End.

Since the initial statement post, September 24, I have brought up issues that affect the queer community, this is a collective reflection and a closing statement of all these posts. The topics, as I see them, are stand-alone pieces, but are unified an underlying theme, that of the concerns and societal issues that affect non-cis-heterosexual individuals. They were not meant to be exhaustive, instead their intent was to raise some questions in a limited area of queer politics. The scope of this blog limited itself to questions regarding American queer life and did not into account a more international approach. This blog has been illuminating, at least for me. It has made me more aware not only of the queer history I am a part of, but also of the contemporary struggles and lack of access certain bodies deal with.

 

Initially, in my head I was thinking of writing about issues that affected me. But this had to be rearranged since I have noticed, due to multiple causes and effects, I have not experienced the blatant discrimination directed towards my sexuality and gender expression that certain members of society, that I have talked about in some of my posts, live through. Writing this project, I have observed the sheltered sphere I have surrounded myself with. Ranging from friends, family, and the news I consumed, plus the location of where I live, most of the post I have written about have had some degree of distance from my actual reality. So, every week I had to keep extending the scope of issues I would write about, since I believed they could potentially affect me, yet I have not encountered them overtly.

 

Regardless of my personal experience, the exploration of these posts was concerning, alarming, and personally thought provoking. Since I started writing these blogs, I have had conversations with friends and acquaintances that are more directly affected by the current oppressive system of governing and beliefs. I have come to see these topics in a new light. For example, Trans issues have been a piece of journalistic information I consume often, yet it was not until I started writing and reading interviews about Laverne Cox that I realized the issue was that prominent. As I have come to see the transition of the blog and my writing, I have traversed from the micro-world of my experience to the national level of queer candidates in this past midterm election. As I have written queer representation in government is increasing, and that is uplifting, but there is an ominous potential threat that seems to be growing stronger as well.

 

Since this blog was a requirement for a class, and such class mandated the use of other media elements in the posts, themselves, I have observed how the content and the elements inside have changed as well. It has been my observation that since I started writing these posts I have transitioned into a different tone, a tone of concern. By that I mean, in the initial posts I would use humor and gifs to fulfill the media component that was required. Since, I have transitioned into a more ‘further reading’ kind of writing, since the topics were (at least more self-realized) serious.

 

I enjoyed exploring the themes I talked about on the previous posts, and I wish I could have re-written them and wrote encyclopedia entries for all of them. I enjoyed bringing these topics into an audience that may particularly not digest queer news, unless it was a news piece regarding criminal acts and major policy. If there is anything I would want from people reading me, reading the titles of my post at least, is to be more aware of others’ issues, not your own, to be wider in the news one consumes, be kind.

 

Further reading:

 

For more books relation to queer history and issues see:  https://bookriot.com/2018/06/01/books-about-lgbtq-history/

 

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Thinking About Access

This past year I lived in the Netherlands and while talking to an Irish friend, I heard about the atrocities that some queer kids go throughout the world, specifically regarding access to mental health, and the blatant institutional discrimination that occurs every day. That conversation inspired this week’s blog. It made me think of how access (to certain rights, services, needs) is limited by the society one lives in.

My friend was in a college seminar about queer politics that brought people from all over the world. The seminar aimed at drafting new policies that would encapsulate the changing world, the different participants were encouraged to tell their experiences. I forget the specific country where this practice was done ( sorry, if I remember I will update this post later), but I was shocked by what I heard. Mainly because of the fact of being 2018, but also a biased and privileged view that I had. Sometimes we forget how, generally, our American lives are far far far “better” than other parts of the world, our institutions are definitely flawed but our reality is relatively better. I was shocked by hearing that in certain specific countries where homosexuality is punishable by death, psychologist can report queer people to the authorities. To my surprise, my Irish friend told me how the individual she heard this story from was also one of the people in charge for creating a system of safety lists where doctors and psychologist that reported queer people would be mentioned. That way, queer people in need of mental health counseling could access these services without the risk of dying.

This story saddened and reminded me of American history, more specifically to the struggle of the Gays Liberation movement of the 70s, and the AidS crisis in the 80s. Perhaps some of the struggles these past generations have fought for don’t feel as relevant to today’s generation of young queers, but their fight is not over, and it is up to us to take a stand against the oppressive institutions that make access to basic things difficult. Access to institutions, to services, rights and other basic benefits of society have not always been given to certain groups. This is an intuitive historical fact, think of any minority group in the United States. But, since the time of the civil rights movement there has been a positive transition towards a more just society, yet still today, the LBGTQ+ community lacks adequate access to protections under the law. The issue is complex and interrelated with many other causes and effects.  But, the problem is most poignant when you read statistics, like trans youth suicide rate (41.8%, see www.hrc.org). Or even the AIDS crisis, how the American government has failed and still fails to fund research to stop the epidemic

These horrible trends are not always as visible as other injustices, such as hate crimes based on religion, race, or socio-economic class. LGBTQ+ issues tend to be more inconspicuous because not every queer kid has the privilege of living in an urban setting with an accepting community, or access to mental health services that can provide support. For many queer youth living in rural areas, or in extremely conservative communities, being queer is still seen as amoral, or perverse, or unnatural.

The solution is not an easy one. Change must happen, not only through government policy but also through mass opinion. In our pluralistic society, it is important to respect other’s choices, but perhaps more importantly one has to recognize one’s own privilege. The question of access to health care, financial security, stable housing, education is not only a concern for LGBTQ+ folks, it is a major concern for a lot of groups. But, my argument here is that it is disproportionately ignorant of queer folks.

How then do we create change? I am not expert, but I believe educating ourselves about these disparities is a good start, then consequently it is important to ACT UP.

 

If you or someone you know may be at risk of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you’re a young LGBTQ person and need to talk to someone, call The Trevor Project’s 24-hour crisis hotline for youth at 1-866-488-7386. If you are a transgender person of any age, call the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860.

Further reading:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/08/14/laverne-cox-lambastes-deadnaming-what-is-it-and-why-is-it-a-problem/?utm_term=.cb605042e81b

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/news/2017/05/02/429529/widespread-discrimination-continues-shape-lgbt-peoples-lives-subtle-significant-ways/

 

 

 

Statistics that Matter

The 2020 United States Census is two years away, and you should be worried for multiple reasons, not only if you are member of the LGBTQ+ community, but also immigrants, in general any minority.

The current White House administration has recently mentioned how they plan to establish a citizenship question in the 2020 census, this type of question has not been in the questionnaire since the ‘separate but equal’ times of the 1950s. Although the implementation of new questions seems to be an easy task for Republicans, I wonder why hasn’t there been a question about LGBTQ+ representation. In the other hand, some members of the LGBTQ+ community fear that a sexual orientation or gender identity question could be used to further target the community, but there are rules that protect people that fill out the census. That being the 72-year rule, the records are only made public with individual information 72 years after the census takes place.

Every census has had controversy, miscalculation, fictitious numbers, and other occurrences. For example, the 1970 census has been estimated to have omitted 6.5 percent of the black population at the national level, as opposed to the white population with 2.2 percentage omittance. In 2010, Jaime Grant, then director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force thought of “queering the census”, that is he asked members of the community to stick a pink sticker to their mailed applications with the intention they would be counted, they were never counted. Ever since, actors like Laverne Cox have asked for the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ in the census, beyond a question of acceptance and equal rights, it is also a financial one.

Representation matters, at all levels. But, at the statistical plane it is what allows governments to direct funds towards certain initiatives, programs, and/or services that affect groups of people. It actually allocates over $400 billion in federal funds every year. The census is also the political tool that politicians used when they manipulate the boundaries of their constituencies, this is also known as ‘Gerrymandering”. The subject is a complicated one, but the apparent solution seems to the most logical one, yet often when left leaning politicians appear to pass any law that attempts to amend this wrong it is strongly taken down based on the 1st amendment’s freedom of religion section.

This upcoming census seems to be a heated one. Now since the Democrats have taken over the house of representatives, we shall see how the statistical policies of the census change. Although these past few years have been challenging for many members outside of white-Christian-right groups, with laws like rescinding trans rights in public education, the refusal to recognize LBGTQ+ members, I am still hopeful with a considerable and unprecedented number of queer representatives and allies in congress from the previous midterm election. Yet, there are a whole set of problems that are still prevalent. This upcoming census will be mostly through the internet, and we could question, is our online technology secure enough? Remember the Russian meddling with the 2016 election.

kim kardashian GIF

Further reading,

https://www.them.us/story/the-most-urgent-queer-political-battles-to-fight-in-2018

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/07/census-2020-russia-citizenship/566384/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/daily/aug98/census30.htm

https://mic.com/articles/126013/laverne-cox-calls-for-transgender-people-to-be-counted-differently-in-census-reporting#.F03o8JUYa

A Follow-Up, Firsts-Firsts-Firsts!

This is a continuation of last week’s post, and how voting affected the queer community. The past midterm election had lots of firsts, positive and needed results. The candidates chosen, represent a closer picture of the real (sexual, religious, gender, etc.) diversity in the United States. It was a win for women, minority ethnic groups, Muslims, Native Americans, and of course the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, +other spectrums of sexuality and gender) representation in Congress.

  • Here are some of the LGBTQIA+ wins:                                                                                    Angie Craig (Minnesota): First lesbian mother in congress.                                                Chris Pappas (New Hampshire): First openly gay congressperson from the state.    Jared Polis (Colorado): First openly gay man elected governor.
    Sharice Davids (Kansas): Identifies as lesbian, Native American.
  • Not elected candidates, but still revolutionary:                                                            Christine Hallquist (Vermont): First transgender nominee to governor from a major political party (Dems).

These wins represent the needs and rising concerns of minority groups that are oppressed by the current reality. Under the present rhetoric, groups that are Christian-white-straight become the normal in most rural parts of the country. Typically, major cities like NYC, San Francisco, and other urban centers tend to lean left in the political scale, an apparent cause might be the high interchange of people coming in and out of these cities, and a high rate of diversity. Although urban centers are bastions of progress, the crude reality is that rural US (Here I mean any average town/city with lesser developed urban landscapes; this excludes major cities like NYC, Chicago, LA, Miami, etc.) makes the majority of Red party voters in these districts. This has major effect in who makes legislation in congress. These groups, mostly, oppose basic rights for Trans peoples, gay adoption rights, and threats to marriage equality.

             People protesting the Trump administration’s policies toward gender and gay rights in New York last year. Credit- Yana Paskova for The New York Times

Examples of this can be seen with Trump’s recent attempts to redefine ‘gender’ under federal law, and have it be determined by the ‘sex’ of someone at birth (NY Times Article). This is not only problematic from the simple point of view that ‘Sex’ and ‘gender’ are not the same thing, and this administration and many right groups seem to be confusing these two terms. This is where the new elected officials directly help in the fight with possible new discriminatory policy.

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[An aside:  let’s take a minute to talk about what some people confuse, if you know this you may skip it] “Y tho”, to bigoted ideas of ‘sex’ and ‘gender’, these terms are simple, but lots of people either misinterpret them or combine them. ‘Sex’ refers to a biological socially constructed category, that can be complicated to dissect, that is, there is a spectrum of ‘Sex’ categories and identities (but that’s another topic). ‘Gender’, following J. Butler’s understanding of the term, is a performative construction of identity, that is your personal identification in relation to how you express your body, and this is affected by a society’s understanding of what ‘gender’ ought to be, i.e. the binary of male-female. I encourage you to deconstruct your gender and identify as a body, very liberating.

[Now Back TO The Previous Topic]

During this election the democrats took over the House of Representatives, this means that they can block legislation from the Republican party, subpoena Trump (ask for tax returns, start an impeachment process, continue the Russia probe investigation, among other things).The current political reality is of partisan politics, Democrats versus Republicans, two opposing views to the same issue—abortion, marriage equality, education, gun control, etc.  That is why the new wave of elected officials bring a perspective of the oppressed groups that they, themselves, belong to.

This refreshing change has been needed for a while now, and it is evidence that society is progressing. We don’t know how these new elected officials will change legislation, but it is reassuring to know that people that share the same life experience (oppression) can attain such a high government position. It is an inspiration for future generations, for kids growing up. Even if these individuals happen to not create an actual policy change, just the fact that they have opened the doors, broken that imaginary attainment barrier, is encouraging enough, at least for me.

 

 

On Voting Responsibility and Regressing

November 6, we vote, on this day midterm elections will be held. This specific election is not only important because we should always exercise our civic duty, but it is a necessary one because through this we can elect officials that will represent the rights and protections we need currently.

 

Ranging from abortion to bathroom policy to health-care, the current state of the US is a divisive one. A rising a threat is the far-right religious community, who although being a religious minority holds unproportionate representation in the political sphere. This group is a concerning threat because of something that other groups seem to not do very well, they are very well organized. The queer community is a multi-faith one, ranging from Atheist to “idk any believer with any (un, or) organized religion”. Groups like the Christian Right pose a threat to the ‘progress’ thus far to the community for obvious reasons, divergence from heterosexuality is still seen as amoral and unnatural to many people.

 

Among the policies that this groups approves is for the elimination of the policy of “separation between church and state”, based on an argument of religious freedom. To anyone familiar with the Hulu show, Handmaids Tale, this should be particularly similarly eerie and concerning.

 

Why should you be concerned? Well, if you are a heterosexual fine, this may not be of much concern, but what about if you believe in a faith that goes against something that does not align with the Christian right, should then you be shot? Well, that is along the lines of what Washington state Rep. Matt Shea wrote in a manifesto, according to Vice News. Comments like this are very problematic for many reasons, if religious freedom is one of the main arguments for discriminatory policies, what about difference, what about pluralism, what holds their views better to society? Another problematic event that has happened recently was Mike Pence’s attendance to the Values Voters’ Summit, a Christian right congregation. No sitting president, or high-member official has ever attended one, or less mentioned that he is “ First and foremost, a Christian, a conservative, a republican, and in that order” (see link for full speech).

 

Why is voting important? Well, because by exercising this this we can prevent the regression of our (queer) community to previous decades. I think I have mentioned this before, but to reemphasize the term “homosexual” is a construct of the 19th century, and has been used to pathologize, that is to categorize, divergent sexualities, modes of expression, etc. Homosexuality/queerness existed before this construction and will continue (even if dystopia occurs and we are forced to wear red/blue/gray/green potato-sack uniforms), with or without the acceptance of the Christian right. History has proven that ignoring these communities creates more issues than solutions, seen with the AIDs crisis in the 80s, military policies like “Don’t ask don’t tell”, to contemporary times toilet policy. It is a shame that contemporary American politics is majorly divided between Democrats and Republicans, and recent events have driven the Republican party to be the one associated with the Christian right that runs the risk of turning society back to misogynistic biblical times. And, besides voting for a third party, which has its own issues, all we can do is vote blue because it counteracts the conservative politics that could be harmful to our community. I don’t know the solution, but vote for the candidate that offers a solution where faith and sexuality are not the main focus.

 

 

Pls Vote! If you have questions go to this website!

Expectations, Idealizations, and the Imaginary

 

The time around Halloween always raises interesting and cringe-worthy costumes that not only offend certain groups of people, but it also creates questions about identity politics, heritage, and censorship. This week I will talk about the expectations that come with being a gay man and dressing up, the different standards of beauty, and how this is created, contested and reinforced, specifically in the gay man community, not a general exploration about other identities.

 

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Halloween, as most know, is not only an American holiday, people from all over the world partake in dressing up as different personas, but the phenomenon can be seen most popularly in the US. It has been my experience that every time around this pseudo-holiday I am at a loss about what to be. My costumes have ranged from a vampire (8th grade) to a ‘negligent mother’ (last year, also pictured here). The decision process is not always fun and quick, plenty of mental energy goes into the creation of the idea. When choosing one I am always trying to portray a character that is the most light-hearted one and makes me feel comfortable, but also carries some humor. This level of comfort is always challenged by larger structures of cultural influence, specifically the overly masculinized, fit, porn-like [gay] men who decide to show their bodies and enforce a standard of beauty onto the rest of us.

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Source: Instagram @drinksforgayz

The history and social evolution of gay self-presentation is a long one, to not bore you with the details let’s say that throughout the years, with the rising level of acceptance by mainstream society, gay man have been out more frequently in more risqué attires. This is not to say that they should all dress differently, or to put a puritan set of moral ideas on them, but to show how this group of man (a minority) affect the majority of gay men that do not follow or believe in that specific standard of beauty. And, Halloween is not a reason or cause for this idealization of gay beauty, it is a symptom of the bias towards specific bodies and this can be seen across many other platforms, such as dating apps, advertising media, and other outlets.

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Apps like Grindr and Tinder have had similar ad campaigns that promote the dismantling of this pervasive view. Programs like ‘Kindr’, created by ‘Grindr, was a set of video campaigns that tackled the bias of certain gay men to exclude and to negatively talk about certain groups of gay men as less desirable. There’s a long history of the use of “No fat, no fems, no Asians”, and it can be seen in the form of the profile bio of many on the internet.

 

This time of year can be a lighthearted one for many, but to individuals with not the healthiest view of themselves it can be a challenging time.  The solution is not too clear, but one should try to be more conscious of the way one represents others. This pseud0-holiday should be a time of fun and a needed break from certain modes of dressing, but one should always attempt to not wear certain outfits that are a part of a culture, or a delicate subject, i.e. cultural dress, religious apparel, or other things. I think good costumes represent fictional characters that do not engage with bigger issues that deal with race, class, and other intersectionalities. For example, this year I was Andy Warhol for one weekend, and plan to be Freddie Mercury for the next, but this is not limited to this, a friend of mine was a toilet, great harm free idea!

 

An Idea:

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A Break f(r)om Mental Health

Not everything is always ok, sometimes things are really hard, and everything turns to shit. Recently that’s how my life events have gone from one onto the next. Every week has been very demanding physically, mentally, and economically. Out of these three areas of concerns, I would say mental health is the most important, the two others follow from it, without a sound-stable mental equilibrium one cannot perform other things as efficient as one would want.

It has been proven that queer people are at a 3x or higher risk of mental health issues. The individual person’s issues are one factor, but the lead contributing cause is society’s bias and expectations of what LGBTQ+ bodies should be/do. On top of that, the resources to treat queer bodies are not accessible. Societal pressures on coming out, political rights, representation and other things are internalized by many young and old queers and it takes a toll. The stigma of not being ‘normal’ till this day affects not only the queer community, but many others too. One of the solutions to fight the stigma is communication, but sometimes this is not enough and exterior help is needed. This week I reached out to CAPS, which stands for Rutgers Counseling, Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program & Psychiatric Services, and I it has been unsatisfactory.

I have been to CAPS before when I was a sophomore, two years ago, to ask about resources to treat social anxiety. This time I went because an overall dissatisfaction with the things around me, and a recent breakup. My expectations were not high, yet this place still managed to fail me. I have experienced and heard of CAPS’ inability to help students with a long history of mental health issues, or serious ones. I have heard, if the issue cannot be resolved within 10 weeks CAPS is not useful, this is problematic and irresponsible.

This Wednesday early morning, I went for a consultation and to ask to get transferred to the College avenue counseling center, as opposed to the Cook/Douglass center. This means that I wasn’t expecting to be helped on this visit, but to receive some sort of assessment on my current life. Although I have read extensively psychological texts for my own knowledge, I am no psychologist, yet I don’t think the therapist calling me ‘self-destructive’ was helpful, especially when I am aware of the fact and that’s not the issue. I am too well-aware of the behaviors I act on due to the issues I am experiencing, and psychological help, at least at Rutgers has always been problematic, concerned with superfluous issues. I mean alcoholism, drug abuse, and risky sex behavior are concerns, but they are not the main conduit of my personal dissatisfaction or the main problem. Not only that, but just the demeanor of her body and flow of conversation felt suspect. And even better, I was able to get transferred to the College avenue center, but the earliest appointment was November 2nd, who knows if I will have the same issues by then. Perhaps, I ask too much out of college institutions, but I don’t think that should be the case.

A collegiate institution should have or allocate the resources to mentally help its student population. Everyone goes through some psychological struggle, or hard times, but certain groups are affected more by certain issues. The institution fails when these groups attempt to access help but are denied or postponed based on the lack of resources, this is negligent.

Besides CAPS I found this service done through the graduate Psychology department, they do ‘cognitive behavior therapy’, which I have heard some positive results. This seemed very appealing till I found out that it is administered by graduate students which is concerning because they have not received their degrees, and that scares me. And, this service does not take insurance, so it would be out of pocket.

After this week I have accepted defeat attempt to stay afloat, being queer and drowning in responsibilities, I started writing in a diary again, maybe that helps.