be completely made up by one of will garyson’s female friends from school, Maura. Maura has always had a thing for will grayson, but he obviously never liked her in the same way. Acting as Isaac allowed her to get closer to him.

This was John Green and David Levithan’s first time writing a book with homosexual protagonists. A lot of readers questioned why the two authors decided to take this route.

On johngreenbooks.com, Green answers questions about the novel. Some of the more relevant and important ones to this course include:

“Q.  What was it like for you to write about gay characters and gay issues?
A. I didn’t think much about it, to be honest.”

This response really caught my attention, and it began to make me question whether John Green and David Levithan really knew what they were talking about at all when they wrote this book. Neither of them are homosexuals themselves, and probably do not have much experience with homosexual teenagers. Saying “I didn’t think much about it,” leaves me pretty disappointed in John Green as an author. He is one of my favorites, and I thought he would have gone beyond that.

It’s offensive and sad that he didn’t think much about it because there are so many teens out there today that do have very real issues that they deal with, and Green and Levithan didn’t even bother to do any kind of research.

“Q. Will Grayson seemed to have asexual qualities. Why wasn’t he?
A. He’s physically attracted to Jane from the very beginning of the book—or at least he drawn to describing her physicality more observantly than any of the other characters.
I certainly wouldn’t think it’s “too much” to have an asexual protagonist in one of my novels. I just wanted sexual love to be one of the kinds of love—but only one—that was celebrated in the book.
Thematically, I suppose this was important to me because I think both David and I wanted to normalize gay sexual encounters by equalizing them with straight sexual encounters.
But mostly I just saw Will’s reluctance to seek romantic entanglements as reflective not as asexuality but by his wrongheaded belief that pain is something avoidable/to be avoided.”

That, thankfully, is one thing they did accomplish in this novel. Although Will Grayson is completely straight, and to some, kind of asexual, he loves Tiny and doesn’t care that he is gay.

Merle Miller, author of “What It Means To Be a Homosexual,” states, “Nobody says, or at least I have never heard anyone say, ‘Some of my best friends are homosexual.’ People do say- I say- ‘fag’ and ‘queer’ without hesitation- and these words, no matter who is uttering them, are put- down words, in intent every bit as vicious as ‘kike’ or ‘nigger”” (1).

Will Grayson hangs around with Tiny and regards him as one of his best friends. He helps him through all of his troubles as he would any straight person. Words like ‘fag’ and ‘queer’ are not used throughout this novel. Tiny is also very proud to be gay, and he doesn’t hide it from anyone, as some homosexuals may.

Green even claims that having the two boys meet at a porn shop is an attempt to normalize heterosexual and homosexual engagement:

“Q. Why did the Will Graysons meet in a porn shop?
A. I guess I kind of wanted to force David’s hand here, because I really wanted to write a story that celebrated all different kinds of love, that talked about love between friends and between kids and parents, and that wasn’t just another love story in which the only kind of love was romantic.
And it seemed to me that part of our weird obsession with romantic love is a weird attraction/repulsion to our sexuality, which is inevitably going to be at play any time you write about young homosexual men and women, because there is still so much prejudice against them. (I knew I wanted to write about a friendship between a straight male and a gay male.)
So I thought it would be interesting and resonant to have these two guys have this aggressively unsexual and unromantic encounter in a place (a porn store) we associate so closely with sexuality.” 

When I personally think of a porn shop, I do very closely associate it with sexuality and even kinkiness. Having these two boys, both who do not have a lot of experience with sex in general, meet here, is kind of comedic.

Although the title is based off of the Will Graysons, Tiny Cooper becomes a very large part of the story, literally. Throughout the book, he is writing an autobiographical musical that surrounds his many past boyfriends. After both Graysons meet, will grayson gets in a relationship with Tiny. However, he ends it too soon due to his depression and lack of trust in others.

will grayson and Tiny Cooper reflect different types of stereotypes that society holds about homosexual men.

will grayson  is the goth, depressed, and angry gay teen who wants nothing to do with anyone. In the first line of his first chapter, he quotes, “i am constantly torn between killing myself and killing everyone around me” (Green and Levithan 22).  (Yes, it’s all lowercase. It makes me cringe, trust me.) Great first impression, right?

He’s rude to his mother, and he’s rude to pretty much everyone else around him, even people who he calls friends. The only person he truly adores is his online love, Isaac, who turns out to be completely fake.

He represents the whole ‘teen angst’ thing pretty well, rocking the whole goth look and acting like no one could possibly ever understand him. He hides the fact he is gay to everyone.

His chapters are written completely in lower case and with no proper punctuation besides periods between sentences. While it drove me crazy reading it, I don’t think it was done solely to help readers distinguish between the two boys.

Constantly throughout the novel, will talks about how he is not good enough and has nothing special about him. Writing in all lower case with no punctuation may very well be a reflection of these feelings. will feels like he is a lower case person who is not worthy of upper case letters, which usually start a sentence and indicate important words like nouns. Readers pay attention to upper case letters when reading. will feels that he isn’t worthy of anyone’s attention, hence why everything he says is written in lowercase.

Tiny, though also homosexual, is the complete opposite.

Tiny is loud and proud about who he is. He is flamboyant and very into musical theater, which is stereotypical of many gay men.

Green even addresses this on his website:

“Q. Tiny seemed to be almost a caricature of a stereotypical gay person. Did you do this on purpose?
A. I wanted Tiny to be entirely agnostic toward the stereotypes. I liked the idea that he really, deep down didn’t care if it happened to be “gay” to like musical theater. He just likes musical theater.
After all, he also doesn’t care that it’s “straight” to play football, and he’s the best player on his school’s football team. He just likes football…”

Though Green claims Tiny is “agnostic” towards the stereotypes, he still completely portrays and perpetuates them.

However, he does play football, which is not very typical of a gay man.

Lastly, when I originally read this novel, I was very hesitant to do so. I read all of John Green’s novels before this one, and I wasn’t too sure if I liked the idea of an unknown author taking up half of the book.

However, afterwards, I was so glad that I decided to give this book a chance. It’s now one of my favorites. In fiction today, especially YA, we rarely see books written with more than one author. Readers, including myself, worry that the novel won’t flow, and the characters won’t be able to fully develop or create a connection with the reader.

However, none of this was a problem in Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Both authors have extremely powerful and distinct voices, but they mixed well together. I was able to easily tell which boy I was reading about, and I also cared about them both equally even though they each had to share narration time.

Overall, this novel is unique for its time. It aims to normalize interaction between heterosexual and homosexual people, but at the same time, it perpetuates stereotypes of homosexual men.

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.