Through Hir Eyes

Gender. It's an immutable fact of life. Or is it? Hir, a pronoun/adjective somewhere between "his" and "her", negates the gender binary set up by the English language. How do we deal with this binary, interacting with gender politics and gender exclusion and inclusion? The answer: Postmodernist and Third Wave Feminist theory.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Presenting the president of NOW: Patricia Ireland

“This is what a real live feminist looks like.”
That is how Patricia Ireland, the president of NOW, opened her talk on feminism. Patricia Ireland came to AU to speak as part of a Kennedy sponsored series on feminism. She spoke eloquently on many of the issues facing women in the present and past in the United States and it was so very nice to hear someone articulating the tangle of thoughts in my head. But she was also fun speaker, with lots of wit and humor in her speech (which she did not have notes for).

The beginning of Ireland’s talk went over the history of women in the United States starting with the Declaration of Independence and Abigail Adams. Of achieving the right to vote in the 20th century, Ireland said that women were not given the right to vote, but rather, “we won it fair and square!” Ireland also pointed out that the second feminist movement began in the 1950’s when women realized that they were not allowed active roles in the other civil rights movements, but rather relegated to coffee duty.

The biggest issue facing women’s movements today, according to Ireland, is the “No problem” problem. By this, she meant that people believe that enough progress has been made and that feminism is obsolete (actually according to her research Ireland found that the papers have been declared feminism dead every 18 months for the past two decades.) However, feminism is alive and well, and the idea that women are now equal to men in the USA is complete crap. In the US Senate, only 14% of the senators are women despite the fact that women are 51% of the US population. Even countries we consider behind us in progress, Iran and Iraq, are both slatted to have 25% female senators. When Bill Clinton tried to appoint a female US Attorney General in the 1990’s, the female candidates were first accused of abandoning their children (an accusation never posed to male candidates) and then for the candidate without children, of being lesbian; both conditions, of course, rendering them “unfit” for the job. Similarly, a whole 42% of the high achieving women in business do not have children while about 75% of their male colleagues do.

The end of Patricia Ireland’s speech focused on the future and our roles in it. She told us that progress is not inevitable, but that it does occurs when strong leaders step forward, refuse to back down, and are backed by a strong movement. Ireland warned us of
the seductive powers of conformity, because so much change can occur from the inside if women resist conformity. However, despite the difficulties posed, she made sure to tell us how much she loved being a feminist, “feminism is a whale of a good time!” Her fitting ending was “Thank you all for being here, all you’ve done, and all you will do.” I found her talk to be inspiring, something I do not feel happens often, even on a college campus. I hope that others will be inspired as well and that together the third wave of feminism can swell up and overtake the nation in a storm of change.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Shady dealings from the FDA concerning Plan-B

"This report is the 'smoking gun' which clearly demonstrates that the FDA based its decision on politics, and not science"

Last week’s Washington post published an article on the findings of an investigative committee concerning the FDA decision to not allow over the counter sale of the emergency contraceptive Plan-B. When this decision was initially made, it came under lots of fire for obvious reasons—the drug has been in use for a good deal of time via prescription with no evidence of resulting health issues, contraceptive use for teens has been a hot issue in the past few years, and many conservatives are hyper-sensitive to anything that could be considered abortive. For the record, Plan-B is a contraceptive, and it works by one of the following: preventing the egg from being released, preventing the sperm from attaching to the egg, or preventing the egg from attaching to the wall of the Uterus. It does not work if you are already pregnant.

Essentially, the FDA was accused of caving to political pressure. This week we see this is likely the case. This investigation has uncovered that officials within the FDA were told that the drug would not be approved long before the medical evaluation was completed and months before this decision was made public. When they attempted to look into the commissioner who was in charge at the time, they found past e-mails all deleted and that memos are “routinely destroyed.” This is an obviously shady move. The article even stated that it could be a violation of federal record-keeping law, and that “retaining the documents of the agency head it essential for the transparent operation of government.”

This issue should be important to anyone who lives in this country. This is the government hiding its practices from the people—something that has historically helped create some of the most unjust political situations possible. This is a violation of what the FDA is supposed to do—they are no longer judging the medical value of the drug, but making so-called moral decisions. Women who need to wait too long to get a prescription can end up pregnant anyway (Plan-B needs to be taken within 3 days of unprotected sex), many doctors will refuse to write a prescription, and many young girls will end up having their futures ruined by rulings such as these. This is an alarming development for women’s health. For so long, women’s bodies have been at the mercy of laws made by men. If practices like the FDA’s process for continually denying countless women of access to Plan-B are allowed to go without reprimand, women in the United States may become as much at mercy to unjust laws as women in third world countries.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Female Genital Modification: an issue of cultural relativism or a human rights violation?

You may know female genital modification as female circumcision or female genital mutilation. The present debate over female genital modification is cultural relativism verses a human rights violation because it discards self-determination. In the past, female genital modification was argued to be a human rights violation because it reinforced female suppression and then because of medical consequences. For those who don’t know, there are three different categories of female genital modification (from least modification to most modification): clitorectomy, excision, and infibulation.
The human rights stance is simple. Human rights advocates argue that female genital modification violates the universal human right of self-determination. Personally, I feel that this is a weak argument because all over the world, including in America, children are made to do things that they can’t object to (baby ear piercing, baby male circumcision, shots, and braces to name a few.)
Cultural relativists argue (and rightly so) that putting all female genital modifications in one big category pulls the different practices out of contexts and makes them meaningless, especially for the people involved. Some of the different contexts ignored are male genital modifications that occur in the same cultures, the history behind the practice, and that genital modification is usually only part of a larger context of events.

As a student learning to be an anthropologist I am trying to grapple with cultural relativism verses things that make me feel sick. For a long time, I thought I was completely against female genital modification, then I read an article about male initial that involved penis cutting and it didn’t bother me because I could see the cultural relativism. That made me rethink my stance about female genital modification. What I have concluded, for myself, is that I do not object to clitorectomy and excision unless the girl really does not want the operation or it is done just to show opposition to Western intervention. Infibulation, however, is something I cannot understand even in a cultural relativists mind frame. Something that requires the woman to be cut open so she can have sex or give birth is too extreme for me. Let me add that despite understanding the practices, I believe that change over time toward either only clitorectomy or symbolic circumcisions is a necessary goal, but it will not happen quickly and using force will only make resistance to change stronger

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Knitting for Revolution?

I was sitting in my Women's studies class the other day...the discussion? The New wave of feminism. We were arguing back and forth about lipstick feminism, sameness/difference feminism when a quiet girl who works for NARAL Pro-Choice America mentioned that the latest craze to hit feminism was KNITTING! I decided to do some research. Shocking as it sounds (or it may not if you've recently picked up the needles and yarn), knitting has become the ultimate feminist statement. Knitting circles among the young, urban, and progressive have popped up by the hundreds in the last two years. Knitting is no longer just for your Great Aunt Jane.
Debbie Stoller, the creator of the New Feminist website (, is largely credited with the new trend. Her book, Stitch N Bitch: The Knitters Handbook, is just one of the many very un-ironic books out recently that design to encourage women to pick up knitting as a hobby. According to a Citypaper article last year, Stoller started a Stitch N Bitch club in New York in 1999 to "bring together a new wave of domestic artists". Since then, Stitch N Bitch has become a successful franchise the world over with chapters from Arkansas to Zurich, Switzerland. Stoller argues that "the only reason knitting has a bad reputation is that women have always done a feminist I need to change that image".
Stoller has certainly been successful. The movement has gone far beyond simply 'taking back knitting' as a statement of New Wave Feminism. Groups like the Revolutionary Knitting Circle (RKC) have been created as well. This group calls themselves a 'loosely knit circle of revolutionaries' (how kitschy) that "fosters community and provides opportunity for dialogue across class, gender, ethnicity, age, and other social boundaries". The group takes care to clarify they are looking for a "constructive revolution" rather than a violent one. And as any good revolutionary group must, the RKC has published a manifesto. Local groups that organize their chapters through RKC include a San Francisco based Anarchist Knitting Circle and a group called, Knitters Against Bush. The college crowd is also involved with chapters at Duke and Boston College, among others, but none in Washington.
But, if you are a local Washington resident that wants to make a bold feminist statement by getting crafty, don't despair. You can check out the plethora of local clubs at Various clubs meet at local coffee and tea shops in Logan Circle, Penn Quarter, Annapolis, Rockville, Pentagon City, and Capitol Hill.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Rainbow Speakers Bureau

The Rainbow Speakers Bureau is a program put together by the GLBTA resource center on campus (located in MGC 201). It consists of GLBT students from AU who speak to other students about various issues in the community, including subjects such as tonight’s topic of coming out stories.

Three students, two gay guys and one bi girl, told their coming out stories. Each of them discovered this part of their identity at different times in their lives, and each decided to come out to their parents in different ways. One thing that held consistently true among them was a difficulty in telling their fathers—one of the guys because he was raised in a very conservative suburb and his father openly hates gays (his father still doesn’t know); the other guy because his father is very roman catholic; and the girl because her mother dismisses it as just a phase so she didn’t even want to attempt. They were asked why the common difficulty in telling dad, and the answers given were quite thoughtful. It was agreed that dad is harder to tell because they were never as close to him as their mothers. Though this answer was from a different question, and I am extrapolating on it, I feel it applies: It was agreed that the problem accepting gay men stems from our society being a male-centered one, and homosexuality challenges the role of men in society. It is often a problem for gay men who are unafraid of their feminine sides.

Many other thoughtful questions were asked, such as “Have you ever experienced harassment or discrimination because of your sexuality?” I was surprised to hear most of them answer that they only experienced minor verbal harassment in passing. My close friends who are gay have had far worse happen done to them.
After taking questions, they passed out slips of paper with T/F questions such as “studies have shown that children raised by same-sex parents have emotional and psychological problems later in life” (the answer being false). It was good to hear that most of the students present (a largely female audience) knew the answers to the questions, demonstrating at least 15 students in my dorm are educated on issues surrounding homosexuality.

Following this, the audience was welcomed to write questions on a sheet of paper and submit them anonymously. These were everything from “what does sodomy consist of,” to “how does lesbian sex work?” to “Would you rather ‘pass’ in society, or force others to accept your sexual identity at all costs to yourself?”

Overall, I thought this event was a nice one. It was brave of these students to decide to talk about such a personal topic in even the small setting of a residence hall lounge. The turnout was rather limited, but 15 people for an event publicized exclusively by sheets paper with the words “Rainbow Speakers Bureau” written with marker is pretty impressive. The GLBT center can schedule the Rainbow Speakers Bureau if you contact them, just go to their website at

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Intersex in Amerika

Angela Morena thought she was going to the doctor for a routine gynecologist exam, but discovered she had been living a lie for the past 22 years. Her doctors and parents had kept secrets about her sexual identity from her through an intricate web of lies.
I recently read Ms. Morena's biographical essay, "In Amerika They Call Us Hermaphrodites", for a class on American society. In the essay, she tells her traumatic story. After a long battle for access to her own medical records, she finally learned what doctors had gone to extreme and unethical lengths to keep from her: she had been born intersex. An intersex child is defined as one born with both male and female sex organs. Angela was never told of her unique situation. At the age of 12, she was admitted for surgery and told by doctors that they needed to remove her ovaries because she was at risk for cancer. That was of course not true. Angela's doctors were removing her testes without her knowledge so that she might fit better into our societies strict gender binary.
Angela's story is not uncommon. As many as 1 in a 1,000 babies are born intersex in the United States. Traditionally, doctors believed surgery to assign a sex (usually female) should be performed as early as possible on a child. Typically it's performed with in two to three days of birth and doctors believe it to be imperative to keep the patient in the dark about their true sexual identity. Sometimes even parents are excluded from the process by which doctors assign the sex of their child.
But, thanks to outspoken people like Angela and the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA), the medical community is beginning to rethink their treatment of intersex children and explore the ethical issues premature sexual assignment surgery creates. The ISNA along with other intersex activist groups argue that intersex children should be allowed to opt for surgery at an age they can give informed consent. Genital surgery is irreversible and making the decision for themselves would allow children at the age of puberty to choose their correct gender. Often the decisions about gender made within the first three days of intersex infants' lives are incorrect. The decision is incredibly difficult to make correctly before the child can make an informed assertion of their own gender identity because often times the chromosomes and anatomy contradict each other. Ultimately, the child is the patient. A decision to perform surgery shortly after birth should not be made simply to allay fears of doctors and parents. As Thea Hillman, a board member of ISNA, noted in the TIME article, "Between The Sexes", "Doctors have simply found a medical solution to what is essentially a social problem...The problem has to do with differences and people's fear of differences."The alternative advocated by intersex groups is parental counseling to deal with the emotional difficulties of having an intersex child. They argue that through counseling and honest discourse about intersexuality both parents and intersex children would be better served.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

"Home Plate in the Orgy Room"

I attended a pre-run for a lecture by one of my favorite professors, Professor William Leap, on November 7th. Leap is the head of the anthropology department at American University and centers his research on queer communities and the claiming of gay space. The lecture I attended was a pre-run of the talk he is going to give this up coming weekend at the University of South Carolina.

The lecture was originally titled "Home Plate in the Orgy Room" but for propriety's sake he decided it might be best to title it "Professional Baseball, Urban Restructuring, and the (Changing) Language of Gay Geography in Washington DC." The new title is not nearly as interesting because it leaves out a specific aspect of what he is centering his lecture on: the building of the new Nationals Baseball Stadium on top of many queer sex clubs in the Navy Yard district, namely the Orgy Room.

The spark of his research was that there was a lack of outcry against the destruction of queer space that would be hard to relocate. Because of this reaction, Leap was interested in the way that the Washington, DC gay community (specifically gay men) claims their own "gay space." Leap is a member of this community himself and therefore had a lot of inside access to make this discovery.

Leap conducted his research in one of the most fascinating way possible: he asked men to draw a map of "their gay DC." He used the drawings created, as well as the discussion that followed from the explanations of the maps, to create his conclusions. The maps tended to define the gay culture in terms of gay consumption and visibility. There is always references to where they go to "do" or to "use the services" instead of where they go to "be." For instance, none of the participants included their homes in their maps. Leap documented Michael Christopher (51, white professional) who commented on the lack of private spaces on his map:

"It's an interesting thing, because I didn't, I didn't put any private homes. Like I didn't put your [Leap's] apartment, either. And I didn't put the apartment of a friend who has, uh, who has foreskin parties. I didn't put that... Those are private spaces and um these [as he points to the map] are all public spaces. And I don't know if there is a reason for that. I don't know if I claim my space, my apartment, as a gay space. Isn't that interesting, but I am not sure if I do." (William Leap, lecture on Nov 7th 2005)

Leap concluded that there was an incredible disconnect between the "discovery and conquer" aspect of the queer community versus the "personal." He deemed this as heroic masculine language. Leap also suggested that this might have been the repercussions of the Washington, DC history and its interaction with the gay community: i.e. McCarthy era witch hunts for queers, Don't Ask Don't Tell, bizarre policing of gay spaces, Homeland Security (the constant reminder that what is private is now also public), DC's economic decline and Mayor William's mission to uplift the economy through development of housing and business (especially in the Waterfront and Navy Yard districts).

To theorize the disconnect, Leap called upon Louis Althusser who argued that there is always common sense and regulatory power in the form of ideology. Leap spoke at length on the concept of interpellation where a subject is "hailed," and therefore deemed a subject and how there is recognition of this hail. The recognition shows the connection to the obviousness of the circumstances and can occur even without the subject being aware of how the process works. Leap then lead into Peychaux's arguments on recognition that states that a subject can recognize themselves either affirmatively to the "hail" through acceptance or can outright reject the labeling. There is also a process of disidentification where one neither accepts nor rejects due to a mixture of feelings or a positioning in a different non-binary category.

Another interesting aspect of the map analysis was that the Navy Yard was always represented either in the periphery or an area that is separate. There was rarely a connection on the map between the other areas and the Navy Yard district. For instance, in one map, it seems like the drawer was able to "superman" hop from Dupont Circle to S.E. DC, continuing to reaffirm the hero masculine language. Even when the Navy Yard was labeled, the sex clubs were not, even when they were talked about in conversation.

A question that arose related to why the Gay Bars and Sex Clubs were even located there. This area of town is predominantly poor, black and run down. Why were flamboyant gays going to this area to set up their clubs? The answer was that this area had affordable space with on-street parking near expressways allowing easy access and flow of people in and out of the area. Additionally, the Navy Yard was supposed to be developed into high rise offices, making the area potentially more valuable in the future. Also the types of business - sex clubs and bath houses - were generally not accepted in the affluent parts of town.

An interesting thing was that the maps and narratives recognized that this area was seedy, but they foregrounded the gay entertainment and erased the surrounding environment. Leap quotes Turner Hopkins (24, African American, Unemployed):

"This friend of mine lives right by the river. It's a very, very seedy area as he describes it. But he doesn't have any problems. He drives a new car, plays violin, a very classical, renaissance oriented man. I am very attracted to him. I hung out with him in his place. We had biscotti and flavored coffee. A wonderful, wonderful man." (William Leap, lecture on Nov 7th 2005)

Through his discussion the binary is set up between the dark neighborhood and the gay presence of culture: the outside is crude, the inside is refined.

Now, why doesn't the gay community not crying out against the stadium?

  • Everything that the stadium promises has already been recommended by gay business. The movement of money and business into the area and the hiring of the local community.
  • The gay property owners of the gay bars and sex clubs don't mind because it fulfills what they want: more people, different people, and more businesses in the area that would help their own businesses.
  • Gays have other options in the city for entertainment.
  • Though the loss and hard replacement of the sex clubs is evident, there is difficulty defending the "sexual risk taking" that the Navy Yard area represents. There is a sense of pre-AIDS ideology in this geography that is nowhere else.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

"Art that's polite is not much fun" -Tony Kushner

One of my classes this semester required us to read Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America: Millenium Approaches. The full title of both halves of the play is Angels in America, A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. Kushner wrote this play in the late 1980s with political intentions, one of which was to draw attention to the spread of HIV in gay population. He wanted to reach out to other gay men and help stop the spread of AIDS from his own field.

To briefly summarize, this play takes place in the mid 80s and revolves around the following characters: a gay man dying of AIDS and his boyfriend who can’t deal with it; a married Mormon man who’s gay and his wife is unstable and a pill popper; and a fictional version of Roy Cohn (a deeply closeted gay man who worked with Senator McCarthy to get the Rosenberg’s executed). The main themes of the play include, but are not limited to, the feigned ignorance from the Regan administration (embodied by Roy Cohn) and the social ostracism that went/goes with coming out in both religious communities and families. This play has many levels of meaning, and the author does not shy away from things that many people would consider not politically correct.

When my professor first taught this play almost 15 years ago, all of her students reacted very negatively. One of them went so far as to complain directly to the dean, forcing her to offer an alternative text for those who strongly objected to the material. She told us that up until just a few years ago, students were still reacting in a similar (though less drastic) manner. I was surprised to hear this, as I felt the play was an excellent piece of writing, a fascinating political and social commentary, and not offensive in nature. In fact, I would highly recommend reading it. I found it mildly reassuring to know that while equal acceptance of GLBT people has not yet been fully achieved, even the last 15 years have seen a huge difference. In my class a few people just seemed uncomfortable, but no one seemed upset.

After reading this play, I google-searched for Kushner to see what reflections I could find from him on his work. I found this article, from 1995. The conclusion I’ve come to, between class discussion and my own reading, is that Kushner wouldn’t care if he offended people. He writes for the people that are already on the left. He wants them to work together to fight against right wing politics and policies. My favorite thing he said in the interview above was “Art that’s polite is not much fun.”

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Book Signing: "Female Chauvinist Pigs"

I went to the signing of Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy at Politics and Prose. The book itself was a facinating concept. Levy argues that the popularization of 'raunch culture' is seen by the masses as an empowerment of female sexuality; however, in reality, the commodification and sexualization of women, by women, is actually objectification and a reiteration of women being second class citizens. Additionally, the raunch culture objectifies lesbianism, using it for heterosexuality.

However, you can read the book, it's fantastic! What was interesting to me was the commentary by people attending the lecture.

There was one woman there who, for lack of a better term, was a bigot. She had obviously come to this extremely liberal talk thinking that the actual purpose of it was to teach parents how to prevent their children from entering into the raunch culture. Everyone knew from the first second that she opened her mouth that there was going to be a problem.

A main tenant of the belief that raunch is empowering to women is that women want to "be like men, " and that they see men empowering themselves through the objectification of sex and women and therefore they join the bandwagon. Where the entire room saw that the obvious answer to this dilemma was feminism, and the understanding that we cannot empower ourselves by objectifying ourselves, this woman had a different take on the issue. She said that women are biologically made the way they are and they need to act according to their biology. She argued that women need to fit into their role. She went on a tangent at this point talking about the "normalcy" of the biological role. I quote: "women and men are made to biologically fit together. That is the only way it should be."
I was fuming. What about the intersexed, the transsexual, the lesbians, the gays... how can you say that they are biologically determined to play a specific role? And secondly, what does this have to do with raunch culture? Being myself, I had to get up at the mic and say that there are multiple shades of gender and that nobody is required biologically to fit into a specific role. Also, I decided to go back to the main argument in saying that the raunch culture actually reinforces the gender binary, making women the "other" in comparison to "man." Additionally, this raunch is reinforcing the split between heterosexuals and homosexuals due to its false play with lesbianism.

Many other people took the stand, taking jabs at both the issue and the woman. Eventually the woman decided she had to have the last word (surprise, surprise). She got up and starting going on and on about how there is a misconception about the way it used to be (i.e. in the 1950s). She basically idolized the '50s it seemed, thinking that there was no problem with the way women and men were treated back them. This time she actually did connect back to the issue, though not till the very end, saying that: "All of this raunch culture has done awful things to the murder rate. There didn't used to be so many abortions. There didn't used to be so many babies born out of wedlock!" She then starting pulling statistics out of her arse, but I couldn't hear them because of the tremendous uproar. People started standing up and shaking fists. One man stood up and bellowed: "There weren't as many babies out of wedlock because we FORCED the women to marry if they got pregnant!!!!!" Others screamed that she was utterly wrong. I don't know, I haven't seen statistics on this; however I think she was completely skewed.

Either way, Ariel Levy did something surprising and I love her for it: "Ma'am, I think you should sit down unless you want people throwing my novel at you."

Just to emphasize how much this woman offended me, on the way out, I overheard another conversation she was having:
"You know all they want to do is conquer us. I read the Koran! The entire text is telling them to conquer the world. That's all it's about!"

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

"Juchitan: Queer Paradise"

In Juchitan there is a legend of how God meant to spread homosexuals around the Americas; however, as He traveled over Mexico, the journey became tedious and harsh and he broke his back, spilling the rest of the queers in Juchitan.

I recently attended a public screening of Juchitan: Queer Paradise. This movie chronicles the queer visibility in Juchitan, Mexico. In this city, there is a very strong localized and native culture. The city has, of course, been affected by globalization; however, the local morals and ideas remain intact due to conscious rejection of the English language and global hegemony. As a part of this local culture, women retain a high position in society. Women control local business and economy, while men do the farming. There is also a high percent of acceptance for sexual deviance.

Muxe (mU-she) is the word used to describe homosexuals. This word is slang for "woman" or "weak," yet seems to not hold any derogatory connotations. There is an abundance of respect for homosexuals in this area. They are allowed to express themselves freely, and even receive high positions in the local society. As one man was quoted: "What makes gays different is that they work harder than we do. They work as both men and women. They are forward thinking." The respect extends not only to the people, but even to their sexual acts: "If you've never done a fag you're not a complete man."

However, despite this respect and tolerance, there is not 100% acceptance. Heterosexuality is preferred, especially by parents (even among gay parents). The concept of gays needing to work harder, and life being harder also applies here. Though there is a lot of respect for these hardships, such as the man quoted above, nobody actually seems to want to extend these hardships onto their own young. Many parents, especially of transgendered and transsexual "male children, often make attempts at an early age to reinforce "manliness."

Even in the acceptance sexual deviance, there is not necessarily an acceptance in the multiplicity of gender. Muxe are seen as "half man and half woman." The conflict for homosexuals, thus lies not in "coming out" but in the contradiction that comes from gender expectations and religion. Muxe are still confined to the definitions of "man" and "woman," being forced to choose one role or the other and are in constant conflict with the Catholic expectations of morality.

At the end of the movie, I was left with a few questions:

  1. Are there actually more homosexuals in Juchitan than other places, or is there more visibility due to a higher level acceptance?
    Visibility is a key issue to queer studies. Just because something is not seen does not mean that it is not there. The whole concept of "coming out" irks me for this reason. In Juchitan, coming out is not the issue, it is the tensions between gender identities and how this interacts with their religious views and sense of community. Because of this, they are more visible as "recognizable queers," yet their strife is different. In other areas, most of the conflict remains in "coming out" and "passing." For that reason, people who are passing as heterosexuals to avoid conflict do not have the same sense of visibility as the queer population in Juchitan, but that is because of a different sense of conflict
  2. Is the community really accepting the people, as they really are, or accepting their actions?
    The inability to recognize the multiplicity of homosexuality and gender identity indicates a disconnect between acceptance of identity and actions. The external display of gayness is accepted (this also relates to what I said above about the conflict being differently located then the general idea of coming out). However, once identified as queer, and their sexuality is accepted, their strife to have a personal gender is contested daily. They are forced to either maintain a female role, or a male. Because of this, the notion of monogamy is working for queers in Juchitan (though it was noted that this is true for heterosexuals as well. As a gay professor, Eli commented: "marriage is far more depraved than prostitution"). The role playing is constantly conflicted, leading people to be in constant conflict.
  3. Does globalization bring about the concept of the "global gay" and human rights? Or does it really bring about a globalized homophobia?
    The fact that Juchitan is consciously rejecting global culture, and their acceptance of homosexual presence is higher due to the integration of homosexuality and local culture, leads me to the conclusion that globalization is not carrying basic human rights. Instead, I see it spreading global phobias, such as homophobia. This is exemplified in the fact that the poorer areas of Juchitan are more accepting than the more globalized rich elite of the community. The wealthy are more affected by the notion of heteronormativity, which plays a greater part in global culture than this specific local culture.

February 28, 2003


65 min.

Patricio Henriquez

Macumba Inc. International

Robert Cornellier, Patricio Henriquez, Raymonde Provencher

Patricio Henriquez

Monday, September 26, 2005

Poem of Transgression

I recently ran across a blog that had an ode to transgression. In this ode are listed many forms of transgression with the hope of appealing to people’s sentimentalities and including everyone within these acts of transgressions. The list also equates all of the transgressions as being equal in sociological disturbance; something rarely seen and a pleasant surprise.

According to John McGowan in Postmodernism and Its Critics, "The philosophical tradition, at least from Plato on, has always favored the same;" thus, to be different, especially in relation to the deeply embedded social notion of gender, is to be horrid. There is a lot of social pressure to be at peace with your gender, mostly meaning that you have to come to terms with society and what they view as your gender. Riki Wilchins makes this point well in Queer Theory, Gender Theory, “If people can’t tell if you’re a boy or a girl, they feel uncomfortable and/or angry, and you feel humiliated and embarrassed." The linguistic devices keeping differential genders as a socially unacceptable reality also keep people from confronting them. "It's hard to rally people to a cause with which they're embarrassed to be associated" (Riki Wilchins, p. 26).

This ode speaks out to that:

I am the guy who came out to the entire school in his senior speech and got a standing ovation for his courage.

I am the girl who kisses her girlfriend on the sidewalk and laughs at those who glare.

We are the couple who planned and studied and got a damn good lawyer and BEAT the state that wanted to take our child away.

We are the ones who took martial arts classes and carry pepper spray and are just too dangerous to gay bash.

I am the transgender person who uses the bathroom that suits me, and demands that any complaining staff explain their complaint to my face in front of the entire restaurant -- and shares with my other trans friends which restaurants don't raise a stink.

I am the mother who told her lesbian daughter to invite her girlfriend over for dinner.

I am the father who punished his son for calling you a fag.

I am the preacher who told my congregation that love, not hate, is the definition of a true follower of God.

I am the girl who did not learn the meaning of "homosexual" until high school but never thought to question why two men might be kissing.

I am the woman who argues (quite loudly and vehemently) with the bigots who insist that you do not have the right to marry or raise children.

We are the high school class who agrees, unanimously, along with our teacher, that love should be all that matters.

If you agree, repost this. Do it. You don't have to be afraid. You can handle it. You're stronger than you think.

I am making a difference. Hate will not win

Friday, September 23, 2005

Fitting In to Pee

When most people got to go, they just go. They run to the bathrooms and either turn right or left into their respective restrooms. Pretty simple. Quite hassle free.

What about the TransGENeration (intersex, transgender, transsexual, gender queer); which bathroom do they go into? For these people, going to the bathroom can be a potentially traumatizing experience. People who don't fit into the culturally recognized gender binary are simply attacked due to their intrusion into purely feminine and purely masculine spaces.

This conflict does not only present them with the issue at hand: rude stares, derogatory comments, security personnel, and forceful removal from restrooms. The actions of others present an even more complicated dialectical situation: to follow the legal definition of their gender by going into a restroom that complements society's judgment of their genitals, chromosomes, and/or hormones; or should they follow their personal definition of gender, entering into either a masculine or feminine restroom depending on which caters best to their particular needs?

Though both seem to be plausible solutions, neither rectifies the problem. TransGender people, excluding some transsexuals, do not always deem themselves one "normal" gender or the other. For some, they experience a mixing of the two, placing themselves in a sort of gray area. Others can't even compare their internalizations of gender to one category or the other, and feel as though they are a completely other gender category.

For this reason, the TransGENeration truly requires and deserves to have access to non-sexualized lavatory. A simple single-room bathroom, such as a handicap restroom, can offer a safe and non-denominational space to conduct their business.

The problem is that there is not always access to spaces such as this. At American University, in the Ward building located on the northern side of campus, there are no general use bathrooms. This building is one of the most heavily trafficked buildings on campus, offering large classroom spaces on the terrace and a multitude of modern and high-quality classrooms on the upper levels, making it a central location to academic life at American University. This centrality makes it even more necessary for a safe restroom environment. However, fulfilling the legal requirements of the District, AU needed to convert all of its single-room lavatories into feminine spaces in order to achieve the mandated proportion of male to female restrooms.

This ordinance has thus changed a building layout with potential gender ambiguous spaces into a fully gendered area. Hmm… reinforcement of the gender binary, what a surprise?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Gender. It's in immutable fact of life. Or is it?

As Third Wave Feminism and Postmodernism is building its place in society, the realization that gender and sex might simply be a social construct, something created for humans, by humans, and integrated into culture. Gender is the first question that we ask when a baby is born - "is it a boy or girl?" Why is it that important to us?

This page is going to:
  • Deal with issues surrounding gender and its close companions, sex and sexuality.
  • Interact with recent mainstream (and underground) news relating to gender issues.
  • Construct arguements about the very nature of gender, using current theory as well as history as a guide.