Thursday, September 26, 2013

Queer Migrant - Cultural Geography paper 1

      I consider myself both a migrant and a Queer. Like these titles the paths that I have traveled have shaped my cultural perception as well as the actual person I have become. At ten months I was adopted and began life in the suburbs of Wexford near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, in a good christian household. Marylee Haas, the very last non liberated woman after the sixties and also my mother. She held a desire to be middle class above all else. She was raised poor and she shared a room with three sisters in Hartford, Connecticut. Her father was a looming German disciplinarian and her mother an artist who gave up New York to raise a family. At 21 she married a middle of the road business forms salesman Weston Hyde, to provide for her and offer the normalcy she required. Weston had been raised by a father; also in the Hartford area; who always wore mustard yellow and was a widower. Thus Wes similarly wanted things just to be. Like the placid yellows of his father he to was content in the suburbs having a good life as promised by the American Dream.
Growing up I was a shy if not fearful boy. I have always been what society calls feminine. This was inexcusable to my parents and eventually estranged us, as they became more abusive and christian. After my second semester at the University of Pittsburgh I quit school and moved to Trafford Pa. to live with my first boyfriend. Trafford was an old mill town with woods and trains and very little else. Found just past the whistle-stop of Willmerding, another steel belt town, the nearest excitement was a mall. To find adventure we took a summer to live in Nags Head, North Carolina and make some money waiting tables. Summers end returned to Trafford and we took up residence in the comfortable attic of said boyfriends grandmother. Being so near my parents and in a small town were playing my youthful desires. I wanted to go where being gay was accepted and celebrated. Pittsburgh could be very hard in the late eighties for out gay people. I had always felt that what made me different would be the thing that was my salvation.
After the death of a close friend in spring 1990, with three hundred fifty dollars, I set out by train to conquer New York City. I managed never to settle into a place to stay, or held a day job long. I was instead busy becoming a star Drag Queen. I worked five to six nights in clubs in drag and began to really explore my unique voice. I began learning my gay history through the storytellers in the scene as well as being part of living history. Yet all that partying turned roommates into junkies and the schedule was rough to maintain, especially on the liver.
Living in clubs and hanging with the likes of Lauren Hutton and Debbie Harry for 8 years I was suddenly very burned out. I hopped onto a bus to Provinctown Mass., another gay mecca, to work another summer at the beach and give the city a break. I spent the summer waiting tables, working in a gallery, discussing art with artists, and being a handsome tan twenty seven year old that attended yoga, meditation, thai chi and even church. I tried to stay in this Ptown through a winter but the dark at 4pm; due to its very eastern location geographically; and no job or community in the winter months, sent me packing to San Francisco.
The last queer mecca, and still home, is San Francisco. I had found out I was HIV positive at age twenty two and was beyond surprised that I was not yet dead. I was actually very healthy but also not a youth. I also needed some where less expensive to live, which sixteen years ago SF was. The city is small enough and open enough for me to be different and succeed. I won the coveted title Miss Trannyshack 2004 two weeks after going All American as a swimmer. I*ve been Sainted by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in *09, and in 2010; using both my boy and drag name Anna Conda; I ran for District 6 Supervisor. I now sit as Neighborhood Representative on the Entertainment Commission and serve this year as Vice Chair.
I have migrated from a small city known in days gone by as the gate way to the west. It has truly served as my gateway. Although I gained strength and purpose during my years in New York it has only been since being in San Francisco that I have truly blossomed and owned my power.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

New Entertainment Commission policy regarding outreach

THANKS Entertainment Commission staff and especially Steven Lee and Naiomi Akers for the extra time and all the Commissioners for helping to pass this policy!


The San Francisco Entertainment Commission
Guidelines for Meaningful Neighborhood Outreach

When doing the outreach, the applicant must include the information about the type of license applying for and the hours that this license will be in use. The applicant is asked to do two to three of the types of outreach listed below for new permits. The applicant should have this outreach completed prior to their presentation to the Entertainment Commission and should be prepared to answer questions about it from the Commission. For Limited Live Performance Permits and Change of Ownership amendments to existing permits, one or two of the following outreach are strongly suggested.

Applicants must do this outreach and provide proof of the outreach to the Commission at their hearing. Meaningful neighborhood outreach is very beneficial during the application process and the success of the venture moving forward.

Methods of Acceptable Outreach

  1. Presentation to a Neighborhood, Community or Residential Group. Specific information must be given to the type of permit that the Applicant is seeking. The Applicant is to share any and all relevant information such as hours of operation, entertainment types, security plans as well as plans for neighborhood integration. This should be an oral or visual presentation that is given before the members of the group at one of their regularly scheduled meetings and members should be able to voice concerns about the license being sought. A notice from the Community, Neighborhood or Residential group should be included in the applicant’s application packet for review by the Commission.

  1. Presentation to the Leadership of a Local Not For Profit, 501(c)3, that deals with community support such as housing, at risk youth, health or mental services. The presentation must include information about the type of permit the Applicant is seeking including type of entertainment, hours of operation and security, as well as neighborhood integration plans. Evidence of completion from the organization should be submitted in the application packet for review at the Commission hearing.

  1. A petition - an appropriate number neighbor signatures according to Applicants business address. The Applicant may go out and present information to neighbors about the type of permit the Applicant is seeking including type of entertainment, hours of operation and security as well as neighborhood integration plans. This is to inform neighbors of changes to the neighborhood fabric and impress on the Applicant that nightlife has a broader scope of influence in a community than just the immediate surroundings. These signatures should be presented to the Commission for review in their application packet.
  2. Presentation to a Business Association. If there is no community organization or Not for Profit within a reasonable distance of the Applicants business, the Applicant may present to a business or merchant association instead. Specific information must be given to the type of permit that the Applicant is seeking. The applicant is to share any and all relevant information such as hours of operation, entertainment types, security plans as well as plans for neighborhood integration. This should be an oral or visual presentation at the groups regularly scheduled meeting before the members of the Business Association and accompanied by a notice from the Business organization to the Commission and should be included in the application packet for review by the Commission.

For help finding organization we suggest you contact the district supervisors’ office or look at the list of Community Groups listed online at

*Negative reviews by any organization will be considered by the Commission, but are not grounds for denial.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Female Trouble; The Divine Punishmnt of John Waters

The films of John Waters carry with them the theme of suburban unrest can result in individuals who live outside the law. From Pink Flamingos through A Dirty Shame he fixates on the outsider from the suburban norm and what the inability to conform can do to the psyche. His works raise questions about drugs, sex, rock and roll, family, sexuality, normalcy, heteronormative dominance, filth and its place in the human condition. His filth filled view of the suburban American dream when viewed in modern times is a surprisingly accurate take on where America was and is headed and what obsessions would become glorified in the current age of instant media and sensationalism. His knowledge that titillation was more important that morality remains a spot on critique of current culture and the instant fame of murders and thugs due to media saturation and repetition of their heinous crimes in the twenty four hour news cycle.
Waters uses saturation of shocking images and violence to make his point. His repetition of shock and horror to engross the public is at its slick best in Female Trouble. This repetition of shock and awe is common practice in todays xenophobic American Culture and was used to the extreme by George Bush and his comrades during 9/11 when all else was blocked from our televisions for three days showing us violence and promising the threat of more. It was shortly after we were blindly led into wars with little national resistance from the newly terrorized public. Dawn Davenport is the American use of fear in the shape of a large high school ruffian and she will get her way by asserting dominance like the US itself does. Waters knows who is to blame and so does Dawn and neither one is about to apologize for what will come next!
Dawns behavior in her school is not only pointing to the brazen high school delinquent authority issues. It calls into focus something far more troubling; the selfish greed our children are raised to feel as they are taught through media to succeed at any cost. Fame and riches are the goal and we can and should get them without lifting a finger. We are taught we are owed everting just because we are American. Businessmen, politicians and everyday people are clawing their way to the top bending ethics and subjecting morals to personal purpose. The character of the glutenous Dawn is repeated in characters today like Eric Cartmen on televisions South Park. He is the cartoon fourth grade Dawn Davenport and his behavior is still shocking to us because we recognize this inherent selfishness in our culture and realize our consumerism has trapped us in this cycle.
In his crowning masterpiece Female Trouble we see through the life of Dawn Davenport all that was, is, and will be the driving themes of todays mass media culture created by the masses for the masses in never ending loops. As the movie starts we meet Dawn Davenport and her delinquent cohorts Chicklett and Conchetta who are bored with life*s offerings in high school. Learning very little in classes they spend their time smoking, spraying their enormous hair do*s and eating a meatball submarine sandwich right out in class. When their behavior is called to the attention of the overwhelmed mousey teacher they use threats to gain power over their accusers.
This movie is a prediction to the rash of violence that students have been committing on each other in great numbers in recent years. Gun toting students who do not fit in to the model society are frequently turning to violence against their peers to express their grave discontent. Since the mass coverage of the 1999 Colombine high school shooting grabbed national attention and made a house hold name out of the frustrated students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold who killed over twelve students. They became the required viewing for concerned Americans as they watched the students flee for their lives. We heard the sound of shots over and over like the loop of and experimental film. Every station and all day long for days we watched the events unfold until our brains were etched with their images. These images would be repeated as copy cat students disenfranchised with the suburban American dream shot their way through their despair, piling student bodies on the heap of discontent. Alarmingly the violence is now being served to the students of elementary schools as witnessed in Sandy Hook. Even the most vulnerable are at risk now for instant notoriety.
What many fail to see in Female Trouble is that Waters gives us the solution and the reasons to senseless violence. Firstly the movie blames poorly run schools; that are use more as containment devices for the youth population as their parents work at endless jobs to provide the American dream. Coupled with teachers low wages. With and education system that lacks funding and tools we instead ignore what this ignorance breeds in our children we continue to look to the next status symbol that will bring happiness. We are bombarded several hundred times a day by images of what it is we must achieve materially to find happiness. The aim to have it all, a house, kids, car and cha cha heels!
Dawn become pregnant instantly after leaving home, due to the disappointment on Christmas morning when she gets dress flats instead of the much desired cha cha heels. Her pregnancy is similar to that of Jesus in that there was really only one person involved as she rapes herself on a dirty mattress by the side of the road. We through Dawns experience are literally told that we are fucking ourselves. With no education and a man who refuses to accept his responsibility for the child Dawn has an at home birth where she chews the umbilical cord with her own teeth her life as a mother begins.
Dawn sets out to provide for little daughter Taffy by being a waitress, a go go dancer, and eventually turns to a life of petty crime to support her daughter and get on track for the suburban dream. As her criminal tendency grows so does Taffy and the mother act wears thin. Taffy is chained to her bed by Dawn and her crime pals for annoying them after a heist. This is Waters stabbing directly at the heart of American folklore; family unity. For years we watch Ozzie and Harriet, the Cleavers and Donna Reed raised polite children that lived in homes with white fences and aproned mothers who baked pies and lived a happy life. Dawns is a story we were not told until the idea that sensationalism sells took over the board rooms of Madison Ave.
Dawns plight has now become exploited in our current media we have the like of Nadia Sullman a down on her luck, plastic surgery nightmare who found a doctor willing to give her sextuplets. She has 8 children and millions of hours of coverage on national and international news and talk shows, media of all sorts have obsessed over her. We paid her to undress for our titillation . She even has an exercise video for sale. A cottage industry out of a selfish childish action involving the lives of innocents. Shows like Jerry Spinger and reality darling Honey Boo Boo use laughing at the poor and uneducated acceptable and entertaining while ignoring that gangs, religious zealots, and the hopeless had reached epidemic proportions in our society. The Dawn Davenports are leading to violence and reactionary behavior due to lack of education and the pursuit of hollow consumerist dreams. The American dream was cracking in the 1970*s and Waters knew a world full of Dawn Davenports was about to be hatched.
As Dawn become more of a celebrity in the criminal world, well on her way to become famed criminal like Bonnie Parket or Stephanie St Clair, she finds that crime does indeed pay. Having been accepted as a client at the famed Lipstick Beauty Salon where only the most beautiful of the underground are accepted as clients her status rises to the next level. The hairdressers are three queens Wink, Butterfly and Dribble who are a nelly, a mary and a speed freak. Gator, the lone straight hairdresser and star of the salon, is chosen by rising star Dawn to be her attendant and a marriage soon ensues. The vision of Divine, a drag queen, in a revealing dress of lace marching down the isle is a brilliant commentary on todays battle for * marriage equality * and the desire to mimic heteronormative behavior instead of embracing the rituals of queer culture. It is a stab at the idea of what marriage is and what it represents. It has become a privilege that brings with it status and tax breaks. When arguing for marriage equality the number one argument was to save money on taxes not to strengthen a commitment. It is our greed that drives us even in matters of the heart.
The wedding scene we again see Waters takes the normal and subverts it to the bizarre and questions the very ideals of normalcy. Even Dawn*s new mother in law Ida is a bizarre creature, played by the true live bizarre woman Edith Massey, dressed in tight revealing black as her beloved Gator continues down the straight heterosexual path. Ida had warned her son of the evil and depraved life of the heterosexual and tries without success to make her son gay and free from the constructs of the American dream and its devotion to following the rules and fitting in. If Divine as Dawn is the anti hero then Edith Massey plays Ida as the anti anti hero. She finds her new daughter in law intolerable and even dumps garbage into the newlyweds yard signifying the refuse of the consumerist herteronormative path her son has chosen, thus breaking her heart.
However Ida need not worry for her son Gator will soon leave Dawn, loose his job and move to the fair city of Detroit to find solace in the automotive industry. ( The irony in hindsight is even more cutting than in 1974. Certainly it is even a bigger joke to find solace in an industry that has all but vanished in America leaving Detroit a virtual ghost town. ) Gator and Dawn had tried everything from hammers and pliers to down right abuse. Gator had even tried to get poor old looking stepdaughter Taffy to share his bed or suck his dick. For all his pains Gator is left with nothing after his brief marriage to Dawn. He looses everything as Dawn plots her rise to stardoms next step.
But Dawn does continue to rise in fame eventually becoming a model addicted to flash bulbs, fame and injections of liquid eyeliner. Her new agents, the Fashionable owners of the Lipstick Beauty Salon, are the wealthy Donald and Donna Dasher obsessed with the underground. They are the lampoon of the Warhol phenomenon and the idea that slumming is a rich peoples pleasure. The Dashers for their own pleasure; since they have no sexual out let, introduced Dawn to the glamorous world of modeling and crime for their vicarious thrill. They photograph her as she act out and garners any attention and most of it negative. Dawn goes to dinner at the Dasher home and on the way we see regular folks gasp in shock at the delusional model prancing down the street rubbing herself and mugging every few feet. Upon arriving she deludedly exclaims, * I got Lots of attention on the way over. Everyone was staring at me. I feel like a Princess!*
Dawn has fallen into the trap of fame and believing ones own press. She is Lyndsy Lohan, Paris Hilton, Courtney Love, Alex Baldwin and a slew of other Hollywood elite who act out due to believing their own press and allowing themselves to act in beastly ways because fame has made them other. Dawn is the hoards of people who clammer to get onto a reality show like the Hills or Americas Next Top Model, to be famous and on TV, for no reason other than fame. She is the Kardashian girls cashing in on a sex tape and spoiled behavior to earn millions and to teach young girls that if you are snotty and conniving enough you can live the life of Riley without ever having to really contribute anything.
Dawn is a comment on the fashion industry; that since the seventies; had begun to create household names out of mannequins that took beautiful picture to sell the American dream in glossy magazines. Dawn believes she is the face of the time gracing the ads that made you desire what garment makers and ad men needed to sell.
Of corse Dawn is a 300 pound drag queen in reality. She is also living in a delusional state as almost all Waters films tend to be. Who else but Dawn Davenport who would continue modeling even after a horrible acid attack by her former mother in law who had just escaped from imprisonment as a rare bird in Dawns home where she lost an arm in her struggles. It is ludicrous to think that this is what models are like.... or is it? Gia a famed model in the early 1980*s often had her abscessed arm, from shooting heroin, covered up. Later the Supermodel Linda Evangelista would not get out of bed for under $10,000 a day. Beauty at any price, with the it girl of the moment, giving prestige to a product that is manufactured and sold by delusion of happiness being provided and making us like the model who sells it. Little do we know it is just a spoiled brat who makes too much money or a junkie propped up to look glamorous. We but the delusion and Waters serves this delusion right to us in the form of Dawn Davenport.
But like so many of the stars that grace the covers of magazines, star in a show or two and get a taste for the American dream the fall from grace can be deadly; as is the case for our anti hero Dawn Davenport. Taffy has followed the rout of Jesus, the other immaculate conception, and found spirituality with the Hare Krishna giving up all possessions enraging her mother. Dawn like Michael Jackson in his last days has only yes men around her. Pumping her full of liquid eyeliner to get one more headline out of her while she is still able to work because like Naiomi Cambell she is becoming increasingly hard to control. Dawn has lost control of her fame and the machine has taken over and like Britney Spears she just can not maintain.
Dawn reaches the height of her criminal fame when after bouncing on a trampoline and smearing fish all over her body in a crib she turns on the audience that made her, with a gun. She cries out * I framed Leslie Bacon. I called the Heroin hotline on Abbie Hoffman! I bought the gun that Bremmer used to kill Wallace! I had an affair with Juan Corona! I blew Richard Speck and I am so fucking beautiful I cant stand it myself!!!! Dawn Opens fire as a devoted fan decides he wants to die for art. Like any number of celebrity breakdowns of the famed hollywood set Dawn has gone to far and there is no coming back. She will not get the Robert Downey forgiveness and a second chance. Instead like all actresses that misbehave enough there is no one that will come to Dawns aid. She is washed up.
Dawn like the litany of names she unleashes is doomed for obscurity. Like Andrew Cunanan her day in the spotlight had come but it is over. Americans have a new killer to lust after. A new rich coat hanger has just signed to Victoria*s Secret for half a billion dollars. TV sweetheart Cory Monteith has overdosed in a hotel and David Lettermen is fucking a staff person. We do not have time to remember Dawn Davenport. Waters knows that the American society is on the the next big thing, the overnight sensation, the killer on the front page. The American dream has become the suburban nightmare and we like Dawn are doomed to be electrocuted for our obsessions and desires. Dawns last close up is the face of death and as Waters has predicted in Female Trouble ours will be as well, so you might as well enjoy the ride.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cross Dressing in American Film. No Laughing Matter

A paper for my Queer Film Study Class  

In the Celluloid Closet Quentin Crisp remarks that * There is no sin like being a woman. When a man dresses as a woman, everybody laughs. When a woman dresses as a man nobody laughs. * Mr Crisp certainly if referring to the heteronormative power structure in our Western society and it*s prejudices associated to gender rigidity permeating our media. Heteronormative attitudes, influenced by Judeo/Christian values and the cash stockpiles in their control, have guided the reining cultural reference points through ownership of the corporations that dominate and create mass culture. Even a man like Mr Crisp; who has given his whole life over to the great pursuit of being a professional poof; can fall into the trap of forgetting duality and myriad of genders that line Kinsey*s world. Even in early cinema conventions about gender fluidity have been expressed in the stories of American film. Proving that Mr Crisp is too quick to believe the convention of the day and its dominance in film. His comment is not really true but instead steeped in the convention that has been sold through heteronormative societies manipulation of projected image. Perhaps saying that men in dresses are fools and women assuming power are a threat to the belief system of our culture would be a more realistic way to describe the situation.
A truer take on what it is that Mr Crisp is alluding to is that men put on a dress and begin acting like prissy clowns and women become hard and concerned. That they change clothing and become a parody or a stereotype. A man dressed as women is often played for comedy but women as men is usually a hard luck story or a power struggle anchored to first wave feminist ideals or a mans world. Women who have been asked to play men and have done it well were able to feel the pressures of being closed and without an outlet for emotion. For truly this is the mans plight through social conditioning. Men must become hard less they rebel against the drudgery and cruelty of modern society. Men in films are hardly ever shown to have emotions unless it is the loss of a true love through death or the insane consumption by love of an object, power, or a women. The roles of men are fraught with dire circumstance like war and desire, lust, greed and hardship that it is all his fault. The Patriarchal world that we live in has not always been and may not always be as it is and this scares the men of power and they fight and manipulate to stay in control. Thus the films, usually a patriarchal set up from director, script boy, lighting and even make up, men control the media. They fight to control the movies and their hand in it because it gives them power. They do not want to see the image of a woman being a representation in all ways of their power.
Yet female stars that really made it in classic Hollywood like Garbo and Hepburn were strong and powerful. They were able to stand up to the bosses and gained control. The strength of Davis and even the severe manish beauty of Crawford stand the testament of time and live on. Showing that men resent looking at women as men but cant help but reward a woman, hold her as an idol in the world of men, provided she can meet him at his level and maintain. To seize mans power and hold on as a woman gets you noticed! Only women who have subverted or gained so called manly ways with a strong attitudes survive. It*s a mans world.
The movies worship strength and power and these supernova women either played a man, had sexual ambiguity, or used cross dressing to elevate them to this rare stardom. Hepburn*s performance was laughable as a boy along side Cary Grant in Sylvia Scarlett. Indeed there was nothing funny or comic about the role other than how terrible it came across. Hepburn is a down on his luck boy feeling the pangs of lust for Grant through her disguise. Simply not a good movie. Hepburn, a favorite of mine, is the worst man ever portrayed on screen. That is because she is supposed to pass. What Hepburn is being asked to do is be a man not represent a man. When a drag queen passes she is taken for a woman and passing as a man as a woman is very hard and visa versa.
However in the films A Florida Enchantment and The Clinging Vine we have fine examples of actresses who did indeed pass in a much more believable way then poor Kate would later. Both performances were heartfelt and appropriate in their scale. They were believable and in the Clinging Vine we are taken by the way the character is played throughout. It is rare to see a sexual deviation that is so flamboyant in her dress and attitudes not meet with death or sorrow. It was refreshing to see a winner, who was a winner, on her strength and that heteronormative morals did not rule the day.
As movies have progressed there are few female performances that create a character of a man in any meaningful way. A movie and role that smashes the parameters of Quentin*s theory would be Julie Andrews in Victor Victoria. Her performance is comic genius and goes from powerless woman to powerful man to strong woman all in a faced paced comedy of errors around gender identity. The Oscar winning tear jerker of a trans mans death at the hands of a cold and vengeful society by Hilary Swank in Boys Don*t Cry, is another fine example sans the comic effect. Truly a very raw and believable performance. Finally the illuminating film staring Glenn Close*s recent turn as a man in Albert Nobels. A woman who must be a man to survive financially in a mans world.
The thing the performances of these women share is the ability to deftly change their manners and convince us that they were men in male roles and by not over doing themselves. They didn*t become a man but a character. If an actor concentrates on the idea of their gender and the switch we loose the believability and realness. We get the fool or mimic and the performance lacks truth and gains parody instead. This is the general problem with drag and cross dressing men in films as well. The fear that if they can be seen as women then they will loose their power in the world or that it will open the door to a truer understanding of gender equality and fluidity. To be set equal to a woman means that there is no true power structure. So Instead we use cross dressing as a way to belittle and oppress the woman of the world and keep them adherent to the patriarchal society.
As Hollywood has used the sissy as comic relief so has the cross dressing male been the queen of capers and confusion garnering us hours of film hilarity. Some Like It Hot a film staring
Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis as cross dressing musicians is considered the greatest comedy of all times in many critical circles. It certainly helped that these two had one of the greatest drag stars in the form of Marilyn Monroe to accent their rather dowdy appearance. This film is actually a movie that gets drag right. Drag is a costume and not always a gender signifier. The wearer to pull it off in a convincing way must again subvert something in themselves and become a character and not try to be a woman. To try and be a woman would have the drag persona relying on stereotypes and not giving credence to the truth that there is no way to act as a woman, because women; just like men and gender; have infinite possibilities.
Comparing the fine film of Curtis, Lemmon and Monroe to two later offerings by Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire and Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo in Too Wong Foo Thanks For Everything Julie Numar we see what little progress we have made in accepting the female sides of ourselves. Where Curtis and Lemmon added some sincerity and integrity to their roles Robin Williams hardly ever does. The biggest complaint about Williams in Doubtfire is that he can change within seconds to the old lady made. Simply dash behind the clock and out comes a plain but kindly granny. This shows how little we understand about the cultural preparation most women go through just to get out the door in the morning much less an understanding of what drag entails! The production team should have watched Paris is Burning a few times before making their film. The misconception also being that drag teaches a man how to feel and understand his family is a far fetched notion. Drag teaches men how to represent a feminine identity around themselves not how to be, act and fell like a woman.
In the other film Too Wong Foo we have three men in roles that are so stereotypical and from such a heteronormative view point that none of them could possibly be believable. The situations that these drag performers get into is a complete misrepresentation of what drag is. Drag is for the stage not for mid day strolls down dusty paths in a small rural village where the men want to kill you. To live as a woman is to live a transgendered life and that is not what these three were to portray. They were Drag Queens acting like Trans women in a movie about American values and truth. When it comes to Queer culture being represented by Hollywood there is more often than not these types of mistakes. Mostly because we are not taught to think of gays and lesbians as not having a culture. We instead as a society are thought of as a square peg that needs to be taught how to fit into a round hole. This film is a one hundred and ten percent misrepresentation of Queer culture and a complete misrepresentation of our numerous gender identities. Here Patrick Swayze is the square peg being shoved into a Doris Day shaped hole and I doubt very much that a drag queen would do this for any reason other than to parody the heteronomative world.
Two films that were able to use gender deference in a very real way were the little known Lillies and the foreign film Ma Vie en Rose or My Life in Pink. Lillie is a tale of redemption for past transgressions of a dying man who has rotted away in jail for a crime of passion against his gay lover he did not commit. The crime was instead perpetrated by the gay priest who has come to hear his confession and give his last rights. The confession is heard in a gay prison ward and they hold the priest captive and relive the drama of the crime in play form before the captive priest. We the movie goer are allowed to see the drama as it really happened with the inmates playing the same charaters but dressed as them in the actual setting, thus mixing reality and dreams in the telling of the tale. This movie takes the men playing women in the real world and also has them play women in the dream world and they do it so well the movie works seamlessly and is a true masterpiece of Queer cinema.
Ma Vie en Rose is the story of Ludwig and his family in Belgium and the difficulty that his gender identity causes for the whole family. He is a little girl inside and would do anything to prove it to the world thus innocently outing himself and shaming his family. The story is so close to the gender confusion that queer children feel it is hard to believe how close it comes to my own experience. A beautiful and triumphant tale of how a family changes and lets go of their own prejudice to love their son who thinks he is a girl. The cross dressing here is the innocent childish play of childhood that is ended when dominant culture is enforced through social pressure. It also relies heavily on a fantasy world much like in Lillies but this one being filled with pink doll houses a living Barbie and pretty dresses.
To do drag films correctly or males to cross dress as females and for it not to be bafoonary there needs to be the idea of fantasy at play. When we loose the fantasy and the magic it creates we loose the idea behind gender and its portrayal becomes hollow. So it is not really about a man or a woman being the joke. Nor is it about how women are punished in a mans world. Instead of what Mr Crisp stated it is about the heteronormative male dominated culture refusing to look at anything but itself as acceptable thus remaining in power. In Hollywood the laws must apply in general and certainly to gender representation because the status quo and money flows must be maintained. Gender deviance is often used to titillate (Dietrich), show courage and strength (Garbo), ability (Hepburn) and the spirit to achieve (Davis and Crawford) when applied to women. For men it is a chance to subvert women*s power and make fun of queer identity. Perhaps Quentin Crisp should have said * Nobody laughs at a woman with male traits because they are afraid of her power while men who subvert the symbols of their power are nothing but fools in the Hollywood eye. *

Friday, May 31, 2013


Recently my birth family got in contact with me and asked to start up a relationship again. In 2007 after my then partner and I went to visit and took them to dinner for their anniversary, they talked about how pleased they were that I had settled down and I looked well. Heck if they didn*t have a cat we could have stayed with them, they stated. Then promptly donated $500 dollars through the church the employs my mother to fund Yes on 8.

They live in Pennsylvania and Christ Church was one of the well connected churches that supported George Bush Jr. I remember my mother was so proud that the minister of her church, her leader and mentor, was going to not one but also the second inauguration of President Bush. After a life of punishing me for being gay I cut them off again.

In the early 2000*s I had also removed myself from contact. I wanted to heal from the life I had lead up till then. Suicidal and emotionally volatile I had decided it was best to remove the source of these feelings..... my family. The memories of my upbringing and the relations since had taken me to a dark place. One that served as my cage. However I got the call when the olympics were on that they missed me and that they were reminded of me while watching the swimmers.

Our relation opened up again and I even sent them my All American metal from 2004 so they could be proud of me. However it did not change our relationship and my life style and core person remained an abomination to them. So in 2007 I asked for the metal back and cut off ties permanently. Although they have tried to contact me and open lines of communication again I have rejected their pleas.

24 years ago I tested positive for HIV and was told I already had AIDS. Few t cells and some minor issues placed me directly in the AIDS category. I was devastated. I called my parents. I wanted to feel safe and be told that I was ok. One week later their response came in the form of a get well card with a ten dollar check in it.

I was coming from a family environment that saw me as other. I had spent much of my early education in therapy at the request of my family to stop they fey little boy from being who I was. Later when questioned they said it was to *bring me up as their gay son*.

They had brought me up as their gay son though. They did that through rejection, abuse and emotional neglect even if I had lied every time I had seen the Doctor. I knew why I was there. Because something was wrong with me and needed to be fixed.

What was wrong was me? I was experiencing sex on a regular basis at home as a child. I believe that incest is the correct term. Incest and cutting then tucking the gay away in a closet to think about what I had made them do to me. I was to become straight at any cost and surly exposure to a female form was the way to do so. It was not.

Instead I have Bi Polar disorder, a deep mistrust of people, an inability to easily find worth in myself, and a manic personality, all because my defenses had been taken away from me as a child. Certainly after three suicide attempts this was apparent even to myself. I realized that something had to change or I would end up a statistic and never fulfill my potential.

Funny that even in the pain of everyday life I knew there was hope. I am luckier than most. It is in spite of my upbringing that I have survived not because of it. My family In Pittsburgh is owed nothing and I take this time to declare my continued independence from the past and a commitment to the future and a healthier life.

Almost 2 years ago I removed myself from an abusive relationship but it was not until this last attempt by my family that I realized that much of the pain was not from the actual leaving but because I had let myself stand in harms way and accepted it as my place in the world. When really that is not my truth. I left him and I left my parents. I am strong to do so. I am able to free myself of what is not working for me. I am able to remove myself from harm. I am moving on and achieving. Despite my family and not because of them.

This is why my gay brothers and sisters mean so much to me. This is why friends are a needed part of my life. This is also why I can be a hard friend to handle. This is why the rights of the homeless, the drug addicted, the oppressed mean so much to me. We are only realizing now how mental illness, drug addiction and the inability to care for ones self often stem from childhood abuse. Yesterday at the Club Health conference the statistic that around 90 percent of women who put themselves in situations that lead to over intoxication and sexual assault have suffered from sexual assaults in their childhood.

I am proud to struggle daily with what my family has given me. I am proud to be leaving my past in the past. I am glad to have people who remind me of the strength it has taken. I am lucky that I am alive today. All this in spite of my family. Life is very hard and a mental struggle every day and I am lucky and proud that I could be here to participate in it. I am glad I traded my abusive family for a community that cares. For many of us life is not easy. Thankfully for me my life is my life and it is only symptoms of my past that tie me to it.

I have made myself free.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The New Normal

In this assignment I plan on debunking the idea of gay marriage as a true desire of gay people and prove it has absolutely nothing to do with equality but instead the continued assimilation of cultures by the white male anglo saxon view point that engulfs our society today. The Imperialist European cultures of the West have removed the traditions and displaced the harmonious lives of indigenous people across the globe and the argument for gay marriage is just another attempt to coerce conformity instead of enhancing the individuals rights to be other and equal.
The marriage that will be discussed in this paper will not just take into account what we in the Western world believe to be marriage, but will include the many types of marriage that have and still exist in other cultures. In the Western world we usually suffer from androcentic ways of thinking that have christian morals applied for good measure. We very seldom ask what else there is in the world other than a heteronormative marriage, child producing, monogamous partnership paradigm. Gay men; for example; since time began have been known for a less ridged life style. The act of cross dressing leads back as far as Quan Yun in early China. This cross dressing poet is credited as one of the fathers of Taoist thought and was said to have many lovers but was married to the King who was also married to a woman.
Other Asian cultures such as India have arranged marriage where it is more of a transaction between families to secure status and the woman*s family must provide a dowery. The Hindus even have a third gender dynamic the Hijras that are traditionally exhaulted as spiritual ties to the Gods. Many native American tribes also have this dynamic in the two spirited people who could marry same sex or opposite sex partners. In several Native American tribes the men moved in with the women*s family and if he misbehaved he would come home in the evening finding his clothing outside of his wives house letting him know he was divorced. A number of West African hunting gathering tribes have what is known as woman marriage and permit homosexual partnering as a way of life and even encourage same sex play in adolescents. In the Andes women who seek wealth and control of their destiny marry other women who then go and get pregnant so that they raise a large family to have many hands to work the fields and sell crops in the market. This marriage can be sexual but does not have to be anything more than a financially beneficial arrangement.
With all this in mind I will choose to use marriage as a word that means a cultural and/or sexual union between two or more individuals. This will allow us the freedom to include polyamorous couples who live together as well as more traditional views. I will argue through the Utilitarian and Kantian views that the idea of marriage should be left only for those who choose to call themselves married but no special privilege should come with with this title and governments should not be dealing with the creating of uniformity in the unions that any of us make be they same or mixed sex or other.
Kantian theory realizing morality based on God is problematic because it is a poor motive for action and very hard to get past the fact that Gods existence may indeed be a fallacy itself. We must rely on our reason or gut instincts to tell us what actions are morally based. These actions should create good will and follow the categorical imperatives. Creating moral agents, acting as moral agents, towards the moral agents that are our fellow man. It asks us not to justify our actions because when we justify how we are acting then we are more than likely not treating our fellow man as an equal but instead as a means to an end. To do so we compromise both their and our integrity and violate their moral autonomy. If you would will it to be moral law then you are on the right track.
Does marriage need to be moral law? Are we as Queer peoples really saying that we would rather give up our culture instead of preserving our traditions and duality? Instead we should heartily call out the idea that Gay Marriage is a Gay problem and instead say the very idea of marriage is a heteronormative nightmare created by western christian minds. A forced belief, along with the rest of our culture; as moral law for all who would be conquered by Western appetites for wealth and control. Although the west has been quite good at erasing the evidence of our natural instincts; what we have seen in the indigenous peoples of the world is varied and extraordinary relations that have involved every sort of coupling and sexual expression with very little moral consequence.
To will marriage as moral law is to destroy the essence of variation that is innate within nature and all her creations. To act that marriage is somehow to save women from the terrible man or to pass her his wealth after his demise is also a fallacy of the West. When ever we enslave a minority; or in the case of women a majority; we do so for control. This control is used to justify the need for this control and violates the principals of the categorical imperatives. Instead we should release the special hold our governments have over the value of marriage and rely solely on the individuals who want to get married to provide the legal documents that they feel are valued and needed in their chosen form of relationships. The government can deal with those legal documents and stop glorifying the christian value system and allow the idea of marriage to die the death it deserves. Thus applying Kantian ethics to our dilemma of Gay Marriage we see that it is not in the best interest to stop marriage or approve it but to remove the privilege that comes with it.
We will come to the same educated conclusion after applying the theory of Utilitarianism or Mill*s *Happiness Principal*. Utilitarianism is at its core a numbers game and the idea is to act in ways the are for the greater good and create the greatest happiness. The greatest happiness is a hard one to define since it asks us to speculate on the future and be accountable for people we can not truly comprehend being involved in our actions or inactions. This creates an undue burden on the person trying to reason on how to morally act. However if we were to simply act in ways that create happiness to the greatest extent we could arrive at exploitation of minorities. This suppression of minority culture would lead to the suppression of non dominant cultural thought and new and original solutions and ideas would cease to exist. Homogeny and assimilation bring with them a natural greying of ideas. This exploitation would lead to only one; or a limited few; predominant ideas being expressed as dissenting views are absorbed. Moral programing by majority. This stagnation would certainly not bring the greatest happiness.
Thus for reasons stated before we can see that abolishing the authority the word marriage brings with it is the only way to preserve ideas and cultures that differ and our greatest happiness. It is again the fact that marriage, be it gay or not, is not in the best interest of the general population. It is truly our forced Western christian homogeny that has created speculation that other points of views on family and sexual practice is wrong when indeed the privilege that comes with marriage is the problem. Certainly the social pressures and anxiety around marriage and the effect on couples; as well single people; is not creating the most happiness possible. Being forced to ad hear to a moral judgement about what signifies a union that creates happiness is in clear violation of Utilitarian practice.
It is easy to see that only Judeo-Christian and a forceful Western influence on the world have created a debate about marriage not because it cares about the moral state of the world but instead because it wishes to enforce its practices on a global scale. When we have everyone believing the same thing we can more easily control their desires and sell them the ideas and products of the wealthy puppet masters. Gay people don*t need marriage and all the trouble it brings as this will not truly make us more equal. It simply makes us more alike or normal and continues to march the world towards homogeny and away from being free thinking individuals. It is the latest in the assimilation of cultures and varied points of view in the name of greed and power. Marriage is not the issue that begs to be morally dissected in the name of my Gay brethren but the question is actually, Can a culture retain its character and ways of life in the onslaught of forced morality? Gays should not be being asked to be the new normal but the heternormative majority should allow us to be different but equal and do away with marriage all together.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Community Member speaks to Supervisor Weiner

An open letter from my friend David Weissman to Supervisor Scott Wiener ..

"Dear Supervisor Weiner - we've met a few times. I'm the producer of the documentaries We Were Here and The Cockettes, both of which chronicle the history of Gay San Francisco. I've been a San Franciscan since 1976. In 1979 I was on the campaign staff of Prop R, a rent-control initiative that didn't pass, but which pushed the Board of Supervisors to pass the significantly weaker Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Law. I subsequently became a Legislative Aide to Supervisor Harry Britt. I worked a couple of campaigns with Dick Pabich and Jim Rivaldo, and also worked closely with Bill Kraus - heroic leaders whose names I hope are familiar to you.

I am being forced out of my apartment that I've rented since 1986 due to the Ellis Act. This will end my 37-year residency in San Francisco. I must say that I find your policies regarding housing in San Francisco - your consistent bias toward home ownership at the expense of tenants and affordability, to be dismaying, and an affront to the legacy of Harvey Milk. In my own situation, it has been extremely clear that the limitations on condo conversion provided somewhat of an impediment to the immediate eviction of everyone in my building (all gay, 3 out of 4 of us are seniors), motivating the landlord to at least pay us to leave rather than just evict us at very minimal cost to him. But even this is appalling - your efforts should be toward further combating the effects of the Ellis Act, rather than contributing to the tsunami of evictions that is destroying the fabric of our City. No buyout can compensate for the loss of our homes.

I don’t doubt that you have good intentions, and that you have done some good things as Supervisor. Though you didn’t live here in the worst of the AIDS years, I assume you’ve been somewhat impacted by that history. But for those of us who elected Harvey Milk, who fought the Briggs Initiative and Anita Bryant, who created this amazing gay community centered around Castro Street, and then who fought for our lives and the lives of our brothers through two decades of AIDS deaths... having a gay supervisor promoting policies that are forcing so many of our generation out of our homes and out of the City to which we have given so much is heartbreaking.

David Weissman"