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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Week 4: Gay LA Part III

Hi all!

What impressed me the most immediately going into Part III was the overwhelming sense of community. I feel like the last section of readings dealt a lot with division and conflict in the queer community, so it was refreshing to learn about how open and accepting the MCC was from its founding, from allowing queer Jewish folks to organize a temple in its space to advertising itself in specifically lesbian media.

I felt a little conflicted about Gay LA's description of how mainstream queer publications sold themselves and expanded. On the one hand, I agree with Katie's point that the focus on glamour in queer publications like The Advocate and Lesbian News had a lot to do with the same respectability politics we've seen continuously influencing queer movements in past chapters, and that queerness' increasing acceptability in this time had a lot to do with realizing they were a source of profit (as we saw before in the chapter on how Hollywood began selling gayness and companies began advertising to gay men after they learned that they were actually a pretty affluent group). I thought it was interesting that Gay LA tracks their success, in fact, by the number of ads posted in the publication, not necessarily by how widely read they were. On the other hand, though, I wonder if the reason these publications were so successful and became mainstream is because their "mainstream," "acceptable" presentation connected to more queer folks who otherwise felt alienated from the more radical queer scene. This style of queer publication may serve a role in acceptability politic, but I think their goals were just to speak for all the mainstream queer folks (like the "lipstick lesbians" who are really just normal women who were too effeminate to fit the lesbian mold of the time). Gay LA is careful to point out that none Lesbian News's owners were activists. The founder, Beer, herself was libertarian and wanted an alternative to the radical lesbian politics that otherwise dominated lesbian media, but her publication was probably more successful than these other publications because a lot of other lesbians agreed with her. Its readers didn't necessarily care whether or not Gwen Stafani herself was queer, only that she acknowledged her "lesbian fans."

The issue of addressing intersectionality and creating space for racial and ethnic groups within the queer community is still really relevant. I was really struck by how Chapter 10 opened with a description of how folks came to LA because of how liberating is is to be queer in LA (which I really think is true; as Angelica pointed out, queerness at UCLA is so different from my experiences with queerness in East LA), and then shifted to the creation of spaces for people of color in a world in which "gay and lesbian was a white thing." I think mainstream queer culture is still really dominated by the culture of queer white men, and my experiences as a mixed-Asian lesbian often has absolutely nothing to do with that culture and I felt excluded from queer culture (and WeHo has always felt bizarre and uncomfortable to me) until I discovered API-Equality and met other queer asians. Queer spaces that are not only inclusive of people of color but that are for people of color are so important, but I think is something the community still struggles with.

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