Please visit the Fall 2012 class website project at Queer Arts Los Angeles Website.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ted Stern


The piece I chose to write about is Miguel Angel Reyes’ “Ted Stern.” I could not find a lot of information on this piece other than it was made in 2005 and is color pencil on black velour paper. Though this piece does not have a lot of information, it really stands out to me. The first aspect of the piece that caught my eye was the contrast between the body and the black background. He clearly stands out and the background makes his features even more noticeable. The details on the body are seen clearer which allows us to really take in the full image.

 Another aspect of the piece that caught my attention is the way the body is positioned. His back is towards us, but we are still able to feel an emotion. The body looks very tense and his muscles are very sculpted. It’s as if he is straining to get up by pushing upwards with his arms. His face is not completely visible, but that mystery is what I really like about this piece. This work really displays the human body and shows its beauty. I love the shading because it highlights some muscles, but also adds to the mystery and the overall mood. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

When We Were Outlaws


a.) During the book When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love and Revolution the femme butch dynamic is mentioned as something that was frowned upon in the feminist lesbian community because it followed traditional gender norms and heterosexual relationship styles.  Because I am very much interested in the femme/butch dynamic, I would be interested in Jeanne Cordova’s views on the subject now, giving the growing numbers of femme identified lesbians and their acceptance by the community.
b.) I would be also be very interested in Jeanne Cordova’s views on shows like The L Word and/or The Real L Word and what they may or may not be contributing to the LGBTQ movement.
c.) I would also like to hear Jeanne Cordova’s views on where the movement stands today, especially with consideration to queer, transgender and bisexual identities, what advice she might have for today’s young activists and also how does she view the internet in regards to organizing?  Does she believe the internet supports or replaces traditional publications?

National Coming Out Day


After participating in National Coming Out Day both this year and last year, I have to say that the event seems to have progressed into a more complex event.  Last year, there were uniformed digital images for all who wanted to support the event through social media.  These images consisted of a colorful filter and the word “OUT” written along the bottom of the frame. These images where absent this year and people were asked to write their coming out stories. This was an unusual twist.  It could be said that the story telling gives a contextual history and persona that is more humanizing than a single image could ever be.  This could potentially make the LGBTQ community more relatable to the heterosexual world making equality a little more achieveable.  However, I did notice that those who feel into the gay or lesbian binary received more peer support than those in the queer arena.  This was disheartening and showed where more growth would be useful.  

Hector Silva


Armed with a pencil and a piece of paper, Hector Silva is a self-taught Los Angeles artist who creates incredible works of arts depicting Chicano, queer and prison culture as well as the traditional religious iconography of his Ocotian birthplace.  His work ranges from the sexually graphic to prolific.  After being discovered by Lucille Ball in 1984, Mr. Silva continued his career as a commercial artist by working in the film industry, gallery shows and winning awards for his work.  Hector also works in oil, acrylic and photographic mediums.  I chose Hector Silva as the artist I’d like to feature in my project because not only does his work hold value ascetically it is also necessary in today's political and social climate.  

Biography


My very first experience of being on the UCLA campus was while working backstage on a production called “Women Doing Men”.  Not only was this my first time being on the UCLA campus, it was my first time being on any university campus.  That was 12 years ago and if then someone had told me that I would eventually be a student at UCLA, I would have told that they had lost their mind.  I am a nontraditional, transfer student from Santa Monica College.  I also identify as queer.  I have learned an incredible amount about myself, my surroundings and my place place in the world during this journey into academia.  It has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life, thus far.  Presently, I am in the process of applying to graduate program and am looking forward to pursuing my Masters in Social Welfare next Fall.  I am a women’s major with a global studies minor and huge of the arts.


When We Were Outlaws was definitely a very interesting memoir to read.  Not only did I learned many things that were happening in the 1970s with the gay rights movement, but it was very enjoyable to read how these events affected, and influenced, the author in her struggles as an activist, and her constant fight to earn the right to be who she was.  It's still been such a short time since homosexuality stopped being a crime, and it is very empowering to read a book about someone who lived through a very tense period in which there was so much going on—gay rights movement, Chicano movement, and other events.

My questions for Córdova are:

            1)   In one of the early chapters, you stated the following, “Someday, perhaps even in my own lifetime, gays will be free, I told myself” (51).  What does it mean to you for a gay person to be free?  Do you think that with LGBT issues still happening today, there is still a chance that in your lifetime (or even in our lifetime)  we will eventually be free and have equal rights?

           2)  You mentioned in your novel that you didn’t have a close relationship with our father ever since you came out to him, and that you also did not had communication with him.  How did your relationship with him and your family evolved over time?  Did your parents eventually accepted your identity?

           3) In your book, you mention that you describe yourself as a lesbian feminist.  I would like to know, what is your definition of “feminism”?  I am interested in your response, since many people have their interpretation of what the word means.  I’ve been called a “feminist” when I talk about the oppression of women or when I express how I do not conform to what society expects of me because of my gender.  But I feel like being feminist has to do more than just defending the rights of women or rejecting society’s view of what it means to be a woman

Questions for Jeanne Cordova

Jeanne Cordova's honesty in When We Were Outlaws makes a tale of political and personal lives not only inspiring but demonstrative of the rewards of meshing the two. After reading this book, I am shown why quiet activism in one's own personal life is never sufficient in making audible rumbles in society. I have always had an immense amount of respect for activists, who possess a species of conviction that is downright glorious, but after experiencing this memoir, that respect has grown into a deep reverence for that conviction which I am still grasping to find in my life. 

It seems as if activism is a safe haven for those of us who are in disagreement with any thing. It is a place of mind and body where people are free to fight for what is right and against what is wrong. Cordova shows that activism is through action and not only action, but visible and audible action. There is a certain tenacious compassion that is required in order to do what Cordova has done and continues to do. Furthermore, as Cordova's experiences unfold in the memoir, it cannot be denied that movements move as a result of people like her. The Lesbian Feminist movement did not make waves thanks to a bunch of dissatisfied women sulking around in their kitchens. No, it took foot soldiers, like Cordova, who were ready to give their lives to the life of activism so that equality would prevail. 

1) Is it possible for anyone to become an activist and is it possible now? What does being an effective activist take as far as results are concerned?

2) While the notion of eliminating gender from the lemma is puzzling, since the whole point is to achieve gender equality, is it not more satisfying to eliminate gender altogether and institute a more universal equality, which is inclusive of every aspect of a person? Or at the very least, if not eliminating gender constructs altogether, then instating a limited form of relativism, which is not specific to the category of gender, but general to all defining categories?

When We Were Outlaws



One of the scenes from the novel that struck me the most was when Cordova was abandoned by her father because of his mislead beliefs on lesbians. It shows how lesbians have to always swim against the views of society, law, religion, and even family. It was also interesting seeing the growing apart of the GSCS between the gay and lesbian community. I was not aware of how gay men of the 1950s viewed lesbians as not their equals. So not only did lesbians have to fight against the views of heterosexual society but against the prejudices of their gay brothers as well making things even more difficult. This reminded me about the Chicano civil rights movement where women's rights were not at the forefront but forgotten as well. It was also interesting seeing the different political backgrounds in the lesbian/feminist civil rights movement which I also was not aware of. At times these different backgrounds created different visions for the movement and different methods to achieve those visions. It also created a lot of clashes within the movement which is seen numerous times throughout the novel. It was amazing seeing Cordova keep her stance firm in her dream to have gay and lesbian brothers united.

Why did the gay men of the 1950s view lesbians on a lower level when they themselves were discriminated against by society in the same way?

I don't understand how these brothers and sisters who went through the same exact hardships can become excluded by the other.

Why did you choose not to drop journalism and join the forefront of the urban guerrilla movement?

At times in the novel Cordova expressed a yearning to cross the line from journalism to revolutionary but never did.


When We Were Outlaws

Jeanne Cordova's When We Were Outlaws is a compelling memoir disguised as a novel, in which she combines her experiences as a queer Chicana feminist in the midst of a rising 1970s L.A. lesbian movement with her personal encounters with love. I really enjoyed this read, not only because it was quick and entertaining as a narrative, but also because it reminded me of the importance of "love and revolution", specifically as they relate to one another. Often times the divisive internal politics of a social movement can blind revolutionaries to the importance of loving one another - the author poignantly shows us just to what extent one's own personal idealizations can clash with other members of the movement as well as with one's own turbulent love life.

I have two questions for Jeanne:

1. To you, how does contemporary Queer/PoC activism compare to how it was in the 60s/70s? What aspects are still similar after all these years? What aspects are drastically different? Additionally, what issues do you consider relevant to your interests today that weren't in the 70s?

2. In the early chapters of the book, there is a section where you describe your meeting with Angela Davis and criticize the 'ivory tower'. There is a clear divide between academia and tangible politicizing; how do you feel about this gap and what advice do you have for us (college-educated activists) in that regard?

When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love & Revolution

When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love & Revolution recounts the birth of the Gay & Lesbian Rights Movement in Los Angeles from the perspective of writer and activist Jeanne Córdova. The decade between 1970 and 1980 was filled with politicking and activism, and Córdova was not only in the center of it all, she played a vital role in the creation and execution of some of the movement’s most historic events. From the first National Lesbian Conference at UCLA to the gay liberation march of 1971 and the first labor strike against the Gay Community Services Center, it is clear that Jeanne Córdova was at the forefront of many firsts. Among the many firsts in her life, Córdova also writes about “Rachel,” the first woman she was ever in love with. Their tumultuous love story parallels the challenges Córdova experienced throughout the ‘70s, particularly in 1975.

Questions:
  • So many LGBTQ people struggle with reconciling their sexuality and their religious beliefs/upbringing. Being that Catholicism was obviously such a big part of your life, did you struggle with reconciling your sexuality and your religion?
  • Did your parents and/or siblings ever positively re-enter your life?
  • What has been your favorite acheivement/accomplishment to date?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Jeanne Cordova an OUTlaw?

     "When We Were Outlaws" is an insightful window to the growth of both lesbian culture as well as how lesbians played into the overall queer movement as well how excluded they were from the Gay Frontlines. Through the personal experiences and articles that Cordova provides to her readers a sense of consciousness fills every chapter, and each chapter itself is formatted to give a sense that the reader is reading a magazine. Given the datelines, headlines, and articles of the very moments in Cordova's life that played an integral part in the development of her radical identity.
     A radical lesbian Chicana Feminist, so much  experience entitled to that identity alone and she was able to encompass all of those intersectionalities throughout her memoir. I on a personal note was also able to relate to her in some ways, in the case where she had a consciousness around being able to deconstruct the linguistics of our man made language and what traditions were "hetero-centric." It was refreshing to see even some new takes on the traditions and language that surround us. Gave that double take on things.

In reading the novel some questions did come to mind: 
-In reading so much about fighting in this queer revolution,
and although some advancements were made, what does
 "gay liberation and freedom" look like to you?
-When calling out Angela Davis herself and questioning her 
sexuality why do you think the dynamics of being lesbian and
 feminist were so bad? When the feminist teaching go by "the
 personal is political" and yet we had figures like Davis making
 it seem like it wasn't relevant. 

Jeanne, May I Pick Your Brain??

When We Were Outlaws has left me with questions about Jeanne Cordova's political and love debacles and triumphs, but to some extent it has also left me yearning for a taste of what she lived. Though what follows is somewhat unrelated to this post, I think it is worth mentioning. Her comparison of dissolving into the Earth while in the forest, to making love with Rachel as their bodies dissolved into each other's, was an awe-inspiring moment for me. If I can experience even a minimal amount of what she described to have lived with Rachel that night, I will consider myself a very lucky man.

My three questions for Jeanne are:

1) What were your reasons for outing someone when an expected result was not met?
I noticed this a couple of times. After Angela Davis said that alternative sexuality was only a practice for the privileged during her speech, Jeanne made it her duty to almost out Davis at her Q&A session. Also, when the print shop refused to run the cover of The Lesbian Tide, Jeanne made sure that she outed Roger before she went to go talk to Roger's boss about his issue with the cover.

2) What allows you to keep your composure when rage could potentially take over?
Jeanne was placed in several situations where it would've taken every fiber of my being not to react or frenzy in rage. For example, during the march from Highland to Vine with Morris, Jeanne prevented the march from dividing into sections by stopping the man driving through the street who blatantly told her how he felt about queers. Jeanne's interactions and interview with Joe Tomassi is another example of how she was able to keep her composure. Her actions to solve any immediate adversity seemed to come naturally. Could this be due to experience? Were her responses instinctual? 

3) How is your relationship with your parents and your siblings? What's become of them? Is your father still a homophobe? Did Jerome come out to you or any family?
Perhaps this question is too personal in nature, and I certainly hope that I'm not overstepping my bounds. However, I feel that Jeanne allows us into her life with unwavering veracity, which gives me the confidence to ask this question. I ask because I sincerely want to know. 

When We Were Outlaws


1. What was the reason that you interviewed Joseph Tomassi even though he has opposing views from you?

Jean Cordova is a lesbian, chicano feminist. Joseph Tomassi, who is a captain of National Socialist Liberation Front, asked her to transmit his word to the public by writing about him after she interviewed him. I believe the National Socialist Liberation Front not only has nothing to do with Cordova’s political stance but also stands for white superiority which is in contrast to her beliefs. That’s why I couldn’t understand clearly why she agreed to listen what he said and even wrote the article about it. Is that because she thought as a journalist, she has a duty to convey every political opinion without judging it?
  
2. Could you tell us how the gay and lesbian community can seek a way to go forward together?
I think that lesbian communities are still underestimated compared to those of gays. Reading about the conflict between GCSC and other lesbian feminists, I wondered how those two can be united as one community though they have their gender identity as a prime factor of their idea.

3. Do you still believe that non-monogamy is a way of political resistance towards heterosexual marriage as a feminist?

It was hard for me to understand that monogamy was invented by men to enslave women like a possession because I think it’s natural to want someone to get involved only with you when you have a serious relationship with him or her.   


When We Were Outlaws



Jeanne Cordova’s “When We Were Outlaws” is a memoir of love and revolution. The two topics seemed to be an interesting combination to put on the cover, but nevertheless greatly intertwined. Being a young feminist, activist, and writer it was only necessary for Cordova to document the relationships she held with other women. These love stories only deepened the understanding of revolution, and the meaning of being a woman fighting a war for equality among other women. Cordova states that history plays a pivotal role in her book which enhances the sequential manner of her narrative. As a universal theme, factual evidence is detrimental to supportive an individuals’ opinion, and thus utilized as a form of empowerment that can be transcended by the reader. 

In her book Cordova discusses the 70s as a period of turmoil as gay and lesbian communities come together as powerful organizations. I noticed how the gay men from the Gay Community Services Center are just as “genderized” as heterosexual men. For example, Morris Kights hesitated with promoting women to higher positions at the GCSC. Cordorva mentions that Kight did make an exception for butches but only because gay men were accused by straight for taking on feminine roles. Kights’ decision relates to the sexism that is still seen among heterosexual men. It was disturbing to understand how despite the marginalization of queer people that gay men could be sexist, and accept lesbians as allies. This led to me to believe that Western norms that have been structured to govern societies’ way of living impacts everyone, even in the slightest way, regardless of sex. 

1. Why does Cordova use terminology such as “dyke,” “butch,” and “fag” to describe the lesbians, even though they are considered to be derogatory words?

2. What type of difficulties have you endured not knowing about your Chicano cultural background and instead raised as an American Irish? 


When We Were Outlaws


When reading Jeanne Cordova's memoir "When We Were Outlaws", I found myself automatically thinking about how strong-willed and intelligent this woman was. Throughout her struggles she chose not to victimize herself. She took what she learned while growing up and put that into her passion which seems to be political activism. I admire her for putting herself on the chopping blocks so many times for what she believed in. Her goals for the future created such a strong motivation within herself. Along with all of her incredible feats that dealt with activism and her wants and beliefs, I was engulfed in her love story as well. She so vividly explained her feelings for these different women and made me really feel like I was in the romance. That romantic aspect is what made her book so much more interesting and relatable. These two aspects, political activism and romance, created an amazing book that kept me hooked. I do not identify myself as queer, but I found myself really relating to Cordova in all of her struggles and accomplishments.

My first question is how Jeanne Cordova kept herself so calm and collected when she was fired from the GCSC and helped lead a protest.

My second question is did her childhood experiences at any point make her want to give up? To become what her father wanted her to become?

My third question is why was it so hard to commit to only BeJo? 

Questions for Jeanne Córdova


I really enjoyed reading Jeanne Córdova’s When We Were Outlaws. As of right now I haven’t read all of it, but I have read a good portion. As a queer person, I like learning about the struggles that people older than myself have had to fight against and overcome because it makes me even more grateful for all that I have today, much of which is due to the people who fought so hard and made the queer community more visible to the world at large.

Questions:

My first question was sparked by the interaction with Angela Davis in Chapter 2.  You asked if she would be willing to say she was gay if she were actually gay. I looked into it and saw that she did eventually come out. Do you believe a person who is a celebrity in some way, whether in film or academia or another medium, has the obligation to be out nowadays? Is there a difference between people who live openly but don’t talk about their personal lives (and maybe advocate for queer issues) and people who deny that they are gay because they think it will advance their career in some way?

My second question has to do with your time working at The Free Press and/or The Tide. I’m a writer and I’ve just started writing and putting it out there for the public to read. What were the benefits of working at such a publication? Do you think that you had more freedom as a writer in such a position? Were you able to cover more issues that you cared about and affected you personally than if you had been writing anywhere else? Were there any other publications at the time to which you would have liked to contribute?

When We Were OUTlaws

When We Were Outlaws is a book about the radical activism of Jeanne Cordova. With her modern age non-monogamous relationships, the butch persona, her Leftist journalism, her activism with the Gay Movement, and against misogyny from the GCSC Cordova's novel brings forth how a lesbian fit into the civil rights and activist era of the 1970's. In spite of all the activism the most interesting part of the novel I found were her love interest and the relationship she created between butch womyn and femme womyn. Throughout the book she keeps referring to a dichotomy of Butch lesbians dating Femme womyn who just recently got out of heterosexual relationships/marriages. This seems interesting to me because at least now enforcing such kind of relationship seems like gender conforming. Not to say that this type of relationship doesn't exist, to each their own, but when it takes up so much time in a movement it seems like Queer womyn in the 70s were pushing each other to be in this male-centric dichotomy where one partner had to be Butch and the other femme.

Questions for Cordova:
1. What do you feel about the word Queer when womyn identify themselves as Queer Womyn and not lesbians?

2. Why did you not see the Gay men at the GCSC as the enemy like the other ladies did?

When We Were Outlaws



Jeanne Cordova’s memoir When We Were Outlaws was an interesting, informative and enticing read. Her life as a political self identified queer Chicana feminist and activist was exciting but so was her love life, so exciting it made me flip through the pages at a faster pace. Cordova’s talented writing skill is a work of art; her scenes were almost in color with the way she described with such delicate detail and animation. This page turner had me feeling like I was watching the scenes unfold before my eyes. She has so much to say and her style of writing gives us a chance for us to see her side of the story as a biracial woman during this political movement.


As a Veterana of non monogamous relationships, how do you feel about it now? after giving this life style a try, do you believe other people can maintain this type of relationship?

As a followup question, what are your thoughts about gay marriage?  Some people say that this helps reproduce heterosexual family structure, reproducing binary such as in parenting.

Did you ever find a complete balance between your political and personal life?

When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love & Revolution










From a person who sees himself as an unwavering supporter of equal rights, When We Were Outlaws is a great wake-up call. Jeanne Cordova's personal portrayal of the struggle for equality during the mid 1970's was moving and informative. Perhaps the biggest eye-opener is the feeling that I was left with after reading sections on the organization, determination and will it takes to be a real supporter of equality; my support is far more personal, and decidedly less effective.

One aspect of the struggle that I have never personally approached is that while Gay and Lesbian activism often takes on the same face to the public, there are some points of contention that were well outlined in the book. Cordova points out the history of local cooperation and tension among the varied political ideologies that exist between the Gay movement and the Lesbian-femenist movements during that time.

Showing a true dedication to truth, empathy and self-reflection, Cordova wrote about her time interviewing characters like Emily Harris, an activist in the Symbionese Liberation Army, and Joe Tomassi, a neo-Nazi militant. For me, it was very impressive to see the level of compassion and maturity that Cordova was able to display with regards to these two characters, activist in their own right. And, while purpose and belief may differ among the three of them, Cordova looks within herself to come to a very moving realization that perhaps the personal motivation of her and Joe Tomassi were not all that different, and that hate of another can really only come from one place.

After reading Jeanne Cordova's book, that are a couple questions I would ask:

1) I remember reading MLK Jr's Letter From Birmingham Jail a while back, and in it Dr. King spoke out against what he saw as the greatest threat to racial equality. Perhaps surprisingly, Dr. King did not believe it was the outspoken white supremest or KKK member, but the man or woman who supported freedom, but did not share their voice. I wonder if Jeanne Cordova might agree or disagree.?

2) What is the biggest impediment to the realization of "gay rights?"Is it the stance of the church, the outdated belief of some members of the government that it goes against this countries christian values, or the ignorance of the voting populace, at least when it comes to California and the prop 8?

Reflection on "When We Were Outlaws"



This week I found myself reading Jeanne Córdova's memoir "When We Were Outlaws" from cover to cover in one day. I found her story of revolution and love to be intimate and compelling; at times I found myself feeling as though I had stumbled upon a friend's journal. Córdova's words hit close to home for me, as an activist and scholar I was familiar with the hold the "political life" had on her, and how inevitably she was disappointed and betrayed by her own mentors in the movement.

A part of the memoir/herstory that struck me was the constant writing Jeanne did and how it became such an integral part of her life. Whether it was for her first love The Lesbian Tide, The Freep, the CGSC or Rachel, she often found herself writing. This observation made me realize how much of Jeanne's life is in her writing, and how important the pen is in telling her story. I feel extremely blessed that outlaws like Jeanne have paved the way for queer youth today, and that she's above all a survivor of struggles in love and revolution.
My questions for Jeanne are:

1.) On page 165 after your interview with The Weather Underground, you wrote "At its core "revolution" wasn't pretty or easy. People died, lives were ruined." Looking back at that glimpse of the revolution's "core", what would  you say about the "revolution' to a young activist today?

2.) How did it feel to (re)member your relationship with Rachel for the book, do you still wish you'd talked to BeJo early and gotten to Rachel before she left?

A Memoir of Love & Revolution

Jeanne Córdova in her memoir, When we Were Outlaws remembers her past experiences with the gay and lesbian movement in Los Angeles during the first major push for equality of the mid 1970's. Embattled with her desire for unity, she explores her frustrations with her own community as well as their gay-male counterparts. Her battle in L.A. is focused mainly with the Gay Community Service Center and their lack of acknowledgement of issues pertaining to the Lesbian community.

Córdova also gives the reader an inside look at her life beyond her political ideals. Her convictions through Feminism sometimes clashed with her inward desires, they also sometimes gave her more strength and empowerment. We see both sides of her thinking and emotions, and how they come together to form her story.

1. I'd like to see how the author would comment of the commercialization of the LGBT community and if was something that she forsaw in her early activist years.With the amount of characters that are "gay" in the movies, how is it affecting the movement itself and does she see assimilation as a part of the flow of acceptance? I myself and constantly trying to figure this out, as someone that does want to see the violence and outright discrimination against the LGBT community, I also take much pride in our differences with the heterosexual world and would hate to see those be absorbed into mainstream culture.

2. I was really intrigued with her story about interviewing Emily Harris. As someone who herself is very political and similarly convicted, how was it to interview someone who took those convictions to the next level?

When We Were Outlaws


I really enjoyed reading Jeanne Cordova's book "When We Were Outlaws". Aside from learning more about gay and lesbian social movements, I was fascinated by Cordova’s personal story and her struggle to juggle politics and love. From the beginning, Cordova was depicted as such a strong individual that it was heartbreaking to see her breakdown the way she did towards the end of the book. My first question for her would have to be, looking back, did you see your actions as hypocritical when you were telling Rachel that you could not stand the thought of her with another woman if your arrangement were to be non-monogamous? Was it because you finally realized you loved her?

The relationship Cordova had with Morris was also very interesting to read about, especially because she mentioned that Morris and her father were very similar. Having her explain the anger she had towards her father and the horrible relationship she had with him growing up made me wonder why she instilled so much trust on Morris. He was a mentor to Cordova and he taught her a lot, so I saw this relationship as her chance to have a real father figure in her life. It was really surprising to read that he ended up betraying her so my second question is, how did Morris’s betrayal affect you in terms of one day seeing the gay and lesbian community unite as one? Do you think there is still that separation today or have we moved forward from this? 

When We Were Outlaws



For LGBT people, or anyone else for that matter, who care about activism, especially those of us who are young enough to have no memory of those iconic times, Córdova's book When We Were Outlaws provides an insight to those crucial movements. The book vividly takes us to a time of protest and change whose effects on the U.S. were deep and transformative - so much so, that ultraconservatives have been frantically trying to undo the past ever since. This sweeping memoir depicts a young activist torn between her personal life and political goals.What kept me interested was the way she chronicles a time in the 1970s when she was a young lesbian reporter and activist who was fighting for lesbian visibility and equality in Los Angeles, as well as trying to balance her love life. This transformed the story from a historic account to a captivating novel with personal experiences interwoven with history.
The questions I have for Jeanne are:
1.     Didn't many of us hope that certain civil-rights battles were finally won for good after the Sixties and Seventies? If so, why are we fighting these battles again today? What are your opinions?
2.     What are your takes on recent LGBT activism? (Prop 8, don’t ask/don’t tell, AIDS protests, etc.)? Are there more resources and opportunities at our disposal in the present time than when the events in your book took place? I’m interested to hear the past and present comparisons. 

A Memoir of Love and Revolution

 
 When We Were Outlaws is a revolutionary book that is exactly as it is described, “a memoir of   
 Love & Revolution". In this book Jeanne Córdova really digs deep into her personal journey and puts some of the most personal experiences down on paper for others to see. The story is centered around movements and activist participation that took place in the mid to late 70’s. Córdova explains her experiences in these movements from both a political and personal point of view. While the writer portrays herself to be a hardworking activist who fought hard for change, she also depicts herself as a person who still struggles with the battles of everyday problems, including family and love. This writing is wonderful because it allows readers to see Córdova as a lesbian activist who is only trying to maintain love and revolution during the social movements of the 70’s.
After reading about Córdova’s personal and political journey, I could not help but ponder on two questions. My first question is about family life. From reading the book it is my understanding that you did not have a good relationship with your father; my question stems from that broken relationship. How do you think your political career would have been affected if your relationship with your father was not completely cut off? How did you manage to deal with the fact that you did not really have any familial support during such an interesting time in your life? My other question has to do with your relationships From the reading it is obvious that your political and personal lives mixed together frequently. Looking back now, would you wish that you had kept love and work separate? Or did having both help you in some way?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"When We Were Outlaws" by Jeanne Córdova


Jeanne Córdova’s memoir, When We Were Outlaws, is the story of a turbulent 1975 through early 1976.  With lesbian feminists clashing with women from other movements and with the gay movement, political strife is at the heart of the memoir.  Córdova is able to capture the reader’s interest further with a tragic love story of love lost to politics.

Some of the most fascinating moments for me while reading the memoir were when intersectionality plays out in real life, often contradicting how it is presented in theory classes.  Throughout the memoir, Córdova struggles to maintain the “purity” of the gay movement.  Córdova insists during several meetings of the Defense Coalition of the Gay Feminist 11/16 that the gay movement must remain a priority over other movements, including over worker’s rights, Libertarianism, socialism, and communism.  The lack of intersectionality in the early gay movement is considered today to be one of its failings and intersectionality has become a hallmark of the modern Queer movement.  Although, I understand that there can be failings within intersectionality as well, such as the fear that queerness will become diluted with so many different causes that queer rights take a back seat, I still view intersectionality as an important part of modern Queer politics.

Questions for Jeanne Córdova:
  1. In Third Wave Feminism and the modern Queer movement, there is often an emphasis placed on intersectionality.  In your book, there were moments when you disagreed with the gay movement intersecting with another movement, such as worker’s rights.  Is this still your position? Why or why not?
  2. In When We Were Outlaws, there are moments when balancing the personal and the political became too difficult.  Have you reached that balance now?  What suggestions do you have for young activists?
  3. In recent years, you have done a lot of organizing around Butch identity.  What’s next for Butch Nation?  What issues is Butch Nation focusing on?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jeanne Cordovas' "When we were Outlaws"



Jeanne Cordova’s work focused on her personal struggles and political activities, as well as her work as a lesbian-feminist, during the turbulent 70’s decade. Along the way, the Gay Community Services Center was built, and although it was supposed to be symbolically a place for all queer people of the time, it quickly became heavily centered on male leadership, discounting all female or female-identified experiences. Not only was that brutal misogyny against lesbians, it was very harming to the queer community as a whole at the time. Cordova herself, throughout the memoir, tried to help bridge these conflicts in order to keep the lesbian and gay men on the same side. 

Personally, I have to disagree with what Cordova stated near the end of the book where she said that lesbian and gay men are more “realigned” nowadays. In my experience, a rift between lesbian and gay men is still present in many social settings. Take for instance gay bars. Not only is the presence of women frequenting bars in West Hollywood small, it's at times non-existent. 

Of course, this rift may not be a rift at all. Maybe men, at least in bar culture, feel the need to keep their own space, if only to be promiscuous in peace without having females present, possibly based on a biological sense. Maybe lesbians do not bond over gay clubbing like some men do. There are still other elements in today's world that seem anti-lesbian to me created by the gay male community. Sitcoms like “Modern Family,” or “Will and Grace,” make gay characters create at the lesbian community that seem highly discriminatory against lesbians. Many times in television they are a stereotypical lesbian, bordering crude satire and making references to Home Depot and flannel shirts that seem over-the-top in many cases.

I must concede, however, in saying that there might be a possibility that it's not as bad as it was before. I will say, though, that it can be much better than it is.

Two questions I would love answered by Jeanne Cordova are:
1.     1.  How do you feel about the Gay and Lesbian Center’s female leadership? Do you believe it's what you felt was needed before?
2.     1.  Looking back, do you still resent Sylvia Patton’s presence in the battle vs. the GCSC leadership?