April 2010 Archives

Doublethink on Don't Ask Don't Tell

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On January 27, 2010, President Obama promised America to put an end to Don't Ask Don't Tell this year. But just five days later, at a closed-door meeting with select LGBT leaders at the White House, administrations officials indicated they would not push for the DADT repeal to be included in this year's Defense Authorization bill. More recently, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has indicated that the administration will sit on its hands until December 1st, 2010, to wait for the results of a Pentagon study on the issue; Senator Carl Levin has said the White House wants Congress to wait for the study before taking legislative action.

Let's not pretend that the idea of a study to determine the effects of DADT is anything other than myopic, patronizing, and offensive. DADT isn't an issue to be studied or a policy to be reviewed. It's blatant discrimination that needs to end. And it doesn't just affect people in the military: when the government enforces the closet, it hurts all bisexuals, gays, and lesbians by making us less visible.

But don't we need to know whether gays serving openly would damage "unit cohesion"? That study has already been done. Twice. The Pentagon's current review, by contrast, is using its time to literally poll homosexual troops about their thoughts on ending DADT. "How would you feel about keeping your job?" "Actually, I'd prefer it if you suddenly ended my career for an arbitrary reason unrelated to my performance."

While the White House wants us to believe that we can wait until December to repeal DADT. And December is still this year, right? Sure. But because of Senate procedure and the impending elections, waiting until December could mean that DADT won't be repealed at all.

If you want to see DADT repealed, you should get on the phone right now.

To depilate or not to depilate

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Thumbnail image for lack of hair.jpgCross-posted with Equal Writes, Princeton's feminist blog.

To depilate or not to depilate: that is a question that most women do not even think to ask themselves. After my awakening in my WOM 201 class when I learned that we perform our genders (thanks, beloved Gayle Salamon and Judith Butler), I definitely asked myself the question of why I shaved. The next year, I stopped shaving my leg and arm hair in defiance of gender norms. The personal is political, and I wanted to do my part and be a "good" feminist, aligning my actions with my beliefs.

A New York Times article probing whether unshaven celebrities on the red carpet are "Free Spirits or Unkempt?" rambles without taking a stance or clearly presenting different sides, and considers the perspective to the notion that not shaving would make one "unkempt." I found a lot of their ideas alarming. But instead of unpacking what's problematic about the article, Jezebel's response article, "Leg Work: Body Hair Is Not Always A Statement" negates the importance of the debate, lamenting that the NYT focuses on hair at all. The author, Anna North, argues that the choice of whether or not to shave is not necessarily political and that news sources like the NYT should stop focusing on our bodies and start paying attention to our thoughts.

Glee Reinvents Itself

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I will never forget watching last season's finale with a group of friends and strangers, and our communal gasp as Lea Michelle opened the curtain at sectionals with "Don't Rain on My Parade." I have been addicted to Glee since the show's pilot episode came out a year ago. Singing along with the soundtrack (that I ran out to purchase the day it was released), Glee has put me and fellow viewers back into a high school state-of-mind. The shocking part: this time we like it!  

With the arrival of last week's season premiere, this dedicated Gleek was disappointed. All of my joys from last season's finale were dismantled in the first 15 minutes. And what happened to the actual singing -- minus auto-tune?  After gritting my teeth through an episode more packed with plot changes than the final season of Buffy, I was skeptical that Jane Lynch's Vogue video could bring me an extra boost of energy for the drive home.

My reaction when it started? FIERCE!

Taking Pride

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LGPTflag_PrideWeek10.jpgWrapping up Princeton University's 'Pride Week' (4/11-4/18) has made me begin to seriously consider just how 'proud' I am to count myself amongst the Ls, the Gs, the Bs, and the Ts.  Specifically, I identify as a male homosexual and this week of activities ('Pride Week' t-shirt decorating, film screenings, appropriately decorated baked goods, etc.) has called into question the extent to which this identity is a legitimate source of pride in my life.

No doubt nearly all those who identify as members of the LGBT community had moments of particular difficulty early on in their lives when they hoped their identity could be wished away (or ignored entirely).  While many people might be straightforward in admitting that those hopes are still alive within them (and, indeed, there are those who claim they were even successful in exorcising that element of their identity), the all-too-familiar ‘Pride’ celebration and mantra seems to indicate that this is certainly not the mainstream in the LGBT community and movement. 

I was excited as the next Princeton queer when a group of students from the Princeton High School Gay-Straight Alliance invaded the LGBT Center the other week. It's no small thing that we live in a world where teenagers can feel safe and comfortable entering an LGBT Center of any kind, loudly exclaim about the DVDs in its lending library, and carry on as teenagers will as if the LGBT Center is any old after-school hangout spot. My heart went out to those kids: it hasn't been so long since I was a high-schooler who knew I was gay, but still would have thought twice before setting foot in a room covered in that many rainbows. Even though it's easier than ever for teenagers to be out, you've still got to admire the courage of those who are, and coo over how sweet they are and how much they remind you of yourself when you were little, except for the fact that you were a misfit and they're not.

I'm clearly not the only person who feels this way about LGBT teenagers. April and May are senior prom season, and the queer and even the mainstream media have been abuzz about the latest martyrs to the cause: the high-school seniors who want to bring same-gender dates to prom. Constance McMillen, the lesbian teenager from Mississippi who made national headlines when her high school forbade her to attend her prom with her girlfriend or in a tuxedo, became the darling not just of Queerty and Bilerico, but of network television as well. The entire world, it seemed, was shocked by her fellow teenagers' meanness, when they invited her to a "fake" prom while attending the "real" one in a different location. And McMillen isn't the only one: a gay senior from Georgia named Derrick Martin, on the other hand, made the news for successfully bringing a male date—the hitch this time being that his parents kicked him out.

The Activist's Dilemma

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Should I be preparing to work in the the LGBT rights movement after graduation?  Should you?

Thumbnail image for human-rights-campaign.gifSame-sex marriage is an extremely salient national political issue, a idea that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.  Enormous strides are being made in particular issue areas, such as gender identity protections and Pres. Obama's executive order directing hosipitals to allow visits by same-sex partners (a measure that is long overdue).  Major legislation that the LGBT community has been pushing for years, such a the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," is finally on the verge of passage.  By all accounts, it is an extremely significant and vibrant moment in the history of the LGBT rights movement.

And yet, I feel extremely conflicted towards the LGBT movement establishment and question whether I want to make a career out of LGBT advocacy.

My friends at Princeton's feminist blog Equal Writes alerted me to some big news coming out of the White House yesterday afternoon: a presidential memorandum which orders hospitals receiving Medicare/Medicaid funding (that's basically all hospitals) to allow patients to designate visitors other than immediate family members: 

There are few moments in our lives that call for greater compassion and companionship than when a loved one is admitted to the hospital. In these hours of need and moments of pain and anxiety, all of us would hope to have a hand to hold, a shoulder on which to lean -- a loved one to be there for us, as we would be there for them. Yet every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides -- whether in a sudden medical emergency or a prolonged hospital stay. Often, a widow or widower with no children is denied the support and comfort of a good friend. Members of religious orders are sometimes unable to choose someone other than an immediate family member to visit them and make medical decisions on their behalf. Also uniquely affected are gay and lesbian Americans who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives -- unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated.

How important are LGBT rights?

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Last night, Princeton hosted an outstanding panel on same-sex marriage, and I had the opportunity to ask a question about the upcoming Supreme Court nomination.  Most observers agree that within the next decade, the issue of same-sex marriage will be taken up by the Court, probably in the context of a constitutional challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act or Proposition 8.  As such, it is important for LGBT rights advocates to demand that any potential nominee not only express support for favorable precedents such as Lawrence v. Texas, but also to have authored academic or judicial opinions that make clear that he or she rejects some of the more spurious and contradictory religious justifications for discrimination.

The first answer I received was a caricature of an argument I've heard dozens of times: while we should certainly ask these types of questions, the lack of track record on LGBT issues should not be disqualifying -- because there are other issues at stake in the upcoming nomination battle that are "more important" than LGBT rights.

Well, so what?

Hi everyone, I'm writing from Day 2 at the annual AAAS conference in Austin, TX. I will be live blogging both here and at EqualWrites to share my experience with y'all. 

This morning, I just attended an invigorating talk called "Transnational Perspectives on Beauty and Skin Color: China, Indonesia, and the Philippines." Joanne Rondilla of UC Berkeley presented on mixed-race cosmetics advertising in the Philippines. She used the GlutaMax skin-whitening line to explore and challenge the idea that a new global standard of beauty is emerging. Global beauty seems to have arisen as a challenge to White beauty, but according to Rondilla, this "new" beauty simply repackages pre-existing Eurocentric notions of beauty, because those who are considered beautiful exemplify a range of characteristics that are acceptable to Western sensibilities and allow them to pass as ambiguously non-ethnic.

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