Tag Archives: feminism

Gay History – March 30, 1973: Jill Johnston’s “Lesbian Nation: The Feminist Solution” Calls For Intersectionality in the Gay Community

March 30th, 1973:  Jill Johnston’s book of essays Lesbian Nation is published which calls for a lesbian movement separate from the gay rights movement.

A writer for The Village Voice Johnston is one of  the first leaders of the lesbian separatist movement of the 1970s.

Johnston was a member of a 1971 New York City panel produced by Shirley Broughton as part of the “Theater for Ideas” series. The event was a vigorous debate on feminism with Norman Mailer, author; Germaine Greer, author; Diana Trilling, literary critic; and Jacqueline Ceballos, National Organization for Women president. The event was a showdown of intellect and personality. While Johnston read a poem culminating in on-stage lesbian sex (fully dressed) followed by a quick exit, Greer and Mailer continued to exchange verbal blows with each other and the audience for the rest of the 3½ hour event.

In 1973, she predicted “an end to the catastrophic brotherhood and a return to the former glory and wise equanimity of the matriarchies.” As recorded in Lesbian Nation, Johnston often was at the center of controversies within the feminist movement of the 1960’s and 1970.

In Lesbian Nation , Johnston discusses lesbian invisibility and advocated a political lesbianism that would bring women together to support one another and have power as a group, while becoming independent of men which she said helped fractured the “gay  rights” movement at that time by separating the two group powers.

 Johnston believed that all males were the same, even gay males.

“Gay men, however discriminated against, are still patriarchs.” Johnston is quoted as saying.

Still Lesbian Nation is an amazing look back at the feminist and gay rights movement of the late 60’s and early 70.  The book itself in a historical aspect should be appreciated as a classic lesbian text, and even with the time difference it offers an  insight of the beginning of today’s compartmentalization within the community and echo’s the argument against the “privilege gay males” today.

Still, as an old-school text, it should be read and  appreciated.

But if you ever wondered when intersectionality in our community began? Here is your answer.

When Are We Going To Reach Out To Each Other To Stop The Violence and Oppression

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These truly are trying times for our society where we have to ask what we are doing wrong. Why are the issues of racism, homophobia and sexism still plaguing our society? Why are the freedoms, rights, and protections that many have fought and died for in generations’ past being circumvented by those proclaiming God’s Law into the laws of man? Why do we have to fear for the safety of our children now, with more awareness and social consciousness, than any other generation before us while protections against discrimination are being ripped away? Why are women beginning to lose complete, autonomous control of what they can or cannot do with their bodies? Why are minorities still facing so much adversity?

The truth is that those issues never left us, rather they are momentarily placed in our periphery until we are forced to see what our extremists, or ignorance, or complacency has brought upon us.  You see, the questions are never easy to say out loud while admitting the complexity to the answers because doing so leaves us with even more confusion than before. A quick look at the highly biased media is a testament of the roller coaster for the past several months and what it means to be a minority in this country.

Our very existence has been the epicenter for challenging the opinion of social constructs, political reform and change. The lows have been painful and the highs brief because it shows how much more work needs to be done. But the worst part of all of this is when adversity, animosity and sometimes violence that is being directed at us, those of us that understand the plight because it so often mirrors the same struggle, is never held prolonged attention to the other groups. In other words we don’t help each other out.

We are fragmented. We see each other during moments of great pain but don’t take the active steps to ease the pain. Possibly even prevent them. Why? Because one group feels like even though they understand our pain that they don’t truly know it. Or that by that associating with that group will make them look worse. Or complacency. Or apathy. Or who knows what else.

So much debate is also centered on how we are not listening to each other. What’s in place is awkward statements, tension then resentment.  We should be united and feel united not like forced coworkers we exchange pleasantries to keep up appearances. Kind words are wonderful in times of great pain, confusion and doubt. At least they are for the short term. But what happens months later is a fleeting memory because we as a society have adapted the mentality where we will discard anything we feel does not directly affect us. Then this cycle of no progress continues. But we cannot allow it to continue this way.

As a gay African American man I do not always feel completely welcomed in the two groups I belong to. Maybe that is some latent insecurity of mine that I haven’t dealt with that bubbles up to the surface. Or maybe it is because I see the dissension between these two groups. Maybe it’s because of the numerous times one or both has confronted me about the other part of me they are unable to fully accept because of preconceived notions. I know it’s not just me that experiences the same sensation.

And when people like me witness tragedies that affect one group the most being ignored and cast aside it makes me extremely frustrated and sad. It makes me think of how much more progress would be made if these groups united together under the same cause. That I am constantly hoping that these groups will see the vested interests they share more rather than the differences. That all these groups will come together work together while supporting each other.

Just because we belong to a marginalized group does not mean we cannot not hold the same prejudices towards another minority. We cannot afford to be only for “us” anymore. We have to be for everyone.

For instance today a letter recognizing the travesty in our judicial system that denied Trayvon Martin and his family the justice they deserved this weekend was sent as a means of comfort. Will any efforts to prevent further travesties be made by the core LGBT groups like how to prevent things like this from ever happening again or will it be forgotten?

When will HRC and GLAAD and other Gay Inc. organizations realize that marriage equality is not the only focus that this community needs? When will they notice that there are people of color that are targeted in the same manner Trayvon was which led to his murder. That more comprehensive attention needs to be focused on the members of this community that feel like they have no voice at all because both sides continue to believe the other will take up the slack?

Same goes for the African American community leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. When will the NAACP take steps to be truly inclusive of all its brothers and sisters that feel left out because our needs as queer men and women are far too often ignored? How many more cases like Mark Carson or Marco McMillian are going to happen before they acknowledge that there are people of color being left behind? Are they willing to see the bias that exists within the organization? Is it fear or willful ignorance that I feel like barely a mention was given to either of these men in a time where being of two minorities makes some of us even more 0f a target for hate, discrimination, and violence.

The story of Carlos Vigil is a prime example of the need for unity. This teen felt so lost because of the pain and shame that was being placed upon him that he felt he had no other reprieve than to take his own life. Were there other factors that contributed to his untimely passing like that of his ethnicity or race? Sadly we will never know the answer but why ever leave something like that to chance? It is our responsibility as activists and advocates to stop assuming and reach out whenever we see someone struggle, whether they belong to our community or not because they are all a part of community.

So where do we start? We need to look at various organizations that are fighting for equal rights. I’ve written several times about the intersectionality that exist within our society that makes so many feel left out because they are being left out, cast aside, or sadly forgotten. This dichotomous existence, an intersection of self where one’s cultures conflict or are apathetic to each other. It’s like a family where we see two parents fighting in front of their child then looking for them to pick a side. It makes coming out harder because you feel like no one will listen to what problems you face by other members of either community.

This is not limited to LGBT people of color. It goes with gender, class, age, education, and many other demographics work within this paradigm. It is a demanding emotional exercise to constantly feel you have to reconcile aspects of yourself that within yourself work so well but to the rest of the world doesn’t fit. Ignoring it by the leaders of these groups only make it worse.

We see that lesson in the interview given by Juror B37 of Trayvon’s case as a prime example of what willful ignorance looks like and what happens afterward. All the while she describing why a she sided with a murderer rather than a child, her rhetoric was nothing but it’s not our problem, its theirs”. She so easily believed that the issues we have faced in the past like racism have already been dealt with when in reality they still plague our society. Since she believed it didn’t directly affect her that she only focused on the person she related to, the murderer.

Another example is the controversy surrounding the Cheerios commercial of an interracial couple and their daughter that was subsequently followed by the torrents of racism after it aired. Then we see children being interviewed about the controversy and then are grateful to hear they are fine with the notion of races mixing. It’s heartwarming and innocent. But it is also a part of the problem. We assume all will be well even from not knowing if the sample of children that participated in this feel good antidote was demographically diverse. Because if they were all from big northern metropolitan cities like New York, they aren’t a true representation because there are children in the south that certainly would have already been taught to hate differences.

What I’m saying is that our society too often is willing to blindly accept anything that helps them escape the truth. And even though we should be concerned with how our views affect the future, we need to be just as focused on the adults who have the power now. The ones that are on varying levels teaching hate. This is an example of us not dealing with what is right in front of us. It makes us complacent and more willing to accept more of the same.

Well I’m sorry but I have had enough of that formula. There is too much frustration and hurt that means we have to make analogies or be crass in order for you to hear our collective voices when we tell each other we all have a component the other side(s) need. How many more times will we keep ignoring each other instead of taking formal steps to build the nonexistent bridges?

I do not want these layers of prejudice and hate and ignorance and apathy and division we quietly accept in this country to pass on to another generation. I do not want our generation to continue the same traditions of fear based either in faith or bigotry that we encourage by not openly discussing our differences to bring forth understanding. And I don’t want us to continue the dialogue where we are too rigid in our mindset or beliefs that we are bot at least willing to see and hear a viewpoint different than our own.

There are a lot of families in pain right now. We need to ensure that no other family has to go through it.

 

So..Tell Me What’s Wrong With This Marriage Equality Ad?

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When I came out eight years ago, I felt that as time went on, I wanted to contribute more to the cause of equality by speaking out because as the old saying goes “if you’re not a part of the solution then you’re a part of the problem”. So I try to make an effort whenever possible, even if it’s a small donation to an LGBT organization or writing a blog about the problems and issues within our community. And I always try to encourage but not demand the same in others. I believe every voice has power, and as a result, an impact in everything we do.

Even if it’s something as simple as a retweet on twitter or liking and sharing a Facebook status, I feel like if it further advances someone else’s voice. The message becomes a little bit louder and I am more than happy to do so. Visibility is and has always been a key component to the success of our community. Any civil rights movement that has been successful in history is because they stood out and made their presence known. Social media allows us to be visible and more powerful in delivering our message of equality than ever before.

But, we need to recognize that there is a limit to how effective that can be as there is to everything else. Sometimes the message can be counter-intuitive, counterproductive, contradictory, and just plain wrong. An example of this kind of wrong is what I found when I came across this ad today by an organization called FCKH8. Today they tweeted out this image with the caption “Jesus’s reason for wanting you to support gay marriage”. When I saw this, I became livid. There are so many things wrong with this picture. But let’s break it down so you see why this is so disturbing.

The message by what I presume is an LGBT equality group for marriage equality and their message is to “Legalize Love”. Of course I support that, it’s what I talk and write about daily. The group calls on both straight and gay allies to join together to eliminate discrimination and hate. They have an array of t-shirts, hoodies, wristbands and pens to promote the cause. Hell, I even support the eye candy they use to promote their merchandise on their website. I support all of this because allies are a bridge that enables us to spread our message.

Even with the fact that many don’t support businesses or organizations like this because we don’t know where all the profit is going to, I don’t mind it. Because it gets the word out and makes us more visible in some form and what we as a community want. They even donated 25000 dollars to help promote awareness and equality in Tennessee, my home state that is still trying to pass a bill that would ban students in grade K through 8 from saying the word gay in school. So, naturally I support that as well. That is not where the issue lies here.

Now some of you may be looking at this ad right now saying “What’s wrong with it, this is in support of marriage equality” and if that’s all you see then you need to look again. Because this ad supports hate. It is saying that abortion is wrong. I don’t support hate, in any form. And this openly invites hate on a woman’s right to choose for herself and I will never, ever support such hypocritical, vulgar, and flat out asinine degradation of ANYONE and their right. You don’t “Fuck Hate” by hating on another group. Ever.

Maybe the reason that I’m so upset is because I’ve seen such a vapid attempt like this before. Because of this belief by some leaders and activists within our community that fail to see the diversity that is in this community. It’s evident when you hear comments like “I can’t be racist, I’m gay” when you most certainly can be, despite how immeasurably ignorant a conclusion this is to invoke.  These two issues don’t even mirror because they are two completely different issues. However, both should be treated with the same respect. Your status as a gay man does not eliminate your ability to be prejudice.

Some would argue that this ad shows a glaring privilege that is often overlooked and not approached for discussion by this community. Because some say that the truth is gay Caucasian men still have some privilege. It’s not so much about the right to marry but in the ability for a Caucasian male, regardless of sexuality, is still granted the ability to make a cause more visible. Don’t believe that’s true? Well this is what ads like this suggest, and why it is so important to speak out about how irresponsible an impact they have. Because this is not the kind of message we want to send.

I don’t know if it’s the inexperience of youth, an extremely tasteless joke or just willful ignorance but it needs to stop. How insensitive is it not only degrade but also condemn the rights of women by using the same tactics enacted by extreme republicans declaring kit is God’s Will to get married? Why would you ever want to place the condemnation on another group this way? By involving a prophet depicting children that are in danger to abortion and being gay saves the world that awful notion. I don’t even understand why whoever created this ad felt that this would ever be okay to publicly damn women’s rights. It is incredulously hypocritical (and quite ironic) to use religious propaganda to promote any cause.

Not to mention that there are lesbians, transgendered, and bisexual women that exists within this community as well. This ad completely disregards them and their right to choose. You are openly condemning these women when ads like this are a representation of this movement. They are facing the same struggles for equality that we are fighting for every day. This goes to show what goes wrong in a civil rights movement when someone becomes so intent on what they want for their community and for themselves that they don’t think about how it will affect others. You know who this ad speaks to? Gay, Caucasian Males. It does not reflect any other bit of diversity than that.

This all goes back to what I’ve talked about numerous times here and here about one of the biggest issues that exist in the LGBT community. That those of us that are a dichotomy, or members of other disparaged communities, face other issues that are completely disregarded pushed aside, or ridiculed by the group that knows what that feels like. Or at the very least knows what it feels like to be treated this way. Race issues and women’s issues in this community too often are treated this way. The only way that this erroneous use of judgment ever changes is when we call it out and explain why it’s wrong.

I’m angry at how insensitive this is to the other members of this community. How this ad openly disparages the women in our community that are always a side note in our struggle for equality. Normally the figureheads in the public eye are all male, all Caucasian and do not even begin to show the diverse dynamics of this community. And it has got to stop. Now. You all should be raging about this. We cannot afford to alienate one right over another. Civil rights movements are not about throwing other groups under the bus to get what we want.  It is not always just about us. And we need to remember that.