Faking It

Faking It is a television show that first premiered on MTV in April, 2014. The show takes place mostly at and around Hester High School which is located near Austin, Texas. Unlike every other high school in America, at Hester High School being weird or abnormal is what lands you a seat atop the schools hierarchy of popularity. The show follows a series of main characters, all of which are struggling to not only gain or keep their rank of popularity, but are also struggling to identify their own personal selves throughout the tough journey we all undergo through high school. Throughout the series, the characters display several aspects that pertain to a lot of what we discuss in class, which is queer culture.

When the show begins, we are introduced to two of the main characters, Karma and Amy. They are sophomores at Hester High School and are also best friends. The dynamic duo is portrayed as being willing to do anything to gain a spot amongst the popular crowd. This aspect is tested when Shane Harvey, who is also a main character, accidentally assumes Karma and Amy are a lesbian couple, when in reality they are just best friends. Initially the pair’s reaction was to state that they were not actually a couple; however, when the two of them realized how popular they became from being known as Hester High School’s first out lesbian couple, they decide to hide their true identities rather than losing their new found popularity. Shane Harvey, the boy who ‘outs’ Karma and Amy is one of Hester’s most popular students and plays the role of an out and proud male student who loves unveiling the skeletons hiding in the closets of his fellow classmates. Later on in the series another main character, Liam Booker, who is Shane’s best friend ends up falling for Karma and throwing kinks in Karma and Amy’s attempt to keep their popularity by prolonging their charade of being a lesbian couple. As the series goes on, the show displays many of the struggles faced by students in high school. From Amy falling for her best friend Karma, to Karma falling for Liam and likewise for Liam himself, the show depicts the main characters as finding out tremendous amounts about themselves through the relationships and friendships which they experience throughout their encounters with their classmates. The last main character that is really of relevance to the aspect of queer culture is Amy’s step sister, Lauren Cooper. Lauren is initially depicted as the new girl who is quickly very popular but soon faces her own demons when she is ‘outed’ as being intersex.

I first began watching Faking It when the series first premiered on MTV. I related to the show and even though I found myself constantly thinking, “Wow, this would never actually happen in high school.” I could not help but to fall in love with the show because of the fact that the show handles a lot of issues and is not afraid to throw awkward situations into the audience’s face. The show not only handles issues such as Amy struggling to determine her own sexuality, but it also shows the struggles of Amy’s sister Lauren who is intersex. In many ways the struggles Lauren is depicted to have resonates with our classroom discussions of the struggles which members of the transgender community face. Though Lauren is intersex and not transgender, I found it interesting that she was depicted to suffer from such similar circumstances as those who brave the ridicule that is associated with being a member of the transgender community. Another aspect of the series that I found to be quiet interesting was that many of the struggles the characters where shown to go through made me think back to when we read Martha Shelley’s. “Gay Is Good.” I recall that she spoke about how one of the worst parts about being a homosexual was not the way that they are punished by law enforcement or by society as a whole, but the fact that those who identify as being homosexuals often believed that the fact that they as individuals identified as being gay was something that was not to be revealed. Martha Shelly basically states that it is the general knowledge that being a homosexual means that you are something that is so bad that is should not even be revealed or shared, and I feel that many of the characters in this series show characteristics of identifying with Martha Shelley’s statement. All of the main characters have resentment towards themselves because in some way or another they do not feel that who they truly are is someone or something that can be openly discussed. I feel that many of the characters are shown to  believe that who they are as people is something that they are ashamed to show others which as stated, is how Shelley talks about how it feels to be a member of the homosexual community. I love the manner in which the show depicts the struggles members of the LGBTQ+ community face on a daily basis and how it affects them as people, and I also love how much it pertains to the day to day discussions and readings we have for class.

 

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.

Gender Diversity Creeping Into Society

For so long, we have only been able to choose our gender from a dichotomy: male or female. However, within the past two years, there has finally been some progressive activity towards recognition of multiple and varying gender identities. One of the most popular social media websites, Facebook, created a multitude of gender options for its users at the beginning of 2014. Now, in 2015, there are a few progressive universities following suit. While not as diverse as Facebook’s options, the University of Vermont, the University of California, the University of Albany, and Harvard University have all taken steps towards more open gender expression and recognition. While the simple pronouns of he and she may not seem important, to many people in the world, these small recognitions are giant leaps forward in gender acceptance.

Referring to someone not by their name, but by their gender pronouns is so second nature to the human brain that most of us put little to no thought into it after we see what a person looks like; more often than not, we recognize an abundance of masculine or feminine qualities in a person which is then followed by an immediate and subconscious assignment of the pronouns “he” or “she.” What a good chunk of people do not realize, though, is that there are a significant number of individuals who either do not identify as the gender those individuals outwardly express or who do not even identify as the traditional male or female genders.

“Gender’s very flexibility and seeming fluidity is precisely what allows dimorphic gender to hold sway.” -J.J. Halberstam

As we have read from Leslie Feinberg, transgender habits, thoughts, and ways of life are not new concepts or practices, and, in fact, they have not only been around in most documented cultures, but they have even endured through the worst of hardships. This furthers arguments made by J.J. Halberstam as well; Halberstam understands that we as a society don’t have strictly male and female identities, but rather masculine and feminine qualities which we designate as male or female. Consequently, this leads him to ask why we don’t already have multiple gender expressions and identities in our society. Perhaps we, as a society, have made little progress due to the male and female categories being “so elastic” as Halberstam describes; or perhaps Feinberg’s gender continuum already exists—not in the form of multiple gender identities, but rather with these “elastic” categories of male and female. Maybe this is why the gender binary has endured for so long; maybe the elastic male and female continuum is adequate. However, contrary to what the mass populous has deemed satisfactory for so long, many people and institutions have determined the current gender binary to be sub par.

“It is apparent that there are many ways for women and men to be; everything in nature is a continuum.” -Leslie Feinberg

Fortunately, in the past two years, progressive institutions have taken steps forward to queer our normative culture by forcing alternative gender identities into our binary system. These institutions are not simply radically suggesting that individuals should have more than two options when trying to identify one’s gender; instead, they are recognizing these identities by enforcing the various identities under the domain of their own institution. While not standardized between the institutions, each is making small steps towards a, hopefully, national change.

Examples of Gender Pronouns

Some Facebook Gender Options

Recognition as simple as a third gender of neutral—like that at the University of Vermont—or just the option to choose your own gender pronouns—like Harvard University—could make a drastic change in the lives of transgendered and gender-nonconforming people. These smaller changes nationwide could be a more conservative addition to our society’s tight gender binary; after people get used to the small changes, options to have multiple and varied gender options like that at the University of California and the University of Albany—universities at which students can choose between six or more options ranging from the standard male to trans woman to gender-queer—could be a progressive outlook for the future. Although our society may never get to official public recognition of the 50+ gender options listed on Facebook, these institutions are creating a path for future movement in gender expression.

If we’ve learned anything from the past, it is that gender differences and ambiguities exist within the seemingly everlasting male/female binary. We may be destined to stay within dichotomies, but I think we are starting to see that change is eminent. Because of these small, yet revolutionary, changes in gender recognition, I believe these institutions deserve a spot in this archive.

Albee and Whitman with the Woolfs

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Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf, Virginia Woolf

Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf

When the morning comes….

Edward Albee’s 1962 play’s title Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf comes from a play on words of the 1933 Disney song, Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Already mixing dark comedy and literature with the very title, Albee’s play is a hallmark of absurdist theatre. The drama describes the emotional and psychological instability of a couple’s wasting marriage. Hailed as a revolution for drama at the time, it won two awards within the first five years of production. Some critics then say it polarized audiences; some lauded its themes and creative use of tension, while others found it perverse through its sexual and explicit content. And this theme of polarization is what I find key to describing Edward Albee.

Albee is an out proud gay man, known as an accomplished playwright even before WAoVW, but he is most remembered for it due to its raw details. And it is these raw details, written with the intensity of a melodrama that put Albee into question. The campiness of the play and the writer’s sexuality led some critics to read the characters as stand-ins for gay relationships. The play as a metaphor for the ‘absurd’ trials and tribulations homosexual couple’s face and create themselves. At first, I was just going to archive that- the play as a thought that queer agency was created on stage before it was condoned, even if it was obscured. But through more research I discovered Albee’s total refusal to classify Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf as queer literature. His stance is even more controversial considering his advocacy for civil rights and LGTBA understanding, but he deems his art to not be affected or analyzed by his sexuality. As Albee accepted his award at the 23rd annual Lambda Literary Awards, he is quoted in his speech saying “a writer who happens to be gay or lesbian must be able to transcend self. I am not a gay writer, I am a writer who happens to be gay.” This remark was met with disgruntlement or abject fury by the audience, his words seen as a dismissal of self and the gay identity. I kind of agree with Albee though in the same vein of the argument Hogan and Caskie make about Sam Smith.

It is the new wave quiet activism, how ‘gay’ can be a part of your reality but not the whole of it. Albee is later quoted commenting to NPR about the negative reactions as “so many writers who are gay are expected to behave like gay writers and I find that is such a limitation and prejudicial thing that I fight against it whenever I can.” His remarks remind me about our class debate on whether or not Whitman was gay. Albee is most assuredly, but that sexuality-identity connection to art is still questioned the same across generations. Does it affect Whitman’s poetry if he was gay? It affects the way we view him now, the way we have archived him in the queer history, but we argued about whether or not he would accept such a classification. Albee, unlike Whitman, is aware of the connotations of the word ‘gay’ but still contests such a distinction to be necessary. I am aware I am archiving Albee the same way history has archived Whitman, but we all should note that neither has agreed to it. Albee can be in queer history because he is a gay man making art, but his work should not critiqued only through that lens. As with Sam Smith, the man is not the art and the stories are not the same. ‘The body is political’ is denied by these artists, for the sake of their works meaning not be marginalized or pigeon-holed into outdated stereo-types of queer art. There is current Queer art, the same way there is Black art and Women’s Art; its existence cannot be denied or forgotten, but it is not all-inclusive and it is not all-political. It can be remembered, as I am making this so archiving it, but it must be remembered with all its origins and all its meanings intact.

 

Sarah Caskie, “Sam Smith: Musician on the Rise,” Contemporary Queer Culture hosted by Sites@PSU, last modified April 2, 2015, https://sites.psu.edu/245spring2015/2015/04/02/sam-smith-musician-on-the-rise/.

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.

#LoveisLove CondividiLove

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Yanis Marshall

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24 year old, Yanis Marshall became a sensation after a video titled “Spice Girls” went viral on Youtube on June 30th of 2013. But it was not the nature of the song that made him famous; it was his dance moves in several pairs of nine-inch heels. The video features the now famous Parisian choreographer, Yanis Marshall, fiercely dancing all over parts of Paris.

Yanis is originally from Vallauris, near Cannes. He is currently a choreaographer, teacher and dancer and has been dancing since an early age. At the age of eleven, with the help of his mother who was a director of a dance association, he passed the auditions for the Dance School called Rosella Hightower. It is here that Yanis began to train in Ballet, Contemporary, and Jazz.

Despite his artistic ability and love for dance, in an interview with Great Rhys Alexander, Yanis claimed to leave for Paris France in search of independence from modern contemporary dance.

At the age of 19, he left to New York City where he experienced his first class of a style of dance called Street Jazz, with Sheryl Murakami. She is an artist that he claims “gave him a wake up call” and continues to inspire him till the day. After years of unhappiness in many different styles of dance, Yanis found a home in the style of Street Jazz.

Much like Voguing, Street Jazz roots from stricter dance styles. It evolved from informal settings like nightclubs, schools and on the street. Street jazz dance was inspired by traditional dance performed outside of professional studios.Jazz dance, modern hip hop and funk make up this style of dance. Elements of the rigid robotic movements, the marked spins often found in breakdancing and the fluid movements of hip hop, like in Sheryl Murakami’s music video below, are key components of the Street Jazz dance.

As for the heels. Whenever Yanis is asked why he dances in heels his response is famously always “why not?” Despite the humor in his response, one thing is certain, men dancing in heels or simply wearing heels is not a first.

Men originally wore high- heeled shoes. As early as the 10th century, men wearing high heels became a trend amongst the upper class. At the time, high-heeled shoes were not a signifier of gender. It was not until the 18th century that men discontinued the trend and the high-heeled shoe was soon after established as a ladies shoe. Ever since then, high heels on men have not made a comeback.

The long standing societal acceptance that high heels are only for women are what have made seeing dancers like Yanis Marshall famous. He is an excellent advocate of the “social evolution” we speak of today. He can “werk” those heels better than most women can walk in them but unfortunately the world has long been a witness to the slow but sure consistency of gender binding norms.

Yanis says heels are his speciality. Since a young age he loved to wear his mothers heels. Dancing in heels for Yanis makes him different, and he admits to not being shy one bit about his heels nor the fact he is gay.

“Just be you and if people don’t like it, well F*ck Them”

But despite the use of heels whenever he dances, Yanis is not transgender nor seeks to become a women.The use of heels for men to dance in is simply sexy and artistic to Yanis and he encourages both men and women, straight or gay to dance in heels whenever he teaches a class.  He also has no plans to label men dancing in heels any sort of style of dancing because he hates labels or boxes.

“Gender” By Thiago Antonucci

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Andrea Gibson: Defining Gender

“Hey… are you a boy or a… oh, never mind,
can I have a push on the swing?”
– Andrea Gibson, “Swingset”

Andrea Gibson, an American poet and activist, focuses her poetry on various political and social inequalities, specifically within the LGBTQ community. She uses poetry to convey the harsh truths of LGBTQ reality, and holds nothing back while she does so. Gibson, having short hair and “boyish” style, writes frequently about gender norms and the struggle she has personally faced while growing up as an androgynous woman.

She was born in Maine in 1975, and currently resides in Boulder, Colorado. As the first winner of the Women’s World Poetry Slam, she has performed in many notable venues and has her work featured on prominent mediums. Gibson’s work has been highlighted on BBC, Air-America, C-SPAN, and Free Speech TV. In 2010, Gibson’s poetry was “read by a state representative in lieu of morning prayer at the Utah State Legislature.”
Gibson utilizes the form of free verse in her poetry. Because of this, her work intends for the audience to listen, as opposed to see. Gibson sells albums of her work on CDs. She has recorded five full-length albums of her poems, as well as published two books, which she sells on her website. Her albums include Bullets and Windchimes (2003), When the Bough Breaks (2006), Yellowbird (2009), and Flower Boy (2011). She also sells paperback editions of her work, such as Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns (2008) and The Madness Vase (2011).

She has received praise from various artists. Buddy Wakefield, an award-winning poet, has expressed admiration for Gibson’s ferocity. Wakefield said, “Andrea Gibson does not just show up to pluck your heart strings. She sticks around to tune them. If being flowed is new to you, you might want to grab a cushion. Whatever the opposite of fooling someone is, Andrea does that. Beware of the highway in her grace and the crowbar in her verse.” As Wakefield explains, Gibson manages to awaken raw emotion as she guides the audience through her own experiences, tragedies, and triumphs.

In Gibson’s poem, “Swingset,” she discusses the ways in which the students she teaches in her preschool/kindergarten class learn about and handle gender. The lyrics to the poem can be found here.

“Swingset” is found in Gibson’s book Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns. The title of the book is important to highlight the irony and even discomfort of her collection of poems. “Swingset” reveals the “tidal wave of kindergarten curiosity” Gibson faces each day as they question her gender, simply because she does not look like a traditional “girl.” With each question of “are you a boy or a girl,” Gibson gracefully accepts the inquiry, answering each child, and then continues to play on the playground, which is what is most important to the children. She teaches the children that, regardless of their question, it doesn’t quite matter what gender she is. The children, every day, are satisfied by her answer, afterwards always asking for a push on the swing.

“Dylan, you’ve been in this class for three years
and you still don’t know if I’m a boy or a girl?”
“Uh-uh.”
“Well then, at this point, I really don’t think it matters, do you?”
“Um…no. Can I have a push on the swing?”

The question Gibson faces each day is symbolized by the swing set, itself. While she answers the question, figuratively and literally pushing it away, it continues to come back, an action as oppressive as the social construction of gender. However, to a young child’s mind, “they don’t care” about her gender. Gibson shows here that gender is learned, molded, and constructed.

Fast forward to Gibson’s “father sitting across the table at Christmas dinner” physically unable to eat because of how distraught he is over his daughter’s short haircut. “You used to be such a pretty girl!” he claims. As children grow older, they learn the gender norms that society forces upon them, facing the possibility of becoming like Gibson’s father.

Fast forward again to the “mother at the market, sticking up her nose while pushing aside her child’s wide eyes, whispering, ‘Don’t stare, it’s rude.’” This is when Gibson shows her true understanding of the social construction of gender. She essentially scolds the mother for taking away a valuable lesson her child could have learned, simply by seeing how she’s dressed, what her hair looks like, and overall what Gibson is. Her rage is shown when she barks at the mother (in her head), saying:

“Listen, lady,
the only rude thing I see
is your paranoid, parental hand
pushing aside the best education on self
that little girl’s ever gonna get.”

Gibson effectively shows the reader how gender is socially constructed. Children learn gender, and the older generation is at fault for teaching the confinements of it, according to Gibson’s rant about the mother at the market. Gibson knows that children are the ones who our society depends upon to break these constructions. Her lesson here to the reader is to focus on the youth, because they are the ones who will grow up and determine how society ultimately treats gender.

“I start my day with twenty-eight minds
that know a hell of a lot more than you do,
and if I show up in a pink frilly dress
those kids won’t love me any more or less.”