WIMN’s Voices: A Group Blog on Women, Media, AND…

Jaclyn Friedman

Called "the hardest-working woman in feminism" by Michelle Tea, Jaclyn Friedman is a queer writer, performer and activist. Her writing can be found in publications including PW.org, PoetsAgainstTheWar.org, etc. She is a contributing writer for PopPolitics.com and the Program Director for the Center for New Words

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Jaclyn Friedman's Blog Introduction

Women, Media, AND... Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues

Consider this: medical science has identified least seven different varieties of chromosomal gender tags, including XXY, XXX, YYY, XYY, and XO, in addition to the much-ballyhooed XX and XY.

Now consider this recent New York Times article on how really, we're all either "Straight, Gay, or Lying?".

Now, consider why one story made the nation's paper of record, and the other really, really didn't.

Now consider patriarchy.

That's right - I said patriarchy, that musty, fusty old second-wave whipping post. Pay. Tree. Arr. Key. A system in which men rule. In which having one woman on the op-ed page or on the Supreme Court is enough diversity, thank you very much. A system which pretty much falls to pieces if we can't all agree on who the men are, what they're supposed to do, and how they got that way to begin with.

Which brings me to queers, otherwise known as the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and questioning (glbtiq) community, dykes, faggots, trannies, genderqueers, men who have sex with men (MSM), same-sex lovers, and lots and lots of other names. Queers are trouble for patriarchy. That is, in fact, what's "queer" about us. We're women who get our primary needs met by other women, profoundly free of the need to play along with sexist male bullshit. We're men who don't act like men are supposed to: sometimes we cry, sometimes we get manicures, sometimes we suck each other's cocks. We're people who don't decide who to sleep with based on their gender. We're people who don't decide what gender we are based on what some doctor told our parents when we were born.

And the media? They get a choice. They can either:

A) Pretend we don't exist. (Like you did to your little sister when you were 5. LalalalalaIcan'thearyou...) This has the advantage of helping everyone else pretend we don't exist, which also helps them pretend the patriarchy doesn't exist, and that everything is just flowing along in the natural order of things. And that "girlyman" is a grievous insult and should obviously be treated as such, as in this recent Orange County Register article on the Governator's changing priorities:

Even the governor seems to have bought into the spin that he must become a girly-man, pandering to various special interests.

Even if we're buying into gender essentialism, wouldn't an actual "girly" man be a man who was more sensitive to people's needs and feelings? Perhaps a gay man? Wouldn't someone who is easily bought by special interests just be a "republicany-man"?

B) Acknowledge that we exist (why, thanks! Hello to you, too!), but reassure everyone that we actually all fit into the same tidy little boxes that hets do, and therefore aren't nearly as troubling to social systems as we might have seemed. This has the advantage of letting the letting folks who think of themelves as good little liberals feel good about themselves, and keeping the public panic down to a simmer. Look! They just want to buy into the wedding-industrial complex just like you and I! And one of them is really the girl and one is the boy! Or at least they're rich and white and tastefully apolitical, like on Will and Grace.

Why, this USA Today article on the anniversary of legal same-sex marriages in Massachusetts doesn't bother to allude to some of the messier ramifications of legal marriage, like the resulting rise in MA hate crimes against queers, or the many queers who don't want the state involved in their relationship, legal or no. And the words "bisexual" or "transgender" don't make an appearance once. As previously mentioned, don't worry: anyone practicing anything as messy as bisexuality is just confused. Poor things.

C) Report on the complex realities of our lives and deaths and what our existence means about dearly held social beliefs. Like the one about there being only two genders. This has the advantage of being good journalism, and also of destabilizing the system of oppression which brings us things like sexism.

Wondering what that would even sound like? Try on this Boston Phoenix essay by the brilliant Michael Bronski on how the "Gay Agenda" is hurting young queers as they try to develop honest sexualities. Here's a sample:

WHILE THE conservative and religious right (and even many moderates and liberals) accuse the gay movement of injecting sex into everything, the reality is radically different -- in fact, the movement has been quite consciously removing sex from everything. Television shows like Will and Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy that win awards from GLAAD present us with images of asexual gay men. Transgender politics generally avoids all issues of sexuality, concentrating instead on gender identity and expression. And, all too frequently, misinformed, hysterical AIDS reporting is taking the sex out of safe-sex. Now, in a stunning display of political engineering, the gay-rights movement has actually taken the sex out of marriage.

My job (because you know I have chosen to accept it) is to keep tabs on who chooses which option when, and why. And maybe, with your help, persuade some folks to choose differently.

Buckle up. It's going to be a queer ride.

Jaclyn Friedman's Biography

Called "the hardest-working woman in feminism" by Michelle Tea, Jaclyn Friedman is a queer writer, performer and activist. Her writing can be found in publications including PW.org, PoetsAgainstTheWar.org (where her poem "State of the Union" was selected as a Poem of the Day), in the Underwood Review, and in the Lambda Award nominated anthology Pinned Down By Pronouns, as well as the erotic anthologies Shameless and Best Bisexual Erotica. Her opinion column, "Where Your Mouth Is," was a popular monthly feature in Sojourner: The Women's Forum until the magazine's untimely demise in October 2002, and she now produces a biweekly podcast by the same name, which can be heard on AlterNet.org. Friedman holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College and has received a 2001 Cambridge Poetry Award, a 2004 Somerville Arts Council Artist Grant, and a recent fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. She is a contributing writer for PopPolitics.com.

In her work as the Program Director for the Center for New Words (CNW, a non-profit organization creating spaces and places where women's words matter), she programs and produces a 50 plus event-per-year series of author disucssions, as well as writing workshops, open mics, political discussions, music concerts, book groups and special events. She is Co-Founder and Co-Chair of WAM!, CNW's conference on Women and the Media. Before coming to CNW, Friedman co-founded the South Shore Alliance for Gay and Lesbian Youth (SSHAGLY) and worked as Program Director of the LiveSafe Foundation, an organization dedicated to teaching self-defense, de-escalation and safety skills in communities with high rates of violence.

In her spare time, Friedman plots for world domination through truth and secretly watches reality television. Her favorite lipstick color is Wicked.

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