LGBT1 – Midterm Exam

CJ Trowbridge

LGBT1

2018-10-23

LGBT1 Midterm Exam

  1. 1.

What is the problem of the gender binary? The sexual orientation binary? Explain how these binaries are both repressive and constructive. (What does it mean for power to be repressive and constructive too? Apply this to both gender identity and sexual orientation.)

 

The gender binary is a social construct which does not reflect reality. This fact creates tension for people who do not fit into the contrived metaphor of a gender binary as imposed and constructed by those in power. One of the most common reasons a person may not fit into one of the binary genders is biology. There are dozens of biological conditions under the umbrella of intersex which place a person outside the gender binary. This leads to repression towards the person by the people around them and the people in power in local culture; the intersex person is often forced into one of the binary options which does not reflect the reality of the person. Sometimes this involves surgical gender assignment of infants or children, all at the behest of the people in power who impose cultural constructs about gender on the child and parents.

Another common reason a person may not fit the gender binary is because they recognize it as a social construct and do not accept it as a valid structure to define themselves within. Rejecting imposed structures is a fundamental quality of humanity. We want to break out. We want to be free. We construct and define ourselves outside the rules and norms which we are given by people in power. For many people, including genderqueer, transgender, and other groups, rejecting imposed ideas of gender becomes a fundamental part of their identity. The flawed social construct of the binary is often the first thing to be rejected during this process of self-construction.

Many transgender people feel that they were born in the wrong physiological sex; a belief that is corroborated by brain structure analyses and other means. These people may decide that their true identity lies across the binary, or that it lies outside the binary. No matter what the reason is that a person may reject their place within the binary, they all hold in common the truth that the binary is a socially constructed and fundamentally invalid perspective with which to approach reality.

The sexual orientation binary is another social construct which does not reflect reality. It is the result of myths and misinformation about sexual orientation which have percolated through our post-dark-age culture to form a stew of superstitious nonsense which many people attempt to use as a lens through which to view the world. It is convenient for them to use simple concepts to describe other people. This is a major factor in the categorization and labeling of people into sexual orientation groups by those in power. The problem is that it does not reflect reality. Early sexual research showed that there is a bell curve on the spectrum between homosexual and heterosexual, with most people falling in between rather than at one end. The idea of categorizing all people at one end or the other is repressive nonsense. This fallacious concept has led to criticism and repression of people who experience both types of attraction as “undecided” or “outside the norms.”

Another problem is the fact of asexual people, who experience no sexual attraction whatsoever. These people are clearly not in one of the two categories demanded by the socially constructed idea of a sexual orientation binary.

The sexual orientation binary has another overarching problem; its intransigence or immutability. Once a person has a sexual orientation label, they are likely to conform to that label rather than exploring outside it. This intransigence is imposed by people in power through the construction of these permanent labels which themselves do not reflect the truth of all people.

 

  1. 2.

Explain the tensions between the following groups in one paragraph each: a) LGB and T, b) Traditional Trans Narrative and Genderqueer, c) LGBT vs. Queer.

 

Tension exists between Lesbigays and Transgender people on epistemological, cultural, and historical levels. Epistemologically, Lesbigays generally see themselves as part of a valid gender binary and a valid sexual orientation binary. The Bi- (binary) prefix is right there in the middle of the word “Les-bi-gay.” Transgender people fundamentally reject all or some of these ideas. Culturally, Transgender people have a history all their own. The history of their culture and movement largely took its own direction without the support or aid of the Lesbigays and their movements. The converse is true as well. Lesbigays had their own historical culture and movement which largely excluded Transgender people.

The traditional trans narrative includes an eponymous etymological acceptance of the gender binary. Trans means to cross over. Crossing over between genders implies acceptance of the gender binary. It’s in the meaning of the word “Transgender” and inescapable within that context. Genderqueer people reject the gender binary. They may change from the presentation and role norms of the gender assigned to them at birth, but they reject the idea that there are two sets of presentation and role norms to choose from. They freely accept and reject ideas throughout both sets, and outside either set. This fundamental difference between the two groups creates tension.

LGBT people categorize themselves within a small number of socially constructed identities which accept both the gender and orientation binaries to some degree. Queer people reject all of this. They reject both the binaries and the categories. Queer people see each of these labels as carrying with them systems of oppression which can simply be shrugged off by refusing to play the game of adhering to labels and categories. Their attitude and response to the question of their identity is a simple, “fuck you.” Naturally, this creates tensions between LGBT people and Queer people. Some common conflicts include hate crimes legislation, gay marriage, and gay adoption laws. LGBT people see these as necessary laws to impose equal rights for LGBT people on an unwilling Cis-Het majority electorate. Queer people see these laws as excluding anyone not named in them. The Queer solution would be to remove all government interference with marriage, adoption, etc based on any discriminatory factor, not just for gay people.

LGBT1 – Sister Outsider Quiz

Audre Lorde critically approaches each of her three main intersections. She sees each of these movements as umbrellas which focus unfairly on privileged members to the exclusion of marginalized intersections, perpetuating those other forms of oppression. She approaches Lesbians as a Black Woman. She approaches the Women’s Movement as a Black Lesbian. She approaches Black people as a Lesbian Woman. In “Man Child,” she comments, “Raising Black children — female and male — in the mouth of a racist, sexist, suicidal dragon is perilous and chancy.”(a, pp81) This description of America shows how she considers it at odds with each of her intersectional aspects; as a black person struggling to justify her right to exist, as a woman struggling to justify her right to exist, and as a lesbian struggling to justify her right to exist.

Many other writers take the side of the movement associated with their first adjective. (ie. Black Lesbian Woman vs Lesbian Black Woman vs Woman Lesbian Black.) Lorde does the opposite. Her perspective is to critique each movement from the perspective of the others. In An Open Letter to Mary Daly, Lorde criticizes feminism from the perspective of a Black Lesbian, “Mary has made a conscious decision to narrow her scope and to deal only with the ecology of western european women.”(b, pp75)

 

Lorde’s critique of Mary Daly shows that Mary ignores marginalized groups within the feminist movement and suggests she include examples from these groups in her publications. For example, she writes, “Then, to realize that the only quotations from Black women’s words were the ones you used to introduce your chapter on African genital mutilation made me question why you needed to use them at all.”(a pp76) Lorde goes on to question whether Daly has even read the work of black women beyond skimming it for quotes to copy and paste in order to confirm her preexisting conclusions.

The simplest suggestion Lorde has for Daly is that she live up to her own values and respond to the many criticisms leveled in the open letter, “I would like not to destroy you in my consciousness, not to have to. So as a sister Hag, I ask you to speak to my perceptions.“ (b pp78) Silence on the part of the privileged is an act of oppression, especially silence with regard to oppression. An ally uses privilege to empower and support the oppressed and to interrupt the cycle of oppression. Lorde’s simple suggestion is that Daly demonstrate the principles she espouses to, and offers support and voice for the oppressed intersections under the umbrella of feminism.

“Str8 4 trans ONLY” [Draft]

Sublimation Is The New Reaction-Formation For Homophobia

Freud argued that all neurotic or psychologically atypical behavior is caused by dissonance. He defined dissonance as when the person one is, is different from the person one feels one should be. He argued that this causes what he called repression; the dissonance is pushed into the unconscious mind, where it is expressed through several defense mechanisms.

One famous example is homophobia; the fear of being homosexual. People who are homophobic are afraid that they are homosexual, and this fear is pushed into the unconscious mind where it manifests through what Freud called reaction formation. The person acts like the opposite of what they fear they really are. In the case of homophobia, the person typically behaves in a hypermasculine way. They try to prove to themselves and others that they are not homosexual through hypermasculinity which often includes misogyny and hypervigilant fear and hate of people with atypical sexuality and gender identity.

There is a very interesting thing happening in our culture today. It’s not new, but it’s more visible than ever and seems to be growing.

Freud argued for another defense mechanism called displacement or sublimation. This is when a person acts on their subconscious fear by using a substitute object and an elaborate excuse or metaphor to explain their behavior in order to make it more acceptable to themselves and to others. This allows them to behave according to their subconscious desires while still officially identifying as the opposite.

In recent years, there has been a huge surge in personal ads, gay dating apps, and in gay culture at large of people who identify as straight and are looking only for transgender people. Scrolling through Grindr at present, I can see dozens of nearby examples. I believe this is a clear example of displacement/sublimation. These people do not outwardly identify as homosexual, but want to act on those subconscious urges. Joining a gay sex app and then adding an all-caps headline to their profile that they are looking for trans people only allows them to dip a toe into their true selves while still identifying as the opposite.

Being a straight guy means being attracted to women. So if a straight guy approaches a trans man, then they are calling that person a woman. This is a very abusive behavior, deliberately misgendering the trans person. If the straight guy approaches a trans woman, this alone is not inherently abusive.

This is probably a very cathartic experience for people who are homophobic, but it is an expression of mental unhealth. It is an expression and extension of a deep problem which is not being addressed and is likely to escalate until actually dealt with.

There is also a long history of “gay panic” where a homophobic person is doing something like this and suddenly has a crisis of identity and decides to injure or murder the other person involved to prove they are not homosexual. This effect can be exacerbated by Post-coital Tristesse where some people feel intense sadness and guilt after sex, leading to unusually intense reactions against their partners. Venus Xtravaganza is a famous example. She was a transgender sex worker who described numerous instances of this happening to her in the documentary Paris is Burning, and she was eventually murdered by a John.

There is also the fact that self-identified straight men have the highest undiagnosed HIV and STI rates of any group, and the poorest attention to sexual health.

There are many examples of ways this phenomena can negatively impact transgender people as well as homophobic people, but it is also possible to imagine scenarios where both groups are empowered and enabled to find that palliative catharsis in the experience.

I interviewed an expert in human trafficking and sexual violence who said that most self-identified males define good sex as sex that ends in them having an orgasm and vice versa for bad sex. This expert also said that most self-identified females define good sex as sex that doesn’t hurt or doesn’t involve physical violence, and vice versa for bad; with neither party making any mention of the female-identified party achieving the orgasm which is assumed for the male-identified party.

There is a clear line between healthy sexual encounters and abusive encounters, and there are many behaviors and actions which are good indicators of future violence and abuse. Power and control dynamics and any physical violence are both excellent indicators of future abuse and violence.

In the words of atheist Elizabeth Gilbert, “[Saint Anthony] said, in his solitude, he sometimes encountered devils who looked like angels, and other times he found angels who looked like devils. When asked how he could tell the difference, the saint said that you can only tell which is which by the way you feel after the creature has left your company.”

Sacramento Pride 2018

I was very proud this year to march with Sacramento’s Bolt Bar, a gay alternative bar which is a big participant in the leather and fetish communities in the Northern California area. The Bolt also hosts an annual Mr Leather competition whose winner goes on to International Mr Leather.

I carried the Trans pride flag. This is an important and underserved group in the gay community. I am proud to do my part to support them as an ally..

 

The truck that followed behind us as we marched towed a trailer containing a puppy mosh pit! Photo credit to my friend Professor Scott Kirchner. It was very funny to see many dogs in the crowd reacting to the puppy mosh pit as though they were real dogs. I am still looking for photos or videos of those hilarious reactions. :]