April 28, 2008

Melange Lavonne = Badass

This interview made me love her even before I realized that her songs are genuinely awesome. She says no one owns her; I swoon and believe it. What do you think? How about the reasoning in her interview behind the Gay Bash video (embedded below)?

April 27, 2008

Hear that? That's the sound of Western civilization crumbling around you.

After all, not only are The Gays getting married - they're getting married young, according to a recent piece in the New York Times Magazine.  "Young Gay Rites" profiles a herd of twenty-something gay men who are either married or soon to be (and two who were married and divorced by age 26, proving that straight people don't have a monopoly on bad choices).  Clearly, straight marriages are being destroyed by the second.

The whole article is worth reading, but there were a few moments that particularly caught my attention:

...more than twice as many lesbians 29 and younger have married in Massachusetts than have gay men of that age...

Dan Savage, in the article, attributes this to Ye Olde Femayle Nestinge Instincte.  The author also quotes a demographer who attributes it to the ticking of the biological clock - after all, they'd best be gettin' married before their eggs shrivel up and die.  

Incidentally, this and a throwaway reference to U-Hauls are pretty much the entirety of the article's references to women.  The author explains (in the end of this very sentence) "...I chose to focus on the latter [i.e. men]."  Oh - wait - that's not an explanation, is it?  It's just a statement of preference - a preference which any attentive reader could have deduced from the fact that the article focuses on men.  But I suppose it's more newsworthy to see promiscuous mansluts settling down than serially monogamous domestic earth-goddesses, is that what you're saying?

“It never ceases to amaze me how many people will say to us, ‘So, who’s the woman, and who’s the man, in your marriage?’ ” says Jason Shumaker, who lives in a Boston suburb with his husband, Paul McLoughlin II, who is an assistant dean at Harvard. They met eight years ago when they were 25, and they legally married at 29 (registering to wed on the first day gay couples could do so in Massachusetts). “I just think that’s the dumbest question ever,” he added. “Yes, we’re married, but we’re also two guys, so neither one of us has to be ‘the woman.’ ”

Yay! Dean McLoughlin shout-out!

“Once, [gay] relationships were only respected if we had remained together for a long, long time,” [Dan] Savage said. “Only longevity earned us some modicum of respect. Straight couples could always rush that validity by getting married. Now I just worry that some gay kids, desperate to have their gay love taken seriously, will wield their new marriage licenses and say: ‘See how real our love is? We’ve only been together five months, but we’re already married. You better respect us now!’

'Cause lord knows, straight couples never do that. And if they do, everyone totally takes their marriage seriously as an automatic consequence of their having signed the right papers.

I'm sorry, why exactly are we expecting people entering same-sex marriages to be, as a group, any smarter than the people who've been entering "traditional" marriages for lo! these many years?

And finally ...

If I was lucky enough to find love, I thought, I’d better hold onto it. And part of me tried, but a bigger part of me wanted to pitch a tent in my favorite gay bar.

Did the New York Times Magazine actually let the phrase "pitch a tent in my favorite gay bar" into print?  Really?  Pitch a tent, guys?  Who let that one slip by?

April 25, 2008

poorly-closeted racism

I promise to stop this series of overposting so you can hear from some of our other great writers but I wanted to comment on a breaking news story and what I see as inappropriate reporting, and inappropriate comments by a variety of government officials. And by inappropriate, I mean racist.

This story explains that three detectives were found not guilty this morning in the death of an unarmed black man who died when officers shot 50 or more bullets outside a club in Queens. (If you don't want to give NYT your info, you can go to bugmenot.com to get a login). The detectives were found not guilty on all five felonies and three misdemeanors.

Everyone is focused on the racism of the verdict itself and while I don't know all the facts, I don't question that people are right, but I will leave that discussion to those more informed than I am. But look at these quotes from the article:

  • "[The mayor said] 'We don’t expect violence or law-breaking, nor is there any place for it.'"
  • "[The district attorney said] 'I accept his verdict, and I urge all fair-minded individuals in this city to do the same.'"
  • "Commissioner Kelly, speaking in Brooklyn, would not comment on the verdict itself. But he did say that while there were no reports of unrest in response to the acquittals, the Police Department was ready should it occur."
  • "'We have prepared, we have done some drills and some practice with appropriate units and personnel if there is any violence, but again, we don’t anticipate violence,' Mr. Kelly said. 'There have been no problems.'"

Are these comments reminding people not to be violent? Are they trying to reassure people that other people won't hurt them? Or are they just saying people will not be violent in order to bring up their expectation of violence following not guilty verdicts when a black man gets shot by police? And how, if at all, do the images in the article add to this theme of racial panic? What do you think?

The best things about being an adult.

I had a hard week last week so this week I've been thinking about a lot of the good things in my life. As a relatively new adult, I thought today about the best things about being an adult for me. They are in no particular order. What are the best things about being an adult to you (or a teen or a kid if that's you)?

  • pajamas whenever I want except to work - to the grocery store, to friends' houses, whatever
  • choices about how to use my time
  • sex
  • sex without being in my parents' space (somehow makes it better?)
  • more different kinds of friendships
  • treated like a whole/rational person by other adults (it shouldn't be this way but it is)
  • more risks, more rewards
  • certain kinds of independence
  • being able to sign my own life away (ie consent to do stupid/risky things)
  • creative fun with food
Any other best or worst things?

April 23, 2008

BADD - Blogging Against Disablism Day

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2008

I just signed up and will be taking part in Blogging Against Disablism Day on May 1st. I hope others pledge to join me (either on quench or elsewhere). You've got some time to write your post and it's an important topic whether you call it ablism, disablism, or something else entirely.

I heard about this year's BADD from Kay, whose BADD post from last year I just read today and is fabulous. Wow. I know I can't measure up.

But I know that a lot of us quench readers and writers have been thinking a lot about disability this year and I hope that as many of us as possible can find it in us to join this fantastic solidarity movement. Here is info about how to join and commit to post about disablism as close to May 1 as you are able.
According to The Goldfish BADD "is an annual event in which disabled and non-disabled bloggers throughout the world unite in the cause of equality."

I invite you to join me.

April 22, 2008

Good Asian Drivers ... rolling into your town?

So, those of you who are regular Quench readers probably know that we here have a tendency to turn into the Kit Yan Fan Club on a fairly regular basis. Which means you can no doubt imagine my delight when, upon finding ourselves in Chicago this evening, a very good friend and I decided to catch the University of Chicago leg of Kit's Good Asian Drivers tour (with the also amazing Melissa Li, singer-songwriter extraordinaire).

The event was co-sponsored by U of C Pride Week and PanAsia, so there was a pretty fabulous mix of people . . . and, oh my god, you guys!! It rocked. so. hard.

(yes, I'm sleepy and this is fangirlish and not very substantive. sorry.)

After the concert - several poems by Kit, several songs by Melissa, and a couple of joint efforts - I went over to be my usual awkward "I-adore-you-so-much-I-can't-speak-in-sentences" self. (You should hear how incoherent I get when I meet famous linguistics professors.) I start off by saying, "Um, have you - by any chance, you know - possibly - heard of the blog, Quench, that's run out of Harvard?" I figure that should put me in some social context, since for all the times we've mentioned Kit here, maybe word has floated back to him somehow, and then it won't seem so weird that I'm introducing myself. It's like press credentials, right?

Mm-hmm. Turns out, you guys, Kit Yan loves Quench. Possibly not as much as we love him (because I wasn't getting the vibe of nearly-creepy devotion that sometimes we can give off), but let's just say it was definitely a mutual admiration moment. Very exciting.

Incidentally, the other Good Asian Driver, Melissa Li, is definitely a Person to Add to Our List. Think a little bit Ani, a little bit Christine Lavin, with a dash of the other Melissa (Etheridge) just to make sure the whole package is sufficiently gay. Below you will find her highly silly (and criminally catchy) music video, "Such A Nice Guy," but I also suggest you check out "Mr. Mighty," which is on her MySpace, and (hint, hint) on her CD, available for purchase at goodasiandrivers.com.

(It's appropriate that Kit is playing the Nice Guy here, because he totally is - surprisingly, he's pretty soft-spoken in person, but really friendly and approachable.)


All told, I had a great night. If you live west of Chicago, or are attending the UU General Assembly in Fort Lauderdale, you can also have a great night with the Good Asian Drivers tour, because that's the direction they're heading. See where Kit and Melissa will be next. And now, if you'll excuse me, I have CDs to listen to. (And, um, homework and stuff to do.)

April 18, 2008

National Sexual Assault Hotline Online

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) just launched a new service for victims of sexual abuse - online. The new National Sexual Assault Online Hotline is secure, anonymous, and works sort of like an instant-messenger program. I think it's a great idea, and I hope it helps more victims and their friends to get help and support.

[via USA Today and Feministing]

April 17, 2008

Pesach Traditions

My favorite Pesach (Passover) tradition is one that is relatively new to the past few years and involves getting together with a particular group of family-like friends who I don't get to see every day. It is pretty fabulous.

My other favorite tradition is trying cooking some new unleavened foods this year.

Do you have any particular ways you celebrate passover in a radical, progressive, feminist, queer, environmental, peace-loving, or other change-creating, social justice, or anti-oppression tradition? (e.g. I've always put an orange on the seder plate - see this story or wikipedia for more info about that one).

Share your pesach traditions or plans for this year. And share some of your favorite things to cook. Yum!

April 15, 2008

It's tax day - who paid their taxes?

I sure didn't.

Nope. Well, I filed - a month ago - but I got a refund. Thirty-seven whole dollars, to be precise. (Ahh, the glamorous, high-rolling life of a grad student!) I apparently didn't make enough money to qualify for the economic stimulus check, either, which was a bit counterintuitive. Apparently, giving money to people who make less money ... doesn't stimulate the economy? I don't know. I'm not even trying to guess on this one.

But guess who did pay somewhere around $9 billion in taxes this year? Illegal immigrants. Yup - those worthless drains on society who take, take, take, and never give back. (How, exactly, they're taking from the social programs they pay for and can't use ... well, I'll admit, I'm a bit mystified there, too.)

In fact - an intriguing bit of data here:

The Social Security Administration estimates that about three-quarters of illegal workers pay taxes that contribute to the overall solvency of Social Security and Medicare.

Fancy that. We may not be able to afford to build that Big Bad Border Barrier - how can we fund Social Security without all these people paying into it and never drawing out? Now that is a Thing That Is Awkward.

(Kind of reminds me of all the queers who can't get survivors' benefits even after their partners pay into Social Security for their entire working lives. But, hey - apparently, we're not the only ones this system is screwing.)

April 14, 2008

Heartbreaking work of staggering gayness

Hey, all - totally frivolous media post here. *grin*

I just created a Last.fm account (I'm entendante there, too), and as I was setting up my playlist, I noticed ... well ... a pattern developing: Ani, Ani, DarDarDarDarDar, some Catie Curtis, some Hedwig, some Dollyrots, and a Brady Earnhart song called "Honey Don't Think Your Mama Don't Know About You."

Do you think, maybe, I might possibly be a little tiny bit not-quite-straight?

(There's also a lot on there of a singer-songwriter named Amy Martin who I'm currently loving, and who doesn't make me any straighter.)

Anyway, go have a listen - either to the playlist or to the radio - and if you have an account, be my very queer friend! :)

So wrong, but so right

OMG I so wish I was that girl, hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha *rolls on floor snorting*

Thanks to Hahn@home

Edit Since this video has angered some of my friends, I wanted to say: at the end of the video, they're having sex. That was the part I found so amusing.

And yes, it is tiresome to have transwomen be causing gay panic. I agree.

I keep getting in trouble for posting these videos, I should learn by now. I thought this one was amusing because of that specific reason: gay panic, then they're having sex!

And yes, it's "come prepared, be a freaking adult" is the message, specifically 'use our condoms' but with a larger message.

Or so I thought. *shrug*

April 11, 2008

Sexual harassment IS wrong.

This video (and I'm sorry for it being linked through AOL) is of Hayden Panettiere giving a fake PSA about sexual harassment. The meaning I draw from it is that she (or Will Ferrell, who's website it's on, or whoever wrote it - but, her being in it means she finds it funny too) is spoofing on how overreactive people get about sexual comments, in the workplace or otherwise.

I think there are two kinds of jokes that can be made about potentially "over PC" subjects, such as sexual harassment of even mild severity.

The first is exaggerating it to the point where I suppose we are led to believe that we must reassess our own positions on the matter, and must see how ridiculous believing this really is. I believe this video is one of that kind.

Another "PSA" is this video, which I think is of a second kind - that where something is so ridiculously un-PC that we laugh at the distance between the actions and reality. For example, I think that the viewer is supposed to find humor in the space between the actor's comments on picking up women and what men actually think when they pick up women.

Both of these are so problematic. Exaggerating PCness to be funny is ridiculous. It belittles the original subject. I even find myself agreeing with Hayden, although maybe not with all the word choices, and find it true rather than serious.

The second kind, being so unPC as to make it funny, is also ridiculous. For example, I have a friend who's very couth and intelligent and open-minded, but cannot stop using the word "gay" to mean bad things. He knows that it's stupid, and does it precisely to make fun of people who do say that with an honest heart. I argue that saying unPC but socially acceptable things to make fun of how acceptable and yet unPC they are just adds to the problem. Even if my friend says "gay" in that context precisely to make fun of people who do it sincerely, he still has added one more tally in the times that it's been said. Even though this video of calling women "bitches" does so to make fun of the people who really feel that way, one more comment like that has been added to the collective atmosphere.

April 03, 2008

Thomas Beatie, Oprah, and pathologizing pregnancy

So it's been pretty interesting, and also disheartening, to watch the media flurry surrounding Thomas Beatie, a transman from Oregon who chose to keep his original reproductive organs and is now pregnant. emily0 and I discussed it briefly, and she mentioned that it's a bit strange how Thomas has been receiving so much press when he's not the first example of a transman choosing to become pregnant. I don't know too much about the history, but I suspect it might be the result of the striking gender dissonance that his image (by now widely circulated on the interwebs, even more so now that Perez Hilton has picked up on the story) creates: Thanks to testosterone therapy and chest reconstruction, Thomas has facial hair and a chest that appears masculine, yet also a prominent pregnant belly which is usually culturally coded as feminine and, perhaps even more important to the discursive dissonance, motherly. So there's some serious genderqueering and binary destruction going on here, and it seems like not too many people are really okay with that so much.

Thanks to Perez Hilton (go go gadget guilty pleasure), I watched the first few parts of Thomas's interview on Oprah. What struck me about it was that even in an environment where his pregnancy and gender identity were being ostensibly respected and celebrated (cf. Letterman, who referred to him as an "androgynous freak show"), there was a lot of problematic rhetoric that seemed to indicate that we've got a long way to go before we get past this immense discomfort with anything that distorts the gender binary.

Throughout the interview, Oprah attempts through leading questions and rhetorical implications to classify Thomas into some legible and stereotypical transgender narrative, which Thomas himself seems reluctant to confirm. Oprah notes that after Thomas's mother died when he was twelve, he was "basically left with not a lot of feminine images" (looks like she found his root, eh?); she then asks if Thomas felt if he was "in the wrong body" as a child--some transgender people with whom she had spoken previously knew at a very young age. Thomas replies, "I don't feel like I was born in the wrong body. I felt like I was meant to be exactly who I am today. It's kind of hard to explain." Thomas's story, as he tells it, defies a conventional and pathologizing transgender narrative into which Oprah attempts to place him: Thomas is a man, but he was not "born in the wrong body." For Oprah (and likely for most of her audience) a set of female reproductive organs certainly appears "wrong-bodied" for a man. It is unfathomable to Oprah why someone male-identified would not choose to have a penis, for penises are essential to men just as female reproductive systems are to women. After all, pregnancy is culturally wedded to motherhood, and motherhood to womanhood. A man cannot be pregnant, because a man cannot mother.

For this reason, Thomas's body is popularly read as something of a monstrous visual and cultural contradiction in terms. We're unable to celebrate the pregnancy of a man ("A man got pregnant! How cool and liberating!"), because pregnancy is antithetical to manhood if anything is, and bodies must fit into either the male or female idiom. It's not "normal" for a man to want to be pregnant. So, as em0 put it when I talked to her, everyone's got a Very Concerned Face, and that's super annoying, when what we really should be doing is celebrating the ability of a couple to have the biological child they wanted when the odds seemed slim.

So the next question becomes: How do we get past this? A lot is at stake, culturally and psychologically, in maintaining a strict notion of a gender binary, often even in queer communities. How does awareness and activism move forward to a point where we can all be okay with a man giving birth?