300 & The History of Sexuality

 

Upon reading David Halperin’s Is There A History of Sexuality? I immediately connected it to the 2006 film 300, directed by Zack Snyder and starring Gerard Butler, which is based on the 1998 graphic novel of the same name. The film focuses on the historic Battle of Thermopylae in which a small contingent of Spartan warriors took on a vast Persian army. The film and novel are clear fictionalizations of these events, but are interesting to look at for their representations and misrepresentations of a central tenant of ancient Greek civilization: masculinity and sexuality.

The film is ripe with eroticism and hyper-masculinity as the warriors themselves are near naked, incredibly buff and constantly cast in a romantic light. Spartan culture was indeed focused on the ideal male form, to the point of instituting a ritual in which weakness is discarded even as early as birth. Shaved Spartan boys are then thrust into a world of violence enduring what they called the agōgē in which they are taken from their mother’s and raised by men.

What the film completely ignores is the pedagogic relationship boys were required to develop with an adult male Spartan who would be their tutor. There is some hint of this between the soldier Stelios and his younger friend Astinos but what homoerotic behavior might be inferred from this is overruled by the quote early on in the film where the main character King Leonidas refers to Athenians as “boy-lovers” with a tone of disdain. The Persians, meanwhile, are portrayed as much more sexually open, having orgies and presenting themselves effeminately with makeup, piercings and perfumes. They are also portrayed as the villain however, and their legion of inhuman monsters fighting for their lustful androgynous masters makes the film seem even more homophobic.

The monstrous Persian representation, as well as Leonidas’s remark against homosexuality (or potentially pedagogy), is in stark contrast to the rest of the films conception. In addition to worshipping the male form, the film is overflowing with imagery of penetration. This is mostly in the form of spears and swords bursting through Spartan enemies and spraying blood everywhere. Indeed the fighting is glorified at an erotic level, frequently being slowed down to highlight the Spartan prowess at an almost pornographic level. These visualizations fit better with Halperin’s exploration of Greek culture and its focus on male dominance and insertion. The films few sex scenes also revolve around penetration, represented in one scene by the involuntary gasps of air Leonidas’s Queen must release with each thrust of his spear. In another scene the Queen gives her body to a politician to help win support for her husband’s war, and the climax of the film culminates in her penetrating him back with a sword in the gut.

This brings us to the role of women in Sparta, which was unique even amongst the Greeks of this time period. When a Persian messenger challenges the Queen for speaking out of turn, asking, “what makes this woman think she can speak among men?” she retorts “Because only Spartan women give birth to real men.” Even having more rights than most women of their time is somehow still summed up by male dominance, in this case Spartan ego. Still the Queen plays an important role in the plot of the movie and in the war effort, speaking at the Senate to rally support for her husband. Despite this the film emphasizes that love is a weakness in the eyes of the military. This could have to due with the male superiority in Greek culture, as women were seen as inferiors and objects of desire alongside boys. Real Spartan men were not permitted to live with their wives and could only visit them secretly in the night, though leaving the barracks at all was discouraged.

To me, Halperin’s purpose was to display that while today’s society views sexuality as a binary that has existed since the days of Adam and Eve, it in fact has a much more vibrant history. Indeed it seems Greek and Spartan sexual cultures were so different from our own that we cannot completely understand what it was to live within them, let alone expect a movie audience to grasp the cultural differences as historical realities.

Peaches’ Fatherfuckers

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Fatherfuckers is Canadian recording artist Peaches’ third studio album released in 2003. Peaches penned and programmed all of the songs for the album herself, most of which are rock-oriented. Fatherfuckers spent eight weeks on the U.S. Top Electronics Albums chart and sold 40,000 copies. To promote the album, Peaches opened for Marilyn Manson in Europe.

This album was huge for Peaches in expressing her bisexuality. Most of the songs on the album have to do with sex in some way, and the ones that don’t still often refer to her being interested in both genders. This is why I chose to include this artifact in our digital archive— it’s extremely expressive of queerness and bisexuality. The album cover also includes Peaches with a beard, which shows her openness to gender fluidity.

In the first track on the album, “I Don’t Give A…”, the music and lyrics are both very repetitive. The beat seems to mimic what Peaches is saying, which is basically just her repeating, “I don’t give a fuck” and “I don’t give a shit.” I think this makes the point that she’s resolved to be herself and not care what anyone else thinks of her. Peaches’ song “I’m The Kinda” is also very repetitive in both lyrics and beats. This seems to be a huge trend on her album that I believe she uses to express how determined she is to let everyone know who she is. Her foul language has a feminist tinge to it, which is relevant to our class topic of lesbian feminism.

In the song “Shake Yer Dix”, Peaches asks both males and females if they’re with her, and if they are they should “shake their dicks” and “shake their tits”, another clear display of her sexuality in a very sexually explicit way. This is another song where Peaches displays her determination to be herself and be accepted for it. A line in the song says, “I’ll be me and you be you.” The beat of this song is clean and soft, giving it a sensual feel.

The song “Stuff Me Up” is a very sexual song. It alternates between the phrases, “eat a big dick”, “eat a big clit”, and “why don’t you stuff me up?” Not only does this display Peaches’ bisexuality, it also expresses her sexual desire. Another extremely sexual song on this album is “Back It Up”. In this song, Peaches uses phrases like “I like to lick it and suck it” and “I like to tease it and tap it.” The beat and rhythm of this track is very sexual with heavy bass and echoing notes.

In “I U She”, Peaches alternates between saying “I you he together” and “I you she together”, clearly displaying her bisexuality. She then continues to repeatedly say, “I don’t have to make the choice. I like girls and I like boys.” This is the one place on her album where she explicitly states that she likes both boys and girls, in a sort of gay liberation. This reminded me of a discussion we had in class about how men used to sleep with both woman and men and still consider themselves straight. Although it does appear that Peaches identifies as bisexual, she emphasizes that she doesn’t have to make a choice. She then continues to talk about crops and whips, showing us that she likes to be with both males and females in a sexual way. This song really embodies the entire idea of the album in the way it shows both her sexuality and her desire to express and be heard.

Spring Awakening: A Rock Musical

      Spring Awakening, adapted by Duncan Sheik, is a rock musical that follows the lives of young teenage students growing up in 19th-century Germany. We are taken on the journeys of these students as they discover themselves, things about each other, and most importantly, what sex and sexuality means to them and how it plays a part in their individual lives. Wendla Bergmann, Melchior Gabor, and Moritz Stiefel are the main characters that frame and guide us through these stories; they give the other characters incentive to step forward and bring us along their “coming-of-age” journey.

      In any form of performance art, whether it be film, television, theater, etc, it is important to have contrasts. Contrasts give the story and theme substance and elasticity as well as sharp, strong dynamics that grant the show the opportunities to be very impactful instead of just simple and blended. The contrast of setting and theme is something to be noted here. A time like 19th-century Germany being the place to carry the theme of sex and sexuality is extremely interesting to look at. The exposition of the show informs us of this strict, traditional, “no room for mistakes” culture in Germany where self expression and any mention of sex is taboo. In the very first scene of dialogue in the show, Wendla asks her mother the truth about conception and tells her she can no longer be fooled by the story of the stork. Her mother is so shocked by this and wonders where she even began to think of it. She can’t even look Wendla in the eye and goes as far as hiding her underneath her skirt to even before speaking. This discomfort in talk about sex reflects this contrast between this hard, stiff setting, and something apparently as wild and out of place as sex. The nature of this setting makes the overarching theme of sex and sexuality even more enticing to look at and follow.

“I Believe” Spring Awakening

   The songs are especially very cohesive with the theme of sexuality in the show: “The Word of Your Body” and “I Believe” are two major ones. “The Word of Your Body” is a ballad devoted to hinting at this overwhelming sense of wanting and desire of the other’s body and how these two bodies are going to have such an impact on each other, they’ll actually be each other’s “bruise” and “wound”.  “…haven’t you heard the word, how I want you?” This type of discourse reflects a lot of what we’ve talked about with “desire”. We discussed desire as this powerful force driving us towards someone. It is something that Whitman would even consider part of human nature. He sees human beings as one and desire as something that just comes with that exchange when the attraction is there. The essence of Whitman’s perspective of such inseparability between people really plays a part in this show; mostly in the case of Melchior and Wendla. Although they are taught that sex is sinful and almost deviant, they are still drawn together and engage in the act as “I Believe” plays in the background. “All will be forgiven…there is love in heaven”. This lyric in the song is reflective of the idea that sex is something that is too perverse for the world around them. It goes so far as to say it is something that needs to be “forgiven” in order to be okay.

      Freudian psychology and sexology can also be applied here because homosexuality is a part of this show as well. “The Word of Your Body (Reprise)” stars two male students sharing a love scene on top of a mountain while they both reveal their love for one another. Passionate kissing is involved as well as lustful dialogue and delivery of the lyrics. Freud would say this is a deviation of sexuality because it does not involve a penis and vagina. Homosexuality is considered way outside the standard of sex for Freud. This idea of sexual deviance and perversion pushes even further the contrast between the stiffness of 19th-century Germany and sexuality.

      

"The Word of Your Body (reprise)" Spring Awakening

“The Word of Your Body (reprise)” Spring Awakening

"Totally Fucked" Spring Awakening

“Totally Fucked” Spring Awakening

      I think this musical does an excellent job in approaching sex and sexuality in a very intriguing way. The restriction the characters feel by the adults and setting alone forces them to find other ways to discover themselves; thus creating this sort of “break out” attitude within the show. This can be reflected by the songs “Totally Fucked” and “The Bitch of Living”. The entirety of this show is incredibly powerful and really does an amazing job addressing the multiple themes of rebellion, sexuality, abortion, suicide, etc, that all play a huge part in the storytelling of these students.

Tipping the Velvet: The Lesbian Underground

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Tipping the Velvet is a historical fiction novel written by Sarah Waters, and published in 1998. I chose to review the three-episode film adaptation released in 2002.

The story takes place in Victorian England during the 1890s and follows the life of Nan Astley as she starts to recognize her sexuality. She falls madly in love with a woman named Kitty Butler who poses as a man in theatre. They develop a close and fun love that goes sour. Nan is shattered, leaves their apartment and tries to make a life of her own. She encounters numerous situations that leave her worse off than the last (there is not much a woman in the 1890’s can do as an independent) until she has nothing left to sustain her – injured, homeless, and hungry. She finds a woman from two years prior that she was developing feelings for, asks to stay with her, and they fall in love.

I chose to add this to the archive because throughout Nan’s entire experience, not much judgment is placed on her. There are few short scenes which do serve to show the overall intolerance of female-female sexual relations of that era. She was completely rejected by her sister after revealing her love for Kitty Butler. A prominent man in Kitty’s life dismissed the idea that women could have real sex together, saying, “You need a man for that, I think you’ll find.” highlighting the idea that penile-vaginal intercourse is the only proper, and legitimate, act of sexual behavior. In another scene, a few drunken men in an alley tried to attack Nan and her girlfriend after Nan stood up to their crude remarks.

It’s important to highlight, however; that while the story in Tipping the Velvet is a created history, Nan found social environments that supported her own identity. She frequented spaces that were comprised of women dressed like men and accompanied by their “wives.” She was in a relationship (though abusive) with a woman that heavily centered her life around this social environment.
I draw a relation between the underground scene in Tipping the Velvet to that of the gay world mentioned in George Chauncey’s introduction to Gay New York. Though same sex sexual relationships were heavily frowned upon, individuals who identified with those interests were able to create a thriving counterculture that suited their needs of expression, search for partners, and validation. They weren’t forced into feeling that they must completely shut themselves away in isolation because of the harsh judgments and regulations of the dominant culture – one of the three “myths” Chauncey introduces in his text.

(skip to 7:30 to see an example of social gatherings of the quest community, and to avoid spoilers)

Nan extensively challenged societal norms. She regularly passed as a man in her day-to-day life, or went on as a woman whenever she felt. While this idea ties into the concepts of gender (as we interpret it today), many people of the time would have labeled such a person an invert.  There are several mentions of the unnaturalness of the lives of women who love women. I think that the reverse gender presentation of many of the characters in the show highlight the idea that crossing gender boundaries is wrong, and contribute to thinking homosexual activity to be unnatural. Choosing to adorn oneself in men’s attire transgressed cultural expectations of females, and this sort of behavior was typical among the female homosexual community in Tipping the Velvet. Sigmund Freud (while his work appears later than the time of this story) considered inversion to be a deviation, but not innate – so essentially unnatural, and this show presents that idea.
The TV adaptation of Tipping the Velvet is a drama, based off of historical fiction, and produces a story of some seemingly unrealistic encounters. Yet, it offers a representation of the resilience of the female homosexual community, much like what is offered in George Chauncey’s true historical analysis of the gay male world in New York. Tipping the Velvet serves to create a history where one is lacking, and offers representation of a historical community to those that need one – the lesbian world.

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.

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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.

We All Need A Normal Heart

The Normal Heart Front Cover

The 2014 film The Normal Heart, written by Larry Kramer, is a recreation of Kramer’s 1985 play The Normal Heart. With a star filled cast, The Normal Heart is a beautiful drama that shows the unfortunate troubles of gay men at the start of and through the rise of the AIDS epidemic. Although this film existed in play form first, it was recreated as a way to reach a larger audience and show how seriously terrifying and mysterious the AIDS epidemic was for those living through it.

The Normal Heart starts off by showing the sexual liberty gays have recently acquired along with the happiness from their freedom. But the film quickly changes tone once gays realize they are being diagnosed with a rare and nebulous homosexual cancer. Once the main character, Ned—an openly gay writer, has a friend who becomes infected with this gay cancer, they start to seek out help. At this point, they go to Dr. Emma Brookner who is the one of the only doctors willing to work with patients infected with this mysterious disease. Dr. Brookner is looking for someone to be a leader and share her information with gay men; she finds Ned to be that man. At a meeting with Dr. Brookner, Ned, and many other gay men, Dr. Brookner shares her research and information with these men about how she thinks the cancer is sexually transmitted, and that the men should “cool it” because there is a high chance they will infect each other and die. The sexually liberated men scoff at her, but Ned knows how serious this disease is and decides to start an organization to get help and raise awareness for the disease. The rest of the film focuses on the development the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) organization intermixed with the personal struggles the gay men are facing at this time. The GMHC becomes one of the leading fighters to get support politically, publicly, and medically to combat the gay disease.

The film does not strictly focus on the disease, but also how this disease affects the personal lives of the gay men at the time. As if gay men weren’t already misunderstood enough, the gay cancer (which we now know is AIDS) adds another level of the struggles gay men face. The film depicts how gays during this time receive little to no help from anyone apart from other gays, how they become more feared than ever due to the rise of this mysterious cancer, how being gay is still full of doubt, fear, and confusion in addition to this crisis, and how it still is not safe nor secure to be openly gay to the public.

Although this film is largely about the AIDS epidemic, it still showcases many things presented in our sexuality unit. One specific aspect from our unit that The Normal Heart focuses on is Ned’s sexuality, his understanding of it, and his relationship with his family because of it. Until the latter half of Ned’s life, he always believed his sexuality was wrong; he had been told a plethora of times that he could change his ways, become straight, and finally be normal. This is very similarly to our reading of Merle Miller’s “What It Means To Be a Homosexual,” where he says,

I have spent several thousand dollars and several thousand hours with various practitioners, and while they have often been helpful in leading me to an understanding of how I got to be the way I am, none of them has ever had any feasible, to me feasible, suggestion as to how I could be any different.

In both cases, we see that these gay men realized that no amount of therapy can change who they are; although it may be a more stressful life, they know who they are, what they are, and nothing is going to change that. In fact, we even see that after this epiphany, both individuals become happier and more at peace with themselves.

We also get to see how gayness crosses over to family life with Ned and his brother, Ben. Ben is a lawyer at a very successful law firm and Ned is seeking his assistance for the GMHC. Ned believes that the support of not just his straight brother, but Ben’s straight company will drastically help their movement. On the other hand, Ben thinks that the “straightness” of him and his company will not make a difference. It is at this point that Ned realizes his brother still doesn’t see him as a healthy equal, that Ben still thinks he is “sick,” and that his brother still doesn’t understand him, even though he accepts him; this is exactly the struggle Martha Shelley describes in “Gay is Good.” Here, Shelley explains that she is sick of liberals saying that it doesn’t matter who sleeps with whom, but what one does outside of bed; to her, this isn’t good enough anymore. She states,

[w]e want something more now, something more than the tolerance you never gave us. But to understand that, you must understand who we are. . . I will tell you what we want, we radical homosexuals: not for you to tolerate us, or to accept us, but to understand us.

In the heat of Ned and Ben’s argument, we hear a very similar frustration expressed by Ned towards Ben’s understanding and acceptance of Ned. Ben tolerates and accepts Ned, but he doesn’t truly understand Ned which, as Shelley agrees, is not good enough for Ned.

In yet another example from the film that connects to our unit, we see that to many in the straight world, one’s sexuality is extremely important and can influence someone’s opinions or actions towards a homosexual. During this time, Ned is one of the few open, politically active gay men; many of the other GMHC are closeted out of fear of having their lives ruined from the rest of the world not accepting them. Even the mayor and his assistant are gay, but they neglect the epidemic due to the potential of them being outed even though they are struggling through the epidemic themselves. As we saw from Joseph Epstein, he stated in “Homo/Hetero: The Struggle for Sexual Identity” that,

[f]or this reason, and from an absolutely personal point of view, I consider it important [to] know whether a man I am dealing with is a homosexual or [not].

In a scene in the hospital at which Dr. Brookner works, we see this exemplified when a maintenance worker won’t go into the gay-related immune deficiency (GRID) section of the hospital to fix a TV because his union says he “doesn’t have to risk his life over some contagious fairy.” Another situation like this occurs when two gay men, one of them severely sick with the disease, are asked to leave a plane they are on because the pilot will not fly while they are still on the plane. These scenarios truly demonstrate the struggles gay men faced during this time period.

The Normal Heart is quite an outstanding film that explains a difficult period for gay men. The story encapsulates many of the struggles gay men have faced to get to the point they are today in a powerful story that can open the eyes to many who do not know about or who who do not understand the struggles gay men have gone through. Because of its excellent depiction, I highly recommend this film and believe it rightly deserves its place in this archive.

To get a glimpse of the film, here is the trailer:

Gender Roles in “But I’m a Cheerleader”

The 1999 satirical romantic-comedy film “But I’m a Cheerleader” is directed by Jamie Babbit and stars Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall, and RuPall to name a few. The movie focuses on a teenage girl, Megan Bloomfield (Lyonne), who is sent to a conversion therapy camp, True Directions, because her parents and friends suspect she is a lesbian. There Megan soon comes to embrace her sexual orientation, despite the therapy, and falls in love with Graham (DuVall). The movie uses the theme of socially constructed gender roles to “cure” homosexuality.

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The production and costume design of the movie was meant to reflect the idea of gender roles. There is a progression from the organic world of Megan’s hometown, where the main colors are orange and brown, to the fake world of True Directions, dominated by intense blues and pinks, which show the artificiality of gender roles. In the camp, the male campers wear only dark blue shorts, shirts, and ties, whereas the female campers wear only bright pink skirts and blouses. By having the campers wear clothes that are typically associated with the standard male outfit and the standard female outfit, it tries to show the campers how normal straight people dress.

Besides making the campers wear gender specific clothes, they make the campers perform a series of tasks associated with each gender. For example girls are taught how to clean a house, change aBut_I'm_a_Cheerleader_BLUE baby, how to sew, specifically a wedding dress, how to wear make-up and look like a “pretty young woman”. Guys are taught how to change a tire and fix a car’s engine, how to play football, and how to chop wood and spit. The idea is if the campers realize and practice their intended role in society then their homosexuality will be cured.

Along with performing gender specific tasks, the campers are also given cards with images of their gender doing the typical gender roles the campers should be emulating. Megan and Graham are going over the cards, and Megan shows Graham a card of a but-im-a-cheerleaderwoman taking out the trash. Graham responds with “I see a woman” and Megan frustratedly says “ It’s a mother. Women have roles. After you learn that you’ll stop objectifying them.” The concept that is being taught at the camp is that homosexuality is caused by not conforming to the socially constructed gender roles. In order to cure this homosexuality, you have to act and dress like an ideal man or woman performing the gender roles given to you by society.

The idea that performing gender specific tasks and wearing gender specific clothes will change who someone loves is just ridiculous and ignorant. The movie showcases this in a funny light-hearted way but still gets the message across: love is love, and it cannot be cured.

The Kids Are All Right, But How Are The Adults?

“The Kids Are All Right” is a 2010 film directed by Lisa Cholodenko, starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo. It tells the story of married, lesbian couple Nic (Bening) and Jules (Moore). They each gave birth to a child from the same anonymous sperm donor. The youngest, fifteen year old Laser (Josh Hutcherson), is interested in finding their sperm donor, and pressures his older sister, Joni (Mia Wasikowska), who recently turned eighteen, into doing it for him. They find their donor father Paul (Ruffalo), a laid-back guy who runs his own farm and restaurant. The kids are interested in continuing to see him, and he starts to get more involved with the whole family’s lives. He ends up asking Jules to help landscape his backyard, and while she’s working for him, they have an affair. One night, when the family is over at Paul’s house for dinner, Nic finds out about the affair after finding some of Jules’s hair on a brush and in the shower. After confronting and getting a confession from Jules, tensions are high at home. Paul believes he has fallen in love with Jules, and suggests her marriage with Nic is already falling apart, she should just take the kids and move in with him, but she declines. Paul turns up at the house the night before Joni is to leave for college, and Nic angrily confronts him and turns him away. After this, Jules apologizes for her actions and begs for forgiveness from her family. The next morning, they all drive Joni to college, without Paul. Nic and Jules affectionately hug Joni goodbye together. On the ride back, Laser says they’re too old to break up, and the film ends with Nic and Jules smiling and holding hands.

The film is an excellent representation of a normal, same-sex couple. It portrays a family going through difficult times. One child about to leave for college, another in the troublesome teenage years, and a struggling, long-term marriage. The major problem has little to do with the fact that Nic and Jules are a lesbian couple, other than that Paul is their sperm donor. Though sperm donation isn’t simply unique to lesbians. Straight couples and even single women can and do get sperm donors. Jules cheats on Nic with Paul, not because she’s “becoming straight” like Nic questions, but because Jules desires support for her landscaping work, and Paul is offering that while Nic is extremely critical. The tension on their marriage is from them being together for so long, like many straight marriages. The problems they have with their kids, such as Joni about to leave for college and Laser hanging out with the wrong crowd, are similar to the same problems straight parents have. All the struggles they face have very little to do with their sexual orientation, showing that same-sex marriages go through the same matters as straight marriages.

One major critique is that the film follows the idea of the straight mind. Nic is clearly supposed to be the “man” of the relationship, and Jules the “woman.” Nic has a very masculine poise, is the breadwinner of the family, turns to work and wine when she feels lonely, and even has an ambiguously male name. At one point, Paul even refers to her as “my brother from another mother.” Jules is the more feminine character, trying to start her own business at home, and dresses more feminine with longer hair. Instead of adopting children, they both decide to go through pregnancy and childbirth, similar to what straight couples tend to desire. They experience little to no discrimination for their sexual orientation, and while ideal in a perfect world, doesn’t accurately represent what real lesbian couples experience.

Any possibility of sexual spectrum is removed and bisexual erasure is promoted in the scene where Nic confronts Jules about the affair. She asks Jules “are you straight now?” as if sexuality is something that can be turned on and off with no gray area.

Overall, the film is great representation of an average, lesbian marriage. It’s a normality that needs to be promoted more often in the movie industry. Though nowhere near suitable to represent all same-sex marriages, it’s headed in the right direction.

Game of Thrones: Oberyn Martell

The popular HBO series Game of Thrones, written for television by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss is well known for creating a buzz among its viewers. This is not solely because of its renowned writing and production, which is based on the famous fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin. Throughout its run the show has featured many characterizations of today’s society’s ‘taboos’, which are meant to get viewers talking. One character in particular who has stood out in my mind is the Red Viper of Dorne, Oberyn Martell.

Oberyn is portrayed on screen as a macho, pansexual man with a love of lust and violence. Within seconds of his introduction to the show (already notorious for its sexually explicit content) viewers were thrust into a brothel bed where Oberyn was sexually engaging multiple men and women at the same time. Naturally his presence has created a stir in both the straight and queer communities and many have developed differing opinions on his portrayal.

“Then everyone is missing half the world’s pleasure. The gods made [women], and it delights me. The gods made [men]… and it delights me. When it comes to war I fight for Dorne, when it comes to love — I don’t choose sides.” – Oberyn Martell

Pedro Pascal, the actor who plays Oberyn, has expressed his own interpretation of the character:

“I think that he gives no explanation and makes no apologies for the way he lives his life, and I think that was very exciting and important to portray, that he has no hang-ups around the experience of pleasure, and he will take any opportunity to experience something beautiful, and I think he finds that in lovemaking. He doesn’t see the sense in limiting oneself of experience and pleasure, and I think that is very cool.

However, individuals from the queer community have expressed disappointment over the lack of label associated with Oberyn’s sexuality. While many simply do not like labels, others argue that Oberyn never definitively declaring the nature of his sexuality makes it seem like he is in some way ‘half-closeted’ and not truly willing to be associated with the bi or pansexual community. Many sources have him listed merely as gay, despite his clear attraction to women in addition to men. The bi and pan communities are seeking visibility and perhaps Oberyn’s on-screen actions are not enough to legitimize his (or their) sexual identity.

There has also been criticism over Oberyn’s characterization. He is not only incredibly masculine and hot-tempered (he is widely considered as one of the best fighter’s in the world), but he is very promiscuous with his sexuality. Many argue he is only two-dimensional for this reason. On top of this he is from a nation that has far different cultural values than that of most of the character’s on the show, and is viewed as an outsider. Again, bi/pan visibility may not be the same as promoting bi/pansexual identity, and to many the inclusion of Oberyn’s sexual tendencies might feel like a gimmick.

Alternative to these criticisms, a positive queer-centric dialogue has definitely been started by the introduction of his character. In my personal experience I can point to many of my straight, male friends who have fallen in love with his character despite their disconnect from queer culture. A community titled “GayForOberyn” has even formed on the website reddit and is filled with straight men discussing how Oberyn is making them question their sexuality. Well many in the community might be there out of mere appreciation for his suave personality and badass moves, I have perused the forum and even found a few posts were people have confessed that their crush on Oberyn has helped them come to terms with their bisexuality. When asked how he feels about his portrayal of Oberyn leading countless men and women alike to reconsider their sexual orientation, actor Pedro Pascal replied:

“That makes me feel wonderful. I think that that’s key to Oberyn. That he is the kind of person that is attractive and sort of breaks boundaries. He doesn’t play by the rules, so the fact that anyone would be attracted to him, no matter what their sexual orientation is, is very in line with the kind of character that he is. So I think that’s great.”

I think these conflicting viewpoints relate well to some of our in-class discussions about Caitlyn Jenner’s representation of the transgender community. Even if Oberyn doesn’t perfectly reflect the community’s struggle, he’s still an important presence. Shows like Game of Thrones thrive on being edgy and relevant (other examples in the show include cannibalism, zombies, incest, etc.) and while they may play up certain aspects of sexual identity, the visibility they allow for is not inherently good or bad but allows for a dialogue. Personally, Oberyn is one of my favorite characters, and at least in my own experience I cannot point to many other bisexual characters in any medium who have caused such a fan frenzy. At the end of the day everyone is different, so not every person in any of these communities is going to be completely satisfied by how an individual character represents their community as a whole, but the representation alone is a step in the right direction.

I am Jazz

TLC (Tender Love Care) formally known as “The Learning Channel” is owned by the Discovery Communications and has been televised since 1972. From the year 2001 and now, It has been focused on showing educational and learning content to its viewers. Lately, the network admits, “we began to primarily focus towards reality series involving lifestyles, family life, and personal stories.” Approximately 95 million American households have TLC broadcasted  on their cable TV’s in the study occurred in February 2015. On July 15, 2015 the first episode of ” I am Jazz” aired.

I chose this TV show because It represents Jazz as the normal teenage girl facing the common obstacles, yet she has announced she was transgender since she was two years old. She takes the ideal girl image and challenges the norm, which puts pressure on the values, and creates a different outlook on the word “identity”. She fails at being a biological man, but exceeds more in being an inspiring educating realistic woman. She has done more as a 14 year old girl than the average girl her age. In fact her show has sparked interest and inspiration across the globe, to which she receives fan letters and emails everyday expressing their gratitude towards her. But she has faced numerous of obstacles in order to make herself and everyone who loves her, happy.

  1. Girls travel soccer:According to the United States Youth Soccer Association, there are two types of team genders. Jazz is allowed to practice with the girls teams but not play in games. Jeanette and Greg Jennings fought with the board at the matter, the board replied, “she will hurt somebody.” Her parents argued with the stereotypical reply, ” She plays like a girl.” Jazz and her parents fought long and hard on this pressing issue, but sadly denied because of her gender.
  2. Female Restroom: In her middle school Jazz continued to use the nurses office until she was fed up with it. Her and her mother gathered up legalized records stating her female gender, and brought them to the administration at her school. When Jazz received approval, she knew it was another important challenge she over came in order to be seen as a woman.
  3. Teachers: Every year on the first day of school Jazz had to be the first one in her classes to be able to speak to her teachers about her “GID”. She would need to explain her reasons why it was important to be referred to as a “her” and by the name she went by everyday.

Jazz was one of the youngest known cases in America to be documented as being in transition at two years old. Even though her obstacles are far from over, she uses her negative and positive experiences to encourage her supporters to do whats right for yourself, and shows what can be done in schools and sports to make that happen. For six years Jeanette has been speaking at Universities in South Florida to educate graduates and medical students about the LGBTQ scale and specifically gender dysphoric.

Transgender Symbol

Jazz’s achievements consist of:

  1. Being the leader of the trans kids movement.
  2. Jennings founded Purple Rainbow Tails, a company in which she fashions rubber mermaid tails to raise money for transgender children.
  3. She was also named one of “The 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014” by time,
  4. Recognized as the youngest person ever featured on Out​s “Out 100” and Advocates “40 Under 40” lists
  5. Became a spokes model for Clean and Clear’s “See The Real Me” digital campaign and shared “the trials of growing up transgender.”
  6. Wrote the novel “I am Jazz” in 2013.

Below is a an interview with news broadcaster Katie Couric that sums up her book “I am Jazz” and a little more about her coming out to the public.