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.

Korea Queer Culture Festival

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

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

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

senhanced-9237-1435489058-1Parade

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

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

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

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 Rockland Palace

rockland

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

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

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

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

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

dark play or stories for boys

Written by Carlos Murillo, dark play or stories for boys was conceived at a summer playwriting workshop at the University of California Santa Barbara in 2005. In 2006, it was presented at the Latino Theatre Festival in Chicago and in 2007, it gained national acclaim at the Humana Festival of New American Plays.

10631190_10152416392481319_2028894599510406227_oSeveral months of the past relived in the course of a few minutes in the present day, dark play is a mind-fuck-of-world crafted by Nick, the narrator and protagonist. An undergraduate student, Nick finds himself thrown back to his teenage years when the woman he’s sleeping with, Molly, stumbles upon the multitudinous scars that litter his torso. Confronted with the question of how he received them, Nick vacillates throughout the entirety of the show between remembrance and reality, trying to reconcile whether he should tell Molly the truth. The truth, of course, is anything but simple. Originating in a time of virtual chat rooms and seemingly unfounded duplicity, Nick explains how when he was fourteen, he crafted an Internet persona named Rachel and won the heart of a naive sixteen-year-old named Adam. Drawn into the pretense, Nick becomes addicted to the relationship. Crafting numerous other online personas to sustain the world he has created and to permit him to spend what little time in person he can with Adam, he spirals into a pit of lies. Finding it necessary to kill off Rachel, Nick then intricately lays out for Adam a strategic plan that ultimately culminates in Adam stabbing him to death. Nick, however, does not die. The show ends with him sharing this story with Molly, who refuses to believe him, and a nonchalant return to reality.

While Nick never explicitly states it, one can imply that he is gay and devastated by the fact that Adam will never love him because he is not female. Hints are recurrently dropped throughout the show regarding Nick’s sexuality. When slipping back into the memory of the past – specifically what we can infer to be his time with Adam – Nick expresses the sensation as such:

“And that’s when time stops

And I feel the familiar sensation –

Sweat glands juicing up,

A hardening between my legs

That low grade migraine

When I’m like an atom in a particle accelerator

And the world around me slows like it’s moving through peanut butter.”

Each time the audience returns to the present with Nick, he recounts this physiological response. He does this eight times throughout the show.

When offering a hypothetical situation to a teacher, Nick describes the actor in the scenario in a manner that sounds remarkably like himself and adds the clarifier “gay”. A little while later, when delineating the virtues of the Internet, Nick expresses that the worldwide web is the one place “where a kid [his] age and… of [his] demeanor” can escape, emphasis stressed on the word “demeanor” in the script. Indeed, Nick’s activities online seem rather akin to cruising, for not only is he canvassing an extremely public space but also he later appears to be doing so in the interest of sex. For instance, Nick outlines some precursory stunts he pulled online before meeting Adam, one of which included posing as a “pair of nubile, underage, sex-hungry Asian chicks” looking for a “mature American man to show [them] the ‘American way of life’”. This incident is also significant for another reason. Upon opening one of the several hundred email replies he received in response to the ad he posted, Nick finds himself confronted with the photograph of a naked man. While reticent in his reaction, Nick does describe it as “trigger[ing] a feeling in [him]”.

CT  CTH 0127 fringe-ott.jpgThe show is also peppered with the word queer, and interestingly enough, Adam always interjects it when he’s describing his feelings for Rachel. Indeed, it seems like an authorial dig at the homosexual overtones, almost as if Murillo is having Adam subconsciously recognize that his online relationship is actually with a man. What more, there is the fact that Nick engages in oral sex with Adam twice. When reflecting on it after the first time, he admits that he “wanted it to happen” but found himself simultaneously unsatisfied because Adam cried out Rachel’s name, not his. Adam’s participation in sex, once while inebriated and the second time while completely sober does suggest a trade-like-quality to him. While he does present himself as heterosexual and primarily interested in falling “in love” with women, he does not appear to rebuff Nick’s advances.

When it finally comes to the point where Adam is to kill Nick, Nick employs the online persona of Olivia, an ostensible homicide detective, to communicate strict instructions on how to go about the matter. Olivia (really Nick) stresses to Adam that when he stabs Nick, he is to tell him that he loves him. She makes him promise that he’ll do so, in fact. Olivia appears seven times through the show before making the purpose of her character known and recites those very words each time, foreshadowing what is to come.

When one reads the show from front to back, Nick’s resolution to die seems so rational that it feels like an appropriate solution to a horrendous situation. Because of this impression, though, I don’t think we interrogate what is really being implied by not just the act of murder but also Nick’s entreaty of it. Not unlike Paul in Willa Cather’s short story, Nick seeks out particular corners of the Internet because he feels a certain listless emptiness in everyday life. And like Paul, once it registers with him what he is, Nick seeks out a means of self-destruction. He describes it as a “darkness and danger lurking in [his] soul” and when embodying Olivia he communicates to Adam that

“Nick is beyond depraved.

He’s become an inhuman monster.

He must be put down.

We need you to eliminate him”.

It is clear that Nick comprehends himself as abnormal and perhaps within the context of psychosocial development, Freud would point to him losing his father at the age of eleven as the precipitator. Without a father figure to complete the cycle of male-identification with and the added caveat that the man he knew as father lied to him about their lineage for more than a decade, perhaps this is why Nick “became” queer.10383846_10152416404981319_4841902767104532302_o

In any case, while on the verge of death, Nick experiences a resurrection and white light moment, an upwelling of love pervading his body. He lives and when we meet him again some time later, he has only just finished in engaging in heterosexual sex. This leaves us to wonder the implications of his heavily machinated murder. If intended to “kill the gay” within, was he reborn straight? Is he bisexual? Or, does the possibility exist that his feelings for men have simply reposed as dormant for so long? He notes his physiological response to the past to us, but does he really permit himself to realize what those feelings insinuate?

Cool and collected at the end the show, there is a slightly flippant and ascendant color to his tone. And, as he states in the beginning of the play, he has a chronic proclivity to “make shit up”. So, where does that leave us?

Does anybody really know?

Brother to Brother

Brother to Brother is an independent movie written and directed by Rodney Evans. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004 where it won the Special Jury Prize for a dramatic film and later received 8 other nominations and 7 awards in the gay and lesbian film circuit. Rodney Evans, born in 1971, spent six years working on Brother to Brother, starting with the idea of relating his own present-day experiences with to a larger historical perspective. This film is just one of many LGBTQ themed works that Rodney Evans has directed, written and produced.

Perry

The movie Brother to Brother tells the story of Perry, a college-age gay black man living in New York City. Perry had been kicked out of his home for being gay and feels lost in the world, struggling to find his place in the gay community and black community. He feels alienated from the gay community because he feels that too many white gay men only want him because he is black. He feels outcast from the black community that won’t accept his sexuality.

One day while on the sidewalk, Perry’s friend is reciting some poetry when a man approaches them. This stranger finishes the verse and disappears, leaving Perry and his friend confused. The next day Perry is reading a book of poetry by Bruce Nugent and he recognizes the poem the stranger finished. “Smoke, Lilies and Jade”:

…he blew a cloud of smoke…it was growing dark now…and the smoke no longer had a ladder to climb…but soon the moon would rise and then he would clothe the silver moon in blue smoke garments…truly smoke was like imagination…. 

It turns out this stranger is a regular at the homeless shelter that Perry works at. After

Bruce Nugent

confronting him, Perry learns that this man is in fact Bruce Nugent, one of the few openly gay writers and painters of the Harlem Renaissance. They quickly become friends, as Bruce sees a lot of himself in Perry. The two frequently visit the house where Bruce lived and wrote during the Harlem Renaissance. The film draws parallels between the struggles Bruce faced in 1920s New York.

Bruce tells Perry all kinds of stories about his younger years as a writer while they explore this house.  Bruce tells Perry about his relationship with Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman, both very prominent writers in the Harlem Renaissance. With these authors and others, they write a magazine with articles from black writers talking about gays, lesbians, black culture and sex workers. The group got lot of negative criticism from important critics and was attacked by the black community including the NAACP. Bruce also metaphorically walks Perry through a party they threw at the now decrepit house, where they have alcohol in the prohibition era and there are many gay men and women hooking up. Though there are many decades separating Bruce and Perry, they shared similar experiences and Perry learns a lot from Bruce.

Many of the memories that Bruce shares relate to George Chauncey’s Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World 1890-1940. We see in Bruce’s younger years the more visible, fairy-type gay man. We also see the way that gays were persecuted in the mid twentieth century. In one scene, Bruce is seduced by a sailor, colloquially known as a ‘trade,’ but it is a trap. Bruce is arrested and brought to court for being gay and is even accused of attempting to rape the sailor.

Through his friendship with Bruce Nugent, Perry learns from Bruce’s experiences of many decades prior, and starts to be more comfortable with himself. Perry moves on from a relationship that wasn’t very good and gets more confident about his place in the gay and black communities. In the end, tragically, Bruce dies of a heart attack. Through telling the stories of Bruce Nugent and Perry, Brother to Brother relates the struggles of modern day gay black men to 1920s Harlem Renaissance era gay black men, showing that the world today can be just as complicated and hostile as it was back then.

After Sex (2007)

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After Sex is both a comedy and a drama film that discusses eight couples and their behavior after engaging in sex with one another. The film was released in 2007. Although I will analyze some of the scenes, I chose to focus on one scene in particular which involves Mila Kunis and Zoe Saldana.

In the movie after sex their isn’t one specific setting for the entire movie, being that the film focuses on eight entirely different couples. For those of you who have not seen the movie. Most of the couples in the film are in some type of bedroom or bed when their situation occurs. The movie starts of with the first couple by the name of Leslie and Christopher. In the film it comes off as if the couple aren’t really together, but there just friends with benefits. Everything is okay until Christopher makes a comment on how he wants Leslie to come out and say how much she loves him. But Leslie feels as though Christopher wants her to say how much she loves him, so that he can say how much he loves her. Simply Because he is frightened by what her reaction might be. But that might be a problem that Christopher needs to work on.

Then we have our second couple by the name of Jay and Freddy too gay men, that have sex. After Jay decides that since he has never had sex with a guy until then that he is not gay. Well, doesn’t want to believe that he is gay, because is he scared of what the people around him might think. So Freddy goes into making him(Jay) understand that he used to be just like him, even went on to tell Jay that he attempted to kill himself when he was younger because he could never fit in he was often bullied. Only then Jay realizes that he might be gay but doesn’t know what exactly to do about it.

Now we have too females by the name of Nikki and Kat. Nikki allows Kat to perform Oral sex on her often but has yet to admit to being gay. She often tells Kat not to catch feelings for her because she doesn’t have time for that. Simply because she likes boys, And Kat then tells Nikki that she is also not gay but Nikki doesn’t believe her. Towards the end of the scene Nikki gets Kat to admit that she is gay for the first time. Kat goes on to say that she has no problem with being gay as long as her parents doesn’t find out. But during a scene in the library when Nikki ask Kat the question of how does she taste? you can see that there is a possibility that Nikki might be a little bisexual or even gay by the way there looking at each other.

I feel as though several scenes in the movie After Sex could be related to Chauncey’s “Gay New York” . Due to the fact that most people in the gay community was once looked at, as disgusting. But the fact that everyone is able to come to together and prove to the world or the society we live in. That we are humans with feelings, and that we are just different from what most people consider normal. Doesn’t mean we have to be looked at as shameful. In Gay New York  we see that they continue to live their lives regardless of how people view them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvQKs5rbUeY

Mrs. Doubtfire

A movie loved by most, Mrs. Doubtfire, starring the late Robin Williams, as an actor who’s life is basically falling apart: he recently quit his job, he is just divorced, and because of said divorce, he his now homeless. In order to turn his life around, the main character Daniel, dresses up in granny drag as a 60-ish year old woman playing the part of a nanny in his ex-wife’s household.

Filmed in 1992, Mrs. Doubtfire was a prime example of what gender norms of the 90’s were supposed to be. The cultural panic about divorce and the decline of men’s roles at home lead to insecurity about masculinity. Playing on that, in Mrs. Doubtfire, the mother wears the pants in the family, so Daniel has to prove his worth by wearing a dress.

In the process of trying to get the job of his ex-wife’s nanny, Daniel pretends to be a few different characters to throw her off. During one of the phone calls, his ex-wife informs the character that she has two daughters and a son. With this the character replies “oh, a boy. I don’t work with the males, ‘cause I used to be one.” His ex-wife immediately hangs up with a disgusted look on her face that implies “I could never have someone like that in my home!”

When looking at this joke from a perspective of audience members in 1992, it worked well. Now, it appears to be transphobic and insensitive. Although, during that time it was probably not intended to be offensive to transgender people, it did come out that way. In today’s society, especially, with famous transgender figures such as Lavern Cox and now Caitlyn Jenner make it difficult to make such gender-bending comedies without seriously offending someone. Some people even compare Caitlyn to Mrs. Doubtfire.

Later in the movie, Daniel goes to his brother and brother in-law’s house in order to transform into a 60+-year-old woman, introducing drag into the movie. Although they don’t outright call it drag in the movie, nor does Daniel go all out while doing his makeup like some drag queens we see such as Bianca Del Rio, we are able to get a taste of what drag queens might go through if they are going in and out of drag in a bathroom somewhere where it might not be accepted.

Towards the end of the movie, Mrs. Doubtfire agrees to go to dinner with his ex-wife’s family as well as meet a television producer at the same restaurant on the same night. At one point, Daniel forgets which table he’s going to in which costume, so he accidentally goes to the television producer’s table dressed as Mrs. Doubtfire. With this the television producer is surprised as questions why he’s dressed as a woman. Daniel, thinking on his feet, decides that it would be a good idea to make a television show about her, using his granny drag to help his career as an actor.

Slam Poetry, Walt Whitman, and the LGBTQ+ Community

Slam poetry first arose in the 1980’s in small cafes in big cities such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Its creator is believed to be Chicago construction worker and poet Marc Smith (known as Slam papi) who started a poetry reading series in a Chicago jazz club looking for a way to refresh the open mic poetry scene and let off steam. The purpose of slam poetry was originally to discuss social and political issues that aggravated the performer; it was a way to release aggression and address those who exasperated the performer. Today slam poetry has become a means of self-expression and emotional ventilation for the majority of the population especially the LGBTQ+ community worldwide.

As slam poetry has been historically tied to proclamation of social and political wrong doings, it has become one of the leading forms of emotional outlet for the LGBTQ+ community.  The current slam poetry scene has seen many breakout LGBTQ+ poets such as Elliot Darrow, Karen Grace, Denice Frohman, and Steven Boyle. The content of their poetry becomes very impactful as it is obvious that the words they are saying have come from personal experience and from a place of fear, or anger, or sadness that lies somewhere within them. The topics they discuss in their poetry covers a very wide spectrum. In Elliot Darrow’s God is Gay and Karen Grace’s Push: A Holy Thursday religion becomes a starting point of emotional turmoil in their rage filled free verse. Others such as Denice Frohman’s Dear Straight People angrily calls for justice and acceptance for the gay community from straight people; while Steven Boyle’s Modern Meltdown (I Hit Send) discusses the stresses that come with finding love in the gay community. All of these are  examples of how the LGBTQ+ community has found solace in slam poetry.

Walt_Whitman_by_Mathew_Brady

 

Slam poetry as a whole can be related to the works of Walt Whitman. As one of the pioneers of free verse poetry, Walt Whitman did the same thing that Marc Smith did. Tired of the classical structure of poetry (rhyming, classical rhyme scheme, etc.) he created poetry that did not require rhyme but still carried a rhythm. In his collection of works Leaves of Grass many of his pieces are seen as homoerotic, specifically his most popular piece In Paths Untrodden. With lines such as “From all the standards hitherto publish’d, from the pleasures, profits, conformities; Which too long I was offering to feed my soul; Clear to me now standards not yet publish’d, clear to me that my soul; That the soul of the man I speak for rejoices in comrades…” Here Whitman is saying that he has been pushing away from the life he knows he wants and finds solace in the presence of homosexuality within himself and his comrades. This poem was viewed as his coming out poem by the majority of the population and also broke boundaries with its lack of rhyme and rhyme scheme just like the origins of slam poetry.

Randy Shilts: And the Band Played On

“By October 2, 1985, the morning Rock Hudson died, the word was familiar to almost every household in the Western world.

AIDS.

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome had seemed a comfortably distant threat to most of those who had heard of it before, the misfortune of people who fit into rather distinct classes of outcasts and social pariahs.”

Randy Shilts graduated an openly gay man from the University of Oregon in 1975. In 1981 he was hired by the San Francisco Chronicle. It was also in this year that AIDS was becoming more prominent in the US. Committing himself to the disease he wrote on it years before he decided to write a book about it in 1983. The book was published in 1987 and Shilts died from complications of AIDS in 1994.

Randy Shilts

And the Band Played On is one of Shilts’ major works. Over the course of his journalism career he published 3 books. In 1982 he published The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk. The biography of Milk was published about 4 years after Milk was assassinated with Mayor George Moscone by Dan White. White was about to finish his four year sentence for the murders when the book was published. His final book Conduct Unbecoming was about discrimination of gays and lesbians from the military. It was published in 1993 and he had performed thousands of interviews for the book. He dictated the final chapter from a hospital bed.

And the Band Played On stands out as an extensive and critical view of the AIDS crisis, covering all aspects of the disease, beginning with Danish doctor Grethe Rask in 1976 dying of Pneumocystis carinii in her lungs, and concluding with the death of AIDS activist Bill Kraus in January of 1986, when the amount of infected from AIDS in the US had reached over 30,000.

The work also stands out as a critique of the inaction during the crisis. Reagan first held a conference on the disease in May of 1987 and before that had not spoken the word AIDS at all. Several of his staff had consistently listed AIDS as a top priority for the administration, but in reality there were cuts to the funding given to AIDS over the years. On its budget of billions, the National Institute of Health gave only a few million each year to the disease. This was at a time when requests for AIDS research were reaching upwards of 55 million dollars. Shilts is frank in his critiques of the government and its apathy and inaction towards AIDS, and he points out homophobia as a primary cause of the apathy. It certainly seems to be the case, as certain incidents like Legionnaire’s Disease brought about quick action. It was estimated that $34,841 was spent for every death brought by that disease, yet only $3,225 was spent for every death of AIDS by the NIH in 1981.

Shilts also calls out the gay community in its inaction to prevent the disease. It was recommended early on that gay men should refrain from sex until the disease was better understood, but refraining from sex caught many as an anti-gay act. Some argued that telling gay men to stop having sex at a time when they were just starting to feel good about themselves would have dire consequences for the gay community. There was also the matter of the bathhouses, which Shilts advocated to shut down, despite harsh resistance against such an action in the gay community. Shilts noted that what little that was achieved in the bathhouses was small signs in corners warning about AIDS and condoms that were provided to those who asked. Nobody did. Shilts was harshly critiqued for his stance at the time.

New York activist Larry Kramer, who was part of Gay Men’s Health Crisis and was featured heavily in And the Band Played On

And why was the public so seemingly disinterested in the crisis? Perhaps their opinion closely mirrored that of Epstein. Gays were something one could tolerate, but only at a distance. Epstein believed that gays were akin to pedophiles and at best perverts. With this mindset one could understand a public sentiment that would allow the deaths to continue to occur. And perhaps this was a just end for the gay community. Because, after all, Epstein would wish away gays if he could. There was simply too much pain for them in this world. If only Epstein could wish them away then perhaps the AIDS crisis in the US would not have occurred. At this time in the US such thoughts were still prevalent, and notable in actions, or inactions could be the product of this. Like the mayor of New York Ed Koch and President Reagan, who both seemed to avoid AIDS at all costs.

And the Band Played On stands out as an essential text for understanding the people and the politics of the AIDS crisis. And even though it is a book full of answers one is left with even more questions after finishing. Perhaps the most prominent being “Why did it seem like nobody cared?” To Shilts and activists like Larry Kramer, the answer was clear: because those suffering were gay.