Blog Post 6

“In summary, when LGBT folks “make it” on television, streamed into the dominant currents within televisual flow, are they no longer quite queer, that “mainstreaming” undoing the force of disruption and negativity that makes “queerness” to begin with?”(Joyrich, 134).

Lynne Joyrich posits this question in Queer Television Studies, wondering if a queer subject can truly remain queer after fitting into the mainstream of media. To visualize this, the gay couple in the TV show Modern Family comes to mind. Though an overused example, these two truly represent the notion of the mainstream queer losing its queerness. The entire program showcases different, seemingly nontraditional family dynamics (compared to the stereotypical notion of an American nuclear family) with the intent to show that these dynamics are no longer unusual at all. The very premise of the show then, aside from the actual gay couple, is to de-queer the queer. The interracial couple, for example, defies what American culture denotes as normative for a proper family; and through the sitcom format, this show depicts that the interracial family can be “normal” too.

A possible definition of Queer, one that particularly fits with Joyrich’s article and the narrative of Modern Family, is that queer is the subversion of the ordinary. Then, if a family of two men and their adopted daughter, or a family of a white man, woman of color and her child, are depicted as normative, are they out of the ordinary at all? Can something be non-normative after it is made normative? No. It can’t. That would be hypocritical.

So then there is merit in Joyrich’s claim. No longer is the interracial couple depicted as the Other, nor is is the gay couple. Granted, the gay couple depicted in this series is two cis white men of higher socioeconomic status, so it is not that groundbreaking. Instead, this series reinforces homonormativity. These gays are normal and safe, they look a lot like the normative cishet white family, in the same way that the interracial family does. Both of these families in Modern Family only have one “difference” per family–the gay couple is not interracial, everyone in the interracial family is cis, etc. Though these families lose their queerness by becoming mainstream, they’re not very different from the preexisting norm.

 

 

 

 

 

Joyrich, L. (2014). Queer Television Studies: Currents, Flows, and (Main)streams. Cinema Journal, 53(2), 133-139.

Blog Post 5 – Hetero Epiphanies

Trigger Warning: Self Harm

There is an understanding among the depressed community, particularly on tumblr, that a depressed person is a pretty, white, straight, teen girl, who cries a lot, thinks she isn’t pretty, and will be cured of her depression and her need to be sad when a boy comes along and wants to date her. I couldn’t find an individual image to capture this notion, but combined, the two above really do capture this romanticized idea of what mental illness looks like. The first image, which states, “Depression is when you have lots of love, but no one’s taking,” connotes a very narrow cause and implication of depression. This image would have it’s viewers believe that all depression has a single and specific cause–not having anyone to “take” your love–which is simply not true. Not only does this idea gravely underestimate the causes of depression, it frames love in a rather unhealthy context: that love is something to be taken, and that people have some sort of love reservoir. The second image depicts a boy kissing the scarred wrist of someone who is presumably a girl, and holding her hand as he does so. Self harm scars in the part of the depressed community that subscribes to images like this often represent a girl’s “ugliness” and “inability to be loved”, so when an image like this shows up, it is understood with the context of some sort of victory or overcoming of the character flaw that is depression.

Robert McRuer, in the article As Good as it Gets, explains this sort of “cure” as the heterosexual epiphany: a moment in which personal “wholeness” is achieved by a man and woman being together. McRuer also adds that these epiphanies always exist in the context of able-bodiedness; that sense of wholeness and completion comes not only from heterosexuality, but from a lack of or curing of disability or “brokenness”. The heterosexual epiphany then, can be seen very clearly in the internet’s community of depressed individuals. It purports that a girl being in a relationship with a boy is not only the cure for mental illness, but also that people who have mental illnesses cannot be in relationships, and that their illness is why they are unlovable.

The most important thing to understand from this idea of depression, I think, is the immense level of internalized misogyny, ableism, and compulsory heterosexuality. To treat depression like it is a flaw of the individual–be it the person who’s love is not being taken, or the people not taking that love–is to in truth ignore the actual person that is suffering. The misogyny manifests in the way that this widespread notion of depression describes women, particularly young girls. The blatant ableism here shows itself in the idea that people cannot be loved until they are cured of their mental illnesses (especially if they have physical markers like self harm scars). The misogyny and ableism intertwine into what could almost be called a hatred for and dehumanization of young women who have depression. But, all of this is fixed of course with the love of a straight boy! (And if you’re still depressed after he tries to fix you, then you’re really just a hopeless monster.)

Blog Post 4

[Image: rainbow background with a chameleon. Text reads: “but you don’t look sick”]
[Image: rainbow background with a chameleon. Text reads: “but you don’t look sick”]

 

“Disability not visibly marked on the body” is a phrase that is so, so much better than “invisible disability”. In a sense, I would classify the phrase “invisible disability” under the realm of neoliberalism. It sounds like an effective way of pointing out that disabilities that cannot easily be seen exist, but in a way it continues to perpetuate the stigma surrounding said non-marked disabilities. One way that this stigma can manifest is in the mind of the disabled person. So often, people who do not display visible markers for their disability (or even constant visible markers) are denied validation for that disability, even if what disability they have could be lethal. This is especially true for people who are also oppressed on axis other than disability–as well as for people who have more than one disability. A personal experience I have had that demonstrates this is the several times I have been told that losing weight will cure my asthma–which is fatphobic and ableist crap.

One unfortunate consequence of having a disability that is not visibly marked on the body is the expectation to appear as able bodied as possible. People who have visibly marked disabilities suffer from this too, and I do not mean to diminish or invalidate their suffering by pointing out that sometimes, people with unmarked disabilities face worse compulsory able bodied-ness. Dominika Bednarska discusses in “Passing Last Summer” how all too often, people with disabilities are pushed well past their limits every day to appear abled or like they are somehow not affected by their disability. As such, when disabled people can appear abled (even if they are pushing themselves well past exhaustion and harm), society tells them that they can’t possibly be disabled. Because if you can “pass” as abled, obviously you are abled, and that any claims of disability are obviously fake–a concept that gets internalized too. 

This can be even worse for people who are oppressed on axis that connote laziness and unintelligence, such as fatness or certain mental illnesses. Going back to my memories of being told that weight loss would cure my asthma, people assume that laziness is why I take the elevator over the stairs–because I’m visibly marked as fat. And any asthmatic huffing and puffing is because I’m out of shape (see: fat), not at all possibly because my lungs don’t work.

In closing, I want to bring up Jen Cross’s “Surface Tensions”, an article discussing the author’s experiences with abuse and subsequent identity crises. When the author was shown and told through abuse that her femininity was the cause of suffering, she became preoccupied with proving that she was not feminine, that she wasn’t a woman. Though she could not be “seen” by others as a abuse survivor, she could be seen as queer and butch if she visibly marked her body as such. Our society imposes the same policy upon disabled people, often with “inspiration porn” (ie: “if a disabled person can do x, what’s holding you back?”) and motivational phrases like “the only disability is a bad attitude! uwu”. All too often, disabled people are seen as not really disabled, even if their bodies are physically marked as disabled. Even under the guise of ignoring disabilities and differences by saying things like “everyone is the same, everyone is human” and “let’s focus on ability, not disability!”, disability is further stigmatized and erased.

 

^^^Because disabled people aren’t actually people right haha sure okay

Blog Post 3

Dangerous things can happen when more nuanced and “different” identities are made invisible in order to gain acceptance or respect. So many equality movements have perpetuated this notion over the years; the notion that deep down, everyone is the same and individual differences don’t matter. Too many times I have seen an image of several identical skeletons in a row, each with a label like “gay”, “straight”, “white”, or “black”, or a patronizing question such as “can you tell who the gay one is?” Current equality movements purport the word Human as one that cannot possibly mean individual or different or inherently varied. And the thing is, is that this idea is an easy one to internalize. It’s easy to humanize the Other when told or made to realize that hey, they’re just like us. And that can be a powerful first step, but to end it there at deindividuation is, well, dehumanizing.

I was very struck by Liz Rosenfield’s “My Kind of Cruising” for this very reason. She discussed how anonymity in certain spaces can give way to exploring behavior that may not “fit” one’s sexual orientation, which I find to be a rather important factor of anonymity in general. However, Rosenfield took this discussion too far by suggesting that sexual orientation and gender identities should be “left at the door”, because bodies are simply bodies and that everyone should just physically mesh together. I do understand her sentiment, however it is an ideology of someone I would consider to be among the ranks of a “baby feminist”–someone just starting out who doesn’t quite know how things like intersectionality and reality work. I say this because if identities truly could be left at the door, oppressions such as homophobia, transphobia, racism, and ableism would not exist. And not only that, but to ignore identities also ignores the differences in experience faced by every single person, be those differences vast like socioeconomic status or gender, or ones not nearly as politicized such as birth order and height.

I suggest that statements like “I am not x, y, or z, I am human” actually perpetuate otherness, because it implies that we must ignore differences rather than accept and accommodate them. This, to me, is the difference between equality and justice; equality states that everyone is the same, while justice not only acknowledges but embraces differences. The former has the positions of the oppressors and the status quo in mind, while the latter serves to uplift the oppressed.

 

Blog Post 2

My aunt once told my mom, “When you’re fat, you’re invisible;” a truth that I have lived for almost all of my life. Jessica Hoffman’s article Who’s That Wavin’ That Flag? and Terre Thaemlitz’s Trans-Portation solidify this point to me by stating that to pass is not just a way to be seen as belonging to a particular group, but to pass can also mean to not be seen at all–especially when passing is more visual than mental (ie: a visibly fat body vs believing in the trans “born in the wrong body” narrative). A lot of times, to pass means to assimilate oneself into the status quo, through any number of means: such as subscribing to homonormativity, putting down other marginalized groups to make oneself look better, as well as knowing that to not pass deems oneself as morally inferior to those that do.

I bring up fatness in terms of passing because of my own experiences with passing in this sense; I had long since learned to pass as a “good fat”, before I had ever questioned my gender or sexuality. To be a “good fat”, and pass as human in a society that views fat people as subhuman, one must acknowledge that their larger size makes them a bad person, as well as that they must be constantly striving to be thinner, otherwise they are a “bad fat” and in the eyes of the most fatphobic, probably don’t deserve to live. Unfortunately, transphobia, homophobia, and general queerphobia have a similar effect on people. To be transgender and not seeking/already have medical assistance to transition means that one may not even be a “real trans.” To truly be gay, one must be striving for a single monogamous, long term partner, with the intention to settle down and act like any other “normal” couple. And to be non-straight but non-gay as well is often met with phrases like, “You have to be one or the other,” or “What else is there?” because society largely ignores identities such as bisexuality, pansexuality, and asexuality. Nikki Lee Diamond’s Behind These Mascaraed Eyes shows a real life example of how being marginalized can cause one to be perceived as subhuman; in her article, Diamond details specifically how she was constantly harassed and threatened for being openly transgender, and how only once she literally saved the life of another person, was she seen as and treated as human.

Continuing with the notion that there is something inherently wrong with those who do not or who are not trying to pass, I want to reference Priya Kandaswamy’s Innocent Victims and Brave New Laws: an article discussing the movement to support battered women and how it transformed from a movement striving to empower abuse survivors to one almost founded upon victim blaming. Through the years, as this movement gained traction, it also began to support mostly only middle class white woman who had been abused by their husbands, and while these people certainly should not be ignored, the notion of what a “real” and “innocent” victim came into play. Like fat people not dieting or trans people not transitioning, domestic abuse victims who are anything other than white middle class women are seen in our society to somehow having deserved their abuse, namely because of whatever axis they are marginalized on (ie: a latina woman “deserves” abuse by her husband because the stereotypes around latinas suggest that she may have “had it coming”, or an asexual was “asking for it” by being a “prude”). These rationalizations and justifications for not only abuse, but all oppression as well, only serve to reinforce the status quo through the processes of victim-blaming and shaming people into conformity.

When I was growing up, and still to this day, my dad has always told me to “be a chameleon,” to blend in and be normal, so that I can reach opportunities and such that I may not have access to as someone who doesn’t pass as “normal”–all at the expense of my individuality, of course. But I stand with Dean Spade and Nico Dacumos in my argument that I will not let shame bring me down, and I will continue to be all of me at once, in every space, every day.

 

^^^^Because inside every fat person is a beautiful thin person, just trying so hard to get out and be free!!! ~~ as in, the only way to pass as human and deserving of worth as a fat person is by subscribing to this narrative and striving to achieve it. And the same goes for any other marginalized group. There’s a Normal person inside their marginalized and different body, just trying to be free and normal, and if they weren’t different, then they wouldn’t be marginalized!

 

329145bc3fce485133d89134fb7f27e4

^^^^This basically sums it all up.

Blog Post 1

Literature and Media are two very diverse, very complex categories; and while one would think that the topic of Queer narrows down the field of material a bit, queer in fact further complicates the discussion. I say this because of the history of queer, and the history of the word “homosexual”–a word that, like all others, was invented. Siobhan Somerville points out this invention in the article “Scientific Racism and the Invention of the Homosexual Body”. Before the coining of the word homosexual, “gay” behavior was never seen as anything other than that: a behavior. It was still a taboo act in many cultures and societies, but was not necessarily considered a flaw of the individual until the late 1800’s, which really, is not that long ago.

As such, when homosexuality became seen as more than a behavior, so did the opinion that gayness had a biological cause, and that those who were homosexual were inherently different on the inside. At this time, homosexuality was seen to be an “inversion” of what one’s sexual role should be; that a woman who is attracted to women has the sexual role of a man. (Personally, I wonder how much of this contributed to the conflation of homosexuality and being transgender, as well as the false notion that all trans folk are both binary trans and straight.) The inversion of one’s sexual role of course, pins heterosexuality as the default, and that any variations thereupon are wrong or unnatural or even queer. This idea of homosexuality, surprisingly, culminated around the same time that the US government deemed racial segregation to be constitutional; it wasn’t just heterosexuality that was the default, but whiteness too.

Homophobia and racism both exist in and as institutions in the United States. An institution, as defined by Geoffrey M. Hodgson in the article “What are Institutions?”, is something far less tangible than one would think. An institution in this sense is a system of norms and rules that, through language and social interactions, shape, enable, and constrain behavior. And through necessity of enforcement, to defy an institution’s rules has consequences: ridicule, a range of severity in social outcast, and even death, to name a few. So then if, among other things, a person is best advised to be white and heterosexual, it follows that there are consequences to not being these things. And because of the way the notion of homosexuality is constructed, the inversion of one’s sexual role, their queerness, is visible to the outside world. In the introduction of NoBody Passes, Mattilda Sycamore expands this visible overstepping of norms into the overwhelming, inter-marginalized institution of homonormativity. This institution, borne of oppression, functions as a way to “fix” the unfixable queers. To be homonormative is to come as close as possible, as a gay person, to being a straight person. To be a “good” gay is to be in a monogamous relationship that mirrors the hetero dominant/masculine-submissive/feminine dynamic, as well as of course policing the behaviors of other gays and queers. From this Oppressive Institution of the Oppressed, comes the need of the marginalized to fit into the status quo, to not be seen as different, and to be more “normal” than normal people ever could.

 

Also, I couldn’t decide on a single image that summed this all up, so here’s a few:

^^^^^This just in, all gay cisgender people are actually transgender. And all gay transgender people aren’t actually trans at all.

 

 

^^^^Because disobeying the institution is BAD.

 

^^^^^Because there has to be some biological proof that gays are different…. right?

Intro: Hey! I’m Nik!

image

Hi everyone!

Welcome to my WGS 551 blog!

They/Them

22

Psychology major, lgbt++ minor

I have two cats, Chloe who lives with me, and Sady who lives with my dad. They are both my babies and I love them so much!

I am an angry fat activist, strongly against thin privilege. I am very interested in fatphobia’s intersections with transphobia and mental illness stigma, particularly how fatphobia directly effects one’s ability to “pass” as trans.

I often have a lot to say, with a lot of passion! (If that’s not already obvious lol)

Anyways, let’s get started! 😀