Vintage Love

I was browsing Tumblr the other day when I cam across a bunch of gorgeous old photos of these lovely couples. The description underneath details how apparently, from 1700-1920 there was an social assumption that women did not have a sex drive at all. The description then goes on to say that for all intent as purposes, women were essentially asexual in the eyes of their male partners and had sex to fulfil a list of “wife duties”. Because of this lesbian relationships were able to flourish, enabling them to share houses and finances (called a Boston Marriage) without raising an eyelid as it was believed these relationship were nothing more than close friendships. How little they knew!

I just think these images are so gorgeous. You can see their adoration for each other in their embraces. I feel that sometimes when we think about Queer* people we only really think of it as being a modern phenomenon. It’s pretty great that we have such widespread visibility and awareness now and we’re now investing time to dig up these old gems. It’s worth it.

I’ve done a little bit of research on these images. It’s turned up some interesting stuff and I’ll put a caption below when I can.

Affectionate Ladies c. 1900s-1980s.

Affectionate Ladies c. 1900s-1980s.

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Lovers at the LGBT Castro Street Fair in San Francisco 1983. The fair was founded by Harvey Milk.

Lovers at the LGBT Castro Street Fair in San Francisco 1983. The fair was founded by Harvey Milk.

Women’s football. The team captains greet each other with a kiss. England, Preston, 1920. Nationaal Archief, The Netherlands

Women’s football. The team captains greet each other with a kiss. England, Preston, 1920.
Nationaal Archief, The Netherlands.

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A portrait of a two young woman embracing on a boat by “Victorian hack” society photographer Fritz W. Guerin, c. 1902.

A portrait of a two young woman embracing on a boat by “Victorian hack” society photographer Fritz W. Guerin, c. 1902.

 

If you’re interested in vintage photos of queer couples here’s website with more: http://www.homohistory.com/ 

Because We Are Diverse – A Presentation

Because We Are Diverse TitleSo in December last year I did a presentation on the Because We Are Diverse project. It lasted for about 30 mins and briefly covered everything I had learned over the past year. From the very amazing talents of Bunny Bennett, Joseph Harwood and Robyn Archer to Marriage Equality, homophobia, transgenderism and the many identities there are. The presentation required me to be quite personal and honest about my experiences, something I was incredibly nervous to do in front of family, friends, peers and teachers. I hadn’t revealed much of what was said to them before. In the end it turns out that I shouldn’t have worried. The audience were so open minded and recipient to all the issues and ideas I presented. You can probably see me lose my head at the end when I realised the audience were giving me a standing ovation. The support for this project was overwhelming (as I’ve already said a dozen times) and I could not have asked for a better response. Truly can’t believe it. Thank you to all who follow this blog and the project. You. Are. Amazing. Xx

 
There is a thesis documenting all the events and research activities as well as the results available for reading so contact me at becausewearediverse@gmail.com if you want a look. Be warned, it’s long!

Check out the full Joseph Harwood interview here: https://becausewearediverse.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/a-chat-with-joseph-harwood-3/

Bunny Bennett interview: https://becausewearediverse.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/lgbtq-interview-with-bunny-from-steam-powered-giraffe/

If you support this project I’d really appreciate it if you would like its page on Facebook. Like it here: https://www.facebook.com/becausewearediverse

Full list of thank you’s here: https://becausewearediverse.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/the-end-of-the-year-thank-yous/

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Discussing Sexuality and Gender Identity – LGBTQ World Cafe Discussions

IMG_2112So this is the first post of the year and I have a little bit of catching up to do.

A little while ago, I posted about an event I hosted titled “LGBTQ World Cafe” where I invited young LGBTQ people, a few of their straight counter parts and a PFLAG mum to come and discuss their experiences, ideas and opinions on gender and sexuality. I promised to post the results of the discussion here and while it took a little longer than I admittedly thought, I’ve now complied it below. I’ve also included some footage of the discussions to give you a taste of the atmosphere. We were a little awkward at first, but by the end of the night we were high with laughter and truly trusting and respecting each other’s opinions. The participants were just that incredible! Hope you enjoy reading and I hope there are plenty of points below that really encourage you to reflect and consider your own ideas on gender identity and sexuality.

There were three major topic areas we discussed (Sex & Gender, Labels & Identifiers, Homophobia). We began by recording several questions to do with each topic area (recorded on a whiteboard) and then separated into smaller groups to discuss these questions. The majority of the ideas were recorded on butcher’s paper covering the tables and some discussions were recorded on video. This is what came up:

The White Board of questions

The Whiteboard of questions

SEX + GENDER

Our first topic was the subject of Sex and Gender.  The main underlining question was – “How do we define our gender?” “What is a man?” “What is a woman?” In our modern society, where our views on gender and sexuality are changing rapidly and gender roles are beginning to be done away with, how much has sexism and stereotyping contributed to our definitions of gender? As one participant asked, “Is a woman someone who is feminine, looks after the kids, stays at home and is a man masculine…?”

So then is gender based on physicality? We decided the answer was no, as transgendered individuals have a gender identity independent of their physical sex. But then it was asked, “Why does it even matter?” “Why do we care if someone’s gender identity is different from how we expect it?” “Why do we find it difficult to comprehend when people bend the lines of gender or sit in the middle of a gender spectrum?” When in actual fact gender is an identity and it doesn’t necessarily have to correlate to your physical sex, and if it does consider yourself lucky. What we found was that western society has difficulty separating the two. Some Asian cultures have up to five genders, two of which correlate to our definitions, one that correlates to Intersex, and two that we just have no equivalent of. And there are many other cultures that have many other pronouns to use to communicate their gender identity. So why do we only have two?

Snapshot of some ideas recorded on butcher's paper

Snapshot of some of the ideas recorded on butcher’s paper

Another interesting concept that surfaced during the course of the discussion was the double standards of gender, specifically when it came to the acceptance of LGBTQ individuals. During the discussion it was suggested that a small section of homophobic behavior could be attributed to the uncomfortable attitude many heterosexual men feel when asked to consider being sexuality attracted to a member of the same-sex. However, the attitude is changed dramatically when a lesbian couple is presented to them, with most men finding it sexuality arousing. Even heterosexual women find the idea exciting, whereas many are severely uncomfortable with a gay couple. Why is there such an intense separation of the two interactions? Perhaps females, being stereotyped as the more nurturing and tender gender, display physical affection towards each other much more frequently and more easily making the leap into lesbianism not as socially unacceptable as male homosexual behaviour (as men are often taught against the sharing of tender physical contact).

What I find the most interesting concept that arose during the discussion was this question: To what extent has sexism contributed to stereotypical views of gender and their roles in society? In a modern progressive society where it is finally becoming acceptable to change the historic expectations of the behaviors of men and women, especially in the light of women’s suffrage, perhaps much of the opposition to transgenderism and homosexuality is the stubborn attempt to stay in possession of what little residue is left of sexist ideals. This would certainly explain the intense homophobia many masculine women, feminine men and transgendered individuals encounter on a daily basis regardless of their sexuality. Ancient traditions such as marriage and sex are no longer solely dedicated to procreation and the survival of a bloodline. Therefore such strict homophobic ideals of heterosexual only relationships are almost irrelevant in today’s society. Yet such traditionalist views are slowly becoming a minority with education and exposure of the fluid and flexible nature of gender, sexuality and behaviour. As one participant said, “It is important to remember that we are on the cusp of a society in change, we’re at the point in history where the gender roles have finally been broken and different sexuality is finally being brought to light. In the future such ideals will be broken and everyone will accept that people love people, and all people are different and unique in their identities.”

LABELS & IDENTIFIERS

Another link in the key chain of ideas was the treatment of labels and identifiers.

IMG_2102The question was asked, why is it necessary to “come out”? “Why is the default setting heterosexual?” Who initiates these assumptions? Is it parents? Do parents subconsciously project a vision of what they hope their child will one day be, unintentionally including the kind of person they will one day marry in the process? Could it be movies and TV? Children pick up on these signals. Is it books, is it music, is it games, is it their school, their teachers, their friends, their neighbors, strangers? But we already know, it’s all of these. And these subliminal messages form a restrictive mental formula on being heterosexual. Which is great if you are heterosexual, but if you’re not this formula programmed into us from a young age has to be changed. And for some, it’s not easy. As annoying as it is we don’t receive a rainbow manual in the mail.

On this topic of labels and identifiers the World Café panelists found that for some, labels provide a kind of stability, a definitive way of knowing where people belong. But labels can be restricting. They often come with assumptions about your beliefs, your ideas, your opinions, your experiences, your behavior, your lifestyle, your character, your personality…. That can create prejudices even within the LGBTQ community against certain labels. And most of the time these assumptions are incorrect.

Throughout the blog I’ve been using the term LGBTQ (which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer). This is to be inclusive to all the labels and identifiers in the community. And it is the correct acronym to use. But as was pointed out at the World Café, the acronym is constantly being added to, gaining more and more letters. And I think it’s great that we are trying to be inclusive and recognize these different identities. But you have to admit; it’s starting to become a bit of a mouthful. The question was, will we cover every possible nuance and combination there is, until eventually we are reciting the entire alphabet? Perhaps what we need is to redefine our definitions of sexuality and gender to recognize all the possibilities (including heterosexuality) and the spectrum that is it. And when you really think, the more we label ourselves the more we segregate ourselves from each other and the more the LGBTQ community continues to be “other”.

Labels often come with assumptions about your beliefs, your ideas, your opinions, your experiences, your behavior, your lifestyle, your character, your personality…. And sometimes it is the misuse and disrespect for labels that promotes “society backlash”. For example, many (including those inside the LGBTQ community and outside) consider bisexuality “invalid”, saying that it does not exist and those who identify as such are confused and need to “choose”. There are many other misconceptions and presumptions when it comes to this label and this concerning “society backlash” was suggested to be caused by the misuse of the label as many lesbian and gay individuals in the process of coming out reveal themselves to be bisexual first as a way to test the waters. Not only that, but also many young girls identify as bisexual to attract men, as many men find the idea of a lesbian couple arousing. Such misuse prompts disrespect and prejudice against those who are genuinely attracted to both genders; hence many who are bisexual choose not to label themselves as so.

This prompted another question for those at the World Café, to what extent are labels chosen for the purpose of communicating and are these labels chosen by society? Or what the individual choses to label themselves? As it was said during the discussion, “Labels…it works, and I’m happy using a label but it shouldn’t be me.”

HOMOPHOBIA

The last idea that joins the chain is of course homophobia. Not content with just stating that it exists, the participants dived in without any prompting and proceeded to look the lion in the mouth and find out why his teeth were so sharp by uncovering the various reasons behind homophobic behaviour.

Poster advertising the LGBTQ World Cafe event

Original poster advertising the LGBTQ World Cafe event

The question that was the most perplexing to everyone during the event was why coming out changes anything? If the individual has always had the sexuality/gender identity they just came out as having, why do some people suddenly change their opinion or attitude towards the individual once they know? Why does sexuality/gender identity matter so much?

While the extent of homophobia is increasingly becoming less present, it’s very existence presents LGBTQ individuals with the potential for an unpleasant and even dangerous encounter. It is commonly agreed that a broader picture of the possibilities of sexuality and gender identity is required to educate society of the normality of LGBTQ individuals. This means that openness, visibility and discussion are the most effective forms of education. However, a fear of the possibility of rejection and homophobic behavior makes this task difficult to accomplish. Many LGBTQ individuals wish to be open and visible with their identity but don’t want to “shoot themselves in the foot” (as it was said by a participant) by outing themselves in an unaccepting environment. Yet more concerning, is the knowledge that this issue may continue for the rest of an individual’s lifetime (as LGBTQ individuals are constantly having to “out” themselves to individuals) unless homophobia is eradicated.

Below is some footage of the final discussions for the night. We started a little awkward but as you can see, we soon were laughing hysterically. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Thanks for reading! Please comment and add your opinion to the discussion. Let me know what you think!

If you support this project I’d really appreciate it if you would like its page on Facebook. Like it here: https://www.facebook.com/becausewearediverse

A thesis documenting the project’s findings is available for reading so email me at becausewearediverse@gmail.com if you would like to give it a read!

Check out the interview with Bunny Bennett from Steam Powered Giraffe! https://becausewearediverse.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/lgbtq-interview-with-bunny-from-steam-powered-giraffe/

Read Joseph Harwood’s interview here! https://becausewearediverse.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/a-chat-with-joseph-harwood-3/

Let’s Talk About Your Sexuality…

How can I discuss sexuality without mentioning the Kinsey Scale? The famous Kinsey Scale was formulated by  Alfred Kinsey, an American influential sex researcher in the 40s and 50s. He’s had documentaries, movies, books and all sorts of other things released on the subject of his life and is widely regarded as the first major figure in American sexology. Through his research of human sexualitysexual encounters, behaviours and fantasies – he came to the conclusion that rather than stiff boxes and clear lines, sexuality was more of a spectrum ranging from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual. Importantly, Kinsey found that it was very rare that anyone be exclusively heterosexual or homosexual, rather the majority of people sat somewhere along the spectrum. The spectrum runs from the number 0 (being exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (being exclusively homosexual) with an X to represent asexuality. A bisexual person would sit around the number 3.

The Kinsey Scale

The Kinsey Scale

Now I’d like to ask you all a favour. Take the Kinsey Scale Test online and let me know where you sit on the scale on the poll below. Who knows, you may even discover something about your sexuality you didn’t know. Take the test here: http://www.youngsouthampton.org/children-and-young-people/advice/relationships/sexuality/multidimensional-scale-of-sexuality-quiz.aspx

 

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Hank Green Explains It All

I found this video a little while ago. It has become my go-to video when some explanations about human identity are needed. It really expresses the spectrum of human relationships and identity showing that there really are no definitive boxes – an issue that was strongly expressed at the LGBTQ World Cafe event (more on this to come). This is where the ignorance breeds from – failing to understand that sex, gender, sexuality and behaviour are all entirely separate things and do not have to be connected in any way. In any way. A word of advice: even if you think that you have a solid grasp of the differences between identity, gender and behavior, give this one a watch. It may bring up a few points you’ve never considered. Certainly brought up a few for me.

Can I just say, I love Hank Green for this. Good old vlogbrothers.