SICK SAD WORLD

An 11-year-old CEO lights up my week

Posted in Fuck yeah!, The Good Word by Nancy on June 30, 2010

Watch the video at the source

This is one of the most inspiring and awesome stories I’ve heard about in so long. Amiya Alexander, 11, teaches dance classes to little girls around Detroit in her very own pink-bus-turned-dance-academy. She has her own financial advisers to help her save her earnings for medical school, and she has the unconditional support of her parents.

This shows the power of giving kids the message: “Yes you can.”

Allies make sacrifices

Posted in Fuck yeah! by Nancy on June 16, 2010

People who are sympathetic to the plights of various minority groups are often called “allies”. But more often than not,  support from allies is silent or passive. When was the last time you saw a man demanding equal pay for women, or straight people speaking out against homophobic bigotry? The silence of privileged people who (deep down) believe in justice can be disheartening, or lead to the impression that only minorities care about their own rights.

So it was great to read about the stand taken by Reddit-user heterogay.

“Heterogay” is a straight cisgender man who was so disturbed by his family’s homophobia that he ‘came out of the closet’ to them as a gay man. He so strongly believed in gay rights that he couldn’t bear being a part of a family of bigots. He says his family have since disowned him, but he believes that if they don’t love him regardless of his sexuality then their separation is probably for the best.

“I’m a straight male. Very straight. I love women.

I also totally support gay rights – with all my heart. I can’t STAND bigotry and it really pisses me off that you don’t have equal rights.

I’m straight but if I have a son or daughter that’s gay I’ll be damned if they don’t have the same rights that I do….

My family however, is fairly homophobic.

They live on the east coast. I live in SF.

I’ve never let them say anything discriminatory in front of me without it being challenged and flat out calling them hateful bigots.

Anyway. Last week I flew back to spend some time with them… They’re my family after all and before this our relationship was good… I see them like 1x a year.

We’re having dinner and somehow the conversation turns to Obama and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

Long story short, my brother in-law says that “fags shouldn’t be able to serve in the military” … and I lose it.

I stand up and say that it’s not right to discriminate against ANYONE regardless of sexuality, race, or religion.

… then it dawns on me… they don’t know that I’m NOT gay.

So I just come out of the closet.

I live in SF… I’m 35… I’m fit, fashionable, metrosexual even. I’ve NEVER been married. I’ve never even brought a girl home to meet Mom…

(though for the record I have plenty of girlfriends, ha).

They think I’m bluffing but once I stick to my guns (and they can see that I’m visually upset) it dawns on them that I’m homosexual.

My dad goes silent and just leaves the table. My sister calls me a jerk for coming out …my brother in law is pissed. My mother is crying.

At this point I decide I’m not going back. I’m going to be gay as far as they’re concerned for the rest of my life.

It was pretty heated… I left shortly after. My calls to the house aren’t answered. My sister says she’s ok with it but that I shouldn’t have come out of the closet….

In a way it hurts because I had a good relationship with my mother and father before this – however, I feel strongly that if they don’t love me regardless of my sexuality, then I don’t want them in my life.

So here I am…. one of you . I’m ostracized from my family. I’m out of the closet and kicked in the teeth.

This is harder than I thought.

Sacrificing privilege for a cause is always hard. A friend once remarked that people keep silent about issues that don’t directly concern them because of selfishness – why would you sacrifice comfort and perks for a seemingly never-ending struggle, even if you are an ‘ally’? It’s a good question: it seems like madness to forfeit privilege and join the losing team.

But I suppose each person has a different tolerance threshold for injustice. There’s only so much sugar-coated bullshit people can take before they wake up to the shit they are being fed. And what use is it coasting through a charmed life that is only made possible by the oppression of others?

Just like straight couples who refuse to get married and support an institution that discriminates against LGBTTQ people, heterogay refuses to protect an unjust system.

Anti-immigration: flipping the script

Posted in Fuck yeah! by Nancy on May 30, 2010

Is Chimbalanga a ‘gay man’? Getting it right

Posted in Fuck yeah! by Nancy on May 30, 2010

A fantastic update on the Malawi couple story:

Malawi president Bingu wa Mutharika announced on Saturday the pardon of the jailed gay couple who were sentenced to 14 years earlier this month.

The decision was made at a press briefing at the state house after Mutharika met with visiting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday.

“I’ve pardoned the two on humanitarian grounds but what they did is criminal and against our culture,” Mutharika told journalist.

HOWEVER, I have a problem with how this couple have been described by the news media.

Here are some clues on why we should rethink the “gay” label for this couple:

1. “[Tiwonge] Chimbalanga, 20 (on the right in the photo), who dresses as a woman, spoke defiantly of his love for the man he plans to marry.”

2. “Dressed in a blouse and describing himself as a woman, [Chimbalanga] said that they became engaged after “my darling, Steven, proposed love to me and we agreed to get married”. Unlike Mr Monjeza, he refused to accept that he had broken any law. “Which laws? I am a woman, I can do what a woman can do,” he said.”

Of course, the fact that Chimbalanga identifies as a woman and presents herself as a woman is FAR too complicated for cut-and-dry news reporting, and far too  “confusing” to accomodate with a different pronoun. Apart from the label “gay” being much easier to fit into tight headline spaces, a trans person may not have attracted as much sympathy and reporting in the Western media. As in the case of Caster Semenya, news about intersex, third-gender or trans people results in muddied and confused reporting, as these people don’t fit nicely into our neat little narratives.

While its wonderful that this couple’s right to love has sparked sympathy around the world and attracted UN intervention, the framing of this story as a “gay” issue is simplistic and incorrect, as one half of the couple does not identify as a gay man. Chimbalanga seems quite clear on the fact that she is a woman, but this has not been made clear/has been rendered unimportant in these stories.

In the same way gay male and lesbian issues are often lumped together in a big rainbow file, the failure to acknowledge how Chimbalanga views herself shows a refusal by the media to think outside of binary heterosexual/homosexual constructs. Chimbalanga has been blatantly misgendered.

I don’t know if Malawi has a “third gender” (the way India, Samoa and Thailand do that is radically different to Western ideas of transgender), but either way it is absolutely incorrect  to use the label “gay man”. In the same way, if the story was about a man’s relationship with a fa’afafine, I wonder, would the Western media report it as a “gay” story although homosexuals and fa’afafine are completely distinct? I guess so.

Just another fun example of how reporting eliminates identities and how Western media reduces the complexities of gender to black-and-white binary categories.


Month of pride

Posted in Fuck yeah! by Nancy on May 30, 2010

President Obama is often accused of not doing enough, or doing too little too late to make progress on issues he campaigned on. One issue was the repealing of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” bill, which bans gay people from serving in the military if they reveal their sexual orientation.

Just last month, Obama was heckled by angry gay rights activists at a Democratic fundraiser. Fair enough – politician’s legacies are filled with broken or unfulfilled promises. But they didn’t have to wait too long for change: “the Senate armed services committee and the full House of Representatives in quick succession on Thursday approved measures to repeal the 1993 law.”

He’s now gone a step further and declared June 2010 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.

Obama Pride sure hedged their bets with the right guy.

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Review: A Single Man

Posted in Fuck yeah! by Nancy on May 18, 2010

I’ve just returned from watching A Single Man. I went to see it on short notice so didn’t prepare myself to be so overwhelmed by a superb treatment of a sensitive story. Apart from being deeply moving, the aesthetics were also lovely.

Tom Ford, after spending a career focusing our eyes on women’s bodies, proves a dab hand at turning our gaze on the masculine form. So expressive is his technique with the camera that we can feel George’s (Colin Firth’s) pain/love/lust through the objects of his affection, their beauty masterfully teased out before the lens.

The other thing that saves this movie from being another banal love story is the treatment of the female character, played by Julianne Moore. As a divorced woman in the 1960s, when the story is set, she also struggles to find meaning in a society that emphasises marriage and heterosexuality.

But I find it interesting that her character is portrayed as more pathetic than Firth’s – she obviously needs and depends on him, but he has no use for her. George, although gay, still has more privilege than her because he is closeted and can pass as straight. She affirms this by telling him to move on with his life because all doors are still open to him.

I also like that although it can be called a ‘gay film’ (in that touches on issues significant to queer people such as ‘invisibility’, shame and illegitimacy), it can also be a watched as a universal love story. The politics of love aside, it is a sensitive and fresh look at the pain of loss and loneliness and struggle for meaning. And Ford thankfully doesn’t try to package loose ends up in a tidy one-size-fits-all message, which always ticks my boxes.

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American Awesome

Posted in Fuck yeah! by Nancy on May 17, 2010

“American Able” intends to, through spoof, reveal the ways in which women with disabilities are invisibilized in advertising and mass media. I chose American Apparel not just for their notable style, but also for their claims that many of their models are just ‘every day’ women who are employees, friends and fans of the company. However, these women fit particular body types.

In a society where sexuality is created and performed over and over within popular culture, the invisibility of women with disabilities in many ways denies them the right to sexuality, particularly within a public context.