The “Sexual Orientation Laws in the World- Overview” map really opened my eyes to how diverse LGBTQ+ rights are on a global level rather than staying within the realm of the United States. It also gave me some perspective; although there are many issues/ changes I would like to see made in the US regarding LGBTQ+ rights, I am happy we are a “dark green” country on the map. Sadly, it looks like not even half of the globe is dark green. This lead me to look deeper into some of the criminalization/ death penalty countries in dark red. I found that in 2005, the IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) released a report describing how homosexuality has remained extremely “taboo” in Iraq. There is a common practice called “honor killings” or “shame killings”, which to summarize is when a family/ a family member LEGALLY kills another family member for bringing dishonor to the family name. Engaging in anything remotely homosexual is enough “disgrace” for the family to LEGALLY kill you. The fact that this is not only legal, but is commonly practiced is really unbelievable and breaks my heart. It really made me step back and reflect on some of the injustices the LGBTQ+ community faces outside the dark green countries. However, I did find something super interesting on a happier note; “IraQueer” is the first (and only one ever) queer activism group that has just recently came out of the shadows. Like any queer activism group, one of their main goals is to raise awareness for the LGBTQ+ community. I can imagine this must be extremely hard though in a society where these members can be killed by their families if desired. However, every activist movement has to start somewhere and I am happy to read that (maybe and hopefully) change is coming.
I was unaware that Trump began to rescind the already little amount of protections for transgender students. It is terrifying to me that one man is given all this power and is hiring individuals in powerful positions who share the same hateful values. It feels like more of a dictatorship than a democracy at this point. Honestly, I am scared for the LGBTQ community, as well as all minority groups, including women and reproductive rights. Gavin Grimm is fighting against his school board and it is very likely this case will make it to the Supreme Court. This issue, although local in Grimm’s case is a nationwide issue that may very soon erupt. The only downside is that the LGBTQ community is relatively small, compared to the women’s march, the population hardly compares, it will be difficult to make a difference if the group has a small following. This is not just an LGBTQ fight, this is a fight for minorities, for basic human rights, but conservatives are very reluctant to change with the times and unfortunately, it seems that they are running the country. America used to be referred to as the melting pot, but now that America truly captures that name, people seem so adverse to anyone who is even a little bit different. I understand that there are a lot of other important issues going on nationally and internationally, but any issue regarding the LGBTQ community is generally pushed aside and hardly ever publicized. This is an issue regarding human rights, and until people start viewing transgender individuals as valid and legitimate members of society there will be little to no progress to improve their lives. The way that I understand transgender and its legitimacy is the way I feel wearing a sundress (hear me out). I am a heterosexual white woman who is constantly told to dress up and wear sundresses and ‘girly’ clothes. The feeling that I have whenever I put on a sundress is cringeworthy, I feel so uncomfortable and that I am not ME. I take that feeling and I amplify it 100 times and I believe that is how it feels to be trans. Feeling like you don’t belong in the skin you’re in, constantly wanting to be someone else. Of course this is all I have to base it on, but I try to use this example to explain to skeptics and it seems to get them to understand a little bit more. I can’t imagine living that way everyday and having the majority of the nation delegitimizing everything that I feel and making life-changing laws based on those close-minded views. Just because the lawmakers are not harmed does not mean that other people are not drastically effected.
After reading the article about Trump’s “religious freedom” law I felt sick. And angry. And terrified. How can he do this?? After reading the Gavin Grimm article and then this one which showed a tweet made by the ACLU, I decided to Google what that exactly was. The ACLU stands for the American Civil Liberties Union, a non-profit organization, whose mission statement is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country.” I’m kind of embarrassed for myself for not knowing this organization. But more importantly, my heart is so full that this organization exists and is willing to fight for the LGBTQ community. The article stated that the ACLU has already made a promise to take Trump to court (again) if he proceeds with this. Because really, the country does have a commitment to keep church and state SEPARATE.
I also want to talk about Mike Pence for a second. Why does he hate the LGBTQ community so much?!? Why doesn’t he put that hate towards the abuse and scandals that happen within the Church he loves so much?? Why does he target a community who wants nothing more than to be treated equally? Now he and the Trump administration want to take away Obama’s EO that prohibits discrimination against LGBT employees from federal contractors. It also allows employers to, basically, opt out of covering contraceptives if they are religiously against it. What? Sometimes I don’t understand Trump or his advisors- don’t they know the church and state are separate and are to remain separate? This whole thing makes me upset but it also makes me sad and disappointed that this whole thing is still a thing. Why can’t we just let people, who aren’t harming anyone, be who they are? Ugh.
Through the viewing of the documentary Paris is Burning, I began to understand the context and foundation of what we see drag as today. My only experience with drag had been through RuPaul’s Drag Race around my middle school years. It was not until I had seen the Drag Show that Haven hosts each semester, that I experienced Drag in person. I never understood how much drag related to Muñoz’s ideas of the stage as an escape. After seeing how the people featured in Paris Is Burning would treat the Balls as an escape allowed me to understand drag in a different perspective. Pepper LaBeija said, “When I first started going to balls it was all about drag queens who were interested in looking like Las Vegas showgirls, back pieces, tail pieces, feathers, beads and all that… it started coming down to just wanting to look like a gorgeous movie star like Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor. And now they’re went from that to trying to look like models; like Iman and Christie Brinkley and Maud Adams and all those children.” This statement relates to the idea that partaking in the Balls helped make the disadvantaged participants feel like they were part of to social elite. A specific thing said in the movie that I remember was that the young people of color would feel like white executives by wearing fancy looking, upper-class clothing. I never had thought of drag outside of the context of pure performance. I didn’t see it as an encouraging place where anyone could be what they wanted to be. Drag used to be something that confused me, but after seeing a Drag Show for myself and watching Paris is Burning I understand that Drag holds an important place for those who feel like they cannot represent who they really want to be outside of a Ball, or the stage itself.
A reading that I thought was really interesting was Jack Halberstam’s Female Masculinity, more specifically “The Bathroom Problem.” This stuck out to me because it brought up questions I never thought about like how a transgender person has so much trouble using the bathroom. Something that for me I never even have to think about which bathroom I am going to use. It can be confusing if a transgender woman who still has masculine features is trying to use the bathroom. Or even a lesbian woman who appears very masculine; or a person who does not identify as a male or a female. The bathroom is something that for some reason many people take very seriously and insist on separate bathrooms for women and men. Especially today with Trump trying to remove Obama’s protections for transgender student bathrooms and facilities in public schools. He is trying to tamper with state laws, which will remove transgender equality in bathrooms. It is nice to see that many bathrooms at the University of Delaware are for all genders or are gender neutral. I do not understand why there even is a bathroom problem. It should not matter which bathroom anyone decides to use. A transgender man or woman should not be afraid to use the bathroom at school because of the risk of not fitting in or getting bullied. The bathroom should not be a dangerous place for people. Society needs to realize that there should not be a “bathroom problem” because using the bathroom should not be a problem for people who identify as different genders or no gender at all.
Something I was already interested in learning more about before I entered this class was the use of appropriate pronouns in everyday life, which plays into the bigger topic of gender. When I was able to read De Lauretis’ The Technology of Gender, I was able to open up this idea of different genders in our everyday lives, as well as what we see in movies and social media. De Lauretis gave interesting perspectives of the way gender has always been presented to us from the time we were born to now in our everyday lives.
I work for residence life and housing and something that was stressed from my first day this year was inclusivity and because of this I was able to learn a lot more (not nearly enough) about gender. A part of our first day was not only to say our name and major, but our preferred gender. Almost half of the room was not sure what to say and simply ignored the question, but now this is a regular part of our introductions and I have made it a habit to ask people when I first meet them. This has sparked a lot of conversations about gender and identity and I have been able to use some of the readings from this class to reflect back and give more information.
This is obviously something that only few communities seem to be exposed to. There was one scene on the show Shameless that sparked my interest. One of the main characters started dating someone that exposed him to the LGBTQ+ community and in one of the scenes he met his friends and in their introductions they each individually stated their names and how they identify. One of the best parts of this, in my opinion, was that the main character was not afraid to be confused and ask questions instead of assuming he already knew, which would clarify a lot if more people did.
I connected with De Lauretis because I am able to implement this into my everyday life and take a lot of the concepts presented and have others reflect on them as well and spark a conversation. Although I have a clearer perception of pronouns and the importance of being aware of them, I still find myself having questions that I intend to explore.
While parsing through this week’s readings I found myself consistently struggling with the complex concepts presented in Noble’s “Trans. Panic.”. Noble begins by introducing basic structures of labor and the role of labor in capitalism, using this as the groundwork for understanding the institutionalizing of women’s studies. They make the important distinction between ‘trans’ in the sense of movement across and ‘trans’ in terms of gender identity, however they are closely linked in understanding the role of gender studies within the larger framework of women’s studies. . The exclusion of trans voices and bodies from women’s studies’ curriculum is denying an essential part of its history. Noble makes the argument that women’s studies cannot progress within the academic framework unless it breaks away from the oppressive and hegemonic forces that influence its teachings. In order to do this there must be a trans-ing of women’s studies.
Noble’s article made me reflect on recent events and their importance to the Black liberation movements. Historically, Black LGBTQ+ folks have been excluded and silenced in Black liberation movements. Black lives Matter, a movement started notably by black women – one of which is queer- presents a new and developing front on how to approach activism. Over time social rights movements have ebbed and waned in terms of their strength, starting off strong and then slowly eking out due to a number of reasons. BLM as a movement presents a new sort of front on activism in its stance on inclusion and the uplifting of LGBTQ+ voices, more importantly recognizing the violence faced by Black trans women. By trans-ing the movement we can hope to see a lasting growth that benefits all black lives and not just a cisheterosexual ones.