Queering Racist Symbols

While watching the movie “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar”, I was so wrapped up in the plot that I did not notice the big details. One of the larger details that I missed that was brought up in class is the moment in the film when RuPaul dressed in the confederate flag at a drag ball. The ball occurs in the beginning of the film; the three main characters are in a competition to take the ball’s title. RuPaul is introduced as last year’s winner and makes her début donning the glamorous confederate flag gown. RuPaul is one of the most widely known drag queens. She is an actor, recording artist, television show host, and has been the face of drag queens for quite some time.

Not only is RuPaul’s dress made from the confederate flag, but also the dress is made to be very extravagant and glittered. RuPaul has taken the very negative symbol that goes against even aspect of her character – black male, queer, drag queen – and turned it into a freaking dress. If that is not a huge   to the confederate flag and its meaning, I do not know what is.

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There has been a controversial debate around what the confederate flag represents. Some people believe it is a symbol of southern pride – while most recognize the confederate flag as a symbol of racism and a reference to the horrible acts perpetuated against black people during that time. The flag also represents white supremacy and the push that happened against the civil rights movement. In my opinion, if the confederate flag is considered a symbol of southern pride, we have to take into consideration the period in which this represents. The south openly embraced slavery and the lynching of black peoples during the time the confederate flag was embraced. It is also important to note that this era has not ended, these acts have just changed form and are still perpetrated in a different manner. Southern pride must include that history so if you are claiming to embrace racist ideals. During the time of the confederate flag, this was also southern pride:

The only difference between these two images is that this image cannot be put on a flag and be mainstream.

Why is RuPaul wearing this symbol of racism and white supremacy?

Elizabeth Freeman would describe this phenomenon in terms of “temporal drag”. According to Freeman’s piece “Time Binds”, “temporal drag is a productive obstacle to progress, a usefully distorting pull backward, and a necessary pressure on the present tense”. Temporal drag is when a specific object representing a certain culture is revamped. This remaking is meant to conjure memories of the past, but not continuing or mocking it; it is remodeled for a different reason.

I agree with partially with Freeman’s concept of temporal drag. I agree with the notion of an object of the past being created into a new entity, however, I do feel like RuPaul was mocking it. I believe she was showing that the flag meant absolutely nothing and was just another piece of fabric. Drag queens are known for two actions: performing and “reading”. Reading, in drag queen terms, is a form of publicly making fun of someone. I believe RuPaul was definitely reading those individuals who embrace that flag by making it into a dress and performing for those at the ball. She was demonstrating how much she did not care about the meaning of the confederate flag and showing the lack of respect for it. The flag means the world to some people and she was showing them that the flag and it meaning actually meant nothing.

In carrying out this performative reading, I believe RuPaul is concurrently reaching for something else, something deeper. As Jose Munoz said in his novel “Cruising Utopia”, “Turning to the aesthetic in the case of queerness is nothing like an escape from the social realm, insofar as queer aesthetics map future social relations. Queerness is also a performative because it is not simply a being but a doing for and toward the future. Queerness is essentially about the rejection of a here and now and an insistence on potentiality or concrete possibility for another world.” In a way, I believe RuPaul was performing the acceptance of all people. By making that flag into an extravagant gown, she is rejecting white supremacy and the systems that are created by that supremacy which oppress groups of people.

I believe there are many reasons why RuPaul decided to wear that dress instead of verbalizing her opinion. However, the main reason could be that she did not want to spend time explaining how she felt to those who would questioned her.

Audre Lorde said it best, “Black and Third World people are expected to educate white people as to our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade their responsibility for their own actions. There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future.” Why should those that are oppressed explain their plights and their feelings to the oppressors? In order to avoid that explanation, RuPaul decided to wear that gown instead of speaking her feelings. If the oppressors want to understand the oppressed, they need to do research of their own instead expecting the oppressed to explain everything.

Intimate LGBT Couple vs Spontaneous Gay Sex

There is no difference between two women being in love, two men being in love and a man and woman being in love. It is all love. Every couple has their flaws, fights, break ups, make ups, and struggles. LGBT couples are just two ordinary people in love. Some studies say that gay sex is more spontaneous than sex between one man and one woman. Humans were meant to be hunters and gathers. Everyone should be happy and be able to love who they love and have sex with their partner no matter what other people say.

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This is a Russian lesbian couple that was followed by a documentary photographer for almost four years. But in Russia their relationship is being seen as perversion. In 2013 in Russia it was illegal to hold gay pride events and same-sex relationships were not as equal as straight relationships were. LGBT couples should not have to be treated this way, they are people just like everyone else is. Straight sex is publicized why can’t LGBT sex. Lesbians and gays are just as intimate as straight people are.An intimate evening together. Both Lyudmila and Natasha have no financial stability - they move at least twice a year, often living out of boxes for weeks.

Sex can be extremely important to a relationship. According to a study done in Australia, spontaneous is an important part of sexual chemistry. Don’t be afraid to affirm to your partner that they are sexy or beautiful. This will increase the intimacy and bond between you and your partner. Most men have inherited a trait for hunting. They can use this trait to find their partners that play hard to get. Gay men like to play hard to get when it comes to sex. They let the tension build between them which then causes the urge to hunt or pounce on your partner. This then leads to either spontaneous oral sex or penetration. Gay men also attract their partner by wearing sexy clothing or underwear while doing things around the house like cooking or cleaning. This will cause a sexual attraction and more than likely lead to sex. Trying different things can be a good change with sex every once in a while. Having sex in new places can be surprising yet exciting. Sex is not only meant for one man and one woman couples but it is also meant for two men or two women couples too.

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In conclusion every couple who is willing to have sex together no matter if its two men, two women, or one man and one woman should be allowed to no matter what its their lives and their choices. I would also say that gay love and straight love are the same kind of love. Every body should have their choice of who they want to be in love with and who they want to have sex with. Lesbian couples and gays couples can have very intimate relationships. Intimacy can lead to a spontaneous sexual chemistry. All couples are the same we are all people nobody is perfect we all have our own flaws, we fight, we love, we break up, we kiss and make up. Love is love and sex is sex.It’s not gay love and gay sex it” just love and sex there is no difference we are all humans no matter who we love or who we have sex with.

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#LoveisLove CondividiLove

If we take a look at at world map of same sex marriage, we can see how progressive western Europe has been. But there is one country on the map that has not had the same progression.

Since 1890 in Italy, for both males and females homosexuality has been legal, but same-sex couples and households are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples. Although discrimination regarding sexual orientation in employment has been banned since 2003, no other anti-discrimination laws regarding sexual orientation have been enacted yet. This is largely due to the influence of the Catholic Church in Italy.  The church has been strict with its laws concerning homosexuality. Even though Pope Francis has made efforts to reform the church and make it more open, saying that the church should support gay families, he has encountered resistance from some traditionalists. With the issue of gay marriage being talked about all over the world, a new campaign has been launched in Italy to get the conversation started in their country. CondividiLove is an internet campaign on Facebook, Youtube, and website. The name translated into english means “share love” and that is the main goal of this campaign.

This video features couples, gay and straight, embracing and showing their love with their arms and shoulders creating a heart. The video was also turned into posters that made their way to tumblr.

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Tumblr has a pretty substantial LGBTQ+ community and so photos and campaigns like this tend to get many “notes”: similar to likes, shares and comments on facebook. Tumblr’s format allows for users to blog anonymously and customise their blogs to their tastes and I think this is why many people in the LGBTQ+ community has found refuge in it. The users of the site consider themselves proactive for the most part with many issues like gay marriage, gender equality and racial issues.

One of the issues that several tumblr users brought up was that all the couples featured were white. The popular of Italy is largely white and the campaign was for the citizens there. A user spoke on behalf of this issue:

Not everywhere is as mixed as North America. You go to places like Japan and it would be really weird to see a white person in their ad, it’s no different for places like Italy and Germany where people are mostly white. In North American we seem to have a decently even mix in a lot of areas so it’s a little off-putting when there’s only a certain race -generally all white people- depicted, where it’s completely normal and would appear really strange otherwise for other countries. Like you wouldn’t go to China and demand they show white people in their ads there, so why would you do the same for a country that has very few PoC compared to it’s population?

One Italian user was very upset about that someone brought up the race issue.

Seriously, I am Italian, and FUCK YOU. Our country has huge problems with homophobia, there isn’t even one single law to protect homosexuals. Most European countries have legalized marriage and adoption (or at least talked about it), but not Italy. The Catholic community does everything they can to block the law against homophobia. Last month, a 14 years-old killed himself because he was gay. You have no idea how much that kind of thing matters in Italy, all you can fucking do is whine about Tumblr about the fact that they are all white. Yes, in Italy the majority of the population is indeed white. Not the rest of the world is like fucking North America.

I think this users harsh reaction shows just how important campaigns like this are to the citizens of Italy. It brings issues like gay marriage into the spotlight so that conversations can be opened up. Hopefully the CondividiLove campaign will continue to grow and will aid in allowing for more gay rights in Italy.

 

Why is it so hard to come out

Ellen DeGeneres who we all know as a comedian and television show host, had a very hard time coming out. She was born on Janurary 26,1958 in Metairie, Louisiana. Her parents divorced when she was 16 years old. Later her mom remarried and moved the family to Texas, where she graduated from school in 1976. She held many jobs before she had a talk show called Ellen in 1994. In 1997 she decided she wanted to come out publicly as a lesbian. She first came out as openly gay on The Oprah Winfrey show. Then she decided to come out on the Ellen show as well. She was known as the first talk show host to come out openly.

http://www.biography.com/people/ellen-degeneres-9542420/videos/ellen-degeneres-coming-out-20724803510

After she decided to come out the Ellen show was canceled for the following year and many of her sponsors left her as well. Although she was put on the front of Time Magazine after she came out.

Later on in 2003 she had began a day time talk show called The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which became a hit. She has won many emmy’s from this talk show. Ellen has become a big icon for the LGBT community. In 2008 she married her girlfriend Portia de Rossi. I feel a connection between Ellen coming out and the book Fun Home by Allison Bechdel. In the book the girl and the dad were living a life that they did not want to but they both were scared to come out until one day they told each other.

Along with being a talk show host Ellen has also stared in many movies. One movie was Mr. Wrong. In this movie she had to play Martha who was a 31 year old woman. In the movie her 25 year old sister was getting married so her family was telling Martha that she was going to be the next one, but she was not ready to marry nor did she want to.Then one night she went to a bar and stumbled upon a man who fell in love with her but Martha did not feel the same about him. She felt as though he was becoming a stalker, which he was everywhere she went he would follow her in some way. Then her found her after she tried to get away from him and he drugged her and took her with him to Mexico because he wanted to marry her, but she did not want to marry him. one of her friends from the office that she worked in came to rescue her from this man. Martha did not want to marry him because it was not the life that she wanted. I feel this connects to her in real life because until she came out she was not living the life she wanted to live.

 

“Gender” By Thiago Antonucci

Thiago Antonucci is a relatively unknown artist who recently became a powerful hit to those who tumbl (Tumblr blog users). A photo series on Behance.net was released called “Gender” by the artist. The series was then picked up by tumblr user irakalan. The cartoon picture of the user irakalan bears an uncanny resemblance to Thiago Antonucci. I suspect that the two could be the same person but Antonucci seems to be keeping a low profile. Maybe in an attempt to make his work more powerful by letting it take the center stage instead of him as an artist.

I dived into the depths of the internet (something I would not recommend) to find Antonucci but only surfaced with an old facebook and barely used twitter account. The tumblr account that I suspect could be Antonucci, is fairly filled with other art and beautiful things, but nothing biographical that would help me in my search. I came to the conclusion that I would have to let the art shine through and be the main topic of this post instead of the mysterious Antonucci.

Before I go on posting these beautiful and powerful works of art, I will warn you, there is nudity and in some cases could be a trigger for trans individuals who suffer from this bodily disconnect.

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In these photos, individuals are depicted naked and holding up photoed genital of another to their body. Some are shown as couples and others are shown as individuals who are struggling alone. Only one photo features an individual whose genitalia is not replaced. Instead, the person is holding up the face of another. These eight photos are not just beautiful but they also create a powerful thought process in the audience. it shows the feeling of disconnect that many trans individuals may feel. I myself find this feeling so hard to relate to because it is something that I have never struggled with but these photos give a visual representation of that feeling. Many of the authors that we have read and discussed have felt these feelings or discusses them in their work. I think it helps not only the class, but any audience member, to see this work and imagine the feelings that go along with it.

I chose this as my archival project because of the lack of information on Antonucci. I think this series is important and I would hate the lack of the artists face to make this series forgotten. I also think that it helps redefine gender as a nonbinary idea. What I really like is that not all the person’s genitals are covered. by allowing breasts and a penis to live on the same body, this series is gender fluid and tries its best to include all the genders in the spectrum.

As this archive is constructed, I believe that powerful and thought provoking posts will be added and a wonderful collection will be established.

 

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is an all-male ballet company based out of New York. It was founded in 1974 by a group of ballet enthusiasts and dancers, and in its early years, it performed late shows in Off- and Off-Off-Broadway spaces. The company is famous for its interpretations of classical ballets, which feature male dancers playing the lead female roles. In tutus and en pointe, their performance blends a commitment to iconic choreography and ballet technique, with a camp humor that parodies what is usually a serious art form. They just recently closed a short run at the Joyce Theatre in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, where I saw them perform, before continuing on to dates scheduled around the world.

For the most part, the Trocks (as they are known for short) maintain the choreography from the original productions, swapping in men for the roles usually played by woman. Although they are incredibly physically challenging, these roles demand grace and elegance, qualities usually associated with femininity. In the famous scene of the dying swan from Swan Lake, for example, Ulyana Lopatkina, a prima ballerina for the Kirov Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia, exudes these qualities:

The dance requires significant skill and training, yet Lopatkina makes it look effortless. As she enters the stage, her torso and her legs form a straight line, while her arms flutter in contrast to suggest the flapping of the swan’s wings. She remains mostly en pointe, which means that she dances on the her tip-toes, yet she never loses her balance. Her steps instead are either small and dainty (the careful tip-toe of the opening) or grand and flowing (the sweeping arches of legs and arms, like at 1:02). Either way her performance achieves the qualities of grace and elegance.

In contrast, the following is the Trockadero interpretation of the same scene, with Ihaia Miller, whose stage name is Maya Thickenthighya, in the role of the swan:

At the beginning of the scene, and for moments throughout, the choreography is the same as the original production. Miller keeps his torso and his legs in a straight line, and the steps that he takes en pointe as he glides across the stage are elegant–each one advances only a little bit so as not to disturb the strong line from the ankle to the head. Although his muscles are bigger than Lopatkina’s, his arm gestures maintain the grace of the swan’s beating wings. Such resemblance between the two performances suggests that feminine qualities need not emanate from feminine bodies. For the young boys who yearned to play these feminine roles throughout their ballet education, such an insight might be obvious, but Les Ballets Trockadero provides an opportunity to realize that desire on a professional stage.

In some of the scenes that the company performs, this resemblance between the original ballerina and the Trockadero ballerina is the primary goal, but like the clip from Swan Lake, most incorporate campy elements that spoof the seriousness of the original. In her iconic essay “Notes on Camp,” Susan Sontag describes this humor as “a vision of the world in terms of style–but a particular kind of style. It is the love of the exaggerated, the ‘off,’ of things-being-what-they-are-not.”

This exaggeration is throughout the Trockadero performance, but we might see it most clearly in the feathered tutu. In the original, there are no feathers–just a formal tutu of stiff taffeta–but Miller has a feathered tutu that sheds throughout the dance. This shedding adds further drama, visually emphasizing the slow and tragic death of the swan. These feathers continue to fall throughout most of the dance, their ridiculous quantity contributing to the exaggeration. Even the dance gestures are changed, like at 1:20. The camera focuses first on Miller’s legs, whose steps achieve the feminine qualities of grace and elegance. Following the straight vertical line of the body, however, the camera arrives at the feathered tutu. In contrast to her legs, the ballerina’s arms are whapping the tutu with erratic gestures to precipitate the feathers’ fall. The costume, the props, and the dance work together to exaggerate the original production’s pathos, but the performers push it so far that pathos turns to humor. This incongruity is where camp emerges.