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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Week 10: Final Post

In this course, I've learned how LA has been a leader in queer activism, including in activism through art, and how activists and artists in LA continue to be leaders for queer justice and representation. I remember when I first enrolled in the class thinking how specific the course title was. Queer Art, maybe; Art in LA, sure; but Queer Art in LA seemed to be asking for too much. I was wrong. I really appreciate that we took both a historic look at LA as a pioneer of gay rights, from its Hollywood gay haydays to the Black Cat protests and the struggle to first build the Gay Community Service Center and then the struggle to keep it alive but that we then also continuously returned to contemporary queer LA artists.

Our readings and in-class discussions on queer history in Hollywood were particularly interesting, because I think that was really all about queer visibility. I remember someone in class pointed out that it's actually really sad that Hollywood stars could both be very out in certain limited spaces, but still had to "present" as heterosexual for their fans. At the same time, though, Gay LA talked a lot about how these figures were still breaking down gender barriers and those were sort of the first steps of queer visibility when "tomboys" could see a version of themselves in Marlene Dietrich, and suggestions at her sexuality were accepted as commonplace. A lot of what queer folks have been fighting for ever since has been visibility, and just as LA has been a leader in things like the fight for marriage equality, LA artists have been leaders in the fight for queer visibility. At Lambda LitFest this past Saturday, Alberto Mendoza, a founder of Honor 41, a collection of queer latinx artists and some of whose videos we saw in class, spoke on one of the panels I saw, and he said that all of what he does and his focus with Honor 41 is about creating visibility. To him, queer latino art is a way of telling all the queer latino children out there that is okay. I think LA's history of queer activism is really tied into queer art today, because that history has created the culture and space for queer visibility and for projects like Honor 41 and all of its artists to continue to create and express themselves as queer latino artists.

I think knowing the history of where you came from is really important and I learned a lot about LA's queer identity today from learning about its history of fighting for queer justice and for creating open, queer spaces that put primacy on inclusion (like Jeanne Cordova fighting to keep the GSCS an inclusive not an exclusive space).

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