Friday, January 20, 2017
Week 1: Introduction
My name is Midori. I’m a junior transfer majoring in PoliSci and minoring in LGBTQ Studies. I’m from the Valley, so I’m pretty local. LA’s the place for sure, and I think these are really exciting times to live here! I love urban design, folk music, and my old, fat pet mouse (she is a cutie). I haven’t really been involved in the queer community at all before coming to UCLA and this will be my first non-PoliSci class at UCLA, so I’m really excited, because I honestly know much less than I wish I did about queer history and local art.
From the reading in Gay LA, I was really struck by how different the experiences of gay men and women were. I was surprised to read that while men faced severe social and legal punishments for homosexuality, women could “get away” with it since female sexual relationships were not taken seriously or not believed (such as the actresses who simply enjoyed “girl talk” with each other on their weekend getaways) or because for a woman to “masquerade” was simply considered modern. My absolute favorite line in the first section was the one about “Box-Car Bertha, [the] famous hobo” when she described how lesbians and “strong-minded women” from elsewhere in the States would often “pass” as men and come to California with their female partners to live a new life together when LA was still a Wild West frontier town where you could be or become anyone. I think I just never considered LA a particularly lesbian city, so I really appreciate the idea that in the late 19th century, many would have considered it just that.
The book sort of touched upon how the first-wave feminist movement and lesbian identities were sometimes related, which I think is a really important point, either because suffragettes were often accused of being lesbians or because really, both feminists and lesbians (and feminist lesbians) sought to “unsex” society in some way. That people at the time viewed women voting as practical lesbianism I think really illustrates how taboos against female queerness are just constructs rooted in patriarchy. I also thought it was really interesting that the authors seemed to have trouble specifically identify any of the figures it mentioned up to a certain point as queer, partially because their ideas of gender and sexual identities were not the same or were not as clearly defined as they are today, which goes back to their point at the very beginning of the book that where we draw the lines around these identities are entirely socially constructed and, to a point, arbitrary.