WBEZ | queer http://www.wbez.org/tags/queer Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en A trip to the Pleasure Palace: Why Chicago needs bathhouses for women http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-05/trip-pleasure-palace-why-chicago-needs-bathhouses-women-107151 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/28382_118595761501142_2202481_n.jpg" style="height: 208px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Cassandra Avenatti attends Queerer Park event in 2010. (A/S/L Media/Leon Andrew Hensley)" />If you are a gay man looking to go out in Chicago on a Saturday night, a spider web of events spin out from Boystown. Lakeview has Sidetrack and Spin. Rogers Park offers Mayne Stage and Jackhammer. Edgewater boasts Big Chicks and the Granville Anvil. If you&rsquo;re downtown, check out Second Story and the aptly named Downtown Bar. The South Side offers Jeffery Pub, Club Escape and InnExile.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">But where are the lesbian spaces? In recent years, many queer and lesbi-friendly bars have closed up shop in Chicago, including T&rsquo;s, which abruptly announced closure in March. Many Andersonville residents were shocked, as the bar was one of the last remnants of &quot;<a href="http://www.dykediva.com/columnists/clare_andersonville.php" target="_blank">Girls&rsquo; Town</a>,&quot; the neighborhood carved out during the late &#39;80s and &#39;90s.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Chicago&rsquo;s last full-time lesbian bar went under in 2009. Last month, West Hollywood&rsquo;s The Palms shut down after 50 years of business and the West Village&rsquo;s Rubyfruit Bar and Grille <a href="http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E04E6DB1439F937A35754C0A96E9C8B63" target="_blank">closed in 2008</a>. When Michigan&rsquo;s The Chrome Cat settled its tabs one last time, it was one of the last lesbian bars in <a href="http://www.mlive.com/living/index.ssf/2011/04/chrome_cat_in_lansing_one_of_m.html" target="_blank">the whole state</a>. The site <a href="http://lostwomynsspace.blogspot.com/" target="_blank">Lost Womyn&rsquo;s Space</a> tracks the disappearance of lesbian spaces across the country, a graveyard of empty buildings and lost histories.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">T&rsquo;s closure forced <em>AfterEllen</em> editor <a href="http://www.afterellen.com/people/are-lesbian-bars-going-extinct" target="_blank">Trish Bendix</a> to ask what many were thinking, &ldquo;Is this the end of an era?&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">There is certainly a &ldquo;<a href="http://femmesdelaville.tumblr.com/post/46770599323/ts-is-gone-why-should-i-stay" target="_blank">gaping hole</a>&rdquo; where the scene used to be. Like many formerly lesbian-centric neighborhoods, Andersonville is increasingly gay male and yuppie-dominated.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Formerly lady friendly bars The Closet and Big Chicks have seen an influx of male clientele crowd out the womenfolk, although Big Chicks offers nights to give feminine and queer-identified folks an inclusive space to dance and feel safe.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Doll House and Joie de Vine offer lady-centric events for queer Chicagoans, and inclusive events like Slo Mo and Chances Dances create programming for folks across gender expressions and sexualities.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Rogers Park&rsquo;s Parlour may go the furthest, The queer bar offers events ranging from hip-hop nights to events for lipstick femmes.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In an interview with <em><a href="http://thelstop.org/2012/01/the-women-behind-parlour/" target="_blank">The L Stop</a></em>, Parlour co-owner Jennifer Murphy stated that her goal is to &ldquo;impact [not just] the lesbian community but the GLBT community as a whole.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">As a response to the transphobia and marginalization reported in spaces like the Michigan Womyn&rsquo;s Festival, Murphy hopes to rethink female space.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;It has been our intention not to create boundaries within genders and sexuality,&rdquo; Murphy said. &ldquo;Parlour is here to explore and open minds to new and exciting experiences.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Slo Mo&rsquo;s Kristen Kaza argued that roller derby leagues, meetup events and concerts have taken the place of the traditional bar scene.&nbsp; Kaza <a href="http://www.timeoutchicago.com/restaurants-bars/74870/where-the-girls-are" target="_blank">told <em>Time Out Chicago</em></a> that bars aren&rsquo;t as &ldquo;relevant&rdquo; for modern women as they were their queer predecessors or the same way they are men.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;Gay male bars receive significantly higher traffic because the men are usually there for the main purpose of meeting and possibly hooking up, and gay women often need an additional, or just alternative, motivation,&rdquo; she said.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Cassandra Avenatti, an influential organizer cited as one of <em>The L Stop</em>&rsquo;s &ldquo;<a href="http://thelstop.org/2013/03/top-ten-chicago-lesbians-to-look-out-for-in-2013-2/" target="_blank">lesbians to watch out for</a>,&rdquo; argued that changing views on LGBT folks might be a factor in lesbian bars&rsquo; relevance too.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;With the increased acceptance of queerness in mainstream culture, some queer folks might feel less compelled to frequent gay social spaces,&rdquo; Avenatti said. &ldquo;There may be less of a feeling of necessity or urgency around queer bars.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In a piece published last month on <em>The L Stop</em>, Avenatti argued that while queer women have been more active in the public sphere as organizers and activists, the lack of community spaces for women has moved female sex into the margins.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Avenatti said, &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t count how many times I&rsquo;ve been asked [...], &ldquo;What do women do in bed?&rsquo;&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Avenatti said terms like &ldquo;lesbian bed death&rdquo; give folks the mistaken impression that women &ldquo;hold hands and talk about puppies.&quot;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">She worries that even health providers have a profound lack of knowledge when it comes to lesbian intercourse, often feeling they don&rsquo;t have to address safer sex practices with queer female patients.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;If health care providers have little to no knowledge about the ways in which queer women have sex, they cannot appropriately counsel women on risk reduction,&rdquo; she said.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Women who have sex with women (WSW) are <a href="http://std.about.com/od/stdsspecificcommunities/a/lesbiansafesex.htm" target="_blank">at risk of STDs</a>, and although some resources exist, there isn&rsquo;t the same community solidarity around sexual health issues there is for gay men. According to Avenatti, questions on &ldquo;women&rsquo;s sexual health practices have remained largely unaddressed.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Avenatti argues more sex websites or bathhouses in the community could improve the conversation on female sex.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">For gay men, websites like Grindr and Scruff allow users to connect with each other in a space that allows them to express their sexuality. But among queer women, Avenatti said&nbsp; &ldquo;the pervading idea [is] that if you are interested in casual or anonymous sex, you are that kind of girl.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;Many women are socialized to view their sexual desire (and bodies) as negative or dangerous, and are instructed to keep their longing private, suppressed,&rdquo; Avenatti said. &ldquo;We are not allowed space to unapologetically explore our needs and claim sexual liberty, and many of us have internalized a degree of shame about our sexuality and our bodies.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">A first step to change that? Avenatti believes women need a bathhouse for public sex.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">For the past two decades, a bathhouse for queer women and transfolks has operated in Toronto&rsquo;s gayborhood, <a href="http://contests.eyeweekly.com/eye/issue/issue_12.10.98/music/CCbruce10.php" target="_blank">known as</a> the &ldquo;bathhouse capital of the world.&rdquo; Called the Pleasure Palace (or &ldquo;Pussy Palace&rdquo;), organizers <a href="http://www.academia.edu/579384/Reclaiming_raunch_Spatializing_queer_identities_at_Toronto_womens_bathhouse_events" target="_blank">saw the event</a> as a way to address the dearth of opportunities for &ldquo;women to develop a sexual imagination, literature, techniques, art or knowledge.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In a study of the Pleasure Palace, Catherine Nash and Alison Bain argue it&rsquo;s about more than sex.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;The bathhouse is more than just a building, a space or an &lsquo;event&rsquo;. It can be interpreted as a sexual sanctuary, a safe-haven, a second-home to some, a hiding place to others,&rdquo; they wrote.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Similar <a href="http://older.unews.ca/story/item/shedogs-bathhouse-an-experiment-in-loving-our-bodies/" target="_blank">events in Halifax</a>, like She Dogs, offer female attendees workshops on sex practices including how-to demonstrations.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Gay male bathhouses often act as spaces of exclusion, throwing out trans visitors if patrons complain. Pleasure Palace has a zero tolerance policy for transphobia, and Avenatti feels that is crucial to its success.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;Many of the &lsquo;women only&rsquo; spaces that exist have organizers that define what they feel a woman is and allow attendance only by those who fit their definition,&rdquo; Avenatti said. &ldquo;A queer women&rsquo;s bathhouse event [should] be open to anyone who [identifies] as a woman, period.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Although many in the queer community feel that female-centric spaces affirm the binary, dismissing those who don&rsquo;t fit the ricategories, Avenatti &ldquo;wholeheartedly&rdquo; disagrees.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;Women-positive, women-centric spaces can be incredibly powerful and healing,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Spaces in which women, all women, can finally exhale, not worry about street harassment and other gender-based violence and exist in a space that affirms their experiences are essential.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">As female spaces rapidly disappear, Avenatti believes that these kinds of experiences for women are as &ldquo;important and relevant&rdquo; as ever. She said she would love to see a Pleasure Palace event spring up in Chicago as a way to celebrate a new era of sex-positive community building by giving folks a safe space to explore and challenge sexuality.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;I have had incredibly positive experiences with public spaces where nudity was required, like saunas,&rdquo; Avenatti said. &ldquo;Being in spaces where people did not react to nakedness or the thousand different, beautifully strange bodies was so life and body-affirming. I want everyone to have the opportunity to feel this way.&quot;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Nico Lang writes about LGBTQ life in Chicago. You can find Nico on<a href="http://www.facebook.com/nicorlang"> Facebook</a>,<a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang"> Twitter</a> and<a href="http://achatwithnicolang.tumblr.com"> Tumblr</a>.</em></div></p> Tue, 14 May 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-05/trip-pleasure-palace-why-chicago-needs-bathhouses-women-107151 14 Chicago LGBTQ organizations you should know http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-04/14-chicago-lgbtq-organizations-you-should-know-106659 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/gay-pride-rainbow-flag-logo-jpg.jpg" style="height: 169px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="(AP/File)" />Last month, Project Fierce launched an <a href="http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/project-fierce-support-a-grassroots-effort-to-address-queer-youth-homelessness" target="_blank">IndieGogo campaign</a> to raise funds and awareness for its proposed work with the LGBTQ community. The project is now 9 days into its goal of securing the sum needed to make a down payment on a house for LGBTQ youth. Currently, Project Fierce is about halfway to its stated goal of $10,000.</p><p>While Project Fierce charges toward the finish line, let&#39;s take an opportunity to celebrate their proposed work, as well as the contributions so many are making in the Chicago LGBTQ community. This is a list of 14 Chicago LGBTQ organizations you should know (and/or get involved with). It&#39;s by no means meant to be a ranking or a definitive list of any kind, and I apologize in advance if I forgot anyone. It&#39;s just a small celebration of our queer community I put together with love.</p><p><em>Note: Quotes are pulled from organizations&#39; mission statements. I figured it was best to let them speak for themselves.</em></p><p>1. &nbsp;<a href="http://aidschicago.org" target="_blank">AIDS Foundation of Chicago</a></p><p>2. <a href="http://affinity95.org" target="_blank">Affinity Community Services</a></p><div><p dir="ltr">3. <a href="http://www.howardbrown.org/hb_services.asp?id=50" target="_blank">Broadway Youth Center</a></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The Broadway Youth Center is a program of Howard Brown Health Center and [its] community partners, offering comprehensive services to youth, ages 12-24 including a safe space for young people experiencing homelessness.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Through its basic needs program, the BYC offers homeless youth a safe place to access basic needs, such as food, hygiene supplies, clothing, laundry, and showers. In addition to drop-in services, youth are also able to access a full range of free services and programs ranging from HIV/STI testing and treatment, acute health care services, GED classes, case management, counseling services and social and support groups.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr"><strong>How to Support:&nbsp;</strong>You can give to BYC via the Howard Brown <a href="https://howardbrown1165.thankyou4caring.org/broadway-youth-center-donation-page">website</a>. To volunteer, contact Amy Miller at (773) 388-8796 or email AmyM@Howardbrown.org. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">4. <a href="http://www.chicagohouse.org" target="_blank">Chicago House</a></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Chicago House provides permanent, community-based <a href="http://www.chicagohouse.org/programs_housing.html">housing</a>, <a href="http://www.chicagohouse.org/supportive_services.html">supportive services</a>, and <a href="http://www.chicagohouse.org/programs_prevention.html">prevention outreach</a> to individuals and families struggling with HIV and AIDS. Many come to [Chicago House] with the added burdens of poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, and mental illness, as well as the need for job skills and training.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;[Chicago House&rsquo;s] innovative programs are designed to meet the unique needs of individuals and families who are often disproportionately impacted by HIV and AIDS, including many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community as well as minority communities who struggle with health and income disparities.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Through [CH&rsquo;s] array of services that include <a href="http://www.chicagohouse.org/programs_housing.html">supportive housing</a>, <a href="http://www.chicagohouse.org/programs_prevention.html">HIV prevention</a> and <a href="http://www.chicagohouse.org/case_management_program.html">case management</a> and linkage-to-medical care services, and a groundbreaking <a href="http://www.chicagohouse.org/employment_program.html">employment program</a>, Chicago House provides [its] clients with the tools, resources, and support to advance their lives in wellness, with dignity and hope.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr"><strong>How to Support:</strong>&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagohouse.org/donations.html">Donate</a> to Chicago House on its website or <a href="http://www.chicagohouse.org/volunteers.html">volunteer</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">5. <a href="http://jointcra.org" target="_blank">The Civil Rights Agenda</a></p><p dir="ltr">6. <a href="http://www.thenightministry.org/001_programs/040_youth_services/030_youth_housing/040_the_crib/" target="_blank">The Crib</a></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The Night Ministry&rsquo;s overnight youth shelter, The Crib, first opened in January 2011 as a 4-month pilot program funded by the City of Chicago...The Crib has grown substantially in its first two seasons, but continues to be an overnight space for young people ages 18-24 to get a hot meal, sleep, do yoga, dance, rest, and be safe. The space is welcoming to people of all genders and sexual orientations and is open seven nights a week. [The Crib believes] that every person deserves a warm, safe place to rest, and [The Crib does its] best to build community with the 20 young people who come to stay...each night.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The Crib is open from 9 p.m. until 9 a.m. each night and can accommodate 20 youth. The Crib is an important addition to Chicago&rsquo;s efforts to care for youth who are on the streets, because there are only about 230 other shelter beds for youth in Chicago, while an estimated 2,000 young people experience homelessness every night. There are at least two staff members awake and on duty at all times. Staff also provide the youth with links to daytime supportive services.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr"><strong>How to Support: </strong>You can donate to The Crib in the form of one-time, monthly or planned gift <a href="http://www.thenightministry.org/003_donate/">donations</a>, or <a href="http://www.thenightministry.org/002_volunteer/">volunteer</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">7. <a href="http://eqil.org" target="_blank">Equality Illinois</a></p><p dir="ltr">8. <a href="http://genderjust.org" target="_blank">Gender JUST</a></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Gender JUST formed itself as a place for those marginalized within traditional LGBTQA communities, namely people of color, youth, trans people, immigrants, people living with disabilities, and others who have not felt that mainstream LGBTQA organizations represented their interests.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;At its core, Gender JUST is an issue-based organizing project. Currently, issues in <a href="http://www.genderjust.org/get-involved/safe-affirming-education-campaign-organizing-committee">education</a> &amp; of <a href="http://www.genderjust.org/get-involved/committee-on-urban-resource-sustainability-equity-course">resource equity</a> are central to the work of [Gender JUST], especially as they intersect with issues of racial, economic &amp; gender justice. Since its inception, however, Gender JUST members &amp; leaders have come together in both popular education sessions &amp; in other community venues around issues important to the our community. The following are some of the many issues Gender JUST organizes around: economic and racial justice, reproductive justice, hate crimes, immigration and prisoner solidarity.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The goals of Gender JUST are to (1) transform LGBTQA communities by abolishing race, class, gender, age, religion and ability hierarchies in service of a multi-dimensional and powerful movement and to (2) promote innovative, community-based solutions to safety, wellness, and resource disparities that are accountable to those most vulnerable to institutional violence and harm.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr"><strong>How to Support:</strong>&nbsp;<a href="http://visitor.r20.constantcontact.com/manage/optin/ea?v=001DHL4fuLXGfm1Z8Xx86ExM1-e8X9sGnvCi33ZOJkjwbTt-T4s63hwaPe4K4fL2ZoqFYV92qpMUfVqh8SBtGL4gg%3D%3D">Get involved</a> with Gender JUST&rsquo;s work or donate via <a href="https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_flow&amp;SESSION=aQiMaP7zAv_R0imo62w8SOPVpOb1e0PPXIDnycmN5XkWMqu6lgyHn4ZVrYG&amp;dispatch=5885d80a13c0db1f8e263663d3faee8d96fc0752e9614158f04872d2f2ae25dc">PayPal</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">9. <a href="http://getequal.org" target="_blank">Get Equal</a></p><p dir="ltr">10. <a href="http://jointheimpactchicago.org" target="_blank">Join the Impact</a></p><p dir="ltr">11. <a href="http://www.lambdalegal.org/states-regions/illinois" target="_blank">Lambda Legal Illinois</a></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Founded in 1973, Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;[Lambda&rsquo;s] legal, education and advocacy work touches nearly every aspect of life for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and people living with HIV. &nbsp;[Lambda Legal categorizes its] work into the following priority areas: fair courts, government misconduct, health care fairness, HIV, Latino outreach, marriage and family, seniors, transgender rights, workplace fairness and youth.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;In Illinois, Lambda Legal is suing on behalf of 16 same-sex couples seeking the Freedom to Marry.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr"><strong>How to Support: </strong>You can donate on the Lambda <a href="https://secure3.convio.net/lambda/site/Donation2?idb=1480016071&amp;df_id=4240&amp;4240.donation=form1">website</a>, as a monthly or one-time supporter, or <a href="http://www.lambdalegal.org/node/3058">volunteer</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">12. <a href="http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/project-fierce-support-a-grassroots-effort-to-address-queer-youth-homelessness" target="_blank">Project Fierce</a></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Project Fierce Chicago is a grassroots group of youth service providers, housing advocates and radical social workers. Motivated by the need for additional housing resources available for LGBTQ young folks, [the group] came together and decided that instead of waiting for institutional support from the city or state, Project Fierce will work to address this issue ourselves through a community-driven project.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;[Project Fierce&rsquo;s] mission is to reduce LGBTQ youth homelessness in Chicago by providing affirming, no-cost transitional housing and support services to LGBTQ young adults. PFC also aims to encourage community-building and leadership development through collaborative living and civic engagement.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">13. <a href="http://tpan.com" target="_blank">Test Positive Aware Network</a></p><p dir="ltr">14. <a href="http://tjlp.org" target="_blank">Transformative Justice Law Project</a></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois (TJLP) is a collective of radical lawyers, social workers, activists, and community organizers who are deeply committed to prison abolition, transformative justice, and gender self-determination.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;[TJLP uses its] legal access and...privilege as people on the outside to further the prison abolition movement and support people on the inside. [TJLP works] in three project areas: legal services; educational material and trainings; and community survival and organizing on the inside.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr"><strong>How to Support: </strong>You can send donations to the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois, 4707 N. Broadway Suite 307, Chicago, IL 60640. To donate an item in-kind, such as food, office supplies or volunteer power, contact TJLP at <a href="mailto:info@tjlp.org">info@tjlp.org</a> or (773) 272-1822.</p><p dir="ltr">Are you a part of an organization, non-profit, start-up or project that was not included here? Feel free to plug your work in the comments and tell us how to get involved.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Nico Lang writes about LGBTQ issues in Chicago. You can follow Nico on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang">Twitter</a>, <a href="http://achatwithnicolang.tumblr.com">Tumblr</a> or <a href="http://www.facebook/nicorlang">Facebook</a>.</em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 16 Apr 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-04/14-chicago-lgbtq-organizations-you-should-know-106659 Gay marriage is a conservative cause: An argument against equality http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/gay-marriage-conservative-cause-argument-against-equality-106068 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/370_34198857347_9999_n.jpg" style="width: 400px; height: 280px;" title="(Yasmin Nair)" /></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">If you&rsquo;ve heard of Yasmin Nair, you have an opinion about her. Her work doesn&rsquo;t evoke lukewarm reactions in people<b>.</b> </span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">D</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">epending on who you ask, she&rsquo;s a leader, an icon, a teacher, a radical, a contrarian, a troll or all of the above. I don&rsquo;t always agree with Nair, but I like the way she pushes our cultural buttons, forcing me to consider and reconsider my own politics. Nair challenges the status quo and the identities we take for granted, asking the kinds of questions that many won&rsquo;t. She keeps us accountable.</span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I first met her while filming a documentary at Center on Halsted last year. Nair was one of the panelists at Queer Is Community, an event I helped organize as a town hall meeting to discuss racism and transphobia in the Lakeview community. I asked her about her perspectives on these subjects, particularly in the light of the previous summer&rsquo;s Take Back Boystown events<b>. </b>She mindfully informed me that it was part of a larger issue<b>:</b> the historical way that our city subjugates those at the margins. For Nair, it wasn&rsquo;t just a Boystown problem. It was a Chicago problem.</span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">While we spoke, we were routinely interrupted by janitors and maintenance men around us going through the daily grind of keeping the Center running, a job as thankless as it is noisy. At first we tried to stop for each disturbance, but as the noise became the norm, Nair insisted on continuing to speak louder than the sound. No one was going to silence her.</span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Last week, I met with Nair to discuss her critical work, particularly a recent piece that went viral from her own website and Bilerico, entitled &ldquo;</span><a href="http://www.yasminnair.net/content/gay-marriage-conservative-cause"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Gay Marriage Is a Conservative Cause</span></a><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">.&rdquo; Nair attribute</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">d</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> her refusal to be silent with her education at an all girls&rsquo; school. From an early age, Nair was taught to value her perspective as a woman in a world without men: &ldquo;They literally told you to go out and change the world.&rdquo; When looking at her work today, she states, &ldquo;This is what I was raised to be.&rdquo;</span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">N</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">air says &ldquo;n</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">ot being apologetic&rdquo; is important to her perspective, as a queer person and a woman of color. </span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&ldquo;Why a lot of people oppose me is that they don&rsquo;t get that. &nbsp;</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">They&rsquo;re not used to queer women of color who talk back, who won&rsquo;t just fulfil their diversity quota. &nbsp;And they don&rsquo;t like it when women of color in particular insist on analysis and economic critiques, instead of depending on our personal stories to evoke sympathy. &nbsp;My weirdest and most racist opponents are white (and sometimes brown) sectarian leftists who condescend to tell me that I should be taking on white supremacy or racism and leave marriage alone. &nbsp;Clearly, the irony in their words escapes them. &rdquo;</span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Nair has led an eclectic life, moving from her home in Calcutta (now Kolkata) to Kathmandu, Bombay (now Mumbai) and then back to Calcutta before moving to the U.S. </span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">She says l</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">iving in Kathmandu as a child was especially formative. </span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&ldquo;I think of it in idyllic terms, </span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">regardless of the reality I understand on another level,</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&rdquo; Nair</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> said.</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> &ldquo;Kathmandu has such a place in culture. In the 70s, it was a place where all the hippies went, the countercultural Shangri-La.&rdquo; </span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">As someone living outside the boundaries of what society says is acceptable, the place will forever have a symbolic place in her subconscious.</span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Today, Nair lives with her cat, Toby, on the border of Uptown and Andersonville in an apartment that&rsquo;s a testament to her diverse past. She is an avid collector of Hello Kitty paraphernalia and recalls going to McDonalds to purchase every single one of their Happy Meal miniatures, as they were a recent toy tie-in. Upon entering her apartm</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">ent, I was as st</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">ruck by the numerous posters of Marilyn Monroe as her endless library, and that Nair was as able and willing to talk to me about Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears as she was Foucault. </span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">This is not a woman you can pin down. </span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">This is precisely what makes her work so interesting in a time of the politics of the expected, the majoritarian nature of us vs. them. Last year, Nair gained attention as an avid critic of the community&rsquo;s lynching of Chick-fil-a, as something of a symbolic political sacrifice, and she&rsquo;s long stood as a critic of the politics of &ldquo;gay marriage.&rdquo; (She shuns the term &ldquo;marriage equality.&rdquo;) If you visit the websit</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">e of </span><a href="http://www.againstequality.org/"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Against Equality</span></a><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">, the collective she founded in 2009 with Ryan Conrad, &nbsp;you can find a rabbit hole of articles calling out marriage for its racism, classism and neoliberalism. Although Nair&rsquo;s work has </span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">garnered more attention </span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">recently, she&rsquo;s been </span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">at this g</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">ame for some time.</span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Nair finished her Ph.D. at Purdue in 2000 in the department of English and describes her previous academic work as &ldquo;very 90</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">s&rdquo; and &ldquo;</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">all about queer theory and deconstruction.&rdquo; Like the institution of marriage she&rsquo;s been an avid critic of, Yasmin Nair later came to see that queer theory was a &ldquo;conservative movement,&rdquo; finding it inherently apolitical. When she started lecturing at the University of Illinois in Chicago, her colleagues Walter Benn Michael and Jennifer Ashton kept pushing her out of her queer theory comfort zone, asking: &ldquo;What does it mean to simply critique representation?&rdquo; </span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">It was then that Nair realized that queer theory wasn&rsquo;t going to offer the economic analysis she needed. </span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&ldquo;We often believe that queerness resists neoliberalism, </span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">and</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> it really doesn&rsquo;t<b>,</b>&rdquo; </span></b></b></span></span><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Nair states.</span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">To explore that, Nair needed to get away from her queer theory roots and start </span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">asking questions about the role of sexuality and identity within capitalism. This was a long process.</span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">For those unfamiliar with her work over the past decade, &ldquo;Gay Marriag</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">e Is </span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">a Conservative Cause&rdquo; provides a perfect crash course on Nair&rsquo;s politics. Written after Jon Huntsman&rsquo;s recent endorsement of marriage equality and call for the GOP to join him in supporting the issue, Nair looks at this as emblematic of a larger issue: </span></b></b></span></span></p><blockquote><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&ldquo;All of this has led gays and their straight allies to </span><a href="http://www.queerty.com/meg-whitman-theres-no-legitimate-fact-based-reason-to-ban-marriage-equality-20130226/"><span style="text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">exult in having the support of conservatives</span></a><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">. Apparently, there is nothing that confirms that a cause is right and progressive and just dandy more than the fact that a bunch of fat cat capitalists who have supported the looting of the world and generally have appalling politics around race, gender, and neo-colonialism </span><span style="font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">also support it</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">.&rdquo;</span></b></b></span></span></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Nai</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">r says t</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">his highlights a reality that Against Equality has arg</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">ued a</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">ll along:</span></b></b></span></span></p><blockquote><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&ldquo;</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">There has never been a separate left case for gay marriage. Nothing that the left, progressives, or liberals have stated in support of gay marriage has ever been anything but a profoundly conservative argument...The surprise is not that gay marriage is now being embraced by conservatives and neoliberals. The surprise is that it took them so long to do so.&rdquo;</span></b></b></span></span></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Although Nair has written several previous articles on the subject (including one wittily titled &ldquo;</span><a href="http://www.yasminnair.net/content/gay-marriage-hurts-my-breasts"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Gay Marriage Hurts My Breasts</span></a><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&rdquo;), this was a new challenge for her -- to put her a lifelong analysi</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">s of </span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">marriage into a very succinct thesis and, for her, an uncharacteristically short piece. </span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">In writing it, she gave herself a prompt: &ldquo;1500 words or less.&rdquo; </span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Nair argues, &ldquo;Someone needed to call this out as plainly and bluntly as possible.&rdquo; </span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Nair states that she&rsquo;s been tired of her liberal, &ldquo;lefty&rdquo; friends &ldquo;trying to push this around as if it were a progressive cause. &nbsp;Gay marriage is conservative. Claim it. Acknowledge that.&rdquo; She needed not only to speak truth to power but to those around her.</span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Nair feels that gay marriage has &ldquo;long been the blind spot in left politics, despite the fact that it&rsquo;s a disaster.&rdquo; &nbsp;She cites </span><a href="http://www.bilerico.com/2009/11/against_equality_in_maine_and_everywhere.php"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">an essay </span></a><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">from AQ co-founder Ryan Conrad that breaks down the funding for marriage equality, showing how it diverts resources from other causes. Looking at the de-funding of AIDS organizations in the state and the closing of LGBT youth organizations at the time of the 2009 marriage campaign, Conrad writes:</span></b></b></span></span></p><blockquote><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&ldquo;</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">The gay-marriage campaign has been sucking up resources like a massive sponge, corralling everyone to give up their last dollar and free time, leaving little sustenance for other queer groups doing critical work in our communities...While essential services are disappearing, organizations are closing, and new gaps in services for aging LGBTQ folks are being identified, the marriage campaign in Maine is spending money with abandon. The </span><a href="http://www.followthemoney.org/press/ReportView.phtml?r=404"><span style="text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">No on 1 group spent close to $6 million dollars</span></a><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> over the duration of the campaign, taking in </span><a href="http://www.bangordailynews.com/detail/126665.html"><span style="text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">$1.4 million dollars in donations in the first three weeks of October</span></a><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> alone. In a state with a tanking economy, this kind of reckless spending on a single issue campaign that isn&#39;t even a top priority for most LGBT folks is blatant and unrestrained classism at its worst.&rdquo;</span></b></b></span></span></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">According to Conrad and Nair, the idea &ldquo;funding marriage first&rdquo; will fix all of our problems is far from the case. </span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&ldquo;People say you can fund marriage and other things, but it&rsquo;s not true,&rdquo; Nair states. &ldquo;</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">If you have $100 dollars to give, and you want to donate your money to a group and if you&rsquo;re told that all your problems will be solved with one cause, that&rsquo;s where you&rsquo;ll put all or the bulk of your money. People don&rsquo;t have infinite resources.</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&rdquo; </span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">She cites states like Connecticut that have poured resources into marriage, just to see all of their problems remain and the organizations who said they were going to work on those issues pull out. For Nair, &ldquo;gay marriage is a selfish movement.&rdquo;</span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Nair cites health care as central to this reality:</span></b></span></span></p><blockquote><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&ldquo;In Connecticut and Massachusetts, the state seems to say that since you can get married, you must. Marriage is no longer a choice even. People with domestic partnerships are now being told that they can&rsquo;t keep their benefits with a partnership. They have to enter into civil unions. They have to realize that they are creating a situation where people are coerced into getting married.&rdquo; </span></b></b></span></span></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Earlier this year, the</span><span style="font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> Huffington Post </span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">covered a growing trend among heterosexual couples to be covered by their employers under &ldquo;domestic partner benefits.&rdquo; A personal trainer in Chicago was even able to get on his roommate&rsquo;s insurance plan after filling out a simple company form. According to HuffPost writer Katherine Bindley, these people would lose their coverage if marriage passes. </span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">The only way to retain their insured status is marriage, which isn&rsquo;t an option for heterosexual folks. &nbsp;</span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">On the subject, Nair says, &ldquo;No one should have to get married to have health care. I&rsquo;m often told: If you want to fight for universal health care instead, no one is stopping you. But there is no choice here: gay marriage makes it plain that we choose marriage or we choose benefits for all.&rdquo;</span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">This also goes for hospital benefits. Last year, Obama passed legislation that expanded hospital visitation rights, allowing friends and non-relatives to visit their loved ones in the hospital. According to Nair, many proponents of marriage equality opposed or disparaged this legislation, saying it diminished the benefits of marriage. </span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Nair states, &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a beautiful thing to be told that your best friend can exercise rights on your behalf. But no, it was only about marriage. This is proof positive that the gay marriage movement doesn&rsquo;t give a</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline;"> </span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">whit about expanding rights to other people.&rdquo; </span></b><br /><br /><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Instead, Nair quipped that we have to move away from marriage equality to focus on issues that affect the larger queer population<b>:</b></span></b></span></span></p><blockquote><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.1067132183816284" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&ldquo;Queers are not simply defined by queer issues. A queer person is someone who also works in a</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline;"> </span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">factory. A queer person is someone who also works in an office. Queer issues are the same issues that are facing other people. Queer people occupy other realms. Queer people are affected by this economy. So, how is gay marriage making it better? Trans and queer youth and adult sex workers on Halsted </span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">St</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">reet are still going to be policed and battered by the cops. They are still going to be surveilled by the Center on Halsted. They are still going to be imprisoned in disproportionate numbers. They are still going to be targeted.&rdquo;</span></b></b></span></span></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">To Nair, the idea that marriage will fix our youths&rsquo; problems is the most &ldquo;outrageous, insensitive, doltish, demeaning argument ever.&rdquo; </span></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">She argues that ins</span></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">tead, they need &ldquo;support from schools and family, programs in schools and</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline;"> </span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">communities to help nurture them as they come to an understanding of their sexuality. A sixteen-year old is not going to get married</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">, and marriage should not be their best hope</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">.&rdquo; </span></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">We need to do more, and as someone who works with youth and within the Chicago school system, Nair knows some already are, against odds: &ldquo;We&rsquo;re doing everything we can, but th</span></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">e f*c</span></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">kers are taking our money away.&rdquo;</span></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">As</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> an activist, Yasmin Nair hopes that marriage will come quickly so the community can move on. </span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I asked Nair why her criticism of marriage pushes so many buttons. While knitting a scarf on her couch, Nair laughed. </span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not arguing for gay politics in the way they&rsquo;re und</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">erstood,&quot; she said. &quot;I con</span></b></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">fuse and contradict. </span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Most mainstream gay people and many straights</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> hate me.&rdquo;</span></b></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">As someone who supports marriage equality, I don&rsquo;t hate Nair. I think of her as an important component of an evolving conversation, one that needs to include critical and incendiary voices like hers. I don&#39;t know what our community would be without her.</span></b></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">After finishing my tea, I left her apartment feeling challenged and a little rattled, forced to reconsider my deeply entrenched beliefs. If marriage passes this week in Illinois, I will ce</span></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">lebrate, but also stop</span></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> to consider what my celebration means. At a time when we take our political discourse for granted, Nair makes us think about our politics. What do we talk about when we talk about marriage?</span></b></span></span></p><p><em><b style="font-size: 14px; font-family: georgia, serif; font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">To support Nair&#39;s work, visit <a href="http://www.againstequality.org">Against Equality</a> and <a href="http://www.genderjust.org">Gender Just</a>&#39;s web</span></b><b style="font-size: 14px; font-family: georgia, serif; font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">site to fin</span></b><b style="font-size: 14px; font-family: georgia, serif; font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">d out how you can get more involved, or <a href="http://www.gofundme.com/Yasmin-Nair">donate</a> to her website. Work as important as Nair&#39;s doesn&#39;t come for free.</span></b></em></p><p><em><b style="font-size: 14px; font-family: georgia, serif; font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Nico Lang writes about LGBTQ issues in Chicago. You can follow Nico on Twitter @<a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang">Nico_Lang</a> or <a href="http://www.facebook.com/nicorlang">Facebook</a>.</span></b></em></p></p> Wed, 13 Mar 2013 11:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/gay-marriage-conservative-cause-argument-against-equality-106068 Subject to Change anniversary highlights West Chicago's 'Queer Explosion' http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-01/subject-change-anniversary-highlights-west-chicagos-queer-explosion-105243 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/JoeandDjSwaguerrilla.jpg" title="Varisco with DJ Swaguerilla, at Subject to Change's 'Hocus Pocus' Halloween event (by Kiam Marcelo Junio)" /></div><p>This Wednesday, Logan Square&rsquo;s Subject to Change dance party celebrated a milestone. January 31 marked one full year for the queer gathering, which takes place at the Burlington Bar on the last Wednesday of every month. Organized by <em>Huffington Post</em> Chicago editor Joseph Erbentraut and queer activist Lindsey Dietzler, the event seeks to give queer Chicagoans a safe space in which to express their identities, while also fundraising for local organizations.</p><p>In the past, Subject to Change has donated to About Face Theatre, El Rescate and Broadway Youth Center, bringing together Chicago&rsquo;s activist and party scenes. Call it dancing for awareness.</p><p>As is STC&rsquo;s way, the group kicked off another year with a clever theme. STC held their first Mx. Queer (U)SA pageant, whose proceeds benefitted the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, a statewide non-profit that &ldquo;promotes safety and support for LGBT youth in Illinois schools and communities.&rdquo;</p><p>The event was hosted by Joe Varisco of JRV MAJESTY Productions and co-curator of local zine, Chicago IRL. Previous events have been hosted by local queer luminaries like drag artist D&rsquo;Juana Cyber, who Zac Whittenburg of Time Out Chicago <a href="http://www.timeoutchicago.com/arts-culture/15153726/steve-hnilicka-interview">called</a> &ldquo;one of the most exciting things to happen to Chicago drag in years.&rdquo; True to the STC aesthetic, D&rsquo;Juana often performs with chest hair and a beard on full display&mdash;as a way to challenge the boundaries of gender presentation in drag. At Subject to Change&rsquo;s &ldquo;A Merry Misfit X-Mess,&rdquo; Cyber performed as Mrs. Claus.</p><p>Part of West Chicago&rsquo;s &ldquo;Queer Explosion,&rdquo; Subject to Change is just one of many dance parties and events that rethink the boundaries between performance and community, trans* and cisgender, queer and straight. Mx. Queer emcee Varisco also hosts LEX&middot;IC&middot;A the last Monday of every month as part of Jane Beachy&rsquo;s Salonathon series at Beauty Bar on Chicago bringing their interest in collaborative performance work to a public space after getting started two years ago under the tutelage of former Northern Lights host Nicole Garneau and Shits &amp; Giggles&rsquo; Trandroid.</p><p>Northern Lights recently celebrated its two-year anniversary, and Trandroid Presents: Nuts &amp; Bolts, which takes place at Township (on California), will come back from a one-month hiatus with their first anniversary in May. There&rsquo;s a lot of celebrating going around.</p><p>What unites all of these events isn&rsquo;t just a shared interest in queer people (a less cumbersome and more inclusive label for the LGBTQQIP2SAA spectrum) but a revision of how that community operates spatially in Chicago. Events like these purposefully shift the center of the community away from the north and east&mdash;to show that queer Chicago is greater than the Andersonville and Boystown neighborhoods.</p><p>For Subject to Change co-founder Lindsey Dietzler, it was &ldquo;important for [him] to seek alternative spaces that were affirming and welcoming of [his] trans* identity.&rdquo; While out in Boystown, Dietzler was often read as a lesbian, and in Andersonville, he met &ldquo;resistance about [his] gender identity,&rdquo; often told he &ldquo;was betraying femininity by starting testosterone.&rdquo; Dietzler stated:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;What I experienced was this growing desire and need for&hellip;queer spaces that challenged mainstream gay culture, opened up dialogues about community and identity, and that most importantly, felt safe.&nbsp;Chances, Subject to Change, and Nuts &amp; Bolts&hellip;offer a bolstering community full of understanding and acceptance, not to mention the ever important: gender neutral restrooms. These spaces also open up an opportunity for dialogue with folks outside of our community and the chance to educate about our identities and community needs. We create the spaces, the conversations and the connections not just to better understand one another, but to build relationships with future allies.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>Dietzler&rsquo;s co-organizer, Joe Erbentraut, particularly looks at events like STC and Chances, one of the longest-running queer gatherings in Chicago, as a way to seek out &ldquo;untraditional&rdquo; spaces in Chicago. Discussing our reactions to the divisive Jezebel <a href="http://jezebel.com/5975192/get-out-of-my-gay-bar-straight-girl">piece</a>, &ldquo;Get Out of My Gay Bar, Straight Girl,&rdquo; Erbentraut noted that one of the strengths of these events is that they take place in bars that whose patrons are predominantly heterosexual. According to Erbentraut, doing so &ldquo;breaks down the bubble of our communities and moves the dialogue past a shouting match that always devolves into awful, misogynistic hate mongering.&rdquo;</p><p>If Subject to Change is going to create a space for the &ldquo;misfits&rdquo;&mdash;as Erbentraut puts it&mdash;they should create an inclusive space for all of them:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;One of my favorite aspects of doing the Subject to Change events is the reaction of people who came to The Burlington not expecting a queer night. It has, without exception, been a positive experience and I think that says a lot about the space we have worked&hellip;to carve out on the West Side. I can&#39;t think of a way to describe how amazing it feels to have a bar-goer who came to the venue for the noise-metal band playing in The Burlington&#39;s back room stopping by the DJ booth to both compliment the Janet Jackson-Kate Bush transition and also ask about our event, which provides an excellent and unique education moment.&rdquo;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></blockquote><p><em>Nico Lang blogs about LGBTQ life in Chicago for WBEZ.org. Follow Nico on Twitter <a href="http://www.twitter.com/Nico_Lang" target="_hplink">@Nico_Lang</a> or on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/NicoRLang" target="_hplink">Facebook</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 31 Jan 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-01/subject-change-anniversary-highlights-west-chicagos-queer-explosion-105243 What gay sounds like: The linguistics of LGBTQ communities http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/what-gay-sounds-linguistics-lgbtq-communities-99994 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GaysTheWord.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>There are no language markers common to all homosexual or same-sex identified individuals. But just as ethnic communities have ways of using language that tie them together, so too do many in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities.</p><p>Many also find it beneficial to code switch - adapt the way they speak and the language they use - depending on their surroundings.</p><p>William Leap, an anthropology professor at American University in Washington, D.C., coined the term &quot;Lavender Linguistics&quot; to describe the study of language used by LGBTQ speakers.</p><p>He is one of the organizers of an annual <a href="http://www.american.edu/cas/anthropology/lavender-languages/" target="_blank">Lavender Languages and Linguistics Conference</a> on the subject of how sexuality and gender identity relate to language.</p><p>Host Richard Steele interviewed Leap last week about who decides what gay sounds like and why the words we use to identify ourselves and others are so important.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 11 Jun 2012 14:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/what-gay-sounds-linguistics-lgbtq-communities-99994