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I’M ON THIS CAMPUS/HEAR ME/SEE ME

11 May

Some amazing work sent into us from an anonymous campus street artist bringing attention to the invisibility of many underrepresented UW-Madison students. Anyone else seen these around?

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Ariel Schrag Goes to Prom

10 May

Ariel Schrag has written several comic books about her high school experiences, and her obsession with her girlfriend Sally (pictured here in real life). In the comic book both girls are figuring out if they are bisexual or what.

Biphobia in the Queer Community

9 May

This post is a response and an expansion to an article I found on a British lesbian website, whose provocative title “Why Do Lesbians Hate Bisexuals?” is way harsher than its content. The article actually works to debunk a lot of myths lesbians might have toward bisexual women, and seeks to unpack some biphobia coming from the queer lesbian community. Finally, I plan to explore some of my own internalized biphobia that led me to claim “queer” instead of “bisexual.”

“She’s not strong enough to be a dyke.”

The article is pretty clever in explaining lesbian subculture, and how queer women need that space and claim that identity in order to feel kinship and community. The bi world just doesn’t have that. Once an individual commits to a lesbian identity, she risks losing a lot (a job, her family, services and rights, getting gay-bashed on the street) and the lesbian community is there to respect that: you lose a lot, but you gain a family, who understands and supports you (in an ideal world). If you look queer enough, you might get a dyke nod from a stranger. You might get a discount on a latte from a lesbian barista. You might find community because other lesbians know you’re strong enough to be a dyke.

Bisexual women are not included in this. There is no bi-girl nod. There is no bi-girl softball team. There is no way to look bi (readers, challenge me on this). The reasoning behind this is that bi women, according to myth, do not lose much by coming out as bi. There’s not as much risk to danger or harassment. They might look straight enough not to get hassled on the street. Their parents aren’t worried. They don’t have to come out at work, and if they do, it might just come off as a charming peculiarity, or a certain open-mindedness. Being bi never comes off as a militant, political statement, like it reads for lesbians. They are still safe, with one foot in the straight world. They might date men and get married and have babies one day. Even worse, they might date you for the good sex and then leave you to marry a man, or experiment with you in order to look more world-traveled and sexually adventurous to a man. Oh, the indignation!

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The Disappearing B, Literally: The Issue with Language

8 May

Reflection: Identity, Media, Cultural Capital, Language and Its Constant Change

            I decided to look more into the emergence of the Down-Low and the debates surrounding the term. I thought it would go along very nicely with our debate over the disappearing B.  I feel like the main debate over this term, like many other terms, has to do with language. On the positive side, I liked the fact that the Down-Low identity was presented by some researchers as a way for individuals to express their identity and be understood quickly. For example, as Jake showed us online, the implications of saying “Down-Low” on your profile, how would that draw/push away viewers, would this make it easier for individuals to communicate with others with this identity? In addition to this, my research showed how the term was very common during the 1990s, which leads me to compare the use of language/terms and its interpretation at different times in our history; 1990s vs. today. How does the creation of this term in the 90s affect our interpretation/portrayal of it today? Despite the lack of focused research specifically analyzing the impact of the Down Low and the HIV epidemic, I do see the correlation between them. However, I believe the media has blown it out of proportion to negatively affect men who have sex with men.

On more negative sides, I see how the term Down-Low has become associated with crime and urban pathology, affecting a specific group in society negatively. As Gonzalez explained, “The Down-Low debate has the necessary ingredients to sell: Concealed non-normative sexualities, a subaltern genre of explosive culture (hip hop), a pandemic caused by a sexually transmitted agents, innocent victims (heterosexual women) and a population often accused of misbehavior (men of color). Based on my research, I observed that Latino and African American males and the Down-Low were used excessively to explain the increase in HIV cases in these communities. These individuals are portrayed as the SOLE reason for this increase: leaving out social issues of poverty and lack of government prevention services that have also been key to the spread of HIV as well.

Finally, the main issue I had during all of my research was the constant interchange of terms used for identification. For example, the Down-Low was associated with MSMW, yet, in my research, the term MSM was used to explain concerns with HIV. Bisexuality was used so often when analyzing individuals who identified as heterosexual and had sex secretly; identity v. action, is this okay? When critiques emerged of the absence of the term bisexuality in academia because of the Down-Low, MSM, and MSMW, I understood the point because bisexuality was used to define all the terms but never used to see how bisexuality solely affected HIV rates for example. I even found a different bisexual definition, coined “Latin Bisexuality,” should there be a difference? So much term confusion pushed me to question the issue with language we encounter and how imposing a term without concrete definition can lead to the creation/misinterpretation of identities not just by researchers, but also by the popular media. What do you all think? My brain hurts.  Here’s a brief summary of my findings!

Where did it come from, the Down-Low?

           Social repercussions due to sexual orientation has led many Latino and African American gay and bisexual men to identify as heterosexual while secretly engaging in sex with men (Brooks). The notion of keeping a “low profile” characterized Latino and Black bisexuals in United States. Bisexually identified men of various ethnicities are less connected to a gay community and less comfortable with their sexuality, have fewer family and friends who know about their sexual behavior (Brooks).  Based on my research,it seems that the label of the Down-Low emerged in African American and Latino urban communities approximately ten years ago. The connection between youth of color was consistent with linguistic assessment that placed it emerging in the early 1990s, and delineated the sexual identity and behavior of a population at a specific historical moment (Gonzalez, 27).  Although the first journalistic reports about the Down-Low included Latinos, they quickly faded from discussion and focus shifted to African Americans. The lack of participation by Latino communities and HIV awareness groups are heavily accounted for the absence of the Down-Low in relation to Latinos. (Gonzalez)

The Increase in Media Involvement

            Published articles described the Down-Low as young men unfazed by the tension between their non-normative sexualities and their otherwise conventional Black & Latino working-class male identities. The core of their secrecy was their refusal to politicize their intimacy that is, to adapt a public gay identity (Gonzalez, 26).  To many, men who said they were “on the Down-low” had sex with other men without self-identifying as gay, homosexual, or bisexual, and strived to maintain a low profile of their sexual activities or attraction to same gender patterns (Munoz, 773). On April 16, 2004, the Oprah Winfrey Show aired, A Secret World of Sex: Living on the Down Low. The show featured a married African American man who had sexual encounters with other men secretly (Dodge, 1). Few could have known the impact a single episode would have on the sexual culture in the U.S. Essence magazine expressed DL as a common interpretation of bisexuality. Jet magazine argued that their refusal to identify as “gay” prevents these men from heeding prevention methods to the gay community.  Health experts explained it was a learned lifestyle in prison, which continued after being released. In 2002, Paul Baker’s Fantabulosa: a Dictionary of Polar and Gay Slang published in London, “defines DL, as initials of Down-Low and an adjective in African American slang referring to Black men who appear heterosexual in public, but have gay sex”  (Gonzalez, 27). A concrete definition of the Down-Low was never created.

The Down-Low versus Bisexuality versus MSM versus MSMW

            To some, labels such as “men on the down low” or “DL” and the negative attention that these labels have received in the press reflect our general lack of understanding of sexualities that operate outside the traditional accepted binary between heterosexual and homosexual (Munoz, 773).  The term men who have sex with men, MSM, came into existence as an acknowledgement of the fact that there are men who engage in sexual activity with other men who still identify as heterosexual. This term, MSM, has led to absence of any recognition of bisexuality in academia, with a focus on behavior rather than sexual orientation (Dodge, 6) It is impossible for bisexual men to “not exist” and simultaneously be the driving force of disease transmission between hetero and homo.

HIV Statistics in Relation to These Identities

            Despite making up 13% of the United States population, Black women disproportionately make up 72% of all women with HIV/AIDs. The highest HIV positive group among Black men is Black MSM making up 30 – 50% of all Black male cases. In terms of HIV risks, Black MSMW are 30 times higher at risk to get HIV and 13 times higher for Black MSM.  Evidence of the Down-Low phenomenon in the HIV epidemic among African American rates is lacking while Black male bisexuality in association with HIV transmission hasn’t adequately described these behaviors and associated risks. Bisexual Black and Latino men are at significantly higher risk for HIV infection and transmission in comparison to both exclusively heterosexual and homosexual/MSM men. (Dodge)

Posted by Maria L”

Pardon the Glossolalia… Are you down with the LQP?

2 May

It’s part of our explanation of who we are: “We are academics and queer theorists. In that, we understand that sometimes we use language in a way that does not fit popular definitions or understandings.” However, if we insist that all visitors and contributors “be explicit” in the use of terms, I think it wise to attempt to come to some agreement upon what these terms mean. Therefore, realizing that we have been using words but may not have been providing that which is needed in order to critique our contributions, I have attempted to assemble a glossary that I hope will be useful for those in the capstone as well as those who are just passing through as we find our way.

This glossary should be, must be, a living document; it should in no way be misinterpreted as the all-inclusive, definitive authority on meanings or interpretations – that would be impossible. Please feel free to interrogate the concepts, clarify the ‘definitions,’ and/or refocus the connotations as you see fit. Did I miss something? Please, let me know. After all, we are all finding our way, but if you don’t know what I am saying or vice versa… we might have an issue or two as we move forward – that is, assuming we can agree on which way is forward…

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I’m Not Really Attracted To Anyone…

2 May

  I remember the first time I had the courage to ask my best friend, indirectly, if he liked anyone. Obviously that was my way of finding out his preference. I remember feeling  guilty for wanting to ask, but at the same time, wanting to know after our six year  friendship so I could be that support he needed – like he was for me – without him  having to worry about negative reactions he thought I would have. I felt like keeping his romantic life out of our relationship was not fair to him. It was tiring how obsessed people were to find out what he identified as, it started to affect me, making me become hot tempered with anyone who asked. “I’m not really attracted to anyone,” was his response. I remember questioning him more, “really? Not even someone in high school dude, come on, we’ve known each other for six years.” Yet, he insisted that he never felt an attraction to anyone. I had never heard of this or discussed this topic growing up or in any of my classes at that time. This was the first time I looked up on the internet, or any reference book, what it meant to not be attracted to anyone. 

Asexuality was the termed that popped up and until the day he came out to me as gay, I always believed he identified as asexual. Yet, when we discussed the conversation mentioned above, we came up with different conclusions. Despite it being years, I still remember his response vividly, yet for him, being a first generation Latino male student and insinuating he was asexual was his way of assuring that his identity was not outed. It was an identity he was willing to use in order to express his identity to others, and served as assurance that he would stop being questioned. He and I spoke about it for a while, he explained he did not know how to explain his lack of a female relationships to impatient family members who constantly asked him about his romantic life or as he said, “trying to find out if I’m gay.” This temporary identity he took, was viewed as less detrimental to his overall well-being because he was not acknowledging an attraction to men nor was he acknowledging an attraction to women, thus still ensuring connections were kept with his family back home if anyone were to hear about his asexual identity.

I never realized how this identity could be used in instances such as these, and how it really helped my best friend incorporate it into an identity that helped him progress/survive through his own personal experience as a first generation gay male Latino college student. I am reading more into this and seeing if I find scholarly research on it, but what do you all think? My friend did not identify as asexual yet related to the identity whenever he wanted to give that impression in order to keep himself safe; can one say that is being selfish/claiming a word that is not yours? I know it’s up to the person and how they identify as, but I am asking this in comparison to the debate of the missing “b” and what does it means to have that identity and how you value it, versus how other people perceive you to be and question those individuals they may feel aren’t really bisexual; Lady Gaga being one of them as mentioned by Kelsey. Does asexuality have the fluidity that we acknowledged existed within the bisexual identity?  

Posted by Maria L”

100% Bisexual

29 Apr

A few weeks ago on Glee, gay character Blaine questioned if he might be bisexual after kissing a girl during a drunken game of spin the bottle. At the end of the episode, they kissed again – this time sober – and Blaine declared himself “100% gay.”

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. It was a funny moment, but I want to challenge the idea of a sliding scale of queerness or a spectrum of sexualities, with gay on one end and straight on the other. These conceptions of sexual orientation erase or minimize all other sexualities, turning them into simply variations on homo- and heterosexuality.  But if bisexuality is supposedly in the middle of gay and straight, where does pansexuality fall? Or asexuality?

There is a meme, reminiscent of the Kinsey scale, which asks bisexuals to say what percentage gay and what percentage straight they are. But how does one quantify sexual and romantic attraction? Who does the quantifying? And more importantly, what is the point?

The sliding scale leads to bisexuals having to prove our queerness, as well as bisexual erasure: other people (usually gay men and lesbians) get to decide if we’re queer enough or even queer at all. Look at Lady Gaga. She is constantly called a friend or ally to the LGBT community or criticized for co-opting the LGBT rights struggle for her own fame and profit.  But Lady Gaga is bisexual.  Some people, however, have decided that the way that she expresses and discusses her sexuality has made her straight – that while she has openly and publicly identified as bisexual for quite a while, she is not quite queer enough or queer in the right way to be allowed under the queer umbrella.

Listen. My sexuality is not some combination of gay and straight. It is its own sexuality.  I experience some things that both lesbians and straight people experience, but they are viewed through the lens of my bisexual identity.  In addition I experience things that are unique to bisexuals.

I am 0% gay. I am 0% straight. I am 100% bisexual.

Posted by Kelsey Foster

“The Bizarre World of the Bisexual” – A Satirical Comedy on Stereotypes

24 Apr
Saw this satirical comedy and loved it so I thought I would share!

What I like about it specifically is that I think it does a great job of showing just how ridiculous labels can be and what is stereotypically associated with them. In addition this video clip fantastically points out myriad arguments used for discounting bisexuality…a few of my favorites that were briefly touched on are listed below:

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A Double Standard?

13 Apr

Since the beginning of our class discussion of bisexuality, I’ve been thinking a lot about how bisexuality is represented in the media and in pop culture. It seems to me that at least within pop culture, that there is a double standard surrounding bisexuality.

For example, after a history of dating men, women are often labeled “bisexual” once they have a relationship with a woman. However, men with heterosexual histories are quickly labeled closeted gay men after engaging in sexual activity with other men.

RPG Sexuality

7 Apr

Before diving into this discussion, I must out myself… as a gamer. More specifically, I’m into TBS (turn-based strategy), RTS (real-time strategy), and my all time favorites are RPGs (role-playing games). Currently, I am well on my way to confronting the Reapers and Collectors in Mass Effect 2. While I’m outing myself, I should also out myself as a bisexual, able-bodied, middle class, cisgendered, white woman. I’m not entirely the marketing demographic for video games.

My current in game dilemma: who do I want to be my love interest? This isn’t crucial to the plot of the game, for those who don’t understand an RPG. However, the way I see it, is if I’m going to spend 17+ hours escaping into a fantasy world, I better damn well be able to have a romance on my own space ship… Ok, maybe I’m taking it too far. What is more relevant, for the purposes of this post, is that I have the option of having sexual romances with female characters. Also, that I find satisfaction in flawed pop culture.

I’m limiting my discussion to two BioWare video game series I’ve had the most recent experience with: Mass Effect (2) and Dragon Age. Entertainments, from literature to rap music, are cultural products that help shape not only our views of the world but mediate replication of cultural norms. I don’t want to dwell much on the “entertainment is important” question. If you’re curious for justification on media analysis check out Judith Butler, Louis Althusser Simone De Beauvoir, Nancy Fraser, Stuart Hall, or just google “critical media studies”. So, operating under the assumption that media, like video games, is an important platform for critical analysis of American culture, let’s explore sexuality in the above-mentioned RPGs.

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