Thursday, January 19, 2017
Blog Post #1
My name is Aida, and I am a fourth year Gender Studies major and LGBTQ Studies minor. I am Middle Eastern, North African, and Middle Eastern Roma. I was born in the Middle East and moved to the US when I was eight with my mom and younger brother, and we’ve been in Los Angeles since. My pronouns are they/them/their. I am Muslim and queer, two identities often thought of as incompatible or paradoxical, and therefore rendered silenced and forgotten. Existing at this intersection, I hope to take my art and activist work to highlight other voices and stories inhabiting these identities. I am an activist, poet, filmmaker, designer, and visual artist. I fight for and stand in solidarity with different marginalized communities and voices and I will continue to do activist and artistic work.
This class interested me immediately with the title. As a hopeful artist myself, I’ve worked and collaborated with other artists in Los Angeles. I will be applying for an MFA in the coming year, and I am most excited to have an academic space to discuss, unpack, and learn about queer art, art history, and artists in our city. I hope that it enriches me personally, artistically, and academically. I look forward to the readings and to learning from everyone else.
The reading was really interesting and profound in the history of Los Angeles that it provided. I appreciated that the history of gay LA started with the Native and Indigenous populations that lived and inhabited California before any settlers or colonizers, and that the authors took us through the gender and sexual identities of the Native people, which were suppressed and vilified by the European colonizers. I thought that this was a responsible and dimensional writing of history, and one that too often gets forgotten in historical narratology. The novel makes mention in the beginning of chapter 3 those that lived and faced power structures in the intersection of queer identity and race. It is noted that “survivors of the era who witnessed both racism and homophobia by the police are hard put to say which was worse” (Timmons and Faderman, 72). I appreciated this intersectional telling of the history of gay LA, and I wish there was more of such an approach.
Also in chapter 3, I found the discussion of the impact of such events as the Great Depression and World War II on queer identities and spaces really important and interesting. This section made me wonder about the impact of war and other such global encounters on the lives and identities of queer people. Beyond heterocolonialism, I ask this question: how do such massive political, economic, and global transformations affect the marginalized, specifically queer identities? The authors do an interesting job of highlighting the sexual activities of those that served in the war, feeling safe being away from home and partaking in sexualities that LA gave them an opportunity to. They also talk about the agency that many people then took to open up their own spaces – bars, clubs, etc. – in an effort to live their lives. Though constantly repressed and heavily policed, these spaces would constantly come back in different forms, or stay open despite the violence from police and society.
Tracing this to my own research and interests, I saw a link between this discussion and what the wars and struggles in the Middle East have done to both bring queer people closer together as well as to shun and repress them, leaving them to make their own spaces and coalitions. Being queer is seen as a “white thing”, and this has been amplified in the face of American and European violence in the area. But queer Middle Eastern people are fighting back such notions and working to create spaces for themselves, often prompted and pushed by the political struggles in their lands to do so.