Friday, November 5, 2010

Is this gay?

The article linked is about a child who wanted to dress up like Daphne for Halloween. The "catch" was that the child was assigned male at birth. The mother let the child, and was very supportive. Which is great by the way.

However, what irked me was that the story was only framed in terms of the child being possibly gay not gender-variant. I am not saying the child is gender variant, I don't know and don't want to speculate on that. What I am saying is that gender variance was not spoken of (only that this was a "cross gendered situation") and that discussions of a male body expressing femininity automatically went to the topic of sexual orientation and excluded gender variance from the discussion. Though in defense of the article, gender variant activities (such as painting ones nails) were not see as problematic, which is nice. However I am still critical of the focus on sexual orientation at the expense of gender variant identities.

I think this kind of overall discourse adversely affects both gay and trans/gender-variant bodies. It pigeon holes gay bodies into this narrow conception built upon assumptions of the campy gay and it erases trans/gender-variant bodies completely from the conversation. More to the point, it collapses gender and sexuality into one category and contributes to the popular discourse that trans is just "super gay."

What do others think?

-b

4 comments:

  1. Not too long ago, the blog posted an article titled "Can a boy be a princess for halloween?", which I feel ties into this question a lot. The article itself, written by the three-year-old's mother, didn't intrude into the child's sexuality and was very supportive.

    The link to the article mentioned in this post is missing, but going by the assumption that this is also speaking about a young child, I'll reiterate what I said in the comments of the princess article (at the time, I was strictly responding to comments of the child becoming gay):

    "Jumping to conclusions that just because a child who is young enough to not understand gender labels will become gay later in life due to this experience is a disgustingly bigoted assumption, and it is the reason our children are so harsh to their peers. It's coming from the line of thought that states there is something wrong about exploration; that gay people are different and 'wrong'; and that by questioning yourself, even for a moment, is automatically seen as a fault."

    What I'm getting at is: assuming that a child will become gay (or trans, even) because of childhood activities such as a halloween costume just seems narrow-minded in general. Replacing the word gay with anything else would be entirely the same, although it seems to have become an umbrella term. By my understanding, the proper wording would be queer.

    As long as the sentiment that there is something wrong with exploration of the opposite gender is there, then there is an adverse effect on the discourse. It doesn't matter if people are upset about their children becoming gay, queer, or trans; The thought itself is the issue.

    - M

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  2. The article is here: http://nerdyapplebottom.com/2010/11/02/my-son-is-gay/ - the title of this post was the link.

    I thought it was awesome she supported the kid going as Daphne, and great she will support him if he's gay, but there's something about the piece that's been bothering me since I saw it.

    I think the clearest thing is this: I don't know why a post that's primarily about a kid dressing as Daphne and that explicitly says she doesn't know or care what orientation that kid is is titled "My son is gay." I think that's got a bit of baggage to deal with.

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  3. Ah, now that I have the article I see what you're saying. It's rubbing me the wrong way too, now that I look it over. The title seems to be more of a lead-in to the "So what if he IS gay? I don't care, why do you?" sentiment.

    Honestly, I feel like framing something like that is only geared towards getting attention, perhaps even to the point of exploitation. And since the comments on this post are about forty thousand more than usually received on this mother's blog, it worked. Since it's a personal blog I don't place too much stock in it, though, since it could just be one soccer mom's lashing out towards other more bigoted soccer moms. It's a good sentiment that could have probably gone somewhere positive with some editing, but it was handled with a lack of tact which makes everything seem abrasive.

    - M

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  4. I believe she was reacting to the mistaken impression that her son dressing in a feminine manner will "turn him gay" - a fallacy that a lot of people believe. Her point doesn't seem to be about queerness at all, but rather the fact that her son dressing as Daphne for Halloween doesn't mean anything at all other than he really likes the character of Daphne. It won't "turn" him gay, or trans, or queer. I believe she uses gay as the example purely because that's what the other moms were throwing at her.

    M is right that it was mostly a reactionary blog entry, an example of one mother blowing off steam. The intellectual analysis of the situation is probably better left to folks who aren't personally connected to it, and who thus have no emotional stake in it.

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