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

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Part 3 of Gay LA

The final part of Gay L.A. – A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians, focusses on the more recent history of the gay community in LA.
What stood out for me in this section was the amount of attention that was given to the ‘minorities’ of the gay community in Los Angeles. LA is the most diverse city I have ever lived in and throughout the book it had seemed strange to me that only limited time had been spent talking about people of color in the gay community. The first couple of sections talk about the Latinx community in LA, African Americans, etc. It was about time more than one page was dedicated to those topics. It is very important for any movement to be aware of any racial divide that happens within the community. Books such as Gay LA, which give an overview of a community or movement, can often overlook exclusions of race, because it is already focussed on one oppression (that of sexual orientation). It is very important the community is being looked at from different axis, including from a racial perspective. What is also interesting is the struggle all the groups went through accommodating everyone’s identities. Diversity can certainly be an asset to any liberation movement. Groups splintering and new, more specialized groups forming can be an amazing process where people find their identity. It can empower the most vulnerable of a movement, if done correctly.

Secondly, the description of the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic really stood out to me. The first time I was confronted with the realities of AIDS was when reading one of my all time favorite books – The Hours, by Michael Cunningham. The book centres around the Virginia Woolf novel Mrs. Dalloway. One of the characters is a gay man dying of AIDS. The book centres around three women who are all in some way affected by Mrs. Dalloway, however, Richard, the gay man, still made a huge impression of me. The book was also impressive because it could be read that all three of the main characters show signs of queerness. For some this is more clear than for others. Anyway, the description of the AIDS epidemic brought my mind to this book again, and I would recommend everyone read it.

Friday, January 27, 2017


Post 2: Gay LA Part II

Hey everyone!

I think what stood out to me the most about the second part of the Gay LA reading was the constant internal struggle to unite the gay community and how to address (or more often, unfortunately, exclude) intersectionality and different backgrounds and identities into the queer scene, culture, or cause. The authors point out that one of the initial struggles in building a queer community in LA was that LA queers differed in "ethnicity, socioeconomics, aesthetics, politics, temperament, philosophy" and when not being united by their common oppression, were competing to "claim the best rays for themselves." They focus mainly on the divide between the middle- and upper-income "Suits" who pursued respectability and large, well-funded political goals and the lower-income "Streets" who wanted to reject hetero norms and embraced hippie and queer culture and between gay men and lesbians, but also touch upon the explicit exclusion of racial minorities or the divide between the "glam lesbians" and the "crunchy Birkenstock lesbians" and the punk girls.

Queerness was both a way to bring everyone together and to exclude at the same time, from simple things like the lifting-your-shirt policy at some bathhouses to the Gay Community Service Center's reluctance to hire lesbians or fund programs for women. I'm also saddened by the constant push for respectability in queerness, especially some passages that suggested that one of the things that excluded lesbians from the queer community was both pressure from the queer community to be more "butch" and pressure from a hetero society to be more feminine that left these women sort of stranded in the middle.

I think it's interesting because all of it is definitely still something the queer community struggles with. Mainstream queer culture has been defined by the culture of middle- and upper-income white gay men for a long time and has become increasingly "respectable" (eg same-sex marriage; a wonderful thing but definitely a respectability push) and corporate (eg Target in June). I've always thought it was strange that drag shows, for example, are often presented as central to gay culture, because that's not something I've ever connected to or that I feel belongs to me, but I think I understand it more given the context that queer culture is A) relatively new, since it was only first allowed to really flourish in the 70s and B) so diverse and undefinitive that to attempt to condense it into one culture is an absolutely impossible task. I think spaces for queer women are still lacking, but I think people talk more now about including racial minorities in queerness and how one's race and sexuality intersect. Almost everyone in this section of Gay LA seemed to be either gay or lesbian, and we absolutely are moving beyond looking at queerness as exclusive to just gay men and lesbians.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Blog Post #2

Hello everyone, I'm glad to see that many of you all enjoyed the second part of Gay LA as much as I did! The second part touches on many issues related to activism and resistance; I saw may similarities from this history to our times today under the Trump administration's threats on many communities including this one. As someone who identifies as both queer and Mexican, I am able to see the realities of both of these communities and the tragedies of silence and progress away from collaboration.
For instance, Henry Hay's ban from the Communist Party following allegations about homosexuality lead him to lead progress in an organization for homosexual males. However, his support stemmed from claiming normalcy in other aspects of their lives: they had jobs, owned homes and cars, even had children and, of course, they were gender-conforming. In order to rid the negative connotation surrounding his sexual identity markers, the org made sure to assimilate in every other way possible.
This was not the end of resistance, however. The Radical Faeries of the time also claimed support for the community, except they put emphasis on the acceptance entirely. This allowed room for gender-nonconforming homosexual males to feel welcome, too.
This history came to mind while I kept myself up to date with current political movements, such as the women's march. I saw a poster labeled, "My fellow WHITE women here, I'm going to see you at the next #BlackLivesMatter parade, right?
It's just interesting to me the progresses and the opposite of progression in my life and world today. It resonates and I see it as knowledge that I can most definitely use.

Blog post #2 - Oscar

Hi everyone!

     I agree with you all that this weeks readings were very interesting. One thing in particular that stood out for me were the conflicts within community. These "internecine contentions," as the book calls them amongst the sexes and race really took a toll on how the movement progressed, and how it may have even backtracked its own ascension. In the book, the authors mention that Mina Meyer, an administrator at the Gay Community Services Center, had to fight an uphill battle to get women's health services on the table. This conflict between groups makes some sense though in my opinion. For so long this community had been divided and relegated to the sidelines and now all of a sudden they are a voice and being heard. It's not hard to think that what was going through the minds of these activists was that those who talked the loudest was going to be heard first. When one person barks louder then other voices are suppressed and dialogue ceases to exist. That seems to be the case when people who felt unfairly treated suppressed their own voices for fear of sustaining a harsh stereotype of the gay community.
     These conflicts between the groups really exacerbate the biases that many activists and liberation leaders carried. For example, the fact that a women could not hold an executive position only until after the AIDS epidemic wiped out many prominent gay male leaders. And the fact that the board for the Gay Community Services Center consisted of primarily white gay males at this time is another point of contention. Would this board divert money for causes that directly benefited them? Most likely, as was the case with the National Institute for Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse grant. These points of contention make me question the movement and the motives of some activists. There were those who wanted equality for all their brothers and sisters, but there were those who only had themselves in mind. What's striking is how this self-interest in motivations still persists within the LGBT community today. Lack of support for trans rights or right-wing LGBT group Log Cabin Republicans who push for a white gay male-centric queer stance make it difficult for everyone to stand as one. In the new Trump-era, I feel like standing as one is the most effective thing we can do to resits policies that would backtrack this progress, and if we cannot do that then it will hurt us.

Blog Post #2

Hello hello !

In this weeks reading in Gay L.A., there were multiple facets that struck me as interesting. In general, just reference to major streets such as Sunset Boulevard, or Pershing Square where young LGBTQ individuals would flock to gather with people similar to themselves, was awesome to hear. I always knew that Los Angeles had a rich history, but to hear it from the perspective of the people that I identify with, is fascinating! This was a time filled with much conservativeness, as we read on to find out that the owner of a bookstore was arrested for selling a lesbian pulp novel called Sweeter Than Life. This was a time where people did not want to open their eyes to difference, or even think about  it for that matter. The motion picture industry was pivotal in keeping the faith alive in these "different" individuals as it noted to keep with the times and that homosexuality was to be treated with "care, discretion and restraint".

At such an early time, it is comforting to see that Los Angeles was a place of comfort and belonging to people of the LGBTQ community. Progressive companies such as Universal Studios that outright support ending gay discrimination was incredible. This part of the reading also introduced the lesbian community more heavily and their residence in the North Hollywood area. Lesbians, however, remained under the media's radar for some time. Newspapers continued to release false stories regarding homosexuals and viewed their behavior as a "threat". Instances such as the Barbara Streisand Sweep just show the incredible discrimination against this community. Around sixty people were arrested for practically no reason at all--just for sitting in a bar.

I really enjoyed part two of Gay L.A., although it brought forth so many feelings of anger and sadness within me. It is absolutely crazy that discrimination is an actual integration of society. To be ridiculed for the color of your skin or to be arrested without reason because you are gay --is crazy to me. It's difficult to process because I know there are still people out there in this world who continue to feel this way. Thankfully, we live in Los Angeles--one of the most progressive communities in the world and here we can freely express ourselves at any time.

Post #2: Gay LA: Part 2

This week’s reading takes us through the 20th century history of Los Angeles. This second parts starts with the change in political and social climates of LA. The social justice and change as seen throughout the nation in other marginalized communities was sparking the same action for LGBTQ populations, with protests like Human Be-Ins. Despite these moves in social justice for gay liberation and gay power, lesbians, living in the intersection of misogyny and homophobia, continued to face erasure and silencing. Lesbians, fueled by these many years of neglect and oppression, started to organize and resist on their own. Lesbian feminism grew out of this resistance. Although not majorly talked about, this arena of lesbian feminism, which grew out of righteous resentment, found a violently misplaced target in the trans body when it took the shape of TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminism) which was a problematic and violent subdivide of this second-wave lesbian feminism.
I found chapter 8 of this section to be very interesting. There is vast discussion of West Hollywood, or Boystown as it was coyly called then, as a safe and open town for the expression of gay men’s sexualities and lifestyles. However, this town had “little class or racial diversity and, outside of a few nightclubs and bars…unreflective of the lesbian community” (232). I found it interesting that, in a town with a population whose household income exceeded that of the average American’s, a new gay consumerism strongly sprung forth. I found the discussion of gay men of West Hollywood serving as the new source for advertising and consumerism important and intriguing. That this lead to even straight companies buying ads in gay publications very problematic, as straight people have historically encroached upon and diminished the spaces that should be reserved for gay people and identities. But the response by some gay men was to financially and monetarily support such consumerism and companies, because, despite a strong and powerful history of anti-capitalism and antiestablishment politics, the belief among the affluent in West Hollywood now was that “gay money” demonstrated and nurtured “gay power” (233). This got me wondering how effective this could be. This notion of fighting oppression with capitalism is nothing new. But, historically, this has only worked to assimilate the once-oppressed group and turn it away from fighting the sources of oppression and marginalization. But overall, I stand on the side, though maybe rather cynical, that this same “gay money” was going to support companies and people who saw these gay men as only a profit margin, and not as actual people to stand in solidarity with.

Week 2

This week’s reading of Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians moves from the oppression of homosexual expression to the rising up of gay people in response to the extended harassment and mistreatment of society. In tandem with the Sexual Revolution and other movements for minority rights, gay men and women were stepping into the light to fight for liberation against homosexual discrimination and harassment. This part of the reading was inspirational because it was an unprecedented moment; this generation of young gays were mobilizing outright to demand change whereas their predecessors took more conservative measures to organize underground. One quote that stuck out from chapter 5:
“Before they began their work as gay liberationists, the new gays learned to conceptualize minority oppression not as a problem for the oppressed individual to suffer alone but as a social ill that a mass movement might eradicate. As one veteran of civil rights and union organizing, who became a gay activist, recalled: `All of us, to a person, had been involved in other struggles." Finally, they asked, "What about our liberation?”
The Sexual Revolution influenced gay men and women to join in and challenge traditional views on sexuality while creating a whole movement of their own concentrating on gay liberation. 

Unlike a decade before, gay men and women were able to assemble under the identity of homosexuals despite their class differences. Previously, middle-class lesbians were reluctant to organize or even join lesbian groups because of the fear of losing their professional jobs. While gay men had less difficulty in crossing class lines, this new decade proved to have a greater integration of gay men and women across class lines. In addition, gay men and gay women overcame some gender differences and joined forces under the banner of the Gay Liberation Front. 

Although gay men and gay women were working together like never before, it is important to point out that lesbians felt a gender divide. They felt like they were not as included within the Gay Liberation movement as gay men were. Lesbian women were not often represented at overarching gay organizations due to lack of participation and they did not feel like these movements catered to their identity as lesbians. As such, lesbians had to carve out their own spaces, communities, and organizations that focused on their identity as homosexuals as well as their identity as women. One such moment was when lesbians infiltrated a L.A. NOW meeting and demanded that the organization recognize the oppression of lesbian women within the overarching aim to liberate all women. It was interesting to read about all the lines of division that can work against a movement like gender, race, and class. In contemporary movements, organizers have learned to adopt the term of ‘intersectionality’ to describe the oppression of peoples across these divides which allows people to embrace intersecting identities in the fight for the liberation of all. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Week 3, Gay LA II

An event that stood out to me in part two of Gay LA is when Troy Perry decides to make a church for gay people. I never heard about this before and it was nice to learn that people didn't let the cruel words of others deter them from having a spiritual connection. From personal experience, I know that being queer comes with difficulty when your family has raised you Catholic and believes that God doesn't approve of gay people. But it is also refreshing to see that despite the hate and separation that religion has/can cause between homosexual and hetero people, it did not stop gay people from following their beliefs and maintaining a connection with their spiritual leader. In this case, God.

In addition to this, the fact that lesbians were welcome as well and were important in Perry's  congregation means a lot because they seem to be mentioned sparingly so far in the book. I loved the part where a gay male psychologist assumes the stereotypical gender role of the woman is to be in the kitchen. The sentence, "The next Sunday in his sermon, he chewed the guys out" (165) made me laugh and appreciate Perry's stance with lesbians. Instead of undermining the situation he took action and made it clear that that type of attitude is not welcome in his church. It is after all a place made because of that kind of outdated and generally wrong belief. Stereotypes involving the gender norms and a person's sexuality are problems that the gay community face even within themselves.

Week 2 Blog Post

Hi y'all,

This week's reading covered a lot of topics that I find very interesting. The first topic that I thought was interesting was idea that the first gay parade on record took place on May 12, 1966. I think this confused me, because I had always thought that the first Pride Parade was a riot and that riot was Stonewall. However, the more I thought about it, the more I thought that a literal parade is what was the intended meaning.
 The next topic I found interesting was that PRIDE was actually an organization that stood for Personal Rights in Defense and Education. I had always thought that it was just a name that came to be because of the celebrations that take place all over the world in the summer. The next topic I thought was interesting was "lesbian feminism." This idea of "feminism" came to be because the lesbians felt that heterosexual feminism excluded them. However, the fact that they created a sort of feminism that only cared about their progression reminded me of the same feminism they were excluded from themselves. There was no talk of transwomyn. Personally, I think of feminism as encompassing of all womyn, heterosexual, lesbian, queer and/or trans*. So it was interesting to see how far this topic has come.
It also was interesting to me to see how people in the punk scene took part in homosexual activities, but did not consider themselves gay because that was just what people in the punk scene do. This made me feel weird, but it also provided a safety net for gay people to stay hidden.

Hope y'all enjoyed the reading too!


Blog Post 2

Part II of Gay L.A. highlights the transition from the silent era to a bolder political era in Los Angeles. However, it was not as clear cut as a riot sparking marked change and abolished discrimination, as the political and social atmosphere of LA was quite complicated. Not only was there the challenge of fighting external adversities, but also the challenge of battling internal differences. This brings up the important point that a marginalized identity is often stripped of all its parts, all its differences, and all of its varying identities, to create a simplistic identity to create unity in the face of adversity. This seeking solidarity and unity, while powerful in achieving progress, comes at the cost of internal conflict and opposing views on political approaches. One of the most prominent internal conflicts of the Los Angeles gay community was that between lesbians and gays. As women did not have the financial status as men, lesbian women often found it harder to gain sufficient support and resources, the way gay men could.

While overall, the gay history of Los Angeles mostly goes untold and unknown, it is even more significant how untold the story of the lesbian community has remained. It is particularly important to note that the spaces of which these two different identities could exist freely an openly were different, and this would create incredibly differences in political mobilization and visibility. This most importantly demonstrates how despite both being marginalized, their experiences and identities were mostly different.  Lesbian communities opened women’s spaces and art galleries, as opposed to clubs and bars which was a freedom still only really afforded to men. The political turmoil within gay organizations, particularly between gays and lesbians, created a notable divide between both groups, causing each to evolve in different ways. Lipstick lesbians and golden boys soon developed into punk bands, signifying a new era for gay Los Angeles. This evolution and constantly dividing lines of unity is particularly relevant to our current political climate, and debates of intersectionality will continue to be brought up until those who are marginalized are finally afforded an individual identity, as opposed to only being afforded a group identity, while both may hold value.