Tag Archives: LGBT*

Looking for Women Representation in HBO’s Newest Series

21 Jan

by Johan Clarke

The new series Looking premiered on HBO this past Sunday, opening with a jab at the “cruising” trope as one of the main characters, played by Jonathan Groff, awkwardly tries it  just for fun. From there, the show begins to look at his failures in the dating world, showing fairly honest portrayals of the lives of gay males in a fairly liberal American city. The show seems like it wants to destroy certain images about the gay community, and in some regards, it does.

To a certain extent, it does better than many other shows that have tried to do the same thing by having characters that are not just white. One of the main three characters in the show is Latino, but the show does not necessarily define him by his background. He and the other Latino character are not exotified (yet), but they keep their identities and are not wholly white-washed.

This representation is nice to see, but some of the creator’s comments on it have been less than ideal. In response to certain concerns that the show would be as lacking in diversity as Girls, which plays on HBO right before Looking, creator Andrew Haigh commented, “We have two very prominent Latin characters. We have an African-American character. We have an Asian-American character, so I think we are dealing with different ethnicities. There’s always a limit to what you can put in a half-hour show and we’ve never tried to represent the whole of the LGBT community because it’s an enormous community made up of lots of different elements. All we can really do is try and tell a story about our characters.” The comments sound similar to many other responses in the past from shows with lack of diversity. They have every right to tell a story about their characters, and as of now they do tell stories about the queer people of color fairly honestly. However, the beginning of his comment is akin to the “I have black friends” argument many people with white-savior complexes tend to use to say or do things they really shouldn’t be doing.

The problem is that they could have these characters, they just choose not to. At the moment, there are no characters on the show who identify as bisexual or pansexual, though Dom, one of the main characters, alluded to a girlfriend in the past, though it was done more as a joke. There are also no trans* characters on the show, furthering trans*-erasure in media. And they also have no lesbians in the show.

In fact, in the entire thirty minutes of the first episode, only one woman had a somewhat significant speaking role (there was one other woman, Augustín’s artist boss, who had a total of about three lines and was on screen for less than half a minute). The show does not even pass the first criterion on the Bechdel test. In a scene at a wedding ceremony, there is a shot of the guests, and the crowd looks uncomfortably masculine. The only female character is Dom’s long-ago ex, who is shown for about a minute as she gives him dating advice in a fierce, almost sassy manner. The only reason she is on screen is because she is a support for the male character to not make a bad decision, treading dangerously close to the rather sexist “fag hag” trope.

Some people may argue that the show is about gay men, so why would there be women? If the show wanted to accurately portray gay life, though, it would have at least more than one woman in it, or the woman would have more screen time. Gay men do not exclusively hang out with other men, and when they do hang out with women, they do not have to be overly feisty and talk only about the men’s love lives. This way of thinking has dangerous implications in creating a new trope of the “token female friend”, as the show is also dangerous to tokenize its characters of color.

If the show is not supposed to have women because it is a show about gay men, then it proves that female characters can only be love interests. Gay men would never have a girlfriend or would never be romantically involved in one, so why would they be allowed a character on the show? In fact, the only woman on the show is an old romantic interest because in media logic, men and women can never just be friends. It’s the same basic logic that fuels the notion of the Friend Zone.

Looking has great promise, but it has also set itself up for possible failure in regards to representation. For a show that claims to represent the real gay man, it does little outside of obsessing with his dating habits. If it wants to really show what it’s like to be queer, it will have to show more than one letter of the acronym LGBTQIA, and show that there are queer women as well, or any women.

Tom Daley Is Not Gay, He’s Just in a Relationship with a Man

2 Dec

by Johan Clarke

Tom Daley recently came out via YouTube with the information that he is in a relationship with another man, surprising many and bringing pride to many different communities. In the wake of the Winter Olympics in a country with incredibly harsh anti-LGBT laws, the news that a well-known and well-respected athlete from the most recent Summer Olympics is queer provides awareness and visibility to a community that in the past has been erased. Stereotypes within the gay community are slowly coming down. More and more athletes are coming out as gay, giving pride and hope for young people who do not feel they fit into certain categories defined by our culture. One can play sports, be one of the team, and not have to be straight or pretend to be something they are not.

I find it remarkable that Tom Daley has found the courage to do something so brave and come out with his relationship with another man at this pivotal time. Coming out is still an incredibly difficult thing to do, and to do it in front of everyone in the world, to have everybody watch your every move, to judge you without having met you, takes incredible strength. I commend him for doing something so hard, yet so necessary. Daley is helping to change history for the better and creating a safer space for queer youths.

The media’s response, though, is not the most ideal. As I have written in previous articles, I do not like labeling, and I especially do not like labeling that erases other communities. Many of the articles that have come out this morning have titles with the word “gay” in it, yet in the video he posted, he never makes that claim. He says that he is in a relationship with another man and that he is comfortable and feels safe with him, but he does not say the words, “I am gay.” In fact, during the video, he claims, “I still fancy girls, but right now I’m dating a guy and I couldn’t be happier.”

This may seem like an unnecessary difference for some, but this is a prime example of bi erasure, something that has been going on for years. It’s fantastic that Daley has come out with his relationship, but it is not okay that the media has once again mislabeled someone. Daley has not defined his sexuality. He has stated that he is in a relationship with a man, but he has not come out as gay as several articles have claimed. He has not come out as bisexual either, so the media needs to stop saying that he has.

Mislabeling erases many different communities that struggle to have their voices heard. It makes it difficult for people who are unsure about their sexualities or who do not fit with “gay” or “straight” labels. It illegitimazes legitimate relationships and does not allow people to understand or accept themselves in ways they can. We need to stop enforcing labels on people or the great stride Daley made today in this announcement will do little in awareness for the overall queer communities.

My Identity is NOT My Consent

5 Nov

by Anonymous

We have all heard (hopefully) of the phrase “My costume is NOT my consent,” but apparently it’s not the costume that makes me vulnerable but my sexual orientation and gender. I am a bisexual woman. This Halloween I opted out for a more conservative costume. I wore pants, a sweater, and a backwards cap; not exactly what we consider a “sexy/slutty” costume. I was at a Gay Pride party, which is usually a safe space, until the party was crashed by male students who were unaware of a common theme of the party—that most people present were of the LGBT community or allies. I was asked by one guy if everyone at the party was gay. I told him that most people did identify that way. He then asked me if I was gay. I told him the truth that I was bisexual.

Because I am not out at home, I don’t hide it at school. Here I can be who I really am and will not hide it just to avoid an unwanted situation. Apparently this fact was enough consent on my part because he proceeded to put his hands on me, forcibly turn me around, and began to pelvic thrust against my behind. I was not asked to dance, I did not consent to him putting his hands on me, yet the fact that I am bisexual was enough for him. Obviously, because I am attracted to guys, I am therefore attracted to him and don’t mind him placing his hands on me. Because I do like men, I obviously like all men, including him. I let him know that my sexual orientation did not give him consent and that he should think twice before putting his hands on anyone in that manner, and I walked away.

Later that night after the party was over, I waited in a school square—a very public place at the time. I was awaiting a text when a group of guys proceeded to come out of an apartment. A group of three headed my way up the stairs when one of them proceeded to comment on my ass, then grabbed it, and just walked away. At this point I was too stunned to say anything and saw them walk away; his friend gave the excuse that he was drunk. His friend would rather make excuses for his behavior than confront his friend about it. This Halloween, I learned that “my costume is not my consent,” but sadly my sexual orientation and gender are. The fact that I am a female who is still attracted to males is enough consent for unwanted advances. It does not matter what I wear, my own identities—that of a bisexual and that of woman—make me vulnerable.

In my opinion, society has failed. Not only does the majority of society place the blame on women who dress “slutty,” rather than the men who assault them, but even when a woman is dressed in what is considered a conservative outfit, she is still harassed. And society continues to make excuses. The excuse for the man who slapped my ass was that he was drunk; he placed the blame on something other than himself. Even in the first situation, blame was still put on me. When I shared this story, one response I heard was: why not tell the first guy that you’re lesbian? To this I respond: why should I lie about who I am? Why does my sexual orientation give him consent to my body? Because I am bisexual does not mean that I consent to all advances.  What happened last night was not my fault, it was society’s. 

Becoming an Ally is the Most Important Decision I’ll Ever Make

8 Oct

by Jayme Amann

Disclaimer: I’ve told this story to very few people. If you wish to contact me about anything in this article, please message me privately because I don’t want to run into issues with my family. Thank you. 

I grew up in an extremely conservative household. Not only was my mother devoutly Catholic and Republican, but she also had very traditional values that dictated my role in life as a straight, Caucasian female. For the most part, I abided by the rules she imposed on me. By age eight I could cook, clean, iron, and do the laundry. My mother dolled me up in ball gowns and entered me in beauty pageants. To me, this was normal; to me, this was expected.

This is not an essay about feminism. My transition towards becoming a “strong, independent woman” (to quote my sorority) came much later in life and was a logical progression. This is about the moment that changed the entire trajectory of my life and made me rethink everything I knew to be true. When I was twelve years old, my brother came out to my mother as gay.

The typical family reaction in the late 20th century is supposed to be that of support and understanding. The first thing out of my mouth was, “what does gay mean?” At age twelve, I had no notion of gender norms or sexual orientation. My experience with gender did not extend far beyond the bounds of the kitchen, and my religion had failed to teach me that a human could be attracted to the same sex. Instead of sitting me down and explaining this new phenomenon to me, my mother disowned my twenty-year-old brother and kicked him out of the house for coming out of the closet.

At the time, I could not comprehend why she called him “the devil” and “an abomination.” I was only twelve years old, but my mother told me that I could no longer see my brother; no longer say I loved him. But I could see that for the first time in my brother’s life he was unconditionally happy, and I wanted to be happy for him. According to a Q&A by the American Psychological Association, “All young people who come out may experience bias [or] discrimination…Supportive families, friends, and schools are important buffers against the negative impacts of these experiences.” My brother did not have this support. My mother abandoned him when he needed her the most. Further, my mother did not succeed in one of the main duties societally designated to her as a “mother”: educating her children. I could not comprehend what was happening, and she made no effort to alleviate my sadness.

Years of crying myself to sleep later, I now understand that my mother’s judgmental, hateful actions and words were wrong. Thus, when I turned 16 and “came out” to my mother as an Agnostic, Democrat, feminist, and LGBT* ally, my solution was to move in with my brother and his long-term boyfriend. Although it didn’t end up working out (because of the whole minor running away from home thing), I ended up moving in with my father who let me be whoever I damn well pleased.

Everyday of my life I learn something new about myself, my peers, and my notions of society as a whole. I learned the hard way that ignorance is not bliss and that I needed to strive every moment to understand more about this world. Sometimes I slip up. On more than one occasion in the recent past I have said things that I immediately recognize as misinformed notions from my childhood. Breaking down these engrained teachings can be daunting for most people. It took me four years before I began to truly question my mother’s beliefs and became comfortable with who I was as a person.

The most terrifying concept for me to grasp is that my mother is far from alone in this thought process. Thousands of members of the LGBT* community are rejected by their families and have to fight for a support system. There are few things I know for certain in life, but one thing I do know is that sexual orientation is complicated and emotional. The sooner children are exposed to the realities of gender in society, the sooner they are able to understand the importance of supporting those struggling through this transition.