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

Monday, March 13, 2017

Week 9: Lambda LitFest

I attended two of the panels at the Barnsdall Gallery Theater on Saturday, "Queer Characters in Novels, Screenplays & Everything In-Between" and "Queer Truth: Nonfiction & Journalism in a Post-Truth World." Both were excellent panels with great speakers!

I was especially impressed by the range of writers on the first panel, which included a comic writer, some writers for pretty big tv shows, and some novel authors, which I think says a lot about how queer folks really are everywhere and queer folks are in all sorts of occupations an queer folks deserve to have their voices heard everywhere as well, because that is exactly where queer folks are. Queer folks are writers of all media and queer folks are consumers of all media. At one point during the panel, someone from the audience (who began the question by clarifying that he is a cishet white man trying to write queer characters) asked how he can know that he is writing a genuine character that is not appropriating queer culture or falling back on harmful stereotypes and one of the panelists, MariNaomi (who's comics I've read and love) immediately responded, "Well, why don't you go out and get some queer friends?" To me, that answer was perfect. The panel spent some time talking about writing authentic queer characters and that part of the struggle is that creating a voice goes beyond just creating words to be uttered; the voice reflects the consciousness of the character, and listening is one of the most important skills in writing. I think when MariNaomi said that, she made an important point that queer characters really should not be that extraordinary. It shouldn't be a struggle to write queer characters and that struggling to write queer characters and having to even have this kind of a panel about what it means for a queer character to be authentically queer sort of reveals the underlying problem that people don't always view queer folks as authentic in real life. Queer characters are tokenized and made to look like stereotypes because that's what people think of them in real life. If a writer writes a shallow queer character, par of the problem is that they don't think that queer person deserves a consciousness beyond their queerness. Another of the panelists had portrayed Emmett on "Queer As Folk" and at another point, said that it was powerful for him to embody Emmett because he's never before seen an effeminate gay man who liked himself and that even then, until he pushed for Emmett to be given a voice, the writers had just intended for Emmett to have no real story and who's only purpose was to "crack jokes on the sideline." I'm really grateful that all of the panelists "consider themselves part of the resistance" and are out there actively changing this and making sure to give folks the authentic queer characters we all deserve.

The second panel was also really good! I really appreciated that they spent some time talking about intersectionality in gay media. One of the panelists explained that there was a time before any gay media could be considered "mainstream" that the only way to survive was to convince advertisers that their readership (meaning, gay folks) were generally white, affluent men, but that there's been a recent shift to include women and people of color. It echoed some of what we had read in Gay LA, but it's still a bit of a different experience to hear it from people who've worked in and experienced that directly and a reminder that so much of gay history is so recent. A few of the panelists also had a discussion about how hard it is to be intersectional, and how because white gay men have been the faces of gay media for so long and have become the "canon" or "icons" of queer culture and queer activism already, that just looking for queer people of color has become so hard because they're not "at the top of the list" and you'll still get blowback for it. I think Alberto Mendoza (whom we'd been introduced to in class, briefly" summed it up nicely when he said his main goal is to show the next generation, despite the blowback and despite how hard it is that "you can be out, you can be successful, and you can be Latino."

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