Thursday, May 10, 2012

Adventures in Gender Panic: Underwear Edition

Image via. Also someone please buy me this.
"You're not choosing sides. You're choosing a style."

These words popped up on my phone right when I was about to crawl under the t-shirt shelves at the store and cry. For the first time in fifteen minutes, I exhaled.

They were from Casey (incidentally, the partner of the delightful and fabulous C in this post about Chik-Fil-A), who is also genderqueer, and who has been one of my guiding lights lately while I'm trying to figure out what I'm trying to do with myself here, what feels right. In a culture structured around the idea of two genders, that's no easy thing. Lots of people can tell you this. This is not news. And along the lines of genderqueer and trans* identities, I have it pretty easy. I'm highly educated, white, and employed. I have health care. I can shop wherever I want without risk of being thrown out or followed by store employees. I know this.

But today I needed to buy new underwear, and I had an anxiety attack about it, and I don't think that's meaningless, either. Lately I've been wearing what people typically think of as men's clothing. I really like it, I feel great in it, it works for me right now. Because lotsa people expect us all to decide on a gender and stay with it forever, there's not a wide variety of gender-neutral clothing out there, and what there is is expensive (American Apparel, for instance).

A couple of straight people asked me, when I posted about this whole thing on Facebook, what gender panic is. This feels like a good time to tell you: I guess I don't really know. It's probably different for everyone. For me, it felt like an anxiety attack (high heart rate, shallow breathing, dizzy) because I couldn't fit into binary expectations: I don't fit comfortably in Man or Woman. Someone for whom I have a great deal of affection called me a "boygirl" today and that made my heart melt. Some people probably panic when they can't discern another person's gender and call that gender panic. Most of the time, I think playing around with gender expression is fun and empowering and anyone who's known me for ten minutes knows I like subversion. But sometimes it's hard and today wiped me out. Anyway.

Recently, I've had reasons to be more self-conscious about what I'm wearing and how I'm presenting (in part because I'm dating, a scenario in which externals and legibility matter). So whether I was going to buy "girl" underwear or "boy" underwear was a big question for me, and the answer was also pretty immediately clear. To the men's section I went. I hedged around for awhile, picking up some new tank tops and checking out jeans. By the time I got to the underwear section I'd worked myself up into a panic about it, not because wearing men's underwear feels wrong to me (I've worn it before, though mostly when doing drag), but because I seem to be at something of a turning point regarding my gender expression. Casual remarks about how something about me is more femme than expected make my eyes go wide and my head spin. Someone at the restaurant where I work calling me "sir" kind of makes me giggle. But there's something about buying underwear that feels really intimate. Now it's not just about how people in the world might see me. It's also about how I see myself. Most people in the world don't get to see my underthings.*

So I texted Casey and said that buying underwear was giving me gender panic, and she sent that brilliant response that I will be using forever. I'm not picking Man. I'm picking clothes. (I also texted our very own Kyrie, who was fabulous and sympathetic as always. Love you, lady.) After a couple of texts made clear that this was going to be a bigger conversation than is easily had over text message, Casey called and we talked about how stupid it is that this is hard. This isn't hard because Casey and I and lots of our other friends are weird. We are fabulous and not a problem. It's hard because this is a sick culture that's all "WELL WHICH IS IT BOY OR GIRL?" Look, I don't know. I want to wear what I want when I want to and I want other people to also do that and then we can go get ice cream and watch Friday Night Lights.

So I bought a whole lot of stuff today, clothes that I tried on and that I liked, and I bought some "men's" underwear and I bought "women's" sunglasses and I said fuck it and bought some mouthwash because regardless of whether my gender is legible to other people or to me, I still care about my dental health.

Do any of you have shopping advice? Stores or brands you like that are comfy?

*Ask nicely.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Short Play About Why Kids Are Better Than The Rest Of Us

Hi, NWFers! SORRY I haven't been around lately. I'm going to try to do better. There is obviously a lot of stuff going on in the world that I want to talk to y'all about, but let me tell you, dissertation work + conference papers does not equal lots of free brain time for writing.

I want to tell you about this conversation I had today with a six-year-old kid. He's my friend's son, and I was babysitting. The plan was to go to a really cool trail in our town and see some alligators and then go get a happy meal or whatever. My friend C, who is also gay, went with us. So we were all in the car and heading to the trail and he was already on about lunch, asking if we could go to Chik-Fil-A.
Jess: No, because C and I are both gay and Chik-Fil-A doesn't like gay people.
Kid: What's gay people?
Jess: It means that I'm a girl who likes to go on dates with girls but not with boys.
Kid: Why does Chik-Fil-A have a problem with THAT?
Jess: Because they're not very nice.
Kid: ... But they give me free refills on my soda?
Jess: Well, sometimes you can't tell whether people are nice based on what they give you.
Kid: Okay. Just, can we go to McDonald's or something so I can still get a toy?


But seriously, humans? Stop eating at Chik-Fil-A. Even though someday somebody's gonna make you wanna gobble up a waffle fry, just love your queer friends more, k?

Image via.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Doors and Suitcases

So, I started the new job, it sucks, whoops.  I'm back on the job market (wish me luck), but in the meantime I've got plenty of grossness to tell you about!

For instance: I fly to Jacksonville weekly now.  As you may already know, Jacksonville is definitely more Deep South-y than Gainesville, which means (among other things, like grits in the cafeteria) plenty of men awkwardly scooting behind me and wresting the door from my grip instead of just walking through like a polite human being.

Just today, on my flight home, a fellow passenger grabbed my suitcase and went to stow it overhead for me.  Slightly irked that he did so without asking, and, at the end of my weekly trip, very tired of people carrying my stuff for me, I kept my grip and said, "no, that's all right."  You guys.  He ignored me and kept pulling on my suitcase.  In what world is this ok?

After a, "DUDE, I've got it," he finally let go, making a big show about how unreasonable I was being.  See, this is why I hate chivalry: it's often just a facade for rampant assholery.  Maybe he got a kick out of playing the role, maybe it was some sort of "Gift of Fear"-type boundary-testing.  What it wasn't was being considerate of others, since the other in this case was clearly resisting.

When you think about it, chivalry basically consists of a bunch of one-way favors.  The exchange of favors builds good-will and social ties and all that good stuff; I suspect a cultural standard of men doing these favors for women, but not vice versa, arises from the desire to build a sense of gratitude -- and, I don't know, maybe feeling beholden? -- to men on the part of women.  That's not nice; that's actually kind of evil.

And it's not like I'm saying you can't hold a door for anyone, dudes.  But if you're making a big show of it (or trying to yank someone's stuff out of their hands), I bet your motivations are suspect.  That's all.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Some Queer Things I've Liked Lately

So I'm trying to post more regularly, but long ranty and over-researched posts aren't going to happen too often. So today you're going to get some things I like that you might've missed. Feel free to add your own recent faves to the list in the comments!

First: Nic Bravo's "You Can Get It: A Queer Ladies' Field Guide to Fucking Nic Bravo."
Nic, as alert readers will already know, is one of my very best friends in the whole world. She's great at talking about sex (which, as much as Republicans would like to argue otherwise, is something a lot of people have/think about/talk about - thought not everyone, of course, and I don't want to reify the idea that all people are into partnered sex or any kind of sex at all), consent, communication, and not slut shaming. This is a great, great example of how to talk about sex, and if you know Nic and you think she's cute (she is!) give her a call sometime. You should also read her whole blog, "Stick up for yourself, son." She's a great great writer.

For other queer history nerds, my dear friend Casey pointed me to Fuck Yeah, Queer Vintage. It's beautiful and really good at the inclusivity/diversity thing. Also on the history tip, here are some black lesbian elders telling their pre-Stonewall stories.

Audre Lorde is one of my favorite people, and you can go here to hear her read a poem and read some stuff!

I love a lot of stuff on Radically Queer, so read the whole thing, but I especially liked this piece, "Do Feminist Dating Messages Apply to Queer Dating?"

Friend Mallory sent me this, on the importance of gay mentors in higher education. I have some outstanding queer mentors, although most of mine are at other universities.

Speaking of queer mentors, Catherine Lugg, who is not really my mentor but is someone I admire greatly, and who is faculty at Rutgers, has this fantastic blog, Thinking Queerly.

What've you been reading lately that you'd like to share? I need things to read when I'm procrastinating from paper-grading!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Semi-Guest Post: Gay Agenda at Toys R Us

Hello, faithful Nth Wavers! Thanks to the continuing ridiculousness of my schedule, I'm still having trouble finding time to write. I will find a way to resolve this, but in the meantime, I pounced on a Facebook post from Alert Reader Andrew, who lays into the bigotry of One Million Moms and their rampage against Toys R Us for allowing something gay to happen in the proximity of their stores. I'm gonna give y'all some background and then let Andrew take it from there, k?

One Million Moms, for those who don't know, are a bunch of hate-filled parents who are terrified of all things queer and also of having conversations with their kids. I'm not gonna link to their site here, because I trust you can all use Google if you really need to know and I'm not into giving them more hits. They're upset because Toys R Us is carrying Archie comments, and Archie has a gay character who got gay married to his gay partner.

Andrew leads with this quote from that story (what's to follow is from him):
Unfortunately, children are now being exposed to same-sex marriage in a toy store. This is the last place a parent would expect to be confronted with questions from their children on topics that are too complicated for them to understand. Issues of this nature are being introduced too early and too soon, which is becoming extremely common and unnecessary.
Ah, yes, the toy store, the last virgin wilderness where parents can be sure that all things their children see won't raise awkward questions...

Let's have a gander at a small sample of toys that can be seen at Toys R Us:
1) Animals devouring carcasses of other animals and leaving only the skeletons

2) Medieval siege engines with attached prison cages

3) Robbers

4) Pirates

5) Poachers

6) Armed cops arresting thieves

7) Lots of forts, cannons, and other military scenarios

8) Secret agents

So One Million Moms feels fine explaining war, conquest, pillage, theft, animal cruelty, the natural order, torture, espionage, and other things but they find it inappropriate that two men who love each other are getting married? Damn. Those are some priorities. (I'm not saying kids shouldn't learn about other things, but I don't know that it's easier to explain why Mr. Lion ate Mr. Fluffers than to explain that Steve and John love each other and are getting married.)

In the words of Archie CEO:

We stand by Life with Archie #16. As I've said before, Riverdale is a safe, welcoming place that does not judge anyone. It's an idealized version of America that will hopefully become reality someday.

We're sorry the American Family Association/ feels so negatively about our product, but they have every right to their opinion, just like we have the right to stand by ours. Kevin Keller will forever be a part of Riverdale, and he will live a happy, long life free of prejudice, hate and narrow-minded people.

Not all available at Toys R Us, but here are Play Mobil sets of questionable virtue for children.

Hi! It's Jess again! I'm interested in what parents who aren't bigots have to say about all of this, of course. And if anyone else wants to write a guest post to help a grrl out while I'm getting my act together, I'd be most appreciative. Otherwise, you're probably going to get a lot of nerdy "here's what I learned in the archives today!" posts for awhile.

Love y'all!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Blogger on Hiatus

I'm preparing to take a new job in six weeks, so my blogging has ceased for now, and, depending on how the new job goes, possibly for quite a while. As a conciliatory gesture, I'd like to share with you a post by a friend of mine, about some bullshit in the music world.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Airing Dirty Laundry

First, an apology: I'm sorry I've been doing a bad job of keeping up with writing here. I'm traveling to Tallahassee (three hours each way, 2-3 days a week) to do archival research, so I've been sans internet access all day, and on the days I'm in town I need to do things like prevent student insurrections (grade papers) and ensure basic survival (grocery shop, sleep). So I can't promise that I'm about to become a better and more consistent blogger, but I can say that I WANT to be a better and more consistent blogger and will do my best.

Anyway. Onward. Trigger warnings for anti-queer hate.

By now, many of you have probably read this, a masterful piece in Rolling Stone about the Anoka-Hennepin school district and its issues with bullycide. If you haven't read it, go do so, and keep some Kleenex next to you. Rolling Stone is not in the habit of issuing trigger warnings, so I shall do so here: trigger warning for suicide and anti-queer hate.

And then there's this, a story about how Suffolk County, Virginia schools are considering banning "cross-gender dressing," which: I have no idea what that even means. Does that mean girls have to wear dresses and boys have to wear bolo ties or girls have to wear Mary Janes and boys have to wear top hats? What about people who aren't boys or girls? Do they wear space suits? The rationale here is that they're trying to prevent bullying, but what they are doing IS bullying. It's saying in no uncertain terms, "Just conform to this hegemonic binary gender expression and we'll leave you alone." As though there aren't gender-conforming queer people and gender non-conforming straight people. But perhaps more important, as though the people supporting this policy aren't bullies themselves. There is nothing okay about telling someone that they need to dress in a way that conforms to your expectations for them based on how you read their gender. It's horrendous.

Readers of Nth Wave and watchers of the news and even listeners to notorious asshole Dan Savage are aware of how straighties bully queer people. This isn't news to most people. Which doesn't mean it's something we should just get over and accept as a fact of life, of course. The Rolling Stone piece calls this a war on gay teens - I'd say it's a war on queer teens - and it is, and we have to keep fighting it.

But. There is also this kind of bullying and exclusion and violence within queer communities and radical feminist communities. Alert Reader Steve sent me this awhile back: it's a radical feminist collective blog hub. Don't get your hopes up. What it is is mostly a collection of radical feminists freaking out about trans people in a really gross way. And they are calling themselves radical feminists, not Republicans, not Bible-believing Christians, not Tea Party Patriots. Radical feminists. These people are advocating, directly or indirectly, anti-trans violence.

And then there's this Jack Halberstam interview in Lambda Literary, which I just read for the first time after hearing alllllll different kinds of people getting really excited about how great it is and a very few people pointing out that it's loaded with anti-trans bigotry.

There are things to like about the interview, like this:

The premise of The Queer Art of Failure is that at this moment, intense capitalist accumulation, we’re living with one model of success and failure and one model alone. And that model is, that to make money and to advance professionally is what it means to be successful, and everything else is failure. That’s given us a zero-sum model against which we can judge our achievements in life, and that’s very unfortunate, because it squashes out all kinds of people doing alternative things for alternative reasons that may be much more valuable to their communities and to the world. So if you’re absolutely dedicated to organic farming, recycling, playing in a punk band on the weekend, and blogging, and you do some temp work in your spare time, you’re making a big contribution to the world we live in but you are not able to feed into the model of success that we’ve set out. So the book suggests that in such a moment, the moment of Occupy Wall Street and the one percent and the 99%, we need better models of success and failure. We need to measure ourselves against different standards. And the book proposes that queer people have actually been doing this for a long time precisely because we quickly fall out of the prevailing model of success and failure by not managing to meet the standards of gender and sexuality set for us by our usually straight families. Therefore there might be insights into failure that come out of queer art and queer culture.

But then there's this:

It’s not totally important to my understanding of self that other people read me as a man. It’s important that they read me as masculine, and it’s important that they read me in some way that I’m at odds with female embodiment. But it’s also important that they read me as someone who is not going to have that tension resolved by getting some surgeries. We’re living in a moment where people are pretty creative about their relationship to gender variance, and I think that the queer worlds we live in can tolerate a lot of different gender designations, so I don’t see why we can’t hold onto “butch” along with a whole set of other markers and identity, difference, embodiment, masculinity, variance and so on.

Emphasis mine. How dismissive can you be? You know? "Getting some surgeries"? While it's true that not all trans people desire surgery - or hormones - for some people, access to surgery is a life-or-death issue. Halberstam just runs right over that in attempt to prove... something. I'm not quite sure what.

And then there are the radical queer feminist folks who talk about how hard it is to date trans men [PDF], and people like this lady who told me to my face that gender-conforming feminine women who people don't read as gay are "attractive" and other queer ladies aren't.

So, you know, here's an example of why tokenism doesn't work, I guess. One queer person cannot speak for all queer people, not even Jack Halberstam. Some queer people are bigots. Some feminists advocate violence. We've got to work on our own house repairs even as we try to get the straighties to stop picking on us all the time. It can be exhausting, but we're going to have to do it together so that we can all keep building. Burning everything to the ground isn't going to fix the problems faced by those kids in Michele Bachmann's school district.

Friday, January 27, 2012

"This is Panic Attack Rap"

Title thanks to Das Racist.

We are in a crisis that happens to be playing out in schools but isn't only about schools. It's about white supremacy, and those cuts run deep.

I assume NWF readers are aware of big events and generally keeping up with the news, so you probably already know about the ABSOLUTE FUCKING RACISM happening in Arizona schools right now. Here's one recap, and more from Common Dreams:

Arizona is closing public school ethnic studies programs that accuse whites of oppressing Chicanos and Native Americans on the grounds that these historical lessons constitute racist hate speech. But scholars and activists are protesting the state’s latest move as racist itself because it keeps students from these communities from learning about their own history and heroes.
As Paul Ortiz - a fellow radical historian at my university - says:

These people want us to mow their lawns, pick their crops, clean their public restrooms, teach their kids, and truck their consumer goods from coast to coast and yet they will not allow our children to read books about their own histories? What is the problem with this country?
And then:
What I'm trying to figure out is this: what is happening today in white American culture that is driving this kind of rage towards children of color? Many of us experienced these types of abuses in the 1970s as kids but had hoped that the nation had moved beyond pulverizing the minds of its children. Guess not....

The Tucson kids didn't take this shit lying down. Students from three high schools organized a walk-out. They met in a park, marched to the Tuscon United School District, and held teach-ins on the lawn. It's tear-jerking, it's awe-inspiring, it's heroic.

So, I didn't let this shit go untouched on my own Facebook wall. I had a conversation with Alert Reader Steve, who correctly pointed out that this is all part of the system and asked what I'd do to change it. I said this:

I want colleges of education and [the American Educational Research Association] and [Teach For America] to be less attached to assimilation, for instance. Instead of asking, "What's wrong with the brown kids that's keeping them from succeeding in schools," and placing the blame on communities of color, they could do some self-reflection and ask what's wrong with The System, and what they're doing to create schools in which only some kids can succeed. All the big research money goes to asking the "what's wrong with brown people" question, and when you ask the "what's wrong with the schools/system/us" question, you're a radical and they don't have to listen to you anymore. It's easy for colleges of ed and AERA to look at what's going on in Tucson right now and say "that's wrong," but haven't looked at their complicity in the system that allows it. They're still working under assumptions that the system that works for white people should work for everyone, for instance. They still, in general, marginalize other narratives of success and draw lines around what it means to be a "good kid" or a "productive adult." There is too much meritocracy at work. You should see the reactions that happen when you get white grad students to read Faces at the Bottom of the Well, for instance. I've seen it. It isn't pretty.

As for queer stuff - because, let's be real, the patriarchy is both white and hetero - AERA has been almost militantly silent. They have said they "don't take stances on political issues," even as kids are dying. Queer kids aren't a political issue. These institutions sanction a system that allows the queer kid to be kept out of school for "his safety" but lets the bullies have access to school. That happens all the time. They perpetuate a system that requires cis/hetero gender conformity. Etc.

In the cases of queer and/or of-color populations, schools are forces of colonization, socialization, and assimilation. That's gotta stop, because it's a milder form of what's going on here. Tuscon is a really visible attempt to silence and erase people, but in many ways it's more of a quantitative difference than a qualitative one.


We should be panicking right now.

Image via.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

On Coming Out When You're Famous

Or, at least, semi-famous.

I'm kind of a comedy nerd, and I've long had mixed feelings about that. Sometimes I get disgusted with comedians - most frequently straight white dudes, but not always - who use their comedy to pick on people with less social capital than them. Misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia are frequently part of comedians' acts. I'm looking at you, Andrew Dice Clay, Patrice O'Neal, Steven Wright, Tracy Morgan, etc.

But there are some comedians out there whom I usually feel are reliably progressive and cool. Jimmy Dore, for instance, frequently talks about how he believes that it's okay to pick on people with more social capital than you (Wall Street CEOs) but not less (homeless people). Louis CK, while sometimes a raging gender essentialist, can call out racists like you wouldn't believe. Jamie Kilstein not only does expressly political comedy, he hosts a podcast about progressive issues meant to counter the shit we get from the mainstream media. And Todd Glass, who used to co-host a podcast with Jimmy Dore, has been calling for homophobes to kill themselves for at least the last five years, which is about as long as I've been following his career.

Glass used to - and still does - talk about how people opposing gay rights and shit like that in the 2000s is like someone calling for segregation in 1989. It doesn't make sense, and people are going to be embarrassed as shit about this later, or at least, so we hope.

Well, yesterday, on fellow comedian Marc Maron's podcast, Todd Glass came out as gay. I sat down on the floor of my dining room and just listened to Todd talk about his experiences as a closeted gay comedian and didn't move for a solid 45 minutes. Then I re-listened to the podcast this morning, and I'll probably do it again later today. At first I wasn't convinced it was for real, but it is. Todd Glass is gay. This is really, really great.

It's not just great because I think gay people are great - though it is for that reason also - but because Glass is a really famous comedian. He's had enormous levels of success in the field, appeared on Last Comic Standing, and is frequently referred to as "the comedian's comedian." He's brilliant. And now he's out, and people like Dice Clay and Morgan and those other shitheads who know him are going to have to think again about their homophobic shit because one of their friends is gay now.

What got me super teared up was his statement that he's coming out now because he can't watch any more kids kill themselves and stay silent. He's 100% right. People need to come out, we need to be out, because, as I've said before, it's making the world safer.

Caveat: Don't come out if it's not safe for you. I get it. Some of us are privileged to be able to be out and not lose our homes or put ourselves at the risk for violence from family or roommates or whatever. Not everyone is. This is important.

I wrote a gushy e-mail to Todd Glass and I'm sure he's going to get more of those. People everywhere will be as delighted and filled with warmth as I am, I hope. If I could give Todd Glass a huge hug, I would. I'm so glad he's using his privilege to help people. He alluded to starting a campaign of some kind to help kids. Todd, I eagerly await the details. I'm so proud of you.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Racism Antidote

For some reason I encountered a lot of random racism over the holidays, I have no idea why. That shit can wear on a person, even a person with a nice protective coating of white privilege, so I headed over to Yo, Is This Racist? to recover. I recommend it for whenever you have a need to see someone straighten out racists and also be very funny. And just because we heart you so much, dear readers, I've compiled a list of my favorites for your reading pleasure.

The Should-Be-Obvious-But-Sadly-Needs-Pointing-Out:

On Privilege

Slightly more complex issues:

Just funny:


Happy New Year, everybody; I wish you a racism-free 2012.

Silencing Efforts: It's Time for the Homophobic Student Evaluations

In the last year, my university switched to online student evaluations. This is bad in the sense that fewer students fill them out, and when they do, tend to spend less time on them. But it's kinda cool in that I get to see them much sooner and, if a student raises a point I want to consider, I have time to implement it before I'm halfway through the next semester.

I don't want to seem like an egomaniac or anything, but I'm a pretty good teacher. I've won the university-wide teaching award, and my evaluations are generally quite positive. This semester, some students wrote some particularly sweet and lovely things in their evaluations, and I find this quite touching, and encouraging. I also find it necessary to my survival in this field, because I also got a handful of students who wrote that they wished I didn't talk about queer stuff so much. They talked about my "gay agenda" and how I'm apparently biased.

They're right, you know. I do have a gay agenda and I'm totes biased. My agenda and bias paid off, though, because I made my classroom safer for some of my kids, the ones who feel uncomfortable and unsafe in other settings. That I didn't uphold heteronormativity, as was expected of me, or pretend to be "neutral" on these issues, is good. It's also fucking scary as hell. I don't want to stop teaching, ever.

Part of the reason I think that the kids felt like we talked about queer history so much is that they never hear about it anywhere else. As Kristen said, any amount of discussion about queer stuff above 0% is a lot to them, because it's novel. But I've written about how it is essential to teach queer history before. And because I like it and I can, I'm going to go ahead and quote Feinberg again here:

I always wanted to leave something important behind. Remember the history book you gave me for Christmas?... I've been going to the library, looking up our history. There's a ton of it in anthropology books, a ton of it, Ruth. We haven't always been hated. Why didn't we grow up knowing that?... It's changed the way I think. I grew up believing the way things are now is the way they've always been, so why even bother trying to change the world? But just finding out that it was ever different, even if it was long ago, made me feel things could change again. Whether or not I live to see it. At work, when everyone else is at lunch, I've been typesetting all the history I've found, trying to make it look as important as it feels to me. That's what I want to leave behind, Ruth - the history of this ancient path we're walking. I want it to help us restore our dignity.
- Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues

Remember that? So, so important. My queer kids aren't finding themselves in history in other classes, so it's my fucking responsibility to make sure they find themselves in my class.

A lot of these students are wrestling with the idea that anyone who isn't a cis straight white man has bias. Because I'm out to my students, I take great risk, as do all out people in education everywhere. I can't cave to their expectations that I will be neutral. It's not possible for me. I'm not neutral. Neutral means invisibility, and invisibility means death, in the most literal sense. Queer kids are killing themselves, getting kicked out of their homes, running away from abusive situations. Am I supposed to be quiet when my kids are dying? Fuck that. I'll take making some privileged straight kids annoyed or uncomfortable over letting kids die because they think they're alone.

I wrote about a study awhile back that talked about how openly queer teachers are negatively reviewed thanks to "modern homonegativity" (the "I'm not anti-gay but..." shit), and - more interesting to me - comments on the study that come from people in the field, some of whom are openly queer. I'm going to re-post the comment I liked the most from the Inside Higher Ed piece here, and I want to emphasize that he's talking about doctoral students:

Michael Dumas: Interestingly, I just taught about LGBT issues last night in a doctoral class on diversity in education. The course is taught by two instructors, both African American, one straight-identified female, and one gay male (me). If this year's student evaluations are similar to last year's, I fully expect to see one or two students complain that "too much time" was spent on gay issues, even though the LGBT content is--coincidentally-- only about 1/10 of the subject matter covered. I also can expect similarly critical comments about how much time was spent on race and African Americans, even though both instructors are conscious about including other populations in readings, media and examples. I don't want to comment on methodological rigor of the study without reading it, but I can say that it is consistent with my experience, and that of a whole range of LGBT, women and people of color in the academy. And yes, negative and untruthful course evaluations can hurt one in the tenure and promotion process.

 Now, as for the question raised above about why a professor would reveal her or his sexual orientation, the study states that sexual orientation was indicated in the autobiographical statement given to research participants. It did NOT say that instructors listed their sexual identity on the syllabus itself! And yes, students do talk amongst themselves about who their professors are as people; they see photos on our desks; they know about our involvement in various advocacy groups on campus; and, importantly, they make assumptions based on gender performance (length of hair, style of dress, speaking voice). So it is entirely reasonable that a student would be aware of, or at least presume, specific sexual identities.
Yesssssssss. You can go back to my earlier post on that, linked to above, to see my commentary on it. I'm posting it here for therapeutic reasons. I needed to read that again.

Look, I don't expect that my department is going to let me off the hook for the homophobic evaluations, ever. I have every expectation of having to explain myself. And so I wrote this post in large part to strengthen myself. I need to have all these thoughts at the top of my head when I get called in for the meeting. Maybe I will be surprised, but I expect that someone will tell me to tone it down, or be strategic, or talk about queer stuff less. I'm hoping the folks in my department will be allies, but I'm never sure. And isn't that a problem?

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