Stonewall Legacy

Pride Season is in the air with Long Beach Pride behind us and LA Pride coming up in a week!

Lest we forget, the first Pride was a riot.

Let’s go back to 1960s America. It was the height of the McCarthy Era and the Cold War. Post WWII, the country was overtaken by a deep and pervasive fear of Communism, spies, infiltrators, and immoral outsiders in general. Many intellectuals and social activists were put on trial and incarcerated. The overarching goal was to restore “normality” and “traditional values.”

Homosexuality was still listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a “sociopathic personality disturbance.” Many suspected and actual LGBTQ individuals were forced to undergo invasive therapy techniques and some were involuntarily committed to mental institutions for long stretches of time. Heavy crackdowns of gay bars occurred regularly. Men who were caught in women’s clothing in these bars were subjected to humiliating examinations by police to determine their sex and were subsequently arrested. Many LGBTQ individuals were ousted from their jobs and openly harassed. It was dangerous to associate with institutions that serviced the queer community, and there were very few safe places.

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All of this building tension came to a head in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, one of the only remaining bastions for marginalized groups to meet and be authentic. Police raided the bar and the crowd got rowdy. It was not long before more people gathered around to watch the arrests and objects were thrown, names were called, and violence broke out on both sides.

Rioting went on well into the night and tactical police forces had to be called. Eventually the demonstrators were dispersed but they continued to meet in secret to discuss the implications of the riots.
For the first time, the queer community had made it clear that they had had enough of the mistreatment and hostility they were subjected to everywhere they went.
They were not going to stand idly by. They were going to be out of the streets, loud and proud!
LGBTQ solidarity groups began forming all across the country, the tradition of having parades and weekend long celebrations come from that time in history.

So we owe a debt to those that came before, those that bled and those that stood up We have a lot to be grateful for during Pride Week, while remembering that our community, like many others, is also a work in progress.

Collins, Rogers, Robinson; Breaking Barriers in Sports.

A wave of support broke out after Jason Collins made the decision to come out, and soon after athletes and sports team displayed their “o.k.” stance with a potential gay teammate, and lest we forget the many athletes who came out after retiring as well. What I find unfortunate about these special occasions is that they are referred to as special occasions. I find it confusing that a person revealing his/her sexual orientation to play a sport needs to be a new-breaking event.

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What I like most about this is that it echoes the changing fields of sports. We all remember the sound Jackie Robinson made when he broke the color barrier in baseball. Or how about when womyn began to show that they deserved to compete in sports, and how they proved that they were a force to compete with? We are slowly approaching the day where a person will be able to play a professional game with a rainbow sticker on his/her helmet. There will be a day where an athlete comes out, or an out athlete joins a professional team, and controversy won’t ensue.

What I question, and what I hope you might think about too, is why so much pressure over sports? Sports had to be challenged and transformed to include all the people it now does, but how has sports become such an important role in society that people fear being tossed out if they disclose their sexuality? For men, could it be that being queer is less “manly?” And therefore, the less manly a person is the less of an athlete he will be, right? Only in a twisted world does that logic make sense. Or is there so much fuss because little children look up to their athletes as role models? I don’t know about you, but a professional athlete that finally represents the marginalized populations in the major leagues is much more of an inspiration than half of the current athletes I see on T.V.

Film Focus: City of Borders

For CSULA Pride Day, I had the chance to watch City of Borders, a documentary about queer communities within Israel and Palestine and the convergence of sexuality, nationality, and religion at Shushan, the only gar bar in Jerusalem.

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The film follows several characters including:
• Boody, a gay Palestinian man who moonlights as a drag queen by the name of Miss Haifa, and is eventually chased out of his country by death threats.
• Ravit and Samira, a lesbian couple struggling to reconcile their different nationalities, religious beliefs, and ideas about parenthood.
• Adam, a young gay Israeli man who must deal with the reality of violence and prejudice in his country.
• Sa’ar, the owner of Shushan, prominent gay activist, and city council member who must cope with unfavorable political and economic obstacles.

Each of the characters deals with blatant homophobia, fear, and judgment. The film offers a hopeful ending for each of the characters, but still there is an undercurrent of solemnity. This is mirrored by the images of crumbling walls that cut across the borders of Israel and Palestine; these barriers both divide and unite the queer communities within each country. They are reminded of the differences but are encouraged to overcome them by literally climbing over in order to mingle in the safe haven, the only one of its kind, Shushsan.

I was reminded of how lucky I am. I never feared for my life attending a Pride parade. I have never received death threats. I have never been mocked and denigrated by my family, friends, peers, and coworkers.

The reality is it’s easy to forget the true extent of prejudice that still exists, not just outside the country but also within. Living in SoCal is like being in a bubble. But we cannot forget that the struggle continues for all of us LGBTQPIA, everyone and anyone.
People are still losing their lives, their jobs, their families, their hope, and their Pride.
So in honor of Pride season, show your pride, but also be conscious of how privileged we are to be able to do so.

Pride Season!!

Aside

So as some of you know, this past weekend marked the beginning of Pride Season! For those of you who didn’t know, now you do. Pride season refers to the festivities celebrating the LGBTQIPA community. In a brief moment of time, and in a specified location, LGBTQIPA individuals can fully be who they are without heterosexist* judgment. For a brief moment people fit in with society, people aren’t outsiders, and the little community is the entire society.

Pop quiz! What does LGBTQIPA stand for?:
~Lesbian
~Gay
~Bisexual
~Trans*
~Queer/Questioning
~Intersex
~Pansexual
~Asexual/ Straight Allies

Awesome! With that in mind, let’s continue on.

After a conversation I had with a friend, my views on Pride season were challenged, and for a brief moment I didn’t know how to feel towards Pride season. He starting by recalling the definition of pride; pride is an emotion that is attached to one’s choices or actions. To be proud of something means to have a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction about something you have done. So his argument about sexuality was that sexuality isn’t something you’ve earned, it’s not a victory, and it’s not something you worked for. And there’s the popular argument that people are born the way they are, and that sexuality is just there. Therefore, as my friend stated it, it is impossible to be “proud” of your sexuality.

So with this bitter taste in my mouth I began to question all the ways we use “pride.” Can we then really be proud of our sexuality? Ethnicity? Gender? Disability? These are things that are just there. They make us different but they’re not really things we’ve worked towards. Can we really ever be proud of our identities?

My response to this would be: Of course we can. Maybe a person didn’t not actively work to create his/her/zer sexuality, but I’m sure a person with sexuality outside of the heteronormative acceptance of society actively works just to live another day. A person granted privilege does not have to see the hardships some people face every day. There are people who are tempted by suicide because of their sexuality, who are verbally and physically assaulted because how they express themselves, and who get thrown out of their homes for falling in love with another person. So if you have ever dealt with oppression or judgment just for being you, then you should stand tall and proud for being alive right now.

I invite you to stop by the GSRC today for any of today’s Pride events. You’ll be able to see first-hand the pride that exists in the LGBTQIPA community. Please, stop by and feel the strength and courage that members exert just to breath another day and to love another person.

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Angelina’s Boobs=Not Public Domain

This week actress Angelina Jolie courageously came forward to discuss her difficult decision to undergo a double mastectomy and explain the reasoning behind it. Jolie diligently got tested because of her family medical history and found that she had an 87% of developing breast cancer and a 50% chance of developing ovarian cancer. It was a difficult decision, but breasts are just a body part and faced with those odds, she made the decision to have both of her breasts removed.

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Despite a general outpouring of support and praise, quite a large swath of the public was critical of the decision. Some people made fun of her, some expressed disappointment, and a particularly surly bunch expressed anger. It is difficult for women, especially women in the public eye, and especially for women who seen primarily as sex symbols (arguably all women) to be taken seriously in these situations and the comments coming down through twitter expressed the ignorance that exists.

“May watch Tomb Raider tonight to commemorate the passing of its greatest legacy.”

“Floating a pair of Chinese lanterns down the east river in memory of Angelina Jolie’s boobs. rip.”

“What a waste of a banging set of boobies.”

“RIP Angelina Jolie’s boobs. You had options dummy!”

“I think Angelina Jolie cut off her breasts because recently she wasn’t getting enough attention.”

This recent media blitz is bringing into focus a particularly infuriating sociocultural phenomenon: the public fascination with boobies, particularly other people’s boobies. Specifically this is in reference to the popular “I Love Boobies” campaign, which uses the slogan to sell products to raise money for breast cancer research.

I have a problem with the idea of women’s breasts* being construed as their core asset. The good intentions behind the “I Love Boobies” campaign doesn’t negate the fact that it is ignorant and harmful to think of breast cancer awareness as simply trying to preserve a beloved physical feature. It devalues the woman as a human being. Essentially, the message is “we don’t support breast cancer research to save lives and promote health; we do it because boobies are great. “

For her part, Jolie says “on a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.”

A woman is not defined by her breasts or other people’s judgment of their attractiveness. There’s nothing wrong with loving boobies, but it’s not what we should be focusing on. It’s the people who may suffer or lose their lives that we need to care about.

So how about “I Love Happy, Healthy People” instead? I know it’s not as catchy but it’s what we really mean isn’t it?

* I recognize that all/most human beings possess breast tissue, and therefore are susceptible to breast cancer, and undergo mastectomies and similar medical procedures. This post focuses on cisgender women because this particular issue is most salient amongst them. I do not mean to exclude any individuals with such terminology.

Facing Defacing

So I’m sure you’ve read some articles about the fraternities and sororities that have become involved in black and brown facing, or I’m sure you’ve at least seen the links on someone’s Facebook status. If you haven’t, then allow me to quickly catch you up.

Fraternities and sororities around the nation (but thankfully not at Cal State L.A.) have been throwing culturally insensitive parties, some of which include the horrible act of Blackface. Blackface has been historically used to mock African American individuals. An actor would paint his face black and color his lips a bright red, and then engage in ridiculous behavior that caricaturizes the African American culture. It is a horribly offensive act that has now been extended to brown and yellow facing. If you ever have the time, I recommend watching the movie Bamboozled by Spike Lee.

While reading through some of these reports floating around I see some students exclaiming that it’s “no big deal” and it’s “just a joke.” It angers me to see that people view another’s culture as so little of value. When I hear someone tell me “it’s just a joke,” I feel the urge to yell back “the hardship and pain my ancestors have gone through to put me here is NOT a joke!” But instead, I bite my tongue and politely explain how one could take offense to what another has said.

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It pains me to hear that some fraternities/sororities of color have engaged in culturally insensitive behavior. I may not look like you, think like you, or speak like you, but you’re my comrade. You’re my brother, sister, sibling, cousin twice removed. We’re family, and we need to start sticking up for each other.

I challenge you to stop using that word that makes fun of that group of people.

I dare you to tell your friend to stop making those inappropriate jokes.

I give you the task of embracing your own identity, and respecting the diversity of others.

Sex! Kind of…

 I attended the CCC’s amazing BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, submission, Sadism, Masochism) event yesterday. First off, the turnout was amazing, standing room only, so now we know what grabs college students’ attention.

Anyways, we got down and dirty with discussion and a lot of thought provoking topics came up. The most important one being: what does normal even mean when we talk about sex and sexuality?

The topic of BDSM is fairly taboo and for most of us this was the first time we actually got to hear an open, first person recount from a member of the leather community. It was really enlightening and I learned a lot about the history, the terms, and the general interaction between individuals in a relationship.

I learned that there is much more than sex to BDSM, it’s relational and interactive. It’s about consenting adults finding common ground instead of allowing themselves to be marginalized and put into boxes. It’s also all subjective one person’s kinky is another person’s comfortable and vice versa.  Along these lines the term kinky itself is value-laden but all it really means is anything outside of the societally established standard.  

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So it really made me think about all the things that people (myself included) say about practices that are outside of our “norm.”

When we say things like:

“That’s gross.”

“That’s weird.”

“How can you even like that stuff?”

“It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

“You live in America, you should speak English.”

“Are you a boy or a girl?”

What we should say is “Your experience is unique and distinct from mine, and I would like to learn more about you as an individual”.

When we don’t understand something we should strive to gain knowledge and awareness instead of writing things off as merely foreign or unworthy of our interest.

What are some things you wish you knew more about?