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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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Sex Ed Not Intended for Adolescents with Physical Disabilities?

10 May

There are already numerous problems with sex ed in schools: abstinence-only, heteronormative, penis-centered, etc, but what about adolescents who don’t even receive sex ed because of their ability? When discussing asexuality, one of the main themes that comes up is disability and asexuality, specifically assuming that people with disabilities are asexual and either can’t find anyone who would be interested in them or simply do not have sexual desires. Recognizing that there are people with disabilities who are also asexual, these general assumptions are completely invalid and unfair to those who actually are sexual, especially when it comes to learning about safer sex practices and techniques.

Two articles I found look at this issue of completely disregarding adolescents with physical disabilities in these conversations and academic programs focused on safer sex practices. Both articles, “The sexual behavior of physically disabled adolescents,” by Maart and Jelsma and “Should issues of sexuality and HIV and AIDS be a rehabilitation concern? The voices of young South Africans with physical disabilities,” by Wazakili, Mpofu, and Devlieger, look at how adolescents with disabilities are often deprived from learning about safer sex measures and their risk for contracting HIV. Maart and Jelsma’s study examines risky sexual behavior in adolescents by comparing sexual behavior of adolescents with physical disabilities to those without and work to disprove claims that adolescents with disabilities are not at risk for HIV infection, which is a common misconception around the world. Stemming from this misconception, Wazakili et al. interview adolescents with disabilities about their rehabilitation process and specifically, how sex education was missing; even further, these adolescents admitted to knowing about HIV and AIDS issues, but not being influenced to take preventative measures against contracting HIV infection.

Again, this issue of people with disabilities being deems asexual comes up; this recurring problem needs to be addressed, especially with rehabilitation, in order to educate people to combat HIV infection and other STI’s and unwanted complications associated with unprotected sex.

Sources: Maart and Jelsma.The sexual behavior of physically disabled adolescents, Disability and Rehabilitation (2010); 32(6): 438-443
Wazakili, Mpofu, and Devlieger. Should issues of sexuality and HIV and AIDS be a rehabilitation concern? The voices of young South Africans with physical disabilities (2009), Disability and Rehabilitation, 31 (1): 32-41

Photo credit to 
Post by Kelsey Nelson
9 May

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”

Dan Savage on the Existence of Bisexuality

3 May

I stumbled across this video the other day and I find it intriguing. I’m a fan of Dan Savage, a longtime reader of his column and books and a devotee of his Seattle newspaper The Stranger. That said, I’ve recently come into contact with some criticism of his views as being informed by his privilege as a white, affluent male who lives in the city and grew up in the suburbs. Despite this, however, I greatly appreciate his honest and frank opinions and also the rationality with which he always explains himself. These qualities are especially apparent in this video in which he discusses the topic of bisexuality in a rather controversial way.

Much of the resentment from the bisexual community towards both the general population as well as the gay and lesbian population revolves around a common misconception of their identity as a phase. Savage makes a good point when he says “it is for many people a phase as a chosen identity.” It was for him, it was for me. Is there a place in queer studies for a discussion of bisexuality as a transitional identity? Is it possible to acknowledge this without neglecting the concerns and needs of bisexuals like Kelsey who stand firm in their identity?

Also, I hope y’all enjoy the Tony Perkins bit at the end – it sure brightened my day.

Posted by: Anthony.

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”

Last Stop on the Train to Gay Town?

28 Apr

The following is an introduction to a set of conversations about Bisexuality and Asexuality, featuring GWS 642 members and friends.

This is the first installment of a video blog discussion series and our first time using this medium to discuss academic endeavors. The awkwardness of the set up and conversation is intentional. We took no measure to hide our own inexperience with asexuality and bisexuality as points of discussion. Our project aims to explore the exclusion of these identities from mainstream discourse. The erasure of these identities leads to our lack of familiarity with these topics.


A Rambling on Asexuality

18 Apr

Asexuality is generally defined as a lack of sexual attraction. Like Miss E & Caity Stardust mentioned in part 1 of their video blog, this definition is overly simplified.

I think that in LGBTQ Studies, we’re pretty used to making distinctions between desire, behavior and identity. In discussions about asexuality, it’s often broken-down even further and distinctions are made between sexual attraction, romantic attraction, and other aspects of attraction/sexuality that are often conflated. There’s something I really like about breaking it down like that.
Obviously no group is ever entirely heterogeneous, but there’s something I really like about the idea that asexuality, defined by a “lack” of something, is so, so extremely diverse. And to say something is “lacking” carries a negative connotation, and considering the many ways of being asexual, it seems strange to say something is lacking because there’s really a lot going on.
I know we’ve mentioned AVEN a few times on our blog, and I just discovered is that AVEN has it’s own Wiki. I’m sure other people might’ve discovered this already, but for anyone who is curious like I am, I’d recommend just looking around at AVENwiki. I read about a lot of different terms and aspects of asexuality which caused my “whoaaa I never thought about it like that before” moment to snowball, including “squishes” and demisexuality. Sooo check it out!
Posted by: Rachel