Stone Butch Blues

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In March of 1993, transgender activist Leslie Feinberg published a coming of age novel titled Stone Butch Blues. It is the fictional story of a young woman named Jess Goldberg and the many problems she faces growing up as a butch in the late1960’s.

The entirety of the novel revolves around the butch-femme subculture. In short, butch and femme are terms used to describe individual gender identities within the lesbian, gay, transgender and cross-dressing culture. Butch refers to a woman with very masculine traits and behaviors while femme refers to a person (usually a female) with overly feminine characteristics. It has been argued that this concept is solely a lesbian dyadic system where one cannot exist without the other and ultimately gave lesbians a clear way to identify. In fact, many gay women in the mid- 20th century, identified as butch or femme instead of identifying as gay, or homosexual. This seems to be the case not only in the novel but for the 20th century as well.

Within the lesbian bar culture for the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s butch-femme was the norm while butch-butch and femme-femme relationships were not. This was very true for the novel as well. Jess from the beginning of the novel allows the reader to dive into her relationship issues with femmes and the many mentors she had (usually older butches) to teach her what was and was not acceptable in these relationships. It was also very common back then for lesbians to feel like role distinctions needed to be sharply drawn because not being one or the other meant strong disapproval from both sides. Deviance from these identities were stigmatized.

Today many young people would argue that the classification of butch and femme are inadequate ways of describing an individual. Now a days, gender fluidity has become much more acceptable. In other words, the modern day gay community recognizes that labels, like such, are limiting in themselves. If people do chose to identify as butch or femme they often say the label is more of a representation of their gender identity rather than the role they play in a relationship. This notion has made way for the acceptance of butch-butch and femme-femme relationships. So it is safe to say that these labels and their meanings, as well as restrictions, have evolved over time.

Likewise, the violence towards these people who identify as butch or femme has changed. At its core, Jess’ character is greatly shaped by the experiences of violence hence the term ‘Stone Butch’. Many lesbians in the mid-20th century who identified as butch acquired a personality  that yearned for love but at the same time did not want to be touched. In the novel Jess is raped, beaten up by cops, set up to be injured and spoken to by doctors like she was something other than human.

“About an hour later the cops brought Mona back. My heart broke when I saw her. Two cops were dragging her; she could barely stand. Her hair was wet and stuck to her face. Her makeup was smeared. There was blood running down the back of her seamless stockings. They threw her in the cell next to mine. She stayed where she fell.”

 

As suspicion of communist and queers began to mount, violence was not uncommon during that time. Butch and femmes alike were commonly confronted with a need to defend their space.  Luckily, much of that has changed. With a rise in acceptance of the gay community, the extremely high rate of violence or dehumanization of gays has dropped significantly.

What has not changed over time is the desire. The lesbian community and gay community as a whole have always desired the same thing regardless of time, acceptance.

Like in Erica Jong’s poem Testament (Homage to Walt Whitman), there has been a long history of pain for the gay community.

“& three decades of pain

having cried for those that did not love me

those who loved me- but not enough

& those whom I did not love-“

Stone butches are notoriously known for not permitting themselves to be touched intimately, and consequently are also known for ‘being hard’. While many lesbians may not be that way today, both ways of identifying as a lesbian have yearned to “resolve now for joy.

“If that resolve means I must live alone,

I accept aloneness.”

Despite how much time passes, that is something that will never change. No one in the gay community will gave up a search for joy, happiness and acceptance. In the same manner, no lesbian, whether she be butch, femme or between the two, will stop believing in that notion or lose that hope.

“How to spin joy out of an empty heart?

The joy-egg germinates even in despair.

Orgasms of gloom convulse the world;

and the joy- seekers huddle together.”

 

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Taxi Zum Klo

The film “Taxi Zum Klo” is a semi-autobiographical movie from the year 1980, and is about an elementary school teacher who is forced to live a triple life at work and then at night. It was written and directed by Frank Ripploh who is played by himself in the film. This movie takes place in West Berlin which an island surrounded by East Germany. When this film was released in 1980, West Berlin was a capitalist culture surrounded by communism. The main character Frank Ripploh pretends to be straight during the day and then lives as an open gay man and sometimes a drag queen at night. In order to maintain his occupation and fit in with society, Mr. Ripploh is forced to conceal his urges to be with other men.

The first side of Frank Ripploh’s life that is revealed is his role as an elementary school teacher. It can be assumed by his lack of seriousness and passion for his job, that Ripploh is not feeling fulfilled by his job and he does not like this part of his life. Ripploh only attends school events when they are required, he grades his student’s papers in the bathroom stalls, and he even used a student’s notebook to write down a guy’s number at a gas station. Immediately after teaching his class, Ripploh rushes to the bathroom to cruise with other men to satisfy his needs and urges that must be ignored as a straight schoolteacher. I would argue that Frank Ripploh is very unhappy while at work, even if he does not realize it. Instead of focusing on his duties as a teacher he is fantasizing about what he will do when he goes out at night.Taxi Zum Klo Teacher

Secondly, Frank Ripploh is shown cruising when he is in pursuit of anonymous gay sex. A majority of this cruising took place in the bathrooms, but there were also some scenes in the woods and other random public places. Despite the constant cruising and random hookups, one of his inner conflicts is that he has a current steady boyfriend named Bernd who is expecting a monogamous relationship. However, Ripploh is not satisfied by a relationship only with Bernd. Frank Ripploh needs more sex and titillation in his life, so he turns to cruising to pursue this alternate lifestyle.

Lastly, towards the end of the film Frank Ripploh goes to Berlin’s annual queen ball where he expresses his third lifestyle as a drag queen named Peggy. During this part of Ripploh’s life, he is free to explore sex with other men and other drag queens. There is a scene where Ripploh is dancing with another guy right in front of his boyfriend Bernd, and this upsets Bernd but also turns him on at the same time.Taxi Zum Klo Drag Queen Peggy

Frank Ripploh’s monogamous relationship with Bernd filled some of his needs. Although it left him feeling bored and he wanted the relationship to work, he knew that it was not fulfilling all of his needs. Bernd was a “wallflower” and Frank needed a “wildflower!” His desire to be free and live without rules eventually had a stronger pull on him, and he gave into it. As Ripploh danced with strangers right in front of his boyfriend Bernd, he gave in to the excitement that he craved even though he knew he could be crushing any chance of maintaining a meaningful, committed relationship.

Frank Ripploh’s worlds collide at the very end of the movie when the reality that his life as a drag Queen, his desire to have random sexual partners and his job as a fourth grade teacher can no longer coexist. At the very end we watch Frank Ripploh struggle with a deep inner conflict when he shows up to his job dressed in drag and gives his students the opportunity to play a game with dice where they write down a list of six things they would do if they had no rules. The students became very aggressive, destructive and out of control which was a compelling parallel to Ripploh’s own chaotic and conflicted life. When the students left he rolled his own dice, but only expressed two options of resolution. Suicide was a thought but was quickly dismissed as too dramatic and the other option of settling down with Bernd just did not seem possible either. It seemed this collision of worlds was a sad but true reality check that forced the realization that although he wished to be a monogamous man and get back with Bernd, he knew that was not a life he could live. He had to face the fact that the same issues would just repeat and he found no resolution at all.

I chose this archive because from the description of the film I felt like it had many parallels to this course. “Taxi Zum Klo” and “Cruising” are very similar in that they both took place in 1980, and they both portrayed a strong emphasis on cruising in the gay culture during that time.

There is a very strong parallel between the aggressive, destructive, and out of control students and Ripploh’s chaotic and destructive life. When Ripploh asked the students what they would do if there were no rules, their unruly response was in fact representative of Ripploh’s life. He is basically living life with no rules, because he was engaging in sex with who he wants, whenever he wants, even when he is supposed to be in a monogamous relationship. The students’ behavior became chaotic without their regular structure and rules, like when Ripploh pursues cruising and dressing in drag, the more exciting part of his life that he feverishly desires.

More specifically, there is a parallel between Ripploh’s relationships with the students and Bernd. On a typical school day, the pupils in Ripploh’s class sit quietly obeying the rules, which can be boring and stagnant, much like the relationship between Ripploh and Bernd. While their relationship could at times be boring, it was also steady, but Ripploh struggles with that lack of stimulation. The students following the rules is parallel to Frank being with Bernd, it is not the most exhilarating relationship but for sure it is a more reliable and stable path.

Renée Vivien 19th Century Poet

Renée Vivien was born in 1877 in England and shortly after moved to Paris where she and her sister attended school. When Renée was nine her father died and she was forced to move back to England until 1898 when she became of age and could return to Paris on her own. Renée published her first two books under a masculine pseudonym in 1901 and 1902 then published her third book, Evocations, under her own name in 1903. In all her writing Renée wrote unabashedly about being a lesbian. Many of her poems where about Natalie Barney a wealthy American who she had an on again off again relationship with. Another significant relationship was with Baroness Hélène de Zuylen de Nyevelt, whom Renée spent several years with until she got back together with Natalie Barney. Renée wrote many poems and stories over her lifetime, most revolving around her romances with other women and others featuring tragic heroines fighting against nature and oppressive men. Because of the homoerotic nature of her work it was unsellable in England and the United States and as such none of her poetry was translated in to English until the 1970s. To read more about Renée Vivien click here.

Roses Rising

My brunette with the golden eyes, your ivory body, your amber
Has left bright reflections in the room
Above the garden.

The clear midnight sky, under my closed lids,
Still shines….I am drunk from so many roses
Redder than wine.

Leaving their garden, the roses have followed me….
I drink their brief breath, I breathe their life.
All of them are here.

It’s a miracle….The stars have risen,
Hastily, across the wide windows
Where the melted gold pours.

Now, among the roses and the stars,
You, here in my room, loosening your robe,
And your nakedness glistens

Your unspeakable gaze rests on my eyes….
Without stars and without flowers, I dream the impossible
In the cold night.

Renée writes Roses Rising using nature and flower to represent the beauty of women. She starts out describing a particular women and then moves in to describing roses. Which I think represent all the women she has been with. She describes being drunk from many roses and how the roses follow her. She states, “I drink their brief breath, I breathe their life.” The rose is a common symbol for love, and in this poem Renée uses them to symbolize her past lovers, which is why she drinks their breath and breathes their life. All of her past lovers are in the garden of roses and that’s the miracle. The next few lines come back to the original girl and their interactions. The last line speaks to how Renée would feel without all her roses.
The Touch

The trees have kept some lingering sun in their branches,
Veiled like a woman, evoking another time,
The twilight passes, weeping. My fingers climb,
Trembling, provocative, the line of your haunches.

My ingenious fingers wait when they have found
The petal flesh beneath the robe they part.
How curious, complex, the touch, this subtle art–
As the dream of fragrance, the miracle of sound.

I follow slowly the graceful contours of your hips,
The curves of your shoulders, your neck, your upappeased breasts.
In your white voluptuousness my desire rests,
Swooning, refusing itself the kisses of your lips.

The Touch is a poem by Renée that is full of homoerotic text. The poem starts out with a tree and how it looks like a vailed women. Like her other poem Roses Rising the poem brings in nature to her description of an intimate relationship. Renée moves in to describing sex with her lover using the common symbol of petals to describe female anatomy. In the last part she describes the rest of her lover’s body.

Renée Vivien uses nature to help her describe the beauty of the female form much like Whitmen did to describe the beauty of the every human body. Vivien also compares to Whitmen in her use of the pronoun you to describe her lovers. Yes in Vivien’s poems she is unabashed about her lover’s sex and often puts in description indicators to show that she is talking about a women and not a man. She is also openly homosexual unlike Whitmen whose sexuality is still debated. In addition Vivien predates Whitmen and her poems are written in an even earlier style then what was popular in her time.

Read more of Renée Vivien here.

Lynn Conway: Innovator and Social Reformer

LGBT activism takes many different forms. Some people feel that taking to the front lines of the fight is the right way to go. You can do this by participating in pride parades, picketing, protesting, or simply injecting your lifestyle into the lives of other people. Others feel that simply existing and living your life peacefully and “normally” is the right way to represent the LGBT community to the rest of the world. While both methodologies are effective in their own way, there are some communities where only one of them will get down to the core of the opponents and change their mind.

As most of us are aware, LGBT rights and acceptance has come a long way since 20, 30, or 40 years ago. Today, while it is still technically legal to be fired for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, it is much more frowned upon and a less frequent practice than it was many years ago. This is, perhaps, one of the greatest testaments to the LGBT rights movement. When you give people jobs you give them responsibility, money, power, and influence- no matter how small it may be. You also allow that LGBT person to remain in an environment where there may not be a lot of LGBT people. This forces others to talk about the topic, and to eventually become accustomed to it. This is especially impactful in a field that generally keeps to itself and doesn’t pay much attention to the personal side of life.

Lynn Conway is a transgendered woman, but also an activist and a highly regarded computer scientist and electrical engineer. The field of engineering is very much dominated by males, specifically those that are straight. Engineers are not a discriminatory group of people, but these types of topics do not come up easily at work. When working on a project, the focus is very much on task and does not leave much room for conversation otherwise. Areas of study such as literature or art often revolve around the human experience. For example, theatre has a lot of “out and proud” LGBT people. This is likely because their jobs require them to dig deep into themselves emotionally, and express that to an audience of people. These types of events present themselves easily as gateways to personal discussion and, consequently, personal development.

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A notable example in media is the film Bad Education. I don’t want to call attention to the plot as much as I do the sexual orientation of one of the main characters, Enrique. Towards the beginning of the film, we learn he is gay. The main reason for this is that his old lover, believed to be Ignacio, comes to him with a film proposal. The film outlines everything that has happened to Ignacio, from being sexually abused in school to eventually discovering his true sexual orientation. I would argue that we would have never learned Enrique’s sexual orientation if the movie was about his career as a computer scientist. Instead, we would have been focused on new technologies or devices he was developing. But, we entered the realm of the arts. The environment fostered and promoted this type of personal discovery and advancement. Juan came to Enrique to get his brother’s story out in the open. I find it unlikely that Juan would have went to Enrique so he could write a computer program for his deceased brother. Theatre and arts form a bond between the working world and the personal life, whereas technological industry cements the separation.

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Back in the 1960’s, IBM was a computer and technology giant. They were the backbone of virtually all computing advancements at the time. Lynn Conway played an instrumental role in all of this when she invented Dynamic Instruction Scheduling (DIS). DIS enabled computers to issue many out-of-order instructions at the same time. This was so groundbreaking, in fact, that companies began using this innovation all across the industry to make computers smaller and more powerful than before. However, no one knew that it was Conway who developed this technology. They didn’t know it was Lynn because IBM fired her when she announced her intentions to transition. This forced her to restart her career with a blank slate at the bottom of the ladder- only this time, she did it as a woman. Without anyone knowing about her past as a man, she became a woman engineering icon and a prized computer systems architect.

Representative Brian Sims has a theory that conversation about LGBT topics creates a net acceptance of LGBT people- whether that conversation be good or bad. By being a pioneer in engineering and a transgendered woman, Lynn Conway paved the way for discussion about LGBT people in her work culture. Now, an incredibly intelligent and respected computer scientist and engineer is not only an innovator, but also happens to be a transgendered woman. To contrast Lynn’s experience to today, major tech companies are now some of the best places to work if you’re part of the LGBT community. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft all include sexual orientation in their acceptance policies, even though they aren’t required to. It is people like Lynn Conway that generate discussions that lead to acceptance of all people in in all areas of work- not just theatre and the arts.

Vincent Cianni: Gay in the Military

Documented photographer and educator Vincent Cianni, Graduated from Penn State University, the Maryland Institute College and SUNY New Paltz.  Currently teaches at Parson The New School of Design in New York City.  His documentary work explores community and memory, the human condition, and the use of image and text.  His photographs are represented in numerous public and private collections: George Eastman House, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum of the City of New York, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Kinsey Institute for Sexual Research, and Bibliotheque Nationale de France.

His most recent work Gay in the Military is a compilation of photographs along with interviews he personally conducted during three years on a road trip across the United States.  Cianni went on asking what made the LGBT community want to serve an institution that neglected to accept them.  The veterans and service men and women range from WW2 veteran to those who had recently served.

“I was moved to explore how many lives have been affected as a result of homophobia in the military.”

Gay in the Military portrays the stories of gay and lesbian men and women who served the country in silence.  The shadows and exposures of photography make it the ideal medium to give visibility and humanity to the sacrifices of gays and lesbians in uniform. In his collection he begins by photographing the veterans as soldiers in uniform ready to give there life for their country and as the photographs continue he begin to show the soldiers as not only soldiers ready for battle but also as homosexuals who are ready to fight for your freedom making it evident that it does not matter your sexual orientation what matters is your intention to fight for your country and for your freedom.

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Harry Pulver 1986 – 1997

“I went into the military to get away and just be who I was. I was dating a girl at the time and I knew I was gay. I wasn’t really out and experimental until I got out and when I got home. Back then they asked if you were gay. You were not allowed to be gay in the military at that time. I remember during basic, someone hit on someone and within a couple days they had him out of there. Now they don’t care if you are in but just don’t tell them. But if you tell them, then you’re out. It really isn’t right. When you’re in there doing your job well – there’s a lot of gay people that can do their job really well – they’ll throw you out just because you’re gay and get someone else who can’t do the job as good. “

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Denny Meyer, 1968-1978 :

“In 1968, everybody was in the closet, inside the military or outside the military. If you were found out, shipmates would throw you overboard just on general principle. If you lived, you were dishonorably discharged. You were ruined because in those days you couldn’t ever get a job doing anything with that kind of discharge.”

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Joseph Rocha 2004-2007:

Honorable discharge after coming out to his commanding officer; suffers PTSD from years of abuse, hazing, and humiliation.  “The Naval Academy sent word that if I put in writing that I wasn’t gay that I could stay, which equated to the only way I could stay was to deny who I am. That wasn’t OK for me anymore. I’m just as ready to lead men and women. I’m just as ready to go to war. I am just as willing to die.”

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Joanna Gasca 2000-Present:

“When ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ went away, it felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I used to joke with my family that I’m going to need counseling after I retire because I wouldn’t have to be in the closet. I am beginning to feel all the years of not being me coming to a head. Sometimes the tears fall and I can’t stop them.”

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Marqhell Smith 2010: discharged under Don’t ask Don’t Tell

When I walked off of that base, I cried. I cried not because I was sad; I cried because I finally felt what freedom was like.”

 

 

For more than two centuries, homosexual conduct was a punishable offense in the armed forces. Sometimes even just coming out could result in the expulsion of being in your respective military branch. Issues followed along a history of abuse, harassment and discrimination based on sexual preferences.

Today, sexual orientation is no longer a reason for dismissal from the military, and same-sex spouses has been recognize for the purpose of federal benefits.  However this do not mean the end of discrimination for homosexual veterans who serve in the military.  It is still unknown if gay and lesbian servers will receive spousal benefits if they do not reside in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage.

While the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was repealed almost three years ago allowing open service by gay, lesbian and bisexual service members, transgender people are still prohibited from entering the US Military.

Veterans who were dismissed for being gay or lesbian are still fighting for a discharge upgrade, affecting their ability to gain some kind of health care coverage and find employment.

As we can see these issues are still happening today, discrimination against homosexual military servers still exist and the mission for full equality in the military is still incomplete.

 Cianni describes how his work documenting gay in the military broadened his own perspective of understanding and accepting the difference of others.

Labels and Sexuality

The heart of today’s newer generation of LGBT members beats a little differently than its predecessors. The stereotypical assumptions of queer people have started to fade as more and more of our youth choose to present themselves without trying to make a statement. This activist lifestyle seems to be losing its popularity, but there is always something to replace what we deem outdated. Instead of choosing an identity and advocating for it, the newer members of today’s community choose a more “you do you” lifestyle, rejecting labels and seeking to just be rather than be criticized or stigmatized for being categorized. No more is sexuality a structured entity containing stereotypes, but a continuum consisting of many ways of living your life and expressing yourself.

“I don’t need language, I don’t need a

categorizing word”

In ant interview last October with Oprah, Raven Symoné received criticism, not only for not identifying as a lesbian (despite her current relationship status with her female partner), but for going so far as not labeling herself as a black woman either; even Oprah was a little off put by the latter. After giving an ambiguous answer to Oprah’s question pertaining to what sexuality Symoné identified with, Symoné also went on to say that she didn’t need words or language to specify what she felt or who she chose to be. She firmly stated that she did not want to be labeled gay or black, but to be labeled as human, as an American, as an unlabeled person who can connect with anyone of any culture. And she’s not the only one who feels this way; YouTube is home to countless self-made videos on the same topic. One in particular makes a very good point, saying that we naturally like to categorize and label in order to help us understand the complexities of people. Just like our feelings, our sexuality too isn’t black and white, and the pressure to choose a label can be daunting to many who just don’t feel like they need to fit into a certain type. This refusal to take on a label is becoming more popular, but isn’t necessarily new. Walt Whitman is a prime example of someone who chooses to show all the signs, yet deny anything relating himself to a certain lifestyle.

In his collection “Live Oak, With Moss”, a series of twelve poems spread throughout his third edition of “Leaves of Grass,” Whitman alludes to many intimate encounters with another person. What’s so significant though is how suggestive it is of a homosexual one. There are no specific names for this person’s role in his life (like a wife or girlfriend), only the times he refers to this person as a lover or friend. He also 220px-Walt_Whitman,_steel_engraving,_July_1854frequently addresses this person with “you,” avoiding a gender. However, there are several times when he does use a gender pronoun. In his third poem he says “…for he I love is returned and sleeping by my side,” and that seems to say a lot to John Addington Symonds, who goes on to write and question Whitman about this, the “perplexity about the doctrine of ‘manly love’” and “propagating a passionate affection between men.” Of course, Whitman replies by denying such “morbid inferences,” and just to prove he’s not not straight, he states that he has six children. Although this seems like a cover-up, I can’t say Whitman knows what he is covering up for.

Like the modern day figure, Raven Symoné, Whitman too denies certain labels without explicitly saying what he is. It seems to me that Symoné chooses to stray away from labels in order to preserve her personal life and live without criticism from the subcultures she would be categorized in. Similarly, Whitman also tries to protect his personal life, but his professional life is on the line as well. There is no denying the irony of him voluntarily exposing himself in “Leaves of Grass.” There lays a similar undertone between the two, and the thousands of LGBT members today; that undertone that speaks of being a human without having to be labeled and associated with stereotypes, nothing more nothing less.

The “It Gets Better Project”

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

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

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

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

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

 

Born This Way

Lady Gaga is an eccentric, well-known pop artist whose career has never had a dull moment. She is known for her wild antics such as wearing a meat dress to arriving at an awards show in an egg, which she stayed in for seventy-two hours before coming out to be reborn on stage. Since the beginning of her career in 2008 Lady Gaga has won five Grammy Awards and thirteen MTV music awards for her hit songs like ‘Just Dance,’ ‘Poker Face,’ ‘Born This Way,’ and ‘Bad Romance.’ In addition to her music, Lady Gaga pours her heart and soul into supporting the LGBTQ community and fighting for their equality. When she is not on tour or writing songs, she is speaking at pride events, conferences, and being there for her fans which she calls her “Monsters.” For example, she spoke at the National Equality March Rally, the Gay Pride Rally in New York City, in Maine to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and many more across the United States.

Gaga has been and advocate and an icon for the LGBTQ community throughout her entire career, and she continues to use her fame and influence to fight for equality for all of the queer culture. Many of her songs like ‘Poker Face,’ ‘Born This Way,’ and ‘Hair’ refer to her sexuality and many of the struggles the LGBTQ community can relate to. The most controversial of these songs would be ‘Born This Way,’ because a lot of Gaga haters and anti-LGBTQ people were outraged by the lyrics. These naysayers believe that sexual orientation is a choice, which goes against the message the lyrics ‘Born this way’ stand for. Some people take issue with this song due to the reference to loving God, and they do not believe God approves of queer culture and therefore criticize her for putting them together. However, they do not speak for all religions, there are some religious communities that do not condemn queer culture. Although there were many objections to this song, Gaga also gained a lot of fans because the lyrics made a connection with people, and helped them realize it is okay to be different and to love yourself for who you are, because you were “born this way.”

“‘Born This Way’ is about being yourself, loving who you are, and being proud” – Lady Gaga

Some people argue that Lady Gaga is not truly queer, that instead it is an act she puts on to gain popularity and profit and therefore they do not think she should be an LGBTQ icon or advocate. However, Lady Gaga has come out identifying as a bisexual time and time again over the years. It is true she has only dated men, but she says she has always been attracted to females as well and has had many sexual relationships with women. Queer is an umbrella term for many different sexualities like gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and many more. Lady Gaga is queer, and she supports all of the queer community. She is not discriminating against straight people, her point is that not everyone is the same. There are straight people and queer people and everyone deserves love and acceptance. She advocates for queer equality which relates to the conversation in class about gender neutral bathrooms. They are similar in theory as both concepts make provisions to include not exclude. For example, in our discussion about bathrooms, we talked about how it is not about removing separate sex bathrooms, it is about adding a third option for gender neutral people so that everyone’s needs are met.

“Lady Gaga Is Queer. Always Has Been, Always Will Be” – Queer Voices

Another Lady Gaga song that supports my argument that she is a good LGBTQ icon, is ‘Heavy Metal Lover.’ This song is about one of her past relationships where they shared an interest in leather and BDSM. Throughout the song there are sounds of whips slapping, and lyrics like “Whip me slap me, punk funk, New York clubbers, bump drunk.” This type of sexual behavior directly relates to the film “Cruising” because they both have scenes in the leather bars in New York City where gay men in leather explored their sexuality. Also, BDSM is an aspect of queer or abnormal sexuality, which connects to Gayle Rubin’s theory of sex hierarchy with the “Charmed Circle.” Rubin used this circle to describe good, normal, natural, and blessed sexualities in the inner circle known as the “Charmed Circle.” The outer circle describes the bad, abnormal, unnatural, and dammed sexualities known as the “Outer Limits.” Lady Gaga advocates for the outer limits and for acceptance of different sexual expressions.

“There’s nothing wrong with loving who you are” – Lady Gaga

Mentioning the New York gay leather bars exemplifies her knowledge of LGBTQ history showing she has done her research and is part of the queer community. ‘Heavy Metal Lover’ is also another source of evidence that Lady Gaga is bisexual because her lyrics are gender neutral, meaning she does not show a preference for one sex over the other. In addition to demonstrating her knowledge about LGBTQ history, Lady Gaga reiterates her strong passion for the LGBTQ community by using “Baby we were born this way” in the song ‘Heavy Metal Lover.’ This use of repetition of ‘born this way’ once again emphasizes and proves Lady Gaga is a good LGBTQ icon, and ‘Born This Way’ was not a fluke or a publicity stunt.

“No matter gay, straight, or bi, lesbian, transgender life, I’m on the right track baby, I was born to survive” – Lady Gaga

As many of our classmates can vouch for, it can be very challenging living as queer in a world where not everyone accepts you. During a time of confusion, loneliness, and self-hate, I believe having the support of a pop star like Lady Gaga can only be seen as a positive, and in fact can be the light at the end of the tunnel for many that are struggling. At the end of the day, we need more people who accept us like Lady Gaga.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consent is [Mandatory]

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The “Consent is Sexy” campaign is a sexual rights awareness campaign that targets high schools, colleges, and universities. It promotes not only the awareness of consent, but safe sex, responsibility, and gender equality in relationships. It tries to counter relationship abuse, sexual assault, rape, gender discrimination, and homophobia.  There is more than one focus of this campaign—while it does have to do with getting consent; it also has to do with granting consent. It also has to do with sexual abuse, domestic abuse, rape, and protection. This campaign is so open to everyone and one of the ways that it does combat homophobia is by including them and their needs into this campaign.

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While this campaign can be seen as geared more towards straight men on college campuses, this campaign is geared toward gay and straight men as well as gay and straight women. The sex education that we receive is horrid, but the fact that a lot of these campaigns fail to include the LGBT+ community does not help matters. This campaign is sex-positive and doesn’t encourage anyone not to have sex; rather it encourages those who want to have sex to make sure that that they have their partner’s consent. Rather than placing blame, this campaign contributes to sexual health and positive emotional wellbeing of everyone involved and offers focus on benefits and risks of sex.  This campaign strives for equality and recognizes the right to respect and consent for both sexes. On the other hand, because straight are such a large demographic for this campaign, this campaign doesn’t demonize men either. It avoids focus on men as the only gender capable of sexual abuse and instead, it demonstrates that men can also be abused and women can also be capable of sexual abuse.

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Though this campaign is so important in what they promote and what they believe, there have been complaints and problems with the eroticization of consent. So why eroticize it? It’s important to remember the demographic of this campaign and to remember that that is not all they are promoting. The “Consent is Sexy” hook, I think, is to grab attention and pull people in to see what it is all about. This campaign is geared to those in high school and college. I think that, yes, consent is a basic human right and not something should have to be eroticized to be followed, sometimes that’s a step that has to be taken to get the point across. This campaign helps people to realize that not only should people be asking for consent, but people do not have to consent if they are not ready.

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One of the things that they also focus on is being safe after consent has been given.  They stress that consent is just one step to having safe sex. Condoms and other forms of safe sex are important, but more than that, respect for your partner is important as well. One of the examples that they use is HIV, and though this is not something super typical for straight couples, it is a big thing in the gay community and the inclusion of that is important. Overall, this entire campaign, though perceived as set for straight couples, believes in equality for both sexes and for people in the LGBT+ community. Consent can be sexy, yes, but it consent is and always will be MANDATORY.

Gays Were Accepted Hundreds of Years Ago – by Andrew Trinh

Saints Sergius and Bacchus, as depicted by the painting by Rick Herold, were third-century Roman soldiers. The pair were Christian martyrs with Bacchus dying during torture and Sergius eventually beheaded in Syria for refusing to attend a Greek sacrifice. What’s more interesting is that in early Greek manuscripts, it was revealed that these two were openly gay. After their homicide, the two were given sainthood and several churches were built in their honor, including Constantinople and Rome.

“Saints Sergius and Bacchus” by Rick Herold

Rick Herold’s painting of enamel on Plexiglas was made in the late 19th century. It shows the two saints in a nude embrace while asleep. The viewer is lead to believe that the men do not share the same ethnic background because of varying hair colors and skin tones. What’s interesting is that the painting depicts more of a post-sex exhaustion with Bacchus with his head on Sergius’ chest. The idea is further supported by Herold’s inclination towards painting homoerotica.

Saints Sergius and Bacchus. 7th Century icon from St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai in Israel. Now in an art museum in Kiev, Ukraine.

The original piece (as show above) that influenced Herold’s creation is much tamer in nature. It shows the two saints next together with Jesus linking the two as if to show matrimony. The original painting opens up the idea of homosexuality being accepted in Christianity during the third and fourth centuries.

The image by Herold challenges the normative idea of religion being against homosexuality. And it shows a regression of the general public accepting homosexuality because these two openly gay men were given the highest honor a person could receive in Christianity. They were given sainthood. Today, homosexuals are still being put down and thrown under the rug. Homosexuals are still being put in the “other” category between humans and animals but in second and third century Rome, these saints were high ranking soldiers in the army. They didn’t hide their homosexuality and actually the reason they lost favor in the army was because they were found out to be Christians.

Since then, Christianity has been known to be unsupported of homosexuals. Today we have LGBT-friendly Christian groups but by definition, gays are still put in a separate category. Even in those accepting groups there are the LGBT and the people accepting them. And in comparison, Christianity has shown regression on accepting the LGBT community even though there are a number of saints that were known to be homosexual.

The painting challenges queer normative culture. In comparing how Christians accepted gays hundreds of years ago and how homosexuals are treated now, whether it be rejection and subjugation or the weak acceptance into LGBT-friendly communities, the level of regression is palpable. The painting almost says, “these advances are not enough.” And what the people in the queer community are doing, while it may seem like significant advancements, is just making up for what used to be, and even then it fails. These gay saints weren’t the other; they were revered, loved and seen as powerful figures. Today, we still haven’t even gotten over “othering.”

Martha Shelley (1992) in her article, “Gay is Good,” said, “the worst part of being homosexual is having to keep it a secret” (p. 32). By putting homosexuals in a different category, we dehumanize them. In contrast, there is ample art supporting the homosexuality culture in ancient Greece and Rome. Gay men having sex was shown on pottery and paintings. And today, we refuse to accept art forms that support homosexuals. Anything with gay sex is distasteful porn. It took over 1500 years after ancient Rome for homosexuals to be featured in lesser art exhibitions and even today there are no large-scale art publications that feature homosexuals. Homosexuals as told by Shelley are still kept in the dark.

The “Warren Cup” depicting one man penetrating another.

Herold’s painting bridges a gap between Ancient Roman liberalism, Christianity’s change over centuries, and the current negative perspectives against gays. It shows two gay saints in a sexual embrace, challenging stiff religious beliefs that have moved communities against gays. And it dares to ask it’s viewers to reconsider what it means to be an oppressor of gays, because long ago, in what we consider a less civilized time, they were accepted.