Tag Archives: community

Field Proposals

I doubt this post will have much use to anyone outside of my Cultural Studies Ph.D. program, but feel free to continue reading if you are not enrolled (you may be bored).

Below I have posted my two field proposals: “Mass Culture and Urban Space” and “Contemporary Theories of Sexuality.” Upon reading the proposals you will see how different they are. Dr. Tim Gibson, the chair of my “MC and US” field, wanted me to state what direction I was going and how it was a coherent field. Dr. Tim Kaposy preferred a more open-ended proposal where I raised more questions than answers. He was concerned with what I wanted to learn from the texts.

I have finished writing a rough draft of “Mass Culture and Urban Space,” so the bibliography following the proposal is complete. “Contemporary Theories of Sexuality” is  being written, so the bibliography is incomplete and more likely than not, going to change.

I hope this helps. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me.

Mass Culture and Urban Space Field Proposal

Contemporary Theories of Sexuality Field Proposal

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The Help and Harm of Loren Cameron

Last night American University’s GLBTA Resource Center hosted photographer Loren Cameron. Loren, or Rex as he prefers to be called, spoke about his most recent work, a collection of photographs of transsexuals in various stages of transition. I have no doubt that the work of Cameron is important and groundbreaking. In his words, he allows people to be seen as they would like to be seen. He sees his work as combating the various negative, harmful, and misguided depictions of his people. He showed the transsexual body unapologetically and beautifully. Powerfully, he stated that there is “no need to justify” his existence as a transsexual person to anyone else. The problem as I see it is that he attempts to justify it. In no way do I mean to question Cameron’s life, instead I will use his lecture to work through ideas of gender, identity, and biology.

What makes a transsexual person? In a world where gender and sexuality are seen as natural (despite a plethora of material written on the contrary), this seems to be the question on most people’s minds. Cameron was right when he stated that he did not have to justify who he is. Justifying one’s existence puts a person in the defensive position against a hostile world. Instead, question the system’s right to demand an account of yourself or the limited narratives that exist within the system. After this proclamation, Cameron back-peddled and stated that he had genetic testing, which proved that he was genetically intersexed. He believes that this is a partial cause for his transsexuality. He makes the argument that gender expression is biological; he makes allusions to humans as animals, unable to control our gendered expressions. To him, transsexual people exist because they were born to be transsexuals. His logic, however, doesn’t make sense; if he is intersexed would he not be between sexes, not the other sex. Intersexed people, according to him, should be classified as disabled at birth. His logic is that discrimination could be fought against if transexuality was seen as biologically caused and therefore legitimate. History has proven this logic wrong; eugenics, and genocide are two clear examples that show biology as a source of justifying oppression, not alleviating it. Also, this could potentially create a hierarchy within the transsexual community between people who are and are not intersexed. If intersexuality is the cause then non-intersexed people could be denied access to transitional procedures. The ramifications of his theory could be detrimental as transsexual people would need to have genetic testing done to prove they are transsexuals.

Cameron followed this theory by discussing how the extreme unrest in his home could have also been the source of his transsexuality. ……….. Wait….What? This logic is pretty scary. Cameron argued that instability and a fractured nuclear family caused his transsexuality. So it’s both biological and nurture based now…., and not any kind of nurture, traumatic nurture. This second statement could be easily used against transsexual people. Anti-trans people could say “If it is caused by trauma then the person needs to be healed, turned into a normally gendered/sexed person, and not allowed to transition.” This could cause more descrimination (if that is even possible) against transsexual people who are determined to see themselves as not damaged, but simply in need of a transition. It could take away the ability to control your body.

Gender, sex, and sexuality are not math equations. They are embedded within the cultural matrix. I doubt we will ever know definitively why it is that we desire what we desire or express our particular gender the way we do. Finding the source should not be the goal. The goal should be to live in a world where such differences do not matter. (I am not embracing a liberal pluralism, a “yay, diversity model”… instead I suggest that changing how cultural institutions position and oppress people is a more important than finding out why we are the way we are.) I have no doubt that Cameron is doing good work. He provides representation and an outlet for a silenced and marginalized group, a space for a discussion of transsexuality to occur. And I do not think his theories are meant to do harm, instead they are attempts to explain himself.

He had it right when he stated that he should not have to justify his existence.  I wish he would have meant it.

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Rough Draft of “Using Helplessness to Reimagine the LGBT Community”

Here is a rough draft of a paper to be presented at Reinstating Transgression: Emerging Political Economies of Queer Space, American University on April 17–18, 2010.

This is a rough draft and I would love feedback. I would like to incorporate more of a political economy approach, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know. Click below to read.

Rough Draft: Using Helplessness to Reimagine the LGBT Community

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A Psychoanalytic Approach to Community Justice

This just got accepted to this conference Reinstating Transgression. A rough draft of the paper should be up on this site soon.

Using Helplessness to Reimagine the LGBT Community: A Psychoanalytic Approach to Community Justice


It appears to be an exciting time for gay and lesbian citizens in the United States of America; the blockades to same-sex marriage and openly gay military service are being questioned within the mainstream political sphere. To sustain and build upon this momentum, Equality Across America (EAA) organized the March for Equality in Washington, DC, which generated interest in building EAA chapters across the nation. The organization’s mission is to gain “equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states.” The vague and inclusive mission statement does not reflect the organization’s focused and exclusionary politics, which reinforce dominant socio-economic hierarchies. In this essay, I examine their events, speeches, and promotional material to highlight a growing trend within the US LGBT political movement of narrowing primary objectives and rejecting issues and people connoting helplessness. National LGBT organizations routinely ignore HIV and AIDS, violence against youth and transgender people, racism, labor issues, and various people deemed “stereotypical” and instead focus on access to marriage benefits and military service. This realignment, as demonstrated by the EAA, creates the illusion of a self-reliant, simple, and strong community that can sustain itself; this image has symbolic capital within the national imaginary. By focusing on two of the most conservative and blindly nationalistic issues within the spectrum of LGBT issues, activists avoid controversy. Lack of controversy gives the newly fabricated gay and lesbian movement mass appeal, allowing corporate sponsors and upper to upper-middle class LGBT people and allies to donate without hesitation or fear of systemic changes, instead only slight reform occurs. This idealized and helpless-free version of LGBT life hides the pain and systemic injustices done to community members; injustices that could be addressed within the public sphere and used to build alliances, if the national organization recognized helplessness within the community. This fear and rejection of helplessness is a systemic issue within US culture and causes citizens to allow the government access to and outright control over an increasing larger segment of public and private concerns. I use the work of psychoanalysts D.W. Winnicott, Melanie Klein, and Adam Phillips to intervene in EAA’s paradigm of community and grassroots movement building and demonstrate helplessness as an innate feature of humanity that has significant potential within the political and in reshaping a more accurate sense of self, community, and democracy.

Any suggestions?

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Racism in the GLBTQ

I recently joined a gay social group. Upon entering the room I noticed that all the participants were white and male. This is not surprising in the gay community. Gay white men have dominated the community for a long time. GLBT issues are white gay male issues, hence why gay marriage is a legitimate struggle and the inclusion of gender neutral bathrooms or fostering a GLBTQ youth community are not. We were discussing the work of Edmund White when the issue of marriage came up. Somehow this then led to discussing how Blacks and Hispanics are extremely homophobic, perhaps because GLBT groups blamed the Black community for Prop 8s passing in CA. Everyone was being a good  liberal and saying things like “well not to generalize, but…” or more accurately “I’m about to be real racist, but ….”  The members then attempted to justify their statements by blaming Black and Hispanic culture and not the individuals. How condescending and problematic is this? It treats racial minorities as passive idiots whose major fault is that their entire culture is corrupt. Oh, if only they could be better (read more white). The whole thing was absurd.

Within the same conversation, a member brought up the gentrification of neighborhoods and the work that gay men do. He then mentions how straight people follow gays to buy property and then sell it after property values increase. No connection was made between gentrification and the tension between the two communities. Gay men move into impoverished areas and remodel and renovate houses causes property value and taxes to increase. Remodeling is in itself not a bad thing. What is horrible is that the existing community is forced out of their neighborhoods because they can no longer afford rent or tax increases. Systemic racism and segregating housing practices mean that these impoverished areas with newly ousted communities are minorities. Displacing people may, shockingly, cause hostility. Even with this hostility, I am reluctant to believe or entertain the thought that certain racial and ethnic minorities are more homophobic than others. What does this argument do for us? Nothing. We live in a homophobic and racist culture. Blaming other minorities for our problems does nothing except divert our attention to the wrong places.

What to do? If racism and homophobia exist within a culture than alleviate it. Talk about it, remedy it. Franz Fanon had it right when he stated that attempting to see who is more oppressed is irrelevant as seeing where oppression comes from. The same person who hates gays, hates the black, hates the Hispanic, hates the transgendered person.  We need to take responsibility for the communities they may displace. We should go to  local officials and ensure that tax caps and rent control are maintained. The maintaining of a diverse community means proximity. Proximity hopefully leads to recognition. (Perhaps this notion is too liberal. I myself am not sure if I wholly agree with it.) GLBTQ people should not be complacent in the destruction of communities. How many displaced families is a boutique worth?

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