Tag Archives: heteropatriarchy

This has been a confusing week in sexual politics…

While Uganda just passed the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act which makes same-sex intercourse and marriage punishable with life in prison and punishes anyone who “funds”, “sponsors” or “abets” homosexuality with up to 7 years in prison, Arizona nearly passed a law allowing business owners to deny service to gay and lesbian people. Fortunately, the governor vetoed the bill, but similar proposals are on the table in other states. Many people around the world are waking up to the fact that these developments are connected, and at their nexus is the US Christian Right. Yet now, on Facebook, a user can choose between dozens of options to describe one’s “gender”, even Ugandan’s if they select English as their primary language. While at times it may feel like sex and gender justice are moving forward, other developments indicate the opposite. Russia, for instance, is also becoming more severe in its punishment of people who do not conform to heterocentric norms, and the US Christian Right is known to be behind these developments as well. For those of us who are committed to the struggle for the right to gender expression and sexual preferences and orientations, this is the time to have our noses to the grindstone and getting our voices heard.

If anything, do not leave the future of our sexual rights up to fate, because it will reply:


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Towards a gynocentric understanding of learning & knowledge? : A brief response to that Business Insider PhD graphic

Have you seen that Business Insider PhD graphic that has recently gone a bit viral on the web? It was created by Matt Might (I don’t want to gender stereotype, but I would expect Matt is gendered as male) to show how he illustrates the significance of a PhD to his students. But, one does not even need a PhD to see how this is like, the most phallic graphic ever! I mean, LOOK at it!! And it even ends with the words, “Keep Pushing”!!! Or, am I just a “paranoid feminist”?

At least one doesn’t even need a PhD to tell you that this is one helluva penis shaped illustration!  If I were more talented as comic arts as Matt Might is, I would create my own gynocentric version of what the significance of a PhD is. Perhaps the birthing of an idea after the torture of labour following years of intellectual menstruation, shedding of old ideas, rebuilding of new ones. And while your idea, once born, is just one amongst many in the world, it is yours; the product of blood, sweat, and tears.

We must rethink how we conceptualise  and construct knowledge and learning…
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People’s Pride March 2013 – Queering South Africa’s Social Movements

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Wow! The Johannesburg People’s Pride march was amazing.  As I sit down to write this post, I am still sizzling from the energy and blazing sunshine, skin beginning to glow red. Joburg People’s Pride  brings something truly unique, powerful, and beautiful to the fight for social justice. Not only did it feel momentous to be a part of the march itself as it moved through the streets of downtown Johannesburg, but it also gave me a sense of what it can feel like to bring together struggles against racism, heteropatriarchy, and capitalism in real terms, on the ground.

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It was the first ever JHB People’s Pride march, and I feel so privileged to have been a part of it. A queering of the ways in which issues of sexuality, race, gender, landlessness, education, health care, xenophobia, and HIV/AIDS are usually articulated (in isolation from one another), People’s Pride can build bridges of solidarity between these issues. I was given a placard to carry that read, “We demand universal and quality education”.  My favorite was “We demand an erotic justice”. And, in my mind, I was demanding a public culture of sex. A culture where sexual knowledge is accessible and circulated. Joburg People’s Pride contributes to the public elaboration of a social world where less alienated relations can be made possible.

This mode of action speaks back to the de-politicization of gay rights movements, here and elsewhere, which have been hijacked by capitalist consumption and white, middle class interests.

Last year’s Johannesburg Pride march, which has become an indisputably apolitical movement, can be said to have catalyzed the formation of People’s Pride. The main pride organiser’s statement that “we are not political animals” when responding to her and other’s engagement with the deliberately politicized 1 in 9 disruption-intervention (if you have no idea what I am talking about, watch the video), illustrates how pinkwashing and homonationalism have normalized LGBTIAQ movements.

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It was when I read That’s Revolting: Queer strategies for resisting assimilation that I began to realise the ways in which the issues of gay-marraige, gays in the military, and gay adoption have co-opted a movement that had radical and revolutionary origins. A movement which probably felt a lot like the JPP march.

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Rather than pursuing a struggle for erotic justice, public sexual culture, and the dismantling of heteropatriarchy, the mainstream gay rights movement has embarked on a normalizing mission to align itself with heterosexual, white, and middle class values and interests (See The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life). This, of course, has the effect of further alienating queers who are marginalised along additional axes of oppression such as class, race, nationality, and HIV/AIDS status.

The march concluded with a very powerful and respectful honour to those who have lost their lives because of the violence through which heterosexuality and patriarchy are policed in our society.

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Two rows of marchers standing with simple placards showing the smiling faces of people whose lives have brutally ended because of homo- and trans-phobia, intolerance, hate, and violence.

A drummer played a marching rhythm. Faces appeared one by one. People who once had life, like us marchers, at one time. It is important to keep our history with us as we  work towards the building of an equitable future. The silent walk of honour was a powerful way to achieve this, and to actively invoke these lost friends and allies into the present.

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The phrase “They cannot kill us all” was painted in black on a white sheet, greeting the marchers as we arrived at the final turn of the procession.

Ending with a gathering at Constitution HIll, the march concluded with the high energy with which it began. Thank you Joburg People’s Pride for this day and for creating a space where we can create something new. A space for creativity, and a space where we can find new paths towards justice together.

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The Man from Nowhere: Adventures in Drag Kingdom

The Man from Nowhere: Adventures in the Drag Kingdom

A few weekends ago, I participated in a Drag King Workshop called Wo(Man) Up! that was part of the 2013 Wits Pride events and facilitated by Claire Jaynes. This is a picture of me after I got home, and had peeled off the meters of sticky bandage tape that had bound my breasts (miraculously) to near invisibility. I wanted to capture an image of myself in the liminal space between manhood and womanhood.

It was a Saturday morning, a time which I usually reserve for mundane chores like laundry or grocery shopping. But not that day!

After hours of wrapping, packing, cutting, gluing, and shading, our group of 6 female-identified participants had transformed ourselves into men. Not men that we would necessarily want anything to do with, or who we would find attractive, or who are like us, or who would even like us. But, just men that we created for ourselves from clothes, hair, makeup, socks, and bandages, and ego.

After we had become “manly” enough to be ‘read as’ (i.e. “pass” as men), we emerged from the workshop room and entered the semi-public space of the university campus. We started with a photo shoot by some suitably “masculine” objects – interestingly, objects of the built environment are those which we gravitated towards. A staircase and a large piece of machinery. Our choice in objects to pose next to that would reflect or even enhance our “masculinity” is revealing. The dominance of men in Engineering around the world and here, at Wits where we were standing, holds the relevance of the age old saying – “It’s a mans world”.IMG_3329

After a dozen or so pics of us doing “manly” things like smoking, showing our physical strength, sitting with our legs wide open, and looking “serious”, we took a stroll around the campus, practicing our masculine walks. At one point on our walk, it occurred to me that I had started feeling aggressive, and like I just wanted to “fuck someone up”, as I said to the King next to me.

“I feel like I want to fuck someone” (s)he replied.

And so we walked across campus. We entered Senate House, the grandest of buildings on campus. There was quite a crowd there for a Saturday – mainly middle class looking white people, young and old. We walked inside. There were girls everywhere. Girly girls. Girls wearing bedazzled and blinged spandex costumes in a rainbow of bright colors. It was a beauty pageant or dance competition of some sort.

The horror!

In an instant, we were juxtaposed to the Western patriarchal ideal of femininity. Glittery, playful, and ornamental. While I have the utmost respect for people who hone their crafts and participate in the arts, this was a startling encounter. Suddenly, someone said (maybe it was me!) that everyone there probably thought we were a bunch of perverts – why would we be there? After deciding to give the opportunity of social intervention a miss (it was suggested that we go and inquire if we could join the competition) we left.

As we continued to walk, it suddenly struck me that not was I just any man. I was a white man. Privilege was my middle name and it oozed out of me – my careless yet assured gate, posture, grungy 90’s “class-blind” look, and sense of ownership of the space as a man. The sense that my body was carrying centuries of injury, violence, exploitation, and death when presented as a man washed into my consciousness. I started to feel quite disgusted with myself and I was frustrated. While I had found a temporary escape from femininity into a masculine fantasy world, I had become a white man. And even if I were to be read as a white gender-queer person, my whiteness is always there, shaping my view of the world and everyone else’s view of me.

Gender is a performance. In presenting myself as a man, I realised that it was a matter of techniques and accessories. I wear makeup everyday in performing my femininity. In preparing to perform as a man that day, I applied the same makeup, although to different places on my face. While I usually trim hair off as a women, I was merely adding it as a man. And, while I wear socks on many days, on that day, they were simply not on my feet. If the performances of masculinity and femininity vary in such superficial ways, perhaps this is why people go to such extremes to project these gender identities.

When I told people that I was going to participate in this Drag King workshop, they doubted my abilities to “pull off” masculinity. I learned that it didn’t really take much other than a few techniques and accessories to project manliness. Realizing that the difference between being read as a man or as a woman is a matter of sock, hair, and makeup placement, I had a kind of gender-identity vertigo or disorientation.

It takes a lot of courage to defy the gender binary. That Saturday, I had merely a whiff of what it takes to do this on a daily basis. Because our society is so heavily invested in the gender binary, projecting a gender identity that does not conform to social expectations can be dangerous and fatal.

The Man from Nowhere showed me even more why the gender binary has ruined all of our lives.

I left the experience wishing that society was more open to diversity, difference, and surprise. Why should it be that our sexed and gendered bodies are read strictly through the frame of “Moralism” in Western society? Why is The Man From Nowhere effectively banished from society? I have a feeling he has more lessons in store…

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So, let me get this “straight”

Conservatives, are you really going to use the “states rights” argument to defend your anti-gay arguments?Most people who know half a cent about Slavery and the fight against it, remembers that confederate states used that very same argument to defend the enslavement of black people. But, I am not worried as much about conservatives as I am about the Western neoliberal agenda that has appropriated the discourse of Gay Rights in order to gain, and protect, power. In this post, I am exploring this argument alongside last weeks Supreme Court decisions, which invoked the history of the Civil Rights and Gay Rights movements. A loss for the former, a victory for the later. Image

In using the “states rights” argument, and thereby invoking a discourse which was used to defend the Confederate position that the legal status of Slavery should be determined by each state (and so should the legality of same-sex marriage today, they argue), conservatives remind us of the shared ideological substance that gives racism and heterosexism the same rancid taste, and same effects of creating centres and margins that privilege white people. Yet, as conservatives rail against homosexuality and gay rights as they did against the end of slavery and Civil Rights, it is becoming increasingly evident that at the same time, Western nations like the US are using the gay-rights movement to recreate old structures of colonial oppression. In order to join the club of empire, America MUST legalise same-sex marriage, lest they become an unwitting member of the so-called “uncivilised”.

The irony of the legislative moment last week, in which the Voters Rights Act of 1965 was gutted and the Defence of Marriage Act was voted unconstitutional in the Supreme Court is tragic for social justice.  “Colorblindness” as a new take on an old system of institutional racism has prevailed, legislating the ignore-ant belief that racism is dead – the black president, Hello!

Alongside this development, which will essentially allow voting districts to make voting more difficult for poor blacks and hispanics, has been the Constitutionalisation of same-sex marriage, making it illegal to restrict marriage to heterosexual unions. What does this mean, for social justice globally? For black Americans? for queer Americans? And for black queer Americans?

Recently, I read Roderick Ferguson and Grace Hong’s The Sexual and Racial Contradictions of Neoliberalism (2012) in which it is argued that the West has appropriated the gay rights agenda, using it as a new claim to moral superiority internationally. “How you treat your gays” has become the new prodding tool of Western cultural imperialism. One certainly grows suspicious when leaders of powerful Western nations begin to motivate for a cause previously considered “radical”. The use of the gay-rights agenda in this way by Western nations, according to Ferguson and Hong, has the effect of cutting through, and ignoring, post-colonial anti-racist struggles by instituting a new moral yardstick which will reposition the West as culturally and politically superior. This is a major point of interest in my PhD research  – I am currently registered in the Sociology department at the University of the Witwatersrand, and will be presenting my proposal in two weeks, so wish me luck!

This leads me back to my question, what does this mean for queer American black people? Especially those who struggle economically, and have been further marginalised within education and employment? The blackness of a black queer positionality and experience is further denied by the argument that America is “post-race” now (black president, again!), and polling practices which can make voting more difficult for black and latino communities as demonstrated and made possible by the Supreme Court ruling on the Voters Rights Act. So, now that gay people can marry, what does this mean for black queers who have been suffered anti-black racism, an ideology and system founded on heteropatriarchy? Now, a new side of a black queer experience and identity is recognised while the other is denied. If there are any black American queers out there who can tell me, I would love to know what you think and how you feel about this. And meanwhile, back at The Ranch, Paula Deene hopes that the Gay Marriage ruling “will somehow save her racist ass”!Image

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