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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.

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