Tag Archives: GLBTQ

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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Published Article:GLB Biographies and the Mann Siblings

In the Summer 2010 issue of  Politics and Culture, my critique of GLB biographies and a discussion of Erika and Klaus Mann, (the children of Thomas Mann), Germany’s Weimer Republic, and the rise of fascism was published. Here is the link: In the Shadow of the Progress Narrative: The Problems and Potentials within GLB and Intellectual Biographies
Feel free to comment on my blog, since comments are closed on the journal’s website.

Also check out Jennifer Miller’s article The Outcast Redeemer, which reviews Sheila Rowbotham’s biography of Edward Carpenter and discusses the importance of revisiting Carpenter’s life in this political and academic moment.

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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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To Tea or Not to Tea?

Last night on a queer studies listserv, a discussion on public sex in bathrooms began. I was enraged by a comment by Joelle, who is a fellow BGSUer. Not only was this comment anti-sex, it also made little sense. How does looking for sex in a bathroom reinforce gender binaries and male privilege? I defend cruising for multiple reasons. I and several other people in the discussion voiced these reasons, but I’ll summarize them here for you. First, bathrooms serve as a place for marginalized and emerging GLBTQ people to experience same-sex or non-heteronormative desire. Policing bathrooms for sex is a class issue. People have cannot afford to patronize gay bars or clubs are left with no other option. Despite years of Ellen and Will & Grace, a man cannot hit on a man in public without fear. Secondly, our view of ourselves as public people is quite juvenile. We cannot stand to see a couple intensely kissing in public. (Heterosexual people are allowed juvenile sexuality, while everyone else is denied one.) These people are told to get a room and so on. Our nation denies children sexuality, so sexuality is one thing that makes us adults. For us to deny this aspect of ourselves is to allow ourselves to be “infantile citizens” (see Lauren Berlant’s Queen of American Goes to Washington City), children who cannot manage ourselves and therefore must have our lives controlled for us.

The anti-cruising argument is simply part of a growing conservative movement that clings to archaic notions of family. To deny sexuality in public is to deny non-heterosexual people access to the public and adulthood.

I am in support of unsexed bathrooms. Everyone needs to eliminate bodily waste and people should not have to face harassment to do so. When discussing this topic with women, they become uncomfortable. They worry about violence against them in this space, which is segmented off from other public spaces. This concern needs to be recognized within the larger transgender struggle for some-thing resembling a false notion of equality.

Below is a segment of the conversation- last names have been removed

P.S. I hate when people use the “postmodern” as a way to show access to equality. I not only doubt they we are completely postmodern, but see postmodern aesthetics as a way to hide socio-economic hierarchies. That conversation is for another day.

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Joelle:

I have no doubt cruising has a long history in men’s restrooms, but the practice needs to be critiqued from both a radical feminist and trans/gender perspective. Men’s sexual cruising culture is one of the things that facilitates oppression against women and trans people. While rabid gay transphobes like Barney Frank continually raise the specter of trans women using women’s restrooms and locker rooms to oppose trans civil rights, the practice of cruising in men’s restrooms goes un-critiqued and un-marked. Further, if you do raise a critique you may be accused of “homophobia” or being “anti-sex.”  The gender binary division of public restrooms functions, among other things, to preserve a privileged cis-male cruising sexual culture. It does this by furthering the notion that women need to be shielded from sexual threat by men in patriarchy. In postmodern culture, there are many other places adult men and other genders can go to engage in consensual sexual activity besides PUBLIC restrooms where others who are not interested in seeing nor being approached for such activity must frequent in order to relieve themselves. It is possible to be pro-sex and still critique public sexual cruising because of the way in which it perpetuates rigid gender divisions, privileges cis-male sexuality and contributes to the oppression of trans women through displacing legitimate concerns about public male sexuality to the shoulders of trans women who are being demonized (and denied civil rights) for simply trying to use restrooms without being harassed.

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Michael: (This is me)

Joelle,
While I see your point, I also see the argument used by proponents of
“Family Values,” who argue that they cannot escape the public spaces
(streets, malls, classrooms) where same-sex desire is being shoved in
their face. Following your argument it seems that same-sex desire is
fine, just as long as it is out of the public —  “In postmodern

culture, there are many other places adult men and other genders can

go to engage in consensual sexual activity…” I think you raise valid
points, but the similarities between the two should raise concern, no?
-Michael

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Todd

I suspect tearoom sex could be read in three additional ways:

1.  As an artifact of having to find sexual expression and opportunity outside the public/outside gaze in a heterosexist society.
2.  A fetish which insites notion of risk, randomness, anonmymity
3.  A challenge to the hetero/homo divide since tearoom sex may involved men who identify as “hetero” except when the opportunity to go homo presents itself in a tearoom encounter.

============================================

Jose

…and may I add that the attraction to public sex is by no means exclusively of queers nor its practice circunscribed to members of the same sex/gender.  however when it is, it is disproportionaltely censored. i have seen at least two movies with different gendered couples having sex on airplane bathrooms (seems to be a pretty common fantasy) and, of course, sex on elevators (as mick jagger’s song confirms). however we are less critical of these heteros displays of public sex…. au contrare, these acts add to the attractiveness of the movie or song… and let’s not talk about the different treatment the police gives to public sex depending on whether the actors are of the same or different sex. at least here in puerto rico

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Isa

is there some practical way to stop tea rooms?

i seriously doubt it.

before i would imagine restricting it, i would want some good information on
who what where when and how.

otherwise it’s speculation, trial by accusation.

my guess is, never having engaged in tea rooms, is that most participants
are focused on their own individual concerns and don’t feel particularly
entitled but more likely threatened. as i say. speculation.

i don’t think any gender identity can ever be socially included until all
are. it’s not as they say a zero sum game. tolerance is tolerance inclusive
of all possible alternatives. discourse communities are created by
recognizing the excluded. it’s a conundrum not easily resolved.

===================================================

Terry

I don’t do that kind of cruising any more–bad knees, etc.–but I would hate to
see the end of tea rooms. It isn’t just because there is nowhere else to go. It
is because that is the place where something happens that can’t happen
elsewhere, no matter how many bathhouses or sex clubs there are.
And then there are those parks on a nice summer night.
I have a chapter on stranger sex in my book queersexlife but I’m not sure
reading about it will explain why some of us need to do it.
terry

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