Sunday, March 4, 2012

Intersectionality and Kinship on Glee (Carla's Blog Post #2)

Glee is a television show known for representing gay teens. The character Santana Lopez is a representation of a queer woman of color that depicts some issues of family and denial that queer individuals of color face.
In the episode “Mash Off”, Santana was insulting Finn Hudson, a straight male character, in a hallway. Frustrated with her insults, he called out loud enough for the entire hall to hear, “Why don’t you just come out of the closet?” He goes on to call her a coward, and walks off down the hall. There is no punishment for Finn’s behavior, no action on behalf of school administration. Santana later slaps Finn, angered that he dismisses it, because he believes that the whole school already knows. What Santana exclaims is the reality of the situation-it is not only the school that will know, but everyone. Santana is afraid of how her family will react more than anything.
In the next episode ("I Kissed a Girl"), Santana comes out to her grandmother. Her abuela (grandmother in Spanish) played a large role in her life. Their conversation alternates between Spanish and English, placing an emphasis on Santana’s Hispanic heritage. The scene displays the various factors that affect individuals with intersecting personalities. Her grandmother’s culture and religious views ultimately come together in her response to Santana’s admittance. “Esto es una verguenza (This is a disgrace). The sin isn’t in the thing, it’s in the scandal when people talk about it aloud.” Here, Santana’s grandmother addresses an approach to sexuality that is often seen in LGBTQI communities of color –one that prefers to hide sexuality than to address it. Bradshaw and Letuka’s article on the Down Low examines such a phenomenon as occurring more often in communities of color. Such research focused on heterosexual males having sex with males, however, and did not address such behavior with females.
Santana also has to face the possibility of losing her family because of her sexuality. When Finn outs her, word reaches the public because of her cheerleading coach’s local political campaign. She fears how her parents will react if they find out, breaking down in tears and telling school administrators “I haven’t even told my parents yet”. The reality of the temporal nature of biological kinship ties is shown when she comes out to her grandmother. Her grandmother, who played a large role in raising her, tells her that she no longer wants to see her. In Kath Weston’s “Forever Is a Long Time: Romancing the Real in Gay Kinship Ideologies”, she addresses the various types of families acknowledged in kinship ideologies. The article reveals that in the 1980s, when the trend of “coming out” first began, many gay individuals found that family relationships that they once considered to be permanent were actually at the risk of being severed. The relationship between Santana and her grandmother is both biological and emotional, with Santana expecting her grandmother to “be there” for her because of her reliability over time as well as her blood relation to her. While Santana still has the support of her friends and parents after she has come out, she no longer has a relationship with someone that she considered to be close kin.

Bradshaw, John and Letukas, Lynn. "The Low Down on the Down Low: Origins, Risks and Identifications" In Health Sociology Review Vol. 19, Issue 4 December 2010.
"I Kissed a Girl" Glee. Fox. Fox TV, California. 29 Nov 2011.
"Mash Off" Glee. Fox. Fox TV, California. 15 Nov 2011.
Weston, Kath. 1998. “Forever is a long time: Romancing the real in gay kinship ideologies”.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chaz Bono: Trans Community in the Limelight

Decades after Stonewall, and the commencement of gay rights movement, gay and lesbians are finding more tolerance and acceptance from society, and are progressively becoming more visible within the media and popular culture. However, the same cannot be said for those within the trans community, whom have been genuinely ignored, or mocked within the media. That is why casting Chaz Bono, a recent trans man, on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” in 2011 caught America’s attention.
            Transphobia in media is nothing new for American television, yet the inclusion of trans people in prime-time programming is. Let us remember, that ABC has other programs that feature queer characters (Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family, Happy Endings), and despite being responsible for green-lighting the short-lived transphobic sitcom Work It in the fall, they are the most queer-inclusive prime-time broadcasting company in the country. So, how did Chaz go from being an ignored trangender person to a contestant on one of the most popular television programs in America? Controversial questions arose immediately after his addition to the season was announced. Would he dance with a male or female partner? How can they allow this because he is female-bodied?
            For Chaz himself, he faced the imminent rude and degrading remarks from the masses by dancing with a woman, and felt the pressure to drop out of the contest, yet despite the negative focus on gender, his appearance left an impression with viewers at home. For many, they had never seen transgender individuals represented positively in the media, let alone national television. It seemed trans people only appeared in the news as victims of tragic hate crimes, or something funny to laugh at because it wasn’t “normal” in our heteronormative society. And now, they were seeing a man, brave enough to face millions of people who out-casted him.
            However, part of the reason many have come to accept and embrace him is his choice to gender conform as a man. In our society, we uphold a dichotomy of two genders—male and female—and for those who fail or refuse to “chose” a side, they are considered outcasts. Therefore, it is both surprising and disappointing that within the trans community, the pressure to undergo surgery is so high. Although he decided surgery was ultimately something that would make him happy. Riki Wilkins suggests that there is a trans hierarchy, “among the genderqueer youth, it is no longer rare to hear complaints of being frozen out of transgender groups because they don’t want to change their bodies,” (59). Why should trans individuals be pushed into the same gender binary of FTM and MTF similar to that of our heteronormative society by those who identify with the same community? What does this say about genderqueer and non-gender conforming individuals?
Trans visibility within the media continues to be an issue, especially the context in which individuals are being characterized and represented. Societal pressure to not challenge the gender binary still exists within the trans community, and those who decide to “gender blend” rather than simply “passing”,  “give less opportunity for the culture to exert control” over trans and genderqueer people (87-8). Perhaps, Chaz’s impression upon transphobic America will pave the way for more trans and gender queer people to make their way into the limelight.

Bornstein, Kate, "Send in the Clowns." Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of            Us. New York: Vintage Press, 1995. Print

Wilkins, Riki, “Deconstructing Trans.” GenderQueer: Voices From Beyond the Sexual Binary. Los Angeles: Alyson, 2002. Print.

No Wonder The Blue Ranger Was My Favorite!

Who doesn’t remember The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers? With its premier appearance in 1993 and its original cast, including the character Billy as the blue power ranger, it was the new sensation every little boy and girl was watching and talking about. Growing up as an LGBTQ member, one can face several of obstacles and problems in life. Television was an escape for many, shows like The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers gave us a new world to explore and fuel for our imaginations. One thing many of us never took the time to notice, either because we were too young to notice or even care, was the story behind the actors on the show. David Yost’s, the original blue ranger called Billy Cranston, career path for example, was not an easy one. As a member of the gay community, David faced a lot of unnecessary ridicule both on and off The Might Morphin Power Ranger set. This kind of bullying has been known to affect its victims physically and emotionally throughout years. In his interview at the Anime Festival at Orlando in 2010, he discussed behind the scenes of the show, his cast members and why he ultimately left the show.
            David explains why he left the show and how one day he basically walked off the set during lunch because he was called a “faggot” one too many times. Creators, producers, writers and even directors all partook in this scrutinizing behavior. With no one to help him out and offer support against his ever-growing aches possibly leading to suicide, he felt like he had no other option but to leave the show. These types of hate crimes have been known to occur through out time against LGBTQ members. With the show trying to teach good morals towards its viewers, it was somewhat hypocritical for those associated with the hate crimes to be trying and push ideas of right vs. wrong to others. David explains how he was told he was not worthy of where he was in his career since he was gay; he was told there was no such thing as a gay actor or superhero. This type of compulsory heterosexuality where they say that superheroes are only straight and as a result it ends up with someone who is gay being harassed in the work place, can be tied into Adrienne Rich’s article “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian existence”. Rich explains how “women have learned to accept male violation of our physic and physical boundaries as a price of survival” (Rich 187) since the workplace is a place where women are subordinated. The same can be said for David, not fitting into the heterosexual social stratosphere, has led the end of his career in the show as well as to a point in his life where he simply just hated himself.
            This type of thinking where compulsory heterosexuality steps in can be tied to how people were raised and taught. David was experiencing a type of bullying. He explains how he’s been spit on, had food thrown at him and even had his life threaten for whom he was. Having been at his lowest point after a nervous breakdown, David was able to reclaim himself and give an example of how things can turn around. One has to step back and think how this form of bullying can be stopped. I believe we have to start at the source, when everyone is young. With David facing issues that are similar to issues younger teens face while in school, one can say that there is a connection. Implementing new forms of anti-bullying procedures to schools can very well help this cause and help put a stop to gay bashing and LGBTQ discrimination. Since it has been found that “one third of teens report that students are harassed due to perceived or actual sexual orientation” (Stein 32) it is apparent that something has to be done while individuals are still young and developing. Nan Stein develops some steps that can be taken to avoid such threats, such as training all the staff at schools, designating a variety of ombudspeople, and involving parents. Developing such precautionary steps can help set forth a new and safe future for individuals.  This way we can all have that power ranger we all decide to look up to. 

Rich, Adrienne. "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" from Professions of Desire: Lesbian and Gay Studies in Literature. ed. George Haggerty and Bonnie Zimmermann. New York: Modern Language Association, 1995

Stein, Nan. “Bullying, Harassment and Violence Among Students” Radical Teacher 2007.

Modern Family, Is It Really?

I argue that the sitcom Modern Family showcases a problematic image that centers two white, upper class males parents as an all-encompassing symbol for the gay rights movement and and queer Americans.  More importantly, the gay couple on the show, Cameron Tucker played by Eric Stonestreet and Mitchel Pritchett played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson, create homonormative illusions about the gay rights movement and the objective to be “normal” and I would argue, sell to the non-Queer identified Americans that this is that image that all Queer Americans are striving to be in life.
In this ABC family comedy debuted in 2009, creators Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan intend to bring families together under a show that explores various diverse backgrounds in American families such as interracial marriage, working class struggles, and LGBT identified Americans.  Donna Kreydkin is a journalist at USA TODAY that elaborates on the Gay couple, Tucker-Pritchett, to convey a sense of familiarity, acceptance and normality in her article: "'Modern Family' actors who play gay couple dish on real life” (Freydkin).  Ferguson states that their role as a mainstream gay couple on television can help the audience feel comfortable and understand the gay community: “it’s a safe ‘in’ for a lot of people who are on the fence about the issue,” he says. “they feel OK liking our couple. Maybe that will bleed into their personal life. Maybe it’s not such a big deal if to men raise a baby” (Freydkin).   It’s not the fact that two white upper class gay males can’t advocate and model a “modern family”, but rather the insinuations of this couple as quintessential and symbolic of all queer American is troublesome.  Intersectional racial, gender, class identities are left out from the portrayal of what a gay family looks like in modern America.  In return, a homonoramative image is created to represent how LGBTQ America should use Marriage, Military and Market in order to obtain normalcy, acceptance and legitimacy in the United States.  Jasbir K. Puar and Amit S. Rai argues that “normalization serves to foreclose the possibilities of solidarities among and within communities of color” (Puar, and Ria, 140). 
The consequences of recreating these homonational representations of what Gay America looks likes affects, for example, queer communities of color such as when the show “Work It” was released and immediately cut from television after offending intersectional queer and latino identities.  Lloyd and Stevens show uses a neoliberal aesthetic to show that “freedom and liberation are earned through privacy, domesticity, and consumption” as shown by Tucker-Pritchett as they keep their sexual relationship private and reserved (they never kiss in front of the camera) , stereotypically adopt an asian baby (domestic), and have a lavished, decorated home (consumption).  The norms and stereotypes that are recreated in “Modern Family” perpetuate a culture of tolerance and marginalize the lives and experiences of Queer Americans of color that do not want to conform to married white heteronomative American couples, adopt children and live in the suburbs.  This orientalist perspective generates a notion that queer Americans that do not look like this modern family, are backwards, non-normal, and illegitimate (Diamond).
Above all, these two mainstream queer characters are another example of a comedic disposition of the LGB community in which their sexualities are “secondary to their characaters story lines”, asexualized in comparison to the other married couples, and rendered assimilated into heteronormative American culture. 

Diamond, Chloe. lecture: Fem 80. Feminine Studies. Girvetz 1004, Santa Barbara. 2-15-2012. Lecture.
Freydkin, Donna. "'Modern Famil'y actors who play gay couple dish on real life." USA TODAY. (2010): n. page. Web. 29 Feb. 2012. <>. 
 Puar, Jasbir K. , and Amit S. Rai. "Monster, Terrorist, Fag: The War on Terrorism and the Production of Docile Patriots." (2002): n. page. Print.

It Gets Better: Google Employees’ “Hope”

“There’s no-where to go but up; it will eventually get better for you with time.” This is the overarching message that the “It Gets Better” videos found all over the Internet contain; the concept that personal suffering related to LGBT experience will diminish with time and acceptance from the environments that surround an individual. Upon searching for the perfect “It Gets Better” video, one that represented a myriad of intersectionalities in terms of queerness, race, disability, age, location, gender, but had no such luck. I watched video upon video of personal testimonies, individual experiences and stories of overcoming adversities that were shaped by queer identities, until I stumbled upon “It Gets Better: Google Employees; Facebook Employees; and Apple Employees”. These videos display “messages of hope” from employees of perhaps the top three most- influential corporations of the century, yet I found myself being disappointed with the choices of visibility and fundamental concepts that these fortune-500 companies chose to exhibit. It gets better, but for whom? For people who escape their rural, conservative neighborhoods for metropolises in California, New York, and abroad (Gray, 2007)? Does it get better for those who aren’t able to attend college, or serve as miniature geniuses that are hired to these elite conglomerates? Does it get better for the disabled, the elderly, or the minorities who lack the educational and structural resources that allow them to escape to “a better life”(Clare, 2001)? What I want to know is, who exactly does it get better for, and why are we having to change ourselves homonormatively in order to be accepted in our hegemonic, heteronormative society (Dodson, 2012)? 
The fundamental problem I have with the “It Gets Better” videos relies not in the good intention that these personal testimonies may include, but rather, the lack of celebrating one’s self as “irrevocably different”, thus shedding the shame and personal hatred that results from societal oppression (Clare, 2001). Our identities do not depend on the amount of money that we accrue, the education that we obtain, or the personal decision of fleeing our rural or suburban roots for a more diverse metropolis: “Identity can live in many places all at once- in the communities we make home, the food we eat, the music we play and dance to, the work we do, the people we feel wild and passionate about, the languages we speak, the clothes we wear” (Gray, 2007; Claire, 2001).Our identities aren’t fixed, static states of being, but rather, fluid and porous; the lack of exhibiting the concept of embracing queer experiences in opposition of society defining what is deemed “normal, worthy, or accepted” is what I feel “It Gets Better: Google/Facebook/Apple Employees” directly fails to address. In further analysis, for a person who is disabled, watching this video might discourage their sense of self, as all of the testimonies came from able-bodied employees, thus allowing the view that disabled people’s bodies are been stolen and seen as wrong, broken, or tragic in our society to perpetuate through lack of representation and visibility in our work force (Clare, 2001). 
Several of the personal stories that were shared in the “ITB: Google Employees” video portrayed the idea that in moving away from conservative, less busy, suburban or rural areas would lead you to the hustle and bustle of city life, giving you increased opportunities of acceptance and hope for a better life: “You feel this magnetism like you’re never gonna get out, you’re never going to go anywhere. It [living in a small town] draws you in, you feel like there’s no hope, that no one will ever understand you (Google employee, 2010).” This metronormative perception directly relates to Mary Gray’s article, “From Websites to Wal-Mart”, where she writes, “Perhaps the overriding reason for our surprise at the sheer publicness and brash visibility of LGBT youth in Christian bookstores and Wal-Marts is that rural environments are presumed to be (more) hostile to queer desires and genders and, therefore rural LGBTQ-identifying youth must have already left their small towns for the big city” (Gray, 2007). Reclaiming spaces, whether they are located in more isolated, country areas, or suburban towns is essential for empowering queer youth to embrace the present, rather than yearn for an idealized future revolving around escape. I understand the “IGB: Google employees” video’s aim to motivate queer youth toward success, but I felt hesitant due to the reality of those who might not be able to afford college, move to the big city, or get hired by one of the top corporations in the world. In the future, I will choose to glorify alternative videos that uplift queer experience through invigorating the current; providing optimism for modern struggles through reclaiming a diverse collection of identities, in varying locations and assorted socio-economic spheres.

Clare, Eli. "Stolen Bodies, Reclaimed Bodies: Disability and Queerness" Popular Culture 13(3) 359-365. 2001
Dodson, Leigh. “Queer Rurality, Working Class Queer Cultures, and Queer Anti-Urbanism.” Fem 80. Girvetz, Santa Barbara. 2/22/12. Lecture.
Gray, Mary “From Websites to Wal-Mart: Youth, Identity Work, and the Queering of Boundary Publics in Small Town, USA” American Studies, Volume 8

Better in Tech. (2010, October 10). It Gets Better: Google Employees. Retrieved February 27, 2012, from

Lady GaGa: Queer Culture Queen or Queer Culture Vulture?

There is no doubt that Lady GaGa is a queer pop culture Mecca, ripe for analysis. The often controversial pop princess has embraced queer culture just as her fans have embraced their limited edition version of Born This Way, available exclusively at Target. But maybe that is part of the problem, now sure you can’t blame a recording artist for trying and succeeding in selling records, however GaGa is not just selling records; she is fitting directly into a trend of constructing a queer niche market and targeting it as a consumer base. This is problematic as well if you view content as aimed specifically at queer people because it begins to support and reproduce stereotypes. The song “The Fame” is a prime example with lyrics extolling excess and vapid shallow consumerism such as “I can’t help myself I’m addicted to a life of material” and “All we care about it is runway models, Cadillacs, and liquor bottles” as well as “We gotta taste for champagne, and endless fortune”. Now it is easy at this point to denounce the song and its message as intentionally over the top, sarcastic, and ultimately critical of this party oriented lifestyle. In fact much of GaGa’s over the top career could be viewed as a campy and mocking post-modern critique of pop culture, however there are still several issues. First if queer identified fans do not understand the potential satire and hyperbolic approach of Lady GaGa they may take the messages seriously, being shaped into a more homonormative consumer while reproducing negative stereotypes about queer people. The next issues comes with how Lady GaGa herself acts, despite how detrimental the effects may be we can’t really blame her for fans not understanding her intended message. However GaGa’s actions are at times hypocritical, for instance having a deluxe version of her album sell exclusively at Target after Target donated money to conservative politicians whose stated goal was to create a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. This shows that to Lady GaGa queer rights maybe important but not as important as fame, fortune, and success and if that is the case then vapid consumerism is not a satirical critique but rather a value instilled in fans to ensure high album sales.
            Regardless of Lady GaGa’s exact motives or meanings the reality resulting from her work can still be viewed with regard to homonormativity and “The Gay Marketing Moment”. Lady GaGa’s work can be seen as homonormative as she creates a narrative that plays into rather than challenging the heteronormative image of queer people, further she has been a major proponent for the 3 M’s as she has directly advocated for queer equality in both the Military and Marriage, while representing queers (or things believed to be queer values) in the Market (Dodson, Leigh 2/22/12 Lecture). The immediate issue is that the queer values she represents are shallow and stereotypical as well as the fact that marriage and military equality are valuable but not the most dire and important issues for the queer community (as homeless youth being disproportionately queer, queer youth being disproportionately bullied and attacked and other issues are generally more pressing and important). Now while this is all very critical of Lady GaGa I think it is worthwhile to acknowledge some of the ways she has created positive narratives. Despite the obvious marketing to queers as a niche market, Lady GaGa’s song “Born This Way” has a strong message of being proud of your identity regardless of societal expectations of normal, right and wrong. In some senses “Born This Way” has become an anti-bullying queer anthem, inspiring an entire episode of the Fox Television Series Glee, a show generally devoted to stop high school bullying. This is not the first time Lady GaGa has used her music to positively represent traditionally marginalized groups. In her music video for “Paparazzi” Lady GaGa challenges the narrative of ableism where people with disabilities are “seen as childlike and asexual” with media representations being desexualizing, dehumanizing, and demeaning (Clare, 2001). At 3:44 in the “Paparazzi” video GaGa in a wheel chair is stripped down to a skimpy and conventionally sexy outfit as she stands from the wheelchair while being supported by a pair of crutches. Here GaGa represents people with disabilities as sexy and sexual, a media representation that I have never really seen before. So Lady GaGa is a complex figure worthy of if nothing else critical thought, whether she is reproducing stereotypes or destroying them, whether she is wearing a meat dress or crutches Lady GaGa seems to always have a point, and as a queer pop culture icon it is important to understand her work and the impact it has on the queer community.

Clare, Eli. "Stolen Bodies, Reclaimed Bodies: Disability and Queerness" Popular Culture 13(3) 359-365. 2001
Dodson, Leigh. “Queer Rurality, Working Class Queer Cultures, and Queer Anti-Urbanism.” Fem 80. Girvetz, Santa Barbara. 2/22/12. Lecture.
Lady GaGa. “The Fame” Lyrics (
Lady GaGa “Paparazzi” Music Video

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Melissa's blog post #2

Glee: On My Way Episode and its Representation of Bullying Today

            As we have learned in our class, the LGBTQ community has always been misrepresented, not represented at all, or widely ignored throughout history. On the television show Glee, Kurt has been a representation of the stereotypical flamboyant white, gay, male teenager in an Ohio high school. However in this specific episode a character named David Karofsky, who had ironically bullied Kurt for his sexual orientation, was bullied for being gay as well which led to his attempt to commit suicide. One scene in this episode shows David being verbally harassed both personally to his face and online as well, then his decision to end his life. This scene can be found in the link below. Fortunately David’s father found him with enough time to get him to the hospital and save his life. The following scene shows the principal discussing the issue with a group of teachers about how to tell the other students about the incident. The principal does not want to get involved, but the teachers stand up and bring up the question: “How can we fix or change this?”
            This scene brings up the many issues that Nan Stein discussed in her article, “Bullying, Harassment and Violence Among Students” such as the idea that the term bullying is too broad of a term, and that laws are not holding school administrators liable, therefore the responsibility of solving the problem is put on the victim (Stein 49). David receives abuse when his teammates write the word “fag” on his locker, and he is also harassed when they write words on his Facebook wall like “go back in the closet.”  Under some school policies, this is technically not bullying because there was no physical harm done to him. What does this say about our society nowadays? It should not matter how a person was abused because the in the end, the effect was an attempted suicide. In the scene, the school discusses how they should tell other students, but does not hold themselves responsible in any way. The principal wanted no further involvement in the issue and if it weren’t for the teachers there would not have been changes made in the school.
         This episode also applies to Mary Gray’s article “From Websites to Wal-Mart: Youth, Identity Work, and the Queering of Boundary Publics in Small Town, USA” because the show takes place in Lima, Ohio. It is depicted as the typical small town in the mid-west that is not very accepting of the LGBTQ community. It is an example of the arguments that Mary made in her article about what constitutes urban areas as gay-friendly zones that gay youths in rural areas should flock to (Gray 50). It also relates to her idea that technology plays a role in how these queer youths view their rural living areas (Gray 51). Kurt has verbalized in past seasons that the town needs to be more accepting, and that there are “only ignorant people here.” In this season both he and another character Rachel are trying to attend a performing arts college in New York. Though he wants to go for the love of the school, Kurt has also mentioned that it would be a more gay-friendly environment for him to live in.
         This episode of Glee has depicted the LGBTQ community in rural areas, and has also depicted the troubles that are still faced with the community today: bullying and harassment. This scene is a good representation of the struggles that are still occurring today and still follow the LGBTQ community.

Stein, Nan, “Bullying, Harassment and Violence Among Students” 2007, volume 80

Gray, Mary “From Websites to Wal-Mart: Youth, Identity Work, and the Queering of Boundary Publics in Small Town, USA” American Studies, Volume 8

Glee season 3, episode 14 scene