Being Discriminated for Being Supportive

When Cindy came to our class to talk about her relationship with her lesbian partner and her attempts to improve legislation in New Jersey for the LGBT community, she seemed to contain great enthusiasm for our future generation. I remember her saying, “Your generation will help pass this bill,” because she truly believed that society was beginning to think more open-mindedly about issues such as gay marriage.

Up until her presentation, I felt the same way. I have been at Montclair for three years, and over the course of this time, I have generally seen people react positively to change in New Jersey legislation. I, myself, believed that since New Jersey is a liberal state it will eventually approve of gay marriage, and from there on, improvements for the gay community are only bound to increase. However, I did not realize how much of an issue gay marriage was in New Jersey. During election time, I saw the increase in discussion about marriage equality in all my classes.

One of my jurisprudence professors dedicated an entire class to discuss this topic. During class, he asked us what we thought about the people voting on the gay rights issue in New Jersey. Having just discussed this in my LGBT Experience class, I had a confident answer about how such voting is not fair because it allows a majority to vote on a minority issue, which has not happened in the cases of race or gender. One of the students in class responded by saying, “Well, that was different. Race and gender was actually an issue.” I was taken aback by his response, and I saw my professor show discomfort with the comment, too. However, he urged us to move away from our personal beliefs, and speak on the matter strictly in terms of law and politics.

The class discussion continued, but the angered student later approached me asking me whether or not I was an avid supporter of the LGBT cause. I responded by saying, “I never thought too much of it, but after taking a class specifically on the subject, my interest on the matter has only grown.” To this, he replied, “Well, I am completely against it.” I laughed because I thought he was joking. I am not saying I have never seen homophobic attitudes in my life, but for someone to actually come out and say it, it was actually quite comical. I asked him why he would say such a thing and his reply was, “Don’t get me wrong. They can do whatever they want just not marry each other. They shouldn’t get that right.”

“So then they don’t get to do whatever they want?” I replied.

“Well, I mean I don’t get why it’s that important.”

“If it is not that important than why are you so stubborn on the issue.”

“Well. I’m part of the Newman Catholic Church…” Before he could even finish that statement, it all made sense to me. He had a religious argument against gay marriage. He continued, “Well, aren’t you Muslim. You should really not be supporting it either.”

“I’m sorry. My religion taught me to treat everyone equally,” I replied.

Silence.

“What does your religion say about the issue? Is it because of the Leviticus passage?” I continued.

“Oh no! I don’t believe that. I mean I’m all for meat and cotton blends.”

That is when I knew I could no longer communicate on an intellectual basis with this kid. The fact that he would outwardly admit to not believing a text in the Bible, yet still argue that the Bible does not want gay people to get married struck me as absolutely ridiculous. I told him that my views are open-minded and that I do not let the normative expectations of society shape my mind. Consequently, he urged me to drop by one of his church meetings, and then make up my mind.

I asked, “Is your church open to hear my side?”

He replied, “I don’t think you can change our views…”

“Then I am not interested. As a matter of fact, why don’t you drop by my class and speak to my teacher? She can provide you with some valuable insight.”

“Yea right,” he replied. “Like I want some teacher, who is clearly pro-gay marriage shoving her views down by throat?”

“Actually, you are the one who approached me to shove the church’s view down my throat, so thanks but no thanks.”

After this discussion, the student has shown extreme hostility to me in class. He attempts to argue about everything I have to say. This made me realize, if he is so angry with me for being a supporter of gay marriage, how does he react to fellow LGBT students in his other classes? He must attack them in various ways, and the thought of that simply disgusts me. This student is so open about his views, and he is not afraid to make people uncomfortable. He openly discriminates against the LGBT community as well as anyone who supports them. This made me extremely sad because all the trust Cindy showed in our generation can be at risk because of a select few individuals who are unwilling to change their views.

When people like Jeannette in Oranges face isolation from the church and women like Jess in Stone Butch Blues are victimized because of their sexual identification, we tend to view it as primitive thinking. However, that might not be the case. Church members apparently still treat homosexuals as outcasts. They are willing to stigmatize against them and even deny them of their rights. I am sure religion is not the only factor in such discrimination.  Many other groups such as Republicans in the political parties and conservatists, geographically dominating the South, also use the same ideology in discriminating against the LGBT community. Sometimes, I fear the student in my class because I am not sure of what he will say next to attack my person views, but I have learned that the best way to face this challenge is by replying in a calm, intellectual manner. If I were to back down because his views are so strong, people like Cindy will never get the rights they deserve. Instead, I have to stand up and show that my personal views are equally as strong as the church’s. By doing so, I believe that Cindy’s dream of a more open-minded American, or at least a more liberal New Jersey, can come true.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Split Between Identities

Up until chapter twelve of the novel, I kept telling myself that the femmes in Stone Butch Blues “had it easy.” At times, I was angry because the butches were getting arrested and beaten, while the femmes could escape simply because they wore women clothing and did not disturb the status quo as much as the butches did. However, once Theresa explained to Jess why they could no longer be together, I began to understand that whether a butch or a femme, the lesbian community as a whole had to face similar hardships and similar heartbreaks.

Jess’s struggle to place herself under one sex is ongoing. Even as a child, Jess never felt “like a girl,” but at the same time she was never “one of the guys” either. Being a lesbian was hard enough in the 1950s, but being a lesbian who is confused about her sex proved to be even tougher. From my point of view, I do not see Jess as being either a “female” or a “male,” but I can understand that she feels safer and more comfortable being more like a male. Even with the hormone pills, Jess can never transform herself completely, especially because of her genitalia, but it would make her feel better internally.

While the lack of work and the constant terrorization by the police clearly contributed Jess’s decision to take the pills, Theresa also becomes a primary reason for Jess’s decision. Seeing her other half feel at ease with her sex and at ease with her body, Jess starts to feel as though something is clearly missing from her life. Since early childhood, Jess denied the cultural norms of women in the 1950s. She was never comfortable wearing a dress, growing her hair out, or putting makeup on. Still, Jess felt like she was learning, and as life went on, she would understand what she truly wanted. However, things really changed for her when she saw Theresa become part of the feminist movement. In one of the conversations with Theresa, Jess says she cannot relate to the feminist liberation movement because she is a butch (Feinberg 138). This dialogue intrigued me because at that moment I realized that Jess never identified herself as a lesbian. Until now, she had always referred to herself as a butch, and when it comes to labeling herself, she will always choose this term,

The various movements taking place after the war begin to ignite fear inside of Jess. Being so detached from them, Jess finally sees that she does not have anything to fight for. As a matter of fact, Jess gives up and believes that these movements will pull the bar members into different directions (142). This fear is mainly a result of Jess not identifying herself as anything other than a butch. She cannot fight with the men because she would be “pulling the trigger” towards herself, yet she cannot fight with the women because she does not know if she ever was a woman. This complication eats at Jess until she finally makes the decision of taking the hormone pills. This choice is not easy or ideal for Jess, but it does help her maintain her sanity.

Readers continuously struggle with Jess on her journey. Meanwhile, Theresa struggles with the decision just as much as Jess. Theresa has long identified herself as being a lesbian, femme. For her, it has always been known that she likes women, yet she also wants to look like a woman. Unlike Jess, she does not challenge the stereotypes. Because of this, it becomes difficult for her to support Jess’s decision of changing her sex. This would mean that Theresa would have to give up part of her identity to be with a “man.” “If I’m not with a butch everyone just assumes I’m straight” becomes one of Theresa’s main arguments for leaving Jess (151). Unlike Jess, Theresa is comfortable being seen as a lesbian; Jess struggles just to refer to herself as one. This conflict between identities becomes the main reason between Jess and Theresa’s breakup. It is easy to blame Theresa, like I was originally doing, but readers have to look further and understand that by being with a “man,” Theresa would also be giving up her identity. Theresa has struggled just as much as Jess, and to give away her movement, as well as her identity, would leave her as depressed as Jess. Jess’s one decision exemplifies the problem with identifying people. The LGBT community is not simply gays and lesbian, it is much more.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Power Dynamics Within the Gay Community

“[The police] didn’t seem to bother the girls’ clubs much” (Hooker 7).

Lisa Ben, one of the lesbian participants in Dr. Evelyn Hooker’s story, mentions her first experience at a gay bar. In doing so, she describes a constant fear she had of being caught by the police. However, Ben also mentions that even though she was scared, she mostly felt bad for the gay men who were beaten and disrespected by the police officers. She outwardly states that the encounters involving the police and gay men were more frequent than those of the police and lesbians. This brought me back to the idea of power dynamics that Blackburn mentioned in her study about the LOFT.

In Blackburn’s article, she acknowledges that power differences exist amongst a minority group, in her case the LOFT. Even though one group of individuals were marginalized, it did not mean that they were all equally under the same social stigma. Just like differences in education and salary marked the tension between the Speaker’s Bureau and the other members of the LOFT, differences in gender visibly created a differing attitude of police men in the case of lesbians and gays.

In the case of the Speaker’s Bureau, power dynamics created a hierarchal system between the members of the LOFT, even though it might have been involuntary. In contrast, Ben’s account shows sympathy for the other side. Maybe it was because Ben was speaking from the group less marginalized that made her less hostile than the people of the LOFT, but she actually describes the experience for these gay men as horrifying. While she luckily missed police raids, she sympathized with those who were caught in them, especially gay men.

What I found questionable, however, was whether it was literally a difference of sex that caused police to treat lesbians and gays differently, or whether it was a question of how the people in this gay community expressed themselves. As Ben mentioned, she defied the stereotype of lesbian women being butch. She was as she says “a girl” and she had always been “a girl.” The only difference was she liked “girls” (6). Therefore, when Ben went to these gay bars, she dressed up in feminine attire, perhaps not visibly demonstrating her sexual orientation. This might have been the reason as to why Ben ran into fewer encounters with the police, not just because she was a lesbian. From what I have read so far from Stone Butch Blues, I am forced to think that lesbian women, or other butches, had just an equal fight with the police. The reason why Ben might have not noticed this was probably because she always presented herself as a female.

Even though I do believe that gay men were probably attacked more than lesbian women, I also believe that it might have been a difference in what type of lesbian Ben was that allowed her to flee the police raids. However, Ben’s statement still brings about the issue of how there can be an existence of a marginalized group within a marginalized group.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Internet Communities: The Rhetoric and the Danger

“For these women, online communities have provided a safe haven in which they can discuss feelings, test identities, and gather support” (Cooper 83).

                After seeing the effects of an internet LGBT community, I immediately thought back to the Stonewall Uprising. I remember one man in the documentary commenting about his nervousness when going to the gay rally in New York. He stated, “I saw the man next to me, and I said ‘Please there let me more than ten of us.” Despite the lack of communication in 1969, the gay community was still able to gather enough followers for the gay rally, but it makes modern day observers questions what would have happened if the Internet was available to these people. According to Cooper, technology, especially the internet, would have immensely influenced the Stonewall Riots of 1969.

                While the internet could spread word around quicker, I was more interested studying the composition of these females in their conversation. I noticed that in Sherry’s case, when most of the other lesbian chatters replied, they strongly used the term “we” in their rhetoric.

“…it’s how we grow”

We care and are here to support you.”

We all make choices…”

                This constant use of “we” created a sense of community in this internet chat room. It definitely “saves” Sherry because if she could not relate to these women on a personal level (which is often hard to do via internet), she might have not gained enough courage to file for a divorce or to even become a later respondent herself. Clearly, terminology plays a huge role in the forum to help unite not just lesbians, but lesbians with the same problems, together.

                These chat room conversations did not follow any kind of rigid structure. People felt free to use all caps, multiple punctuations, abbreviations, etc.

u just have to take control…”

NOTHING LASTS FOREVER…”

Thank you all so much!!!

                This freedom of expression leads these women to tear down boundaries created for them by the heteronormative community. Being able to write any way they want equates to being able to express themselves in any way they want. Hence, once the rigid structure is removed, the LGBT community can find a “safe haven.”

                Cooper’s last statement about the internet being completely “risk-free” or “open” shows ignorance on her part. Surely the internet has opened many doors for LGBT communication. It might have even helped save Shelly’s life, but the internet can also prove to be very destructive. When I was at a very low point in my life, I also sought out other women who were oppressed under my religion to see what options are out there for me. While many girls assured me that things will get better and that sometimes it is smart to break away from tradition, some extreme conservatists on the internet damned me to hell or called me a “slut.” Some went on to cite texts in the Quran that would change my mind, and prove to me that a relationship outside of religion is a sin. This type of material can cause extreme depression in the reader’s life. While I was enthusiastic about finding out that I am not the only one, I was also discouraged and steered to thinking that maybe my actions were sinful. While it might have been easy for me to push past these doubts, others might find great difficulty in ignoring hostility. When people are placed behind a computer screen, it becomes easier for them to talk, but it also becomes easier for them to attack. Therefore, it would be safer for Cooper to say that closed internet communities, or private internet forums, prove to be a safe haven for lesbian women. However, dangers of being bullied are always present, and they should not be ignored. If my case could be so widely unaccepted by some people, the amount of hate messages the LGBT community must receive via the Internet, in one day alone, is unimaginable. It would be best for Cooper to point out the benefits as well as the setback for creating an Internet community. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is De-Composition for Everyone?

“[My needlework teacher] recognized things according to expectation and environment. If you were in a particular place, you expected to see particular things” (Winterson 45).

Jeannette’s inability to conform to the school policy initially struck me as odd. I did not quite understand why someone could not separate religion from education. However, after observing my own history in school, drawing the two apart from one another proves to be extremely problematic. Mixture of these two elements takes place unwillingly.  Therefore, the needlework teacher’s deprecation of Jeannette’s artwork creates controversy. This scene in the novel reminds me one again of Mcruer’s idea of composition. It does not reflect through composition in the classroom but rather through creativity, which is clearly discouraged.

Jeannette recognizes the difference between herself and the “Brownies” early on in the novel. She says that these groups of people, who portray heteronormative concepts in their artwork, are rewarded by the faculty. In contrast, Jeannette’s work, which is queer and atypical, seems to ignite concern amongst the teachers, the parents, and other students. This disapproval leads Jeannette to ultimately revise her ideas, and start creating works that abandon religious themes. By the time this change takes place, the teachers and students have already developed preconceived notions of Jeanette’s queerness.

The censorship and the rigid structure provided in Jeanette’s school reflect in classrooms today as well. At times, this censorship is necessary. For example, last year, some students at Montclair State University decided to write, “Faggots will die on [certain date].” This exemplifies extremity in freedom of expression because it targets a certain group of people negatively. In this sense, the school’s strict observance of what students write or say becomes necessary. However, suppose a student were to write an essay, explaining how his/her religion disapproves of certain elements visible in the classroom. Are the teachers allowed to stop such discourse? After all, if a person is nonviolently expressing his/her beliefs, can a teacher interfere with these thoughts?

Before I read Mcruer’s article along with Oranges, I was tempted to say that classrooms should restrict certain religious comments made in class. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, such expression can lead to discomfort in the classroom, and a classroom should be a safe environment. However, after reading the two texts, I have become perplexed on the situation. Similar to homosexuality, religious beliefs constitute expression of oneself. How can the school curriculum draw a line between expression and over-expression? If the schools encourage the gay community to openly express their views in class, will they not have to do so for every other group on campus? While in support of the prior scenario, I am unsure of my support for the latter case, causing discrepancies in my own opinion about composition and de-composition in the classroom.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Religious Fear of Homosexuality

Chapter one of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit foreshadows Jeanette’s impending homosexuality. Readers are left with unanswered questions at the end of the chapter. Is the gypsy’s prediction correct? Will Alison attend school? Will her mother become more liberal after Jeannette begins this new journey into the social world? However, one thing I fear the most, after finishing Genesis is whether or not Alison is a lesbian. The gypsy’s prediction along with Alison’s mother disapproval of the two unmarried women’s “unnatural passion” forces readers to think about what groundbreaking event will take place in Alison and her mother’s life. 

The reason I use the word “fear” is because I, like Jeanette, come from an extremely religious background. While we might have differing religions, one of the basic scriptures of our religion consists of heterosexual marriage: the common mutual bond between a male and a female. For religious people, especially extremists, a homosexual relationship defies the law of marriage. Similar to what Jeanette’s mother calls the two unmarried women, who I assume to be gay, homosexual relationships, in a religious context, seems unnatural. While some people are brought up to think this way, others take action on the matter and try to prevent homosexuality as if it is a “disease” that can be cured.

After finishing the first chapter of the book, I remembered a commercial talked about in a comedy show that I watch. I was interested to find out what the comedian was referring to, so I looked up the video to find an anti-gay commercial. This commercial, funded by a religious group (although I am unsure about what religion), depicts children who are confused about homosexuality. One child says, One child says, “My teacher said if grandpa was a girl, [grandma] could still marry him.” From this dialogue, we can see why Jeanette’s mother refers to schools as a “Breeding Ground.” In fact, most religious people I know discourage public education, and they attempt to enroll their children in religious schools. This fear of education exists primarily because parents are afraid that their children will acknowledge the different types of people in the world and perhaps even explore their options before accepting a definite religion. For this reason, religious parents fear the loss of faith in their children because of a higher education.

The comedian talking about this commercial in his stand-up made a point that appealed to me. He stated, “When the child comes home and goes Mommy I’m confused, parents panic and think ‘I have to talk to my kids,’ so they immediately say “no” to the bill.” Even though the comment was made in jest, the reality of it is undeniable. Most religious parents are afraid to talk to their children, or at least people in my religion are. Like Jeanette’s mother, people in my religion cannot openly talk about sex between a married man and woman, so talking about pre-marital sex between same-sex couples horrifies them. They use the excuse of “shame “to avoid answering questions, but they never truly explain why the Bible or any other scripture condemns gay marriage. Therefore, I agree with the comedian in saying that taking the time out to explain homosexuality to one’s children is probably more of an excuse for religious people to deny gay rights rather than religion itself.

Although I have not read this book before, from personal experience, I can predict that Jeanette’s mother will react crazily to her sexuality. Her fear of the Devil and her fear of societal advancement will work together to create denial for her daughter’s sexual orientation. I have seen extreme religious people take rather extreme actions when it comes to “preventing” homosexuality. They will attempt to do anything from exorcizing the individual to forcefully getting their children marries. The fear of the unknown causes religious beings to react in such a way, and that is why I fear the mother’s reaction in the upcoming chapters. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Anti-Gay Commercial

Video | Posted on by | 1 Comment