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What Silence Do You Keep?

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Audre Lorde talks about the silences we keep due; to fear for ourselves or fear we have of others. During the beginning of this project my professor discussed sexuality and the continual formation of identity. I have to admit when I first read this my initial reaction was immediate, and negative. For me, having me sexual orientation so central to my identity was abhorrent, which now seems a silly notion, but it does not change the facts.

From the time I came out it was a constant barrage of questions concerning my sexuality, and introductions as, “My gay friend.” Putting aside the misnomer, my sexuality has been a sustained theme by those around me, while I have struggled to make them see this as one part of a much large picture. So, to have this concept of sexuality playing a core principle to ones identity through the lifespan was a personal, and difficult topic to think about. But, while thinking about I realized not only my bias for the subject, for bias it is, but also the truth in which she speaks. Sexuality, to me, is difficult to articulate. As a young person it is fairly easy to explain, but hell to go through. However, when I think about what my wife and I have; our relationship . . . there are no words to fully articulate our coil of worlds. These relationships change and evolve throughout time, which change who we are as people. It would be vacuous to not recognize the gravity our relationships bring to shaping who we are as individuals, and as those relationships change and evolve, so do we.

Sexuality however, is not as simple as relationships; whether they fall within the typical paradigm, or if yours falls outside of it. I wonder though, after talking about relationships, how one’s sexual orientation and the formation of sexuality (in the sense of feeling sexy/attractive) and identity are skewed if any. I have posted on numerous occasions the high risks associated for LBGTQ persons including rape, being forced out of your home, and beatings, among a litany of other horrid things. So, I wonder how many people hide their sexy to save themselves from bodily harm? What does this do to the formation of their identity? And one last question: Which one is worse?

 

Were We Ever Meant to Survive?

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Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider is a collection of essays and speeches that often rendered me speechless. In Transformation of Silence Lorde discusses the visibility and inevitable invisibility produced through the cultural depersonalization due to racism. She states we must reconcile the idea that African-Americans were never meant to survive, and extrapolates further by saying no one in the audience was meant to survive as well. Women, people of color, people of the LBGTQ community, any person who does not have privilege . . . were we meant to survive? It is a question I still struggle with. When I remove emotion and look at it analytically the statement rings true.

This video highlights people’s ignorance, but what is pertinent to this post is the man blurred discussing the extermination of all LBGTQ people. He may be the outlier of the American population today, but not so long ago there were more. The beatings, ostracization, rape, firings, the “prey away the gay” treatment centers, the holocaust, the constant indictment of our corruption on children, our vilification, being run out of housing, and the list continues.

Yes. I do believe Audre Lourde was correct. We were never meant to survive, and yet here we stand.

Mental Health of LGB Youth Study

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VOX has reported a survey measuring the mental health of LGB Youth utilizing the data gathered by the federal survey I posted a couple of weeks ago. This is interesting in that it breaks mental health issues into racial groups, which I had not seen done before. So I hope you all check it out.

 

Have We Lost Our Ability For A Simple Revolution?

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I could talk about A Simple Revolution for eons. It is guaranteed that I will be rereading this book within the next year, and relearning the lessons within the words, and picking up on lessons previously missed. But, one glaring question remains within me. As I continue to read and watch documentaries highlighting the movements in the 60’s and 70’s I am often left to wonder if my generation has the compunction to fight the powers that be as they once did. Often I am resigned to think we do not have the gumption, tenacity, and willingness to throw ourselves aside for the greater good. Every once in awhile there are signs of hope to be sure: Occupy Wall Street, the 1999 WTO Seattle protest, border protests, Add the Four Words, the list of protests goes on and on, but none amount to what was done before.

Grahn talks about a “simple revolution”. Her simple revolution is leaderless, and asks, “What is it that people need? What is needed to end prejudice?” A simple revolution . . . the possibilities of what could be if people could have what they needed, could live authentically without fear. Pat Parker, an African-American, lesbian, feminist poet shared Grahn’s sentiments. In one of her works she wrote, “I have a dream too./ it’s a simple dream.” This dream could not be realized through current theoretical perspectives. Yet, even today our theories lack the insight to effectively formulate a foundation  to build forth this simple revolution. As a student I can see taking Queer Theory, Systems Theory, and possibly Psychosocial Theory to build this foundation of what people personally need, and possibly look at Social Learning Theory to answer the question of ending prejudice.

Though my conjecture is purely speculation I want to SEE something come about. I am tired of seeing one-dimensional political activism that does not relate to real life issues people face every day. Though the political activism is necessary, and the gains they have made are indeed a blessing, I wish to see us all taking arms and fighting back against the misogyny, homophobia, and racism.

Lesbianism as a Choice

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Reading A Simple Revolution I became enthralled with Grahn’s exploration and self-actualizatioin of her sexuality. Her, and those others she encountered broke free of their chains oppressors had wrapped them in to face brutality and punishment. It is impossible to describe the emotions I felt while reading her story of discovery, but the later revelation of women choosing lesbianism brought about a visceral feeling of disgust. It also made me ask, “Is this where they got this ‘choice’ crap?”

Since finishing this book I still have this oily feeling of loathing every time I think of these women choosing lesbianism as a political choice. The inhumanity that faced these women who dared to be their authentic self, and these women have the audacity to belittle the experiences of these women by making sexuality political first, personal second. On the other hand, I believe so long as sex acts involves consenting adults, who am I to judge? Who am I to judge? Well personally, as a person who has been subjugated to heteronoramative culture, heterosexual privilege, and the constant blustering associated with this hierarchy I feel I have some right in saying I find this type of behavior offensive.

Where is the line where consenting adults cannot cross? For me, there is no line. All is fair game. However, these actions are still repugnant, and if these women truly understood the hardships of true lesbians they would not be so blasé.

Family Secrets

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There are some things you do not talk about. It does not matter how close your friend, or lover is, you do NOT talk about it. Even though these secrets are like cancer eating away at you. You cannot go to the doctor (your trusted friend), and seek treatment. To do so would go against the family. We keep these secrets locked within us to protect the precarious balancing act a family performs on a daily basis. Airing out your own dirty laundry has long been an act we have been socialized to avoid at all costs.

A Simple Revolution revealed Grahn and other women breaking this model of acceptable behavior by joining conscience-raising groups that revealed all the skeletons in the family closet. For Grahn these skeletons included a mother with mental illness, an alcoholic father, a brother and uncle who molested her, and the knowledge of knowing she was a lesbian since she was twelve. These groups integrated working class women, and allowed them the opportunity to relieve themselves of their festering wounds.

Though these groups Grahn entered into occurred during the late 60’s, our culture of keeping silent has remained as prominent as ever. Not only does the family within hold a solid block of silence, but neighbors and other community members have also been socialized to turn a blind eye to occurrences within the family. To step beyond these boundaries, and interfere in a family matter means one must prepare for the public backlash that will occur. You cannot reach out to someone in need without suffering the consequences.

These norms we have established concerning families harms those who suffer under the skeletons that are kept. For me, I cannot understand the larger purpose of this standard operating procedure when it is a detriment to those without power.

Queer Theories’ Intersectionality Pitfalls and My Shortcomings

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A Simple Revolution was by far my favorite read of the six books my professor and I agreed to read together. Encompassing feminism, racism, the sixties movements, Malcom X, the military response to homosexuality, middle-class, poverty, and numerous other issues all fully developed within the 269 pages brought a story rarely told: the effort in the movements put forth by those without power or privilege. Grahn seemed to transcend cultural boundaries of race, class, and other privileges, which opened the possibilities of growth, and development.

Mainstream feminism suffered from, and still to an extent suffers from a separatist problem. However, Grahn’s problem did not run parallel to the mainstream; instead the complication arouse from a lack of skills to communicate, and interact due to a lack of desegregation. These skills grew over time as Grahn’s interaction continued. Though her experiences with African Americans and other people of color was limited, it did not hinder her from seeing the validity and jurisprudence of the Civil Rights Movement, including the arguments made by radical figureheads.

Her ability to cut across class and race allowed for a multidimensional emersion into the lives of women, lesbians, and bisexuals. The problem with mainstream feminism is that it is largely for, and represents upper class women. Grahn and the women whom she associated with produced literature that represented, and addressed the issues of all women. The chapbooks they produced were priced so women of meager means could purchase them, and read themselves represented in the movement.

Queer theory, coming from the roots of feminism, inherited the intersectionality problem of its predecessor. Coming from the academic world in the early 90’s when feminism had been pummeled for this very issue, it seems a gross error in judgment to have continued this line of blinding yourself to the plight of a horde of individuals. But, I suppose that thought is meaningless over twenty years after its origins. However, even today we remain preoccupied with sexuality, and put blinders on to the rest of life going on around our brothers and sisters. In the words of Audre Lorde, “There is no single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” Dealing strictly with sexuality ignores the rest of our multifaceted lives.

Though I undoubtedly benefited from Brown v. Board of Education resegregation has limited how advantageous Brown could have been. Resegregation, coupled with my growing up in a small town with minimal racial diversity restricted my ability to associate with diverse individuals. Though the possibilities were restricted, there were not opportunities with which I did not take advantage of. But, like Grahn there were numerous instances where I found myself floundering when discussing racial issues. I wanted to speak, to show sympathy, but it all seemed inadequate. What else could I offer?

Through my studies I have learned sometimes the most you can offer someone is your ear. Attentive listening. Not the half listening we often give even when we have the fullest intention to listen, but listening fully to what the speaker is saying with their voice, and with their body. What they say may be difficult to hear, because it may make me realize something in myself I do not want to learn, but it is not about me in that moment. Maybe this too is inadequate, but with this knowledge gleaned I can support and advocate for the issues that plague this group.

Federal Health Survey Compares Differences in Sexual Orientation

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While cruising my Facebook page I stumbled upon a VOX article reporting a federal health survey comparing health differences between sexual orientation groups. This was fascinating, and I hope you check it out.

http://www.vox.com/2014/7/15/5901403/gay-lesbian-bisexual-straight-health-federal-survey-report?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=voxdotcom&utm_content=tuesday

Coming Out of the Closet

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Though Curious Wine was a simple read I would typically take with me on vacation, every book carries a message for the reader. For me that message was the heavy weight given to the decision of being in a same-sex relationship, and being out. The two characters who find each other, Lane and Diana, enjoy each other in the relative safety of Lake Tahoe, but as the trip ends Lane tells Diana to take a month to decide if a relationship is what she wants. It is during this time that Lane considers the negative consequences a future relationship with Lane would bring to her life.

Coming out as an LBGTQ person was the most difficult and harrowing experiences I have had to face. Not only did I have to accept myself enough, and build the courage to expose myself, but I had to be prepared for the gauntlet of reactions I would receive once I had relieved myself of my veil. I lived in fear of who would find out, and how they would react. I was constantly thinking of strategies to protect myself should I be threatened. I still do.

But, even more frightening than the fear of physical harm once people knew of my sexual orientation was the emotional lacerations inflicted once people knew. I most feared the jagged wounds that could come from my family and friends. Whoever thought of the little diddy, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was a fool. There are no scars where my family and friends words’ have left reminders, but a thin scab easily flicked off at a moments notice. These wounds, they do not heal. It has been over a decade since some of them have been inflicted, and yet by the look of them it would seem they had been foisted upon me a day ago.

Being a heterosexual is a privilege. You do not have to come out; it is assumed you are one of the many. You do not have to, in a general sense, question your morality, humanity, and overall goodness based on your sexuality. Yet, in sagacity maybe the privilege is that of the LBGTQ who are forced to discover themselves, and are therefore, possibly more enlightened in the self. Given how much thought and introspection goes into identifying and accepting one’s self it is not unreasonable to hypothesize this higher conscience.

Workplace Discrimination

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The second story within The Complete Lockpick Pornography, We All Got it Coming follows Arthur. A young man in love with another man, yet never meet within the working environments. But, a more central theme is the violence Arthur suffers within the workplace, the subsequent choice of reporting the incident, his emotions for his choice, and the turmoil of finding another job.

Arthur tells the perpetrator of this violence, his supervisor, that he will not report him. His thought process begins as a way to extend an olive branch between the sexual orientations. But, in a chance meeting it becomes evident that his boss’ homophobic ways were not thwarted by his compassion. Reporting him would have meant taking away the only thing of value his boss had, yet this act of unselfishness was insufficient to have his boss acknowledge his existence outside of the workplace.

Arthur was shoved by his boss after telling him he was gay. He had made several sexual harassment jokes that resulted in his boss telling Arthur that others may think the two of them were a couple. Though Arthur’s actions were wrong, sexual harassment is wrong; gender should not factor, the violence with which Arthur was subjected to was a direct result of homophobia.

Violence is not the only measure in which LBGTQ people suffer workplace discrimination.

This video lists but a few of the types of discrimination LBGTQ people endure while contributing to the fabric of society. Influential people in Washington and lobbyists around the country had worked tirelessly to pass Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). However, with the recent Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision recently made available to the public it seems the LBGTQ political community has abandoned ENDA. If a company is a religious person capable of denying women birth control it is therefore reasonable to assume should ENDA be passed and challenged to the Supreme Court, the ruling would be similar to Burwell.

As in Flagrant Conduct the policies and the repercussions of bringing a case up must be thought out with the best strategical minds. Though the need for ENDA is obvious, the likely decision of ENDA’s unconstitutionality could cause a relapse in gains made state-by-state. Though the strategy is obvious, it leaves me with the question. . . What is wrong with our country where we allow hard working, fair, honest individuals little protections to accommodate the religious beliefs of a few?

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