Monday, May 25, 2009

On Secret Admirers

I have a new follower...

His alias is Will Truman Esq...a smart choice for a variety of reasons
1) It plays with one of the first mainstream shows about the "Gays" - Will and Grace - which I will not critique at the moment for its desexualization of the gay male nor its lack of racial, ethnic, and class diversity NOT to mention its lack of the lesbian figure.
2) Will is a lawyer so he is relatively smart, nice looking, and therefore I would be rather smitten to have a similar individual admiring me for such an individual could push me to think in different ways and therefore perhaps write in different ways.

On this last note, unfortunately this Will Truman does not live up to that assumption for "he" only critiques my writing style from an anonymous position. I know not what he looks like, not what he does, nor his interests beyond my dad and showing me that I am not that smart. He does not ask me or show me different ways to think...only belittles a complex writing style and "big words" perhaps showing his own inadequacies as a reader. Perhaps, "Just Jack" would have been a better alias since his image fits moreso with the image he provides or has provided thus far...a funny, pedantic man who only provides humor (which is admirable itself for I appreciate the laugh this provided me)

But, that is perhaps a bit harsh for it is impressive that this admirer has gone to great lengths to be able to comment on my blog...creating a blog for himself where his interests as previously noted center around me - my "dad (not mom because I'm (Will) is gay" and "showing Adam that he is not as smart as he thinks he is". He has in these great lengths provided me a good laugh, but also created a sense of lack as I want more...I want an adversary who can provide more than the simple childhood complaint of "big words".

As I contemplate this development, I realize that perhaps this individual in fact admires me and in good elementary school fashion, has decided to "metaphorically kick" me so not to reveal his admiration. He has lambasted my writing style, said I am too complicated in my writing structure all in an attempt to show that I am not as smart as I think I am...He has done this under an alias perhaps to create a mystery as if such a mystery goes without being "de-mystified" I will be shown to not be as smart as I think I am for I cannot figure out who this admirer is.


He has done this to be able to "talk" to be on my "level" and engage in the random shit I decide to write on. He has taken so much time in creating a "blog" account centered on me to show me that he exists and wants to be a part of my life, if only in the cyber world. He has constructed me as one that has a overinflated ego, one that thinks I am "too smart" perhaps in order to stroke my ego even further...he has, in his admiration, decided to stroke my ego, inflate it further, by saying he needs to deflate it.

I appreciate the ego stroke and your mystery Will Truman. Its unfortunate that your attempt to deflate my ego has just boosted it further. But that's the downfall of trying to take someone down anonymously and putting so much time into it...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

That's so Gay...No, homo

I entitled this entry merging two phrases used rather often by students (and teachers) in the halls of schools but in the attempts to create "safe schools" are phrases policed. I find these phrases rather comical and may myself use them, ironically, everyonce in awhile. I find them comical recognizing that they are also problematic. However, when merged are they still problematic OR in merging them do they, curiously or perhaps queeriously, do something different? Of course, the answer is probably both and thensome...but I want to write about the merging doing "something different"

"That's so gay" is shut down or argued to be shut down, silenced, when uttered because it associates "gay" with "stupid". I say "that's so gay" when I should just say "that's stupid" because gay is not or should not be synonomous with stupid. Of course, I would argue that who says the phrase and when alters that if it is uttered with irony or parody, it illuminates the idiotic nature of the phrase.

"No homo" is similarly shut down or argued to be shut down, silenced because it, in a sense, "shames" the homo by positioning "acts" as either "ok" or not and the one's that would "not" be ok are the "homo" ones. I can make my act "ok" by adding an addendum to the act by uttering "no homo".

Both phrases then position "gay" or "homo" as bad, shameful, illegitimate, etc. However, when merged as I merge them in my title, they are altered. How you ask? Well, by adding the addendum "no, homo" to "that's so gay" the "gay" becomes disassociated from "homosexual" and instead becomes simply "stupid". The gay in "that's so gay" can no longer operate the same when "no homo" is added to it since the "no homo" requires a different reading....and a reading that makes it not about "homosexuality".

Of course, this is inevitably much more complicated and the history of both of these phrases - sexually and racially - in need of being further explored. But for now...I think "that's so, homo"

Monday, May 18, 2009

Writing on Walls: Facebook and Childhood Fantasy

I have always loved writing on people's walls on facebook…well not always, but you know what I mean. I think it is funny...but as I thought about it I couldn't but think about how Facebook was inevitably allowing me to do what I had been banned from doing as a child. I was able to write on the wall. Now there are advanced technologies for younger generations where there is a special paint that parent's can buy or special markers that parents can but allowing for their children to write on walls, but when I was growing up there was no such thing. Writing on walls was not allowed because it took hard work or another paint job to remove.

But now, in this world where the "real" and the "cyber" become less distinct, I can't but wonder if that wall that I write on and read is where childhood fantasies come alive, where I can finally write on the walls anything I want to...Is Facebook and its wall all about reliving the things we were stopped from doing as children? I thought so, but then I thought perhaps not
I can write on walls now but it is still sanitized. I am still disciplined from what I write for the wall owner can delete what I say along with the Facebook police deleting what I write because it was "reported". I also don't want to write anything too incriminating because someone else might see it and shit might just hit the fan. Yet, while I can write on walls, I cannot or am not supposed to write on my own wall. It is still uncool to write on one's own wall...perhaps because it is bad to deface one's own property not someone else's since well, you would have to clean up the mess if it was your own wall?

Yet, as Facebook has “evolved” or some might say “devolved” this has changed for we can now comment on our own wall…BUT, that comment is not literally on our own wall, it is on the cyber-wall constructed by an other on our “pages” wall. We comment on their wall posting on our wall…making the walls rather precarious for whose wall is whose and when? We still are not supposed to “write” on our own walls. We can write “what’s on our mind” but we cannot “write on our own wall” which one sees if one looks at one’s own profile and then an “others”. I can write on your wall…but I can only write what’s on my mind…not on my wall…

Perhaps after all this…we are still unable to fulfill our childhood fantasies…as we can only ever write on someone else’s wall, never fully capable of transgressing the taboo of writing on the walls of one’s own…our fantasies still barred from surfacing to “reality”?

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Humanizing Effect of Animals or the Animalizing Effects of Humans?

It was an animal themed day. I watched Oprah for the first time in years and had the (un)fortunate experience of watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Oprah was focused on animals, not as simply cuddly and cute creatures but as companions both to humans and to other species. X-Men too was about animals and the struggle between species - human and mutant. In both of these texts, the relationships between human and "other" was rather apparent yet to some extent very different. Oprah's guests, human and animal, illustrated the important relationship between species with one guest noting the emotional reactions and realities of his best friend - a grizzley bear. Animals in this instance are not merely pets...but they are companions capable of interacting on an inter-species level. This is of course not new...humans and animals have been interacting for perhaps all of time, with the advent of domestication altering these relationships to some extent. Yet, what is "new" is perhaps the change from animals as pets to animals as companions. Donna Haraway, feminist philosopher, has most poignantly explored this in her recently published book When Species Meet.

But, my interest is not in re-iterating Haraway - I've but read pieces of this work - and her thoughts underlie this exploration. My interest is in thinking about these two texts and what they perhaps allow us or perhaps just me to think about. X-Men Origins: Wolverine made numerous references to the Logan needing to let out the "animal" (Wolverine) for it is the animal as constructed in the film, that is irrational, blood thristy, without a moral code. The animal in this was not a companion to the human, rather its enemy. The animal side is something that must be fought against and "tamed". This dehumanizing of Logan to become a "killing machine" (animal) is not only seen in films though...but in "real" life whereby prisoners or criminals are called "animals" after they have committed heinous crimes. This of course makes "sense" as framing criminals as "animals" allows for them to be dehumanized - it allows for these humans to become un-human for what they have done and as such be ungreivable...placed in a cell, violated by the state apparatus, and in some instances put to death.

To the second text...Oprah, with the help of Glenn Close, showed a new program called puppies behind bars where inmates train service dogs for returning veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury. The inmates discussed how the puppies allowed them to love again, to experience love again since many of their lives were not filled with love, but rather violence. In this curious coupling of dogs (literal animals) with criminals (figural animals), both species found companions - companions that cared for and loved one another in the ways they knew possible. The animal and human merged whereby both species were transformed by one another and transformed one another...

One might argue at first look that the dogs humanized the inmates but that would make the animals "human" or capable of bringing out the "human" in "animals" or the "non-human"...This makes the line between what is human and what is animal rather blurred for while we might "humanize" animals (both literally through "domestication" and figuratively in literature/fairy tales) they simultaneously "humanize" us (i.e. make us "feel" seemingly "human" things). But "humanize" seems problematic since it is a one-way road to "becoming" human and I do not want to make animals human for doing so would deny their difference - creating sameness and would be rather "human-centric". It also would maintain the privlege of the "human" whereby the "animal" is always the Other, the instinctual, non-human other which allows for "us" to violate animals through abuse (i.e. dog fighting) or entertainment (i.e. circuses). What then is an alternative? Can we get out of humanism? When we critically analyze the relationships humans have with other species seeing them not as simply relationships of domination, but of companionship, do we find a path to create space where the human becomes unstable, unable to define itself against the animal AND the animal becomes unstable, unable to be used to define the human? Does this challenge how we engage the issue of when animals attack humans which often positions the animal as something dispensible, a risk to the human...when it is inevitably the human that is a risk for animals? This is of course tricky...navigating the terrain of interspecies meeting as companions would ask us to challenge our fundamental assumptions about being human, being animal, being humane...

I am not sure how to go about such navigation...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Re-Reading Clothe Wounds

I am currently re-reading Kathryn Bond Stockton's Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame: Where Black Meets Queer. In the text, Stockton is exploring the intersections between black and queer - melding queer studies and black studies through literary texts (i.e. Genet, Morrison, Feinberg). In the first chapter of the text, she examines the notion of clothing, in a sense, as a "second skin". This move is rather intriguing as often, when people compare the state of race and the state of sexuality, the argument is made that one cannot hide their skin color, whereas one can hide their sexuality because it is not worn like skin color. Stockton however argues that perhaps if we examine the notion of clothing, we will see a fascinating intersection - what she terms "switchpoints" - of blackness and queerness. She examines this proposition by examining various texts in which the queer body is understood/defined in part by the clothe that covers the body and how that clothe exposes psychic clothe wounds (Feinberg's butch/femmes, Genet's Querelle).

For instance, Stockton utilizes Feinberg's Stone Butch Blues to illustrate how clothing in the queer community has been something utilized by the homophobic community to ostracize and violate the queer body. Yes, it could be argued that queers could change their clothes and save themselves from assault, but by having to assimilate and change their clothing, these queers are violated - forced to assimilate into a world that has strict clothing restrictions based on gendered norms - restrictions that assault their selves on a psychic level. Of course, as one further explores this, it is perhaps problematic as the clothing of Stockton's examples are "white" bodies, neglecting how queers of color relate to clothe wounds and how clothing operates in different ways in different contexts - relating to class, race, religion, etc.

However, as I re-read this fascinating exposition on psychic cloth wounds, I thought about my own experiences as a (closeted) "gay" youth and as a (out) "gay" young adult, along with my interests in queer theory in education. Clothes are a powerful symbol, a symbol that can illustrate one's economic class, one's fetish for labels, one's desires, etc. But clothes are also raced, gendered, and sexed - as already alluded to. There are social stigmas and stereotypes associated with what we wear everyday. As a youth growing up in the rural Midwest, I tended to wear clothes that labeled me as a "preppy" boy, but also to some a "fag." I spent years, and at times even today, questioning my wardrobe and what it means to wear any particular outfit. How does our clothing, our second skin, portray us to those whose gaze we enter? What does that mean for that gaze when it is the gaze of students? Does it "out" us without having to make a speech act? Does it open us up to violence? Ostracism? Humiliation? Does it allow for the clothed body to play with "identity" and mess with how the gaze of the other can be troubled, confused, questioning "who" is behind the clothes...perhaps eventually realizing there is no "being" behind the clothes...but a "doing", deeds of wearing clothes that create a text of a body to be read?

As I study queer theory more though, these questions become more salient to me, but not from a position of fear, but from a position of performance. How do my clothes perform my "identities" and how do such performances 1) reaffirm the wounds of yesteryear when my second skin caused pain and suffering and 2) overcome those wounds to accept the "shame" that is associated with my second skin, making the psychic wounds livable or making reparations?

But, I cannot think about this solely from an individual perspective because their are queer bodies that do not have the same privileges and opportunities that I have had. The majority of my so called psychic clothe wounds occurred during elementary and high school. Therefore, how do we think about these wounds at the level of education? Do we institute uniforms so everyone conforms, so no psychic wounds because of clothing occurs? Or would "censoring" clothing preference create another psychic wound in which students are not allowed to express their performed identities? What statuses are "privileged" in school uniforms? Are they inherently heteronormative, white, middle class creations? Why do we grant clothing such power in detailing our identities and is our "second skin" that easy to hide in order to hide our sexuality, our queerness? What is the intersection of blackness and queerness in terms of the skin(s) we where? Is an argument against queerness as an oppressed category misinformed by the argument that it can be hidden...when for some, such hiding is nearly impossible and perhaps even deadly?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fatty, Fatso, Fatass: On Fatness

I enjoy fat kids. In the summer when at the park or beach when all the kids are out playing...I revel in the fat kids...the fat ones that have their shirts off and are in their jiggly splendor but not ashamed of their beautiful fat bodies. I often want to go up to them and jiggle their fatness and tell them no matter what...their fat bodies are always run with their shirts off...and never be ashamed.

Why do I revel in the fat kids? Partially perhaps because I once was a fat kid...but one who was not told that fat was beautiful...but rather told to cover it up. Yet, I grew up and while no longer a "fat" kid, a part of me will always be "fat". In being "fat", I often find myself concerned about the constant discussions about childhood obesity. My concern however is not that kids are obese (although that is a valid concern) but how in focusing on obesity - say in education - it is possible that fat kids are further stigmatized, for it is the fat kid that I would argue is often the legitimate target of abuse. It is no longer acceptable to make fun of the gay kids or the "special ed" kids...but we can still make fun of the fat kid. Now, this making fun may not be blatant name calling, although I imagine it happens often, but rather this making fun comes often in the form of education as we educate that to be healthy one should be "thin"...meaning if one looks down and sees that one is not is not is unhealthy. This occurs beyond education as several airlines charge fatties for an extra seat if they are too large. Some herald this as a good move...yet isn't such a move rather regressive, a bit that because of your appearance and "width" we can treat you you "fat" by making you pay up to take up two seats? Yes, I have set next to a fat person and yes I have been annoyed...yet, I would prefer not to further stigmatize a person for their fatness...yes, they may be able to do something about it, but then again they might not. Yes, they may be an extra burden on health care...but so are a bunch of other people with different issues.

So, while I recognize that obesity is a problem from a "health" or "medical" perspective...I wonder how in privileging those discourses or frames of living if we simultaneously delegitimate those bodies that we seek to make "thin" or a "healthy" size? Perhaps then this is the tension between prevention and on one side we seek to "prevent" future kids from becoming obese...but in doing so are unable to care for those who ARE obese...finding it, in a sense, ok to "beat up" the fat kid, to make them less than all in the name of health, all in the name of the Child so that the Child will see tomorrow, never realizing that tomorrow is always a day away - as Little Orphan Annie maintains.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell: A Queer Perspective

There has been recent criticism and outrage about the lack of support the Obama administration has given to the "gays" and the issues impacting GLBT lives. Since his election, several states have gone all progressive and legalized same-sex marriage - including my home state of Iowa and the Matthew Shepard Act has made immense gains with possible passage in sight. There has also been movement in anti-discrimination rights in employment if my memory serves me correctly. Within this, a few weeks or perhaps months back it was made blatant that the military's DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL (DADT) policy would remain on the books for awhile longer because there are bigger things that the administration needs to worry about.

When I first heard this, I kinda giggled to myself, in part because it would seem to be rather simple to repeal the policy since it seems to lack much support and also because Obama was heralded as the candidate for change and highly liked by the GLBT community (a dangerous generaliation I know). Yet, now a couple of weeks later as I think about this further...I hope bigger things continue to be needed to be worried about in relation to repealing this act. I say this because I think this act provides for an "out" for people who do not seek or want to be in the military. By this I can "come out" to "get out" of the military or to refuse to be an explicit part of the military industrial complex. In doing this, one does not have to "be" just has to come out and then perhaps later go back into the straight closet once out. Now, of couse some might see this as unpatriotic, as using "gay" as an excuse not to do one's duty. However, what is one's duty? Is it to be apart of that "military industrial complex" as numerous social/cultural/political theorists call it? Is it to take orders and spread freedom in the name of freedom under the auspices of something that is really not "freedom"?

I don't know...but I think DADT in being a rather queer piece of legislation that rests on rather strange logic...perhaps even homophobic actually a piece of legislation that allows perhaps just momentarily to get "out" of the complex...a rather straight complex...that seeks in many ways to colonize others in the name of democracy. I wonder then if we embrace DADT in its homophobic logic if we are able to imagine a different purpose for the law...a purpose that is not (entirely) to discriminate against homosexual persons (or more so acts) but to allow those tired of being a part of a military machine - that often rhetorically works to be seen as spreading freedom, of "doing good" but has also historically violated the lives of the Other who is unintelligible to the machine - a way out, a way to subvert the complex.

Is then the drive by GLBT Rights groups to repeal DADT a rather short-sighted drive that is structured by the heteronormativity of the military and government? Does the drive for a repeal seek for "us" (gays) to be like "them" (straights) so that we can show we are as "manly" or "womanly" or "strong" or "proud" to be a patriot? What if one does not seek to be a patriot under such conceptualizations of patriotism? What if one wants a way fighting for DADT a way to do provide a space for those not interested in the military or perhaps disillusioned by the recent wars to move beyond the military industrial complex? Could it be argued that we could fight to make "them" (straights) become like "us" (gays) as we struggle to not fight, to not be a part of the military industrial complex - in part because we are not allowed to? Would such a fight further allow one to see a deconstruction of the "gay/straight" dichotomy since some "gays" want to be a part of the machine and some "straights" vehemently oppose such a machine? Is DADT a queer piece of legislation because it possibly allows "queers" (straight and gay) to put on a despised identity or "acts" to subvert the dominant notions of patriotism? of military service?