kindkit: Text icon: "British officers do not cuddle each other. (Not when there are people watching, anyway.") ('Allo 'Allo: British officers do not cud)
[personal profile] lilacsigil asked me to talk about finding queer subtext and queer text and what each one means to me. I'm going to focus on male/male subtext and text because that's what I'm into.

For me it all started, literally, with subtext. When I was a younker and beginning to be interested in stories about men together, there wasn't much actual queer text to be found. The rare ones that existed were mostly biographies; I was probably the only ninth grader in history who went around reading a biography of Tennessee Williams. And it was actually some discussion in a Beatles biography of Brian Epstein's homosexuality that made me consciously realize that I was drawn to the idea of men having sex with men and/or loving men. But I'd been unconsciously drawn long before that, in everything from buddy shows to war stories. My first ship, unaware though I was, was probably Snoopy and the Red Baron. *facepalm*

In fiction in those long-ago days of the early 1980s, even when queerness was text it was usually subtext. more under the cut )
kindkit: Text: im in ur history emphasizin ur queerz (Fandomless: Queer history)
Actor Imran Khan answers questions about gay issues. Some of this is specific to India and Indian law, but a lot of it is applicable anywhere. Also, it's hilarious.
kindkit: Two cyborgs kissing. (Fandomless: Loving the alien.)
I made an attempt at reading Fanny Hill recently, and found it fairly unreadable but, in its way, remarkably queer. It's porn written by a man from a woman's POV, featuring lots of lovingly detailed descriptions of handsome young men with enormous cocks. (The cocks are generally referred to as "machines," which I suspect is a transliteration of the French "machin," which means "thing," but which creates interesting cyborg-ish images in the mind.) Fanny Hill also famously includes a gay sex scene, conveniently observed by the narrator, which I think is described more erotically than all the straight sex scenes, and more realistically--in the straight scenes, women always come just from penetration without even any foreplay, whereas in the m/m scene there's foreplay and the receptive partner gets a reacharound. After the scene ends there are a couple of incongruous and over-the-top paragraphs of condemnation of wicked sodomites which read as authorial deflection.

So, anyway, today I finally remembered to look up John Cleland on Wikipedia and was not surprised to learn that in his lifetime he was "supposed a sodomite"--though clearly either heavily closeted or heavily in denial.

Anyway, the actual point of this post is that Cleland was for a while friends with Thomas Cannon, author in 1749 of the pamphlet Ancient and Modern Pederasty Investigated and Exemplifiy'd. All copies of the pamphlet are lost because Cleland, who had fallen out with Cannon in a complicated history of debts, debtors' prison, threatening letters, etc., denounced it to the authorities and got Cannon arrested.

The text, as distinct from copies of the actual pamphlet, was also presumed lost, until in 2003 the indictment against the pamphlet's printer was found in the records of the King's Bench. It happened to contain long quotations from the pamphlet as evidence, and the indictment was published in 2007 in the journal Eighteenth-Century Life. There are excerpts on Wikipedia which you can get to by clicking the link to the pamphlet.

This is an awesome bit of historical awesomeness. (Actually a lot of texts survive only as quotations in other texts, but it's usually Greek and Roman stuff. And I think it's amazing that such an important text--one of the first works in English directly dealing with male/male sex in a positive way--reappeared after so long. Note that I say "positive way" because that's the overall impression. The pamphlet has a veneer of condemnatory language that doesn't seem to have fooled anyone, considering Thomas Cannon had to flee to the continent for some years to avoid prosecution.)
kindkit: Second Doctor looking throughtful. (Doctor Who: Second Doctor thoughtful)
The announcement of the Twelfth Doctor's casting has again led to dismay for people who would like the next Doctor to be a woman.

I have to confess that I've always been a little uncomfortable with the assertion that if the Doctor regenerated as female it would be no big deal to the Doctor. On a Watsonian and also a personal level, I have doubts. These doubts have nothing to do with the solid Doyleist real-world reasons (feminism, basically) why a female Doctor would be a good thing. I acknowledge and agree with those reasons.

My qualms, as I said, are Watsonian and personal. They're to do with the Doctor as a character, which is to say as a fictional person for whom we assume a fictional subjectivity, and with my own experience of gender.

Click here to
kindkit: Text: im in ur history emphasizin ur queerz (Fandomless: Queer history)
In case you haven't heard already, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where they're legal) and allowed lower court rulings that California's Proposition 8 (the one that rescinded the right to same-sex marriage) is unconstitional to stand.

The best news, I think, is the grounds on which the rulings were made. Now, let me emphasize first how very much I am not a lawyer or a scholar of constitutional law. However, as I understand the situation, the Supreme Court could have ruled on very narrow technical grounds about DOMA, saying something to the effect that all marriages recognized by states have to be recognized federally. That wouldn't have set any kind of wider precedent. Instead, they went far beyond that, ruling on equal protection grounds. As the decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, puts it:
The federal statute [DOMA] is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the fifth amendment.
This looks to me like a breakthrough, since the Supreme Court is clearly implying that not allowing same-sex marriage is in itself discriminatory and violates the U.S. Constitution. In other words, I think this potentially the basis for the legalization of same-sex marriage across the U.S.

The Prop 8 decision is similarly heartening. The court ruled that the Prop 8 supporters had no legal standing--that is, they weren't injured by the legalization of same-sex marriage and therefore they had no legal grounds for trying to change the law. As the Guardian points out in this article, my source for most of this post, the ruling legally invalidates any claim, by any opponents of equal marriage anywhere in the U.S., that allowing same-sex couples to marry will hurt straight married couples or anyone else.

Such good news! I wish I hadn't had to listen to the homophobic reaction of one of my co-workers this morning (along the lines of "there are more important things and this is all a waste of time and money," and "gay people have more rights than straight people already"--the only reason I didn't rip him a new one is because he wasn't talking to me, I just overheard it all), but hey, at least the law is no longer on his side!

ETA: Here is an article by Aaron Zelinsky, a law professor at the University of Maryland, excerpting what he considers the ten most important bits of the ruling and the dissents by Scalia and Roberts.
kindkit: Haddock and Tintin kissing; Haddock is in leather gear (Tintin: gay icon)
Oh my god, Jeremy Irons, what the fuck is wrong with you? Were you high? Or are you actually just that stupid and bigoted?

Dude, you were Charles in Brideshead Revisited! You've played Antonio in The Merchant of Venice! You are, for heaven's sake, an actor! Surely you know actual queer people who would like to marry their actual partners because THEY LOVE THEM and they want the legal protections afforded to married people. As opposed to men marrying their own sons as a tax dodge--just like how heterosexual marriage means men can marry their daughters for inheritance reasons. Happens all the time!


For my own sanity as a fan, I usually try not to find out too much about actors, musicians, etc. whose work I like. I wish they wouldn't make that compartmentalization harder for me by blatantly showing their bigoted asses for the world to see.
kindkit: Text: im in ur history emphasizin ur queerz (Fandomless: Queer history)
I am glad that there exists in the world a cartoon diagram of the relationships within the Bloomsbury group, including marriages, sex, crushes, unrequited love, etc. Though I wish it were bigger and included such tangles as the fact that Lytton Strachey had a crush on George Mallory (the mountaineer), who was hopelessly in love with Lytton's brother James Strachey, who was hopelessly in love with Rupert Brooke.

In other news, [community profile] queer_fest has opened for prompts. I am a bit of a Queer Fest skeptic (awesome idea, so-so execution of the fics most of the time), but I did find myself leaving some prompts.
kindkit: Text icon: "British officers do not cuddle each other. (Not when there are people watching, anyway.") ('Allo 'Allo: British officers do not cud)
(Yes, it's another post about my POW obsession. I don't know if this will be of interest to anyone but me and [personal profile] halotolerant, but I do think that the POW experience and the Second World War in general are important and very very neglected topics in queer history.)

One of the frustrating things about the few existing histories of POW life during the Second World War is their almost-universal tendency to ignore or outright deny that POWs ever had sexual or romantic relationships with each other. There was no privacy in the camps, these books say. The prisoners were too hungry to think about sex. Homosexuality was too widely disapproved of for such things to be happening.

Sometimes these histories support their claims with, typically, excerpts from published or otherwise "official" POW memoirs. Considering that sex between men was a criminal offense in Britain until 1967, and in most of the U.S. for much longer, and also considering the heavy social stigma, these memoirists would have every reason to deny POW homosexuality (a fact not taken into account in any secondary history I've seen). Furthermore, a lot of the history books are contradictory, on the one hand quoting POW sources (such as chaplains) fretting about the prevalence of homosexuality, then claiming its extreme rarity on the other.

And every single history that I've seen has ignored primary-source evidence that male-male sex (sometimes pseudo-heterosexual with one man adopting a "female" social and sexual role, but oftentimes not)1 was widespread. And this evidence isn't hidden: Paul Fussell, in the context of a general book about soldiers' attitudes, beliefs, social lives, etc. during the Second World War, quotes from a published book about the Bataan Death March and Japanese-run POW camps, which mentions that male-male relationships were so common that one of the camp doctors set up a "marital relations clinic" to help prevent domestic problems.

And then there's Gordon Westwood's Society and the Homosexual, published in 1952, which includes a whole (short) chapter focusing mostly on POW homosexuality. It's based on interviews with ex-POWs, and Westwood argues strongly and I think convincingly that most men who were POWs for any substantial length of time had sex with other POWs at some point, often eventually having many sexual partners and/or forming loving relationships.

Since Westwood's book is little known and hard to get hold of (thanks heavens for Interlibrary Loan!), I've typed up most of the chapter to share. It's under the cut.

click here to read; includes a rather wonderful love story )


Feb. 17th, 2013 08:05 pm
kindkit: Text: Sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than to curse than darkness. (Discworld: light a flamethrower)
Well, I think I may be done with Susan Hill's books. Her second most recent Simon Serrailler mystery, The Betrayal of Trust, major spoilers )
kindkit: Text: im in ur history emphasizin ur queerz (Fandomless: Queer history)
I've decided that the world needs a lesbian, gay, and bisexual1 representation bingo card for all those oh-so-reasonable answers some people like to give when one asks why a particular text contains no characters who are identified as LGB. I'm probably not the first person to think of this, but a quick google didn't reveal an existing card except for a comics-specific one.

So, wanna help me brainstorm squares?

Ideas so far (mine and others'):
It's a children's/YA story.

It's not important to mention the characters' sexualities.

Lesbian/gay/bisexual people only make up X percent of the population, so statistically it makes sense that all the characters are straight.

The creator is at the start of their career and obviously can't risk including queer characters.

Wasn't that one character who had two lines in episode eight gay?

The author said Chracter Y is LGB but it just wasn't specifically mentioned.

It's set in [historical period or historical event] and there's no evidence of any queer people then (and if there was, they were all in the closet).

The creator is gay, why are you singling out their sexuality?

It contains [other minority group], why does it have to have queer people too?

The character is bisexual, they just happen to be attracted to the opposite sex for the whole of this canon.

Why do you have to make everything about sex?

The creator is straight, how can you expect them to write about something they haven't experienced?

It's fantasy! And this universe just doesn't have any queer people in.

There are queer people in my universe.. I just didn't think any of them were worth writing about.

In my universe, nobody cares about sexuality.

They'd just mess it up anyway.

It's about [common setting for situational homosexuality] so that would be stereotyping.

They're as good as dating already!

It just never came up!

The creator is gay, so I'm sure they know what they're doing.

We all know [Character X] and [Character Y] are doing it, anyway
Your contributions are encouraged!

1I'm aware that the list does not cover the entirety of the queer spectrum. That is because I think the issues of visibility and inclusion around, for example, trans* or asexual characters are sufficiently different from those around LGB characters that one bingo card will not fit all. For that matter, there could probably be separate bingo cards for gay men, bisexual men, bisexual women, and lesbians, if someone wanted to make them.

book finds

Nov. 8th, 2012 10:51 pm
kindkit: Man sitting on top of a huge tower of books, reading. (Fandomless--book tower)
I'm half-convinced that certain bookstores are magic: you find in them amazing books that you didn't know you wanted. I've had very good luck with this at Page One Books in Albuquerque (should any of you ever be passing through Albuquerque for some reason). Some months ago I found St. Nazaire Commando, by Stuart Chant-Sempill, an account of his participation in the famous raid and his subsequent time as a POW. (Possibly the best thing, though, is that when googling to find about more about its author, I discovered the story of his brother-in-law Sir Ewan Forbes, 11th Baronet of Craigievar. Female assigned as birth and christened Elizabeth, Sir Ewan became a doctor, began living as a man in 1945, re-registered his birth certificate as male in 1952 [!!!], married a woman the same year, and in 1968 successfully inherited the baronetcy, which legally was restricted to male heirs, despite a legal challenge claiming he was a woman. What I've been able to find out suggests that he may have had an intersex condition that made his legal case a bit easier to argue; nevertheless, I boggle at both his courage and his success.)

Anyway, on yesterday's trip to said bookstore I found a 1959 American edition of Peter Wildeblood's Against the Law. Wildeblood, along with Michael Pitt-Rivers and Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, was in a famous 1954 case convicted of homosexual offenses (committed in private with his lover); he was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Unlike the other two men, Wildeblood, while denying the specific charges against him, admitted his homosexuality from the witness box and reitered it in Against the Law, which he wrote soon after getting out of prison. Wildeblood later testified before the Wolfenden Committee, which in 1957 recommended the decriminalization of homosexuality in Britain.

Against the Law is, as you can imagine, a very moving book )
kindkit: Text: im in ur history emphasizin ur queerz (Fandomless: Queer history)
Because of reasons, I thought it might be interesting to create a list of relatively recent (published 2000 or later) science fiction and/or fantasy novels with no canonical lesbian, gay, or bisexual characters. Not even, say, Bruce the sassy hairdresser who appears in one paragraph. They don't exactly have to take place in the universe without LGB people--if there are no named LGB characters, they qualify, even if the existence of homosexuality is mentioned.

I'll start us off. I'm working from memory here, so corrections are welcome. I'll be adding others' contributions to the list as we go along.

Jonathan Barnes, Domino Men
Suzanne Collins, the Hunger Games series
Ally Condie, Matched
Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys
Shannon Hale, Goose Girl
Scott Lynch, The Lies of Lock Lamora
China Mieville, The City and the City
China Mieville, Kraken
Naomi Novik, the whole Temeraire series (Apparently a character was finally acknowledged to be gay in the latest one.)
Tim Powers, Declare (I think Guy Burgess may get a mention but he's not really in it)
Terry Pratchett, most of them except Unseen Academicals
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter books 4-7 ("Word of God" doesn't count if it's not in the books themselves, and the first three are exluded because they're before the cutoff date)
Thomas E. Sniegoski, the Remy Chandler series
Jeff VanderMeer, Finch
Ysabeau Wilce, Flora Segunda and Flora's Dare (a tricky case, because there's a character in the books, which are YA, who in a related non-YA story is presented as being gay, but that's unmentioned in the Flora novels)

While we're at it, let's have a special Dishonorable Mention category for books where the only LGB characters are villains.

Kate Griffin, A Madness of Angels (as I recall, the rest of the Matthew Swift series has no LGB characters at all).

What are your additions to the list?
kindkit: Text icon: "British officers do not cuddle each other. (Not when there are people watching, anyway.") ('Allo 'Allo: British officers do not cud)
I just realized that I haven't posted in over a week. My work and my life both got unexpectedly busy. I've been around and reading, but I haven't had the time/mental energy to compose a coherent post.

So, here, have a semi-coherent one about things I've been reading, watching, and thinking about.

click here to read more )
kindkit: Text: Sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than to curse than darkness. (Discworld: light a flamethrower)
I have not actually watched Downton Abbey and have no intention to, but yesterday I learned, through other sources, that (sort of spoilery I guess):(skip) the only queer character is a selfish, amoral villain.

Has anyone perchance critiqued this approach? I feel like what I've mostly seen all over the internets is either "OMG Downton Abbey is so great, yay!" or "Downton Abbey is a silly soap opera," but no "Let's talk about problematic and stereotypical representation." Admittedly, though, I haven't been looking for it.
kindkit: Text icon: "British officers do not cuddle each other. (Not when there are people watching, anyway.") ('Allo 'Allo: British officers do not cud)
I've been re-reading bits of Mary Renault's The Charioteer, mostly because I've been thinking a lot about queer life during the Second World War and Renault's novel is among the few that deal with it from a historically close position (the book was published in 1953).

I still have the paperback copy of The Charioteer that I bought when I was 15 years old. It cost $3.95, which was a lot of money to me then, and I can still remember the thrill of wonder at finding a book that had actual gay men as main characters. I'd been reading about queer men before then, but largely in form of a few (usually dismissive or pitying) lines in a biography, or the more revealing bits of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Then, in a chain bookstore in Minnesota, there was this. As I recall, I nervously put it back on the shelf (what if someone had seen me looking at it?) and went away, only to come back a week or two later, having worked up my courage to buy it.

I read it and re-read it obsessively, struggling with the things I didn't understand (pretty much all of the historical background, the British idiom, and the indirection with which Renault described emotional and sexual matters). I still remember certain passages more or less by heart.

I still love it, or I love the essence of it, the characters and their personal story. But Click here to read more; 'ware spoilers )
kindkit: Man sitting on top of a huge tower of books, reading. (Fandomless--book tower)
My latest reading is a deeply obscure novel called The Cage, by Dan Billany and David Dowie. It's an autobiographical story about their imprisonment as POWs in Italy during the Second World War, and has been described as "the only book about POW homosexuality from the homosexual point of view." (I'm paraphrasing as I had to return the source, Adrian Gilbert's POW: Allied Prisoners in Europe, 1939-45, to the library, but you get the gist).

The fact that the book even exists is a miracle. When Italy surrendered in 1943, the commandant of the camp Billany and Dowie were in defied German instructions and allowed all his Allied prisoners to leave and make their way to Allied lines as best they could. (In camps where this didn't happen, the prisoners were transported to Germany.) During their voyage, Billany and Dowie chose to leave their manuscript in the care of an Italian family who had helped them, with instructions to mail it to England when they could. Along with a third man, Alec Harding, Billany and Dowie made it nearly to the Allied lines but then disappeared in the Apennine mountains in late 1943. Presumably they died there.

In 1946, the people who'd been left the manuscript were finally able to send it to Billany's parents, and it was published in 1949.

Billany and Dowie were probably lovers. click to read more )

oh god WHY?

Dec. 2nd, 2011 10:25 am
kindkit: Tintin with his arm around Captain Haddock (Tintin: embrace)
I am trying not to hate the entire world today, but things like this charming piece of fanart (warning for homophobic violence) are not making it easy.

Apparently the artist and their friends think it's the cutest thing ever, too.

kindkit: Sailing ship at sea. (Fandomless: Blue ship)
1) There is, or was, an X-Men cologne.

I am both intrigued and horrified to see my two newest interests collide.

2) In other perfume news, today I spent a happy ten minutes in the "aromatherapy" aisle of the hippie grocery store sniffing testers of a bunch of essential oils. Now I know a lot more about a lot of basic notes, from the difference between lemongrass and lemon to unusual things like frankincense and hyssop. I discovered the geranium smells totally different from how I thought (it's much earthier and deeper, barely recognizable as floral) and that patchouli really does make me feel nauseated.

3) Unrelated, although I could make a metaphor about drowning out the stink of homophobia, [ profile] gileonnen has responded to Orson Scott Card's "gay men are hellbound pedophiles" rewrite of Hamlet by hosting The Big Gay Hamlet ficathon (actually a prompt-and-fill challenge), for Hamlet fic with queer themes. In the spirit of not doing what Card did, stories about pedophilia, rape, and abusive relationships are off-limits; there's not a requirement that stories be "positive," in the sense of not talking about homophobia or other problems, just that queer characters and queer sexualities (including asexuality) not be demonized. It's a cool thing and I hope lots of folks participate.

ETA: 4) Returning to frivolities, I always thought I was immune to shoe-lust. And then I saw these glorious steampunk-y boots. I'm not buying them, because even discounted they are $100, but I want them more than I can begin to tell you.
kindkit: Erik Lehnsherr wearing an awesome suit and hat (XMFC: Erik has an awesome hat)
I'd better preface this by saying that I love the deleted XMFC scene where Charles shows Angel an image of Erik in a dress. I especially love "you've never looked more beautiful, darling."

However. Even though Fassbender said it first, using names like "Traneto" or "Transneto" or any other variation thereof is not okay. Fassbender is a delightful and extraordinarily handsome man, but apparently he's not knowledgeable about trans* issues. Wearing drag != being trans. Being shown as wearing drag by your telepathic boyfriend best pal, against your knowledge and will? Also != being trans. [NOTE: Please see my ETA for more about the context of Fassbender's remark.]

Trans* people are real. So are people who enjoy wearing drag. The conflation of drag and trans*-ness hurts people in both categories by erasing their identities.

So, could we all use the right names? Even when we're being silly and squeeing and having fun? That way no one gets hurt and everyone gets to have fun.

Including trans* people like me.

ETA: Fassbender's comment, if I'm remembering correctly now, was made in the context of talking about the superpower to change one's sex at will. It wasn't made in relation to the Erik-in-a-dress scene. While I think the term "Traneto" is still faily and offensive (it's waaaaaaay to close to "tranny" for comfort), at least when Fassbender used it, it was in a context of sex/gender identity and not just crossdressing.

ETA2: A couple of folks have brought up the possibility that those fandom people using the words Traneto/Transneto are actually referring to "transvestite" rather than "transgendered" or "transsexual." It's certainly possible, but (a) it's still a conflation of identities (doing drag != being a transvestite != being transgendered/transsexual), and (b) is "transvestite" all that common of a term anymore? It's not one I hear often unless I'm watching Eddie Izzard, and it's definitely not the interpretation that came into my mind on hearing Traneto/Transneto.
kindkit: A late-Victorian futuristic zeppelin. (Airship)
I just finished reading China Miéville's Embassytown, which is mostly wonderful. It's the story of a backwater colony where a small population of humans have, with difficulty, come to live in a fairly equitable arrangement with the sentient native species they call the Hosts. The difficulty is mostly linguistic: each Host has two communicating mouths, so their speech (called Language) involves two voices expressing a single mind, and they're unable to recognize anything else as language. The human population communicates with the Hosts through the medium of specially-reared human clone pairs called Ambassadors. But then the colonial government sends a new kind of Ambassador to Embassytown, and trouble (of the potentially species-exterminating, civilization-ending kind) ensues.

The worldbuilding is, as you'd expect from Miéville, rich and fascinating, the main character, Avice Benner Cho, is engaging if not as fully developed as I'd have liked, and there's a more straightforward plot structure than in many of Miéville's other books, which may appeal to those who've previously found his work too odd. Personally I think the book could have done with being about a hundred pages longer; it would have allowed for the plot to unfold at a less hurried pace and for both Avice and the subsidiary characters to be more fleshed-out. Nevertheless, this is my favorite Miéville since The Scar.

However, I do have one complaint: Cut for minor non-plot-related spoilers )


kindkit: A late-Victorian futuristic zeppelin. (Default)

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