Institutionalized heterosexuality expresses itself in many ways. One is the default assumption that someone is straight unless we're explicitly told they're not. This seems to be the default assumption for the unnamed writer of the May 6 letter about Yasmin Nair's piece on bachelorette parties:
"Nair's choice of quoting University of Illinois at Chicago Assistant Professor [ Jennifer ] Brier for the article is also interesting. She uses a feminist source to talk about the gay bar lifestyle. What, no gay academics available during her "research" for the article? Straight, feminists issues should not be put at the doorstep of the gay community."
Or maybe he/she can't imagine that someone queer would also be a feminist. In fact, Jennie is openly lesbian, an outspoken feminist and a historian with a soon-to-be-published book on the history of the AIDS crisis. Maybe that doesn't fit the writer's definition of a "gay academic," but it certainly fits mine.
Laura Stempel, Ph.D.
Setting the bar
I write to respond to several of the statements made in "Bar and away" ( 5/6/09 ) , the anonymous letter written in response to "Bar none: Gay clubs reject bachelorette parties" ( WCT, 4/29/09 ) .
When Yasmin Nair, the author of the article and longtime queer Chicago activist, called me to comment on the story about straight women having bachelorette parties at gay bars, I believe she did so because she wanted to hear from someone who is both a feminist and a lesbian. The response I gave Nair—which emphasized that no one, gay men included, should be touched or ogled without his or her consent—was informed by my experiences as a woman and a lesbian as well as my longtime academic interests in feminist and queer studies and history. What I hoped to do with my comments was to move beyond what has become a common refrain among many LGBT folks—that being denied the right to marry, in the most traditional and potentially conservative, sense, is the major violation of queer people's civil rights currently being practiced. Providing a lesbian and feminist interpretation of the events as Nair described them, led me to question a wide range of actions, from the straight women partiers' juvenile behavior, to the historic exclusions that gay bars have practiced in the name of creating a safe ( read: white, gay ) space, as well as emphasizing how little access heterosexual women have to spaces where they can be safely sexual in public.
That the letter writer felt the best way to attack my arguments was to accuse me of being straight not only speaks more to his politics than to mine, but also suggests that gay men like him might do well to remember
that feminism, particularly as practiced by lesbians, has long had a tremendous impact on gay men's ability to demand and obtain spaces where they can practice sexual freedom.
Beck and call
An open letter to talk-radio host
Glenn Beck from Faith In America
On a recent segment on marriage equality in which you appeared with commentator Meghan Kelly, you stated you believe marriage equality is about going into schools and churches with a message that "gay marriage" is OK.
If you believe there is something which makes a gay American undeserving or unworthy of enjoying a lifelong relationship with someone they choose to spend their life with, we would expect that you would want to instill such prejudice in places of education and places of worship.
The question here, Glenn, is what response do you expect from your child when a same-sex couple joins their child for lunch at your child's school? What is the response you want you child to have when a same-sex couple joins their parents for a service at your church?
It can no longer be acceptable to discuss the rejection, condemnation and discrimination as the problem. It is imperative that the new conversations must focus on the underlying motivators of the oppression. It is equally imperative that religious belief be identified as a prime motivator behind the prejudicial and discriminatory attitudes found within all facets of American society.
So yes, Glenn, these conversations must take place in our schools and our churches.
The lives of precious young children depend upon it.
Executive Director, Faith In America