Tag Archives: GLBTQ

The Humanity of Hate

I watched this documentary and really enjoyed it, so I thought I would share.

Louis Theroux’s documentary The Most Hated Family in America provides insight into the daily lives of the Phelps family, creators of http://www.godhatesfags.com and picketers of almost every kind of event. (They seem to pick an enemy of the day.) Through the documentary you see their ridiculous campaigns and the ignorance produced from strong emotion (hate). Their lives depend on hating others; this obviously closes them off from understanding the other’s position and reinforces their opposition to them (obviously).

The interesting twist is that you also see the normality of their lives. The teenagers act like teens and if the video was edited you would not even know they were in a cult; the only difference is they have no interest in dating, the end of time is near and God needs soldiers, not a populated Earth, and they hate everyone who is not them. The seemingly normality of their lives made me question what role plays in typical US subject, is hate already so central to who we are that dedicating your life to it does not radically reshape your subjectivity?

Louis Theroux does an excellent job of documenting, but also intervening. He is not pretending to be a fly on the wall. Instead he attempts to get the family to think about their lives, what they do to others, and their beliefs. I actually prefer this style. It does not pretend to be objective; he’s biased and obviously does not agree with the family’s stance, but he wants to understand. This is why he prods and makes the family members uncomfortable. He wants to know why they hate. He makes it personal because they hate him. He has a baby and is not married. Everyone is worthy of hate in their eyes.

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In Defense of Zack Rosen

Freedom to Marry is a non-profit that works to “win” the fight for marriage equality across the nation. By this they do not mean dismantling the institution of marriage because it creates a privileged class of coupled people, who get tax incentives and visitors from non-blood relative in hospitals. They mean to spread marriage to gay men and lesbians. A conservative cause, but a cause none-the-less. (I might critique marriage and liberal politics later – as for now I will move onto the current situation.)

Freedom to Marry had a contest to grant three scholarships to attend Netroots Nation, a conference aimed at discussing how technology can be used to change politics. DC’s own Zack Rosen entered the contest and was one of the finalist. Rosen plans to use this opportunity to make connections and enhance his website The New Gay. Ten finalists… three spots… how to win? Well, Zack promises to post a picture of himself naked if he wins.

He won and posted nude photos. He wrote in his post:

“1. Gay men’s bodies aren’t shameful things.
2. Gay sex is natural and pretty damn fun.
3. No one ever won equal rights by keeping their oppressors comfortable.”

Of course, people are upset. Enter Zack Ford, one of the other winners and his blog post.

After detailing Rosen’s tactics, Ford comments, “he knew lots of gay men would do anything to see an erect penis, he offered an erect penis, and he got the votes.” I think this is a bit facile. Rosen’s tactics are not built off of the depravity of gay men, as Ford would have us believe. Instead his tactics were creative, interesting, and innocent. The naked body is not something sacred. I think Rosen is putting sexuality and politics together in an interesting way. We often separate the two to the point that it becomes scandalous when politicians have sex and the gay movement’s been desexualized. Instead of showing us some lame image of some white guy in a tie, he showed us his nude body with a paper-plate in front of his cock.  Why should I not take someone who I’ve seen naked seriously? Gay men, such as myself, did not vote for Rosen because of the potential to see his cock (the internet is full of cock and no offense to Rosen, but cock’s look pretty much the same). I voted for Zack because he offers an alternative viewpoint and is not afraid of using queer politics. He offered an image of someone who wanted to get married that did not scream “assimilation.”

Next Ford writes, “More importantly, I think what he did was disrespectful to the other finalists, disrespectful to the organizations funding the scholarship, and disrespectful to the cause for marriage equality.” How? Does nudity offend these people? Yes, Rosen tactic’s work different, but he used an angle to spread a message. He got me, a guy who does not care about marriage to go to a website for same-sex marriage. Mission accomplished?

Ford then brings up the “ick factor.” The ick factor is heterosexist culture’s inability to digest the fact that GLBT folk have sex. He argues that we should avoid playing into the ick factor because it will diminish our ability to gain same-sex marriage. Is this the only cause? I’d like to think that changing the minds of heterosexists is much more important than gaining tax incentives or being more privileged than single people. The grossness of our sex is why we are abject. I teach and have students who freak out when two men kiss in a film. Same-sex marriage will not change this. People will still be gay bashed for holding hands. I’d rather confront people with the ick factor than pretend marriage will make people think that same-sex and transgender desire is not gross.

In the end, Ford makes a long and quite puritanical rant against promiscuity. Who is his ally in this crusade against promiscuity? A “teabagger.” Not the best of allies in the fight for rights. Ford is making the argument that Andrew Sullivan makes in Virtually Normal. Sullivan argues gay men are normal and that straight culture will accept us and validate us, once we show them how normal we are. This is assimilation. The price of being “normal” is rejecting people from the GLBT community who are not straight-acting, not monogamous, differently abled, transgender, transsexual, bisexual, economically disadvantaged, and/or a racial/ethnic minority.

This represents what I cannot stand about the GL movement. The prize is marriage. Only Marriage. Nothing else matters. The ends justify the means.

I’ll end with a quote from someone I usually disagree with, but she makes a point that extends into the current state of GLBT politics.

“Feminism is dying here because so many women who say they are feminists are collaborators and cowards”- Andrea Dworkin

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Everything is Dangerous

“My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous, which is not exactly the same as bad. If everything is dangerous, then we always have something to do. So my position leads not to apathy but to hyper- and pessimistic – activism.

Michel Foucault 1983

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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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Filed under Frankfurt School, Mass Culture, queer, Space/Place

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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