Sunday, April 13, 2008

commodification of oppression

I don't know that I even have the words to express my utter disgust at this new Hanes add (which interestingly enough will not be appearing in the states) and it's blatend commodification of oppression. This add along with it's sidekicks one saying nigger, and the other saying paki) make the claim that the world puts enough labels on people, your underwear shouldn't thus encouraging consumers to purchase tagless underwear.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I never thought I would see the day that gender complexity would be celebrated with this degree of respect by the mainstream media

photo taken from

As many of you know a lot of the media studies research that I have done has revolved around the representation of transgender bodies and lives on the Oprah show, it is for that reason along with a host of others that I eagerly awaited Thomas Beatie's appearance on her show this afternoon. It is uncommon for me to fall in love with something that I have seen in the media, particularly when it comes to transgender lives, but without a doubt he was incredible. I was practically in tears as I watched this episode (yes I am that big of a media nerd) for the life of me I never thought that I would witness mainstream media cover a story of this complexity, and handle it with the respect that they have. Here is a man who is proudly talking about his body, history, and family and in doing so is shattering the narrow and restrictive transgender narrative which all too frequently is the only option the media provides for the telling of gender diverse lives.

On Oprah Beatie responded thoughtfully and strongly about why he and his wife made the decisions they did both in regards to getting pregnant, but with coming forward. He spoke about wanting ot be the one to tell their story, to present it to the media before someone else did, and I have to say even as someone who works with and critiques queer media they couldn't have done it any better. There was such strength in their story as they spoke of the pain of trying to get doctors too bogged down by their own transphobia to work with them, and they spoke candidly at their shock about the way in which they saythe national transgender movement has shut them out.

As a transgender person who lived as an FTM for a number of years before quitting T I believe that I have somewhat of an understandings of the alienation that they are feeling and the fear that they must have had with going forward with the media. I know what it feels like to be shut out of communities which claim to be your family, and when I went off T and began living as a queer femme I watched many of my transgender brothers and sisters walk away from me. This is a media moment to be celebrated, for arguably the first time the mainstream American public is being asked to grapple with the complexity of gender. For the first time the mainstream media is in a very public way showing the complexity and beauty of our community and we are not dumbing down our lives, identities, bodies, or experiences in order to fit into a prescribed idea of what a transgender person should be.

I have been watching a lot of media coverage of Thomas prior to today's Oprah and People exclusives and to be honest I have been thrilled with the response from audiences. Yes there have been the transphobic people who have said extremely hurtful things, including late night TV host David Letterman (whose actions were deplorable) however the majority of people have interfaced with this situation quite well. I have seen very few pronoun blunders, and I have seen people truly embracing this queerness that they never knew existed in the world.

It is true that he is not the first man to do this, Patrick Califia and Matt Black are perhaps the other most well known couple to have done this, and I personally know a number of people who either have gone off T to get pregnant, or who have planned on it, however this is without a doubt the most publicized case to date. The American public, and really the world has been handed an honest look at the queerness of our community, and they are not shying away, sometimes (and as a former queer separatist I never thought I'd be the one to say this) but i think we don't give straight folks enough credit. I may be proved wrong, but at this point they are rising to the occasion, and truly getting a look at what the possibilities of gender.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The search for the gay gene is killing our culture

In recent days the anything but new "scientific research" regarding the so called gay gene has been making a lot of news, including garnering a great deal of attention in mainstream press, including this coverage on ABC which discusses this molecular genetic study of sexual orientation

Research into discovering the gay gene seems to run in cycles in terms of the frequency with which it gets mainstream attention. I remember doing research for my senior's honors english class in high school about weather or not searching for the gay gene was ethical, and what sort of impacts it would have on the community. Since then, i've seen the issue crop up a handful of times every few years as new "discoveries" are made. I won't even go into the issues that I have with them searching for this, or why i feel it's damaging for some in the community to seek validation of themselves through it' discovery (if in it does actually exist) i also am a very strong believer in the ideology behind queer by choice, and would not find it powerful or validating to have some scientist tel me that i had no control over who i am.

However there is no doubt in my mind that if at some point in the future they are able to discover "the gay gene" which htey have been looking for for quite some time but seems to make the news every so often i believe that #1 the first place this will go will be a search for a "cure" and #2 parents will have the ability to "determine" their child's sexual orientation before birth---which hypothetically is going to put pro-life conservative christian nutjobs in a hillarious position - do they defend the "life" of the unborn if it's a queer fetus?

this is an issue that i feel really passionate about, we need to stop groveling to mainstream heterosexual society to be seen as "normal" and "just like them" that will never get us anywhere other than theoretically genetically eliminated. queerness shouldn't be something that we need to feel horrific about unless we can say "it's not my fault, it's just my genes" which is complete bullshit.

It's interesting to watch the gay community clammer for approval, practically salivating over the idea that the gay gene could be found, and that their lives, families, and desires could somehow be excused by some doctor in a white lab coat. I understand the argument that this could grant additional rights, could prove that we can't help who we are attracted to, but is that really what we want? From a media perspective the fact that this is being discussed in a positive way is interesting, it's very exciting to have parents of a teenaged gay boy say that they love their son (although I do take issue with them saying they *knew* he was gay from the time he was a toddler) and wouldn't have changed his sexual orientation if they could.

That said, by showing loving and rational parents this mediated portrayal of the issue systematically devalues and dismisses the very real concerns of queer folks who know that their families of origin would have behaved differently. Weather we like it or not there are countless people around the world who, if given the choice would either abort a queer fetus, or would choose to undergo medical care in order to genetically alter that fetus into being straight. The only opposition to this research shown in the news segment was a fundamentalist christian psychologist who took issue with the research findings, and believes that gayness is not a result of genetics. One is left wondering where the voices of queer activists were?

Are we as a community willing to stand by while they debate eugenics? Are we willing to beg to be seen as normal simply so that they can kill our culture?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Labor of Love

I'm so used to having huge complaints about the ways in which queer lives and bodies, and especially gender nonconforming bodies are presented in the media that I will admit that i am not only shocked but thrilled to say that I am highly impressed with the way in which The Advocate (of all places) covered the story of Thomas Beatie a transman in Oregon who is currently preagnent with he and his wife's first child.

I am thrilled to see a media outlet which is so commonly conservative in what aspects of the queer community it chooses to cover publish (even if only online) an op-ed which explores the complexities of queered bodies, and addresses the horrific medical experiences which so many who defy the "normal" trans-narrative are unfortuinatly subjected to in our current, highly broken, queer-phobic medical industry.

I wish all the best to Thomas and his wife Nancy as they await the birth of their daughter, and would like to encourage other media outlets to look beyond conservative and traditional queer lives and bodies when they write about our community.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Luke and Noah

I'm the first to admit that despite being a media junkie i'm not the most knowledgeable when it comes to the world of soap operas. However they have caught my attention this week, specifically the current situation with the As the World Turns characters Luke and Noah. Plots around the gay couple have angered fans, but not for the reasons that you might think. Fans are upset because the show has not featured a kiss in months. The exact time in days, hours, minutes, and seconds can be found on a fan site which is running a countdown clock, demanding that he network feature a kiss between the two men.

Now i'm all for queer kissing in the media, but i'll admit that even i am shocked by the amount of media attention these fans have been receiving. i also can't help but laugh a little bit because it seems to me in terms of mediated representation of the community we probably have a lot more important things to be concerned about than weather a fictional couple has kissed on screen recently. That said, given that soaps are known for their steamy scenes the noticeable lack of physical intimacy with this gay couple feeds into a cultural dialogue which desexualizes queer folk, at times to avoid controversy.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"spanked children also are more likely to... engage in masochistic sex, including arousal by spanking, later in life",2933,333551,00.html

Today Fox news decided to report on a study about how according to the research done by the folks at the Family Research Laboratory, children who are spanked are considerably more likely to as adults engage in "risky sexual behavior" what sexual behavior is that? oh right, masochistic sex which according to Fox news is a sexual "problem" give me a break. This is the sort of news coverage which further stigmatizes members queers and leather folks, and roots the consenting acts of adults to disorders, and medicalizing our bodies and desires.

Do we love kids more when they are dead?

photograph taken from the San Francisco Chronicle article about the memorial for Lawrence King at the SF LGBTQ community center

There has news within the community, and thankfully a bit within mainstream press about the murder of the queer student in Oxnard California who was shot in the back of the head while sitting in a Junior High Computer lab. The shooting was horrific, and for sure a wakeup call to our community. it is however interesting to note the relative lack of media coverage say compared to the college shooting at the university in Illinois just days later. As a nation it is clear that we do not value the lives of queer people, especially youth. i think that it is especially interesting to note that Lawrence King (the student who was murdered) was part of the foster care system, and was living in a shelter for abused children.

Homelessness amongst queer youth has reached epidemic proportions, and as a whole the community does very little about it. I'm editing an anthology from Homofactus Press which will be out early 2009 titled "Kicked Out" and is bringing together the stories of current and former LGBTQ youth who left home as a result of their sexuality and/or gender identity. the news of this young queers death thus touched me very deeply, and it has also made me angry. I think that it is wonderful that queer groups are having vigils across the country, and that gay press is buzzing with news of this, i've even heard this student referenced as the "new matthew shepard" as people from the trans community, and gay community alike rushing to hold Lawrence up as martyr for their cause. I'm left wondering, when are we as a community going to expend as much attention on living and breathing homeless youth as we do on the ones who die? Why isn't that being talked about? I guess it's easier to have a vigil.