“Online Profiles: Remediating the Coming-Out Story.” Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America.

Gray, M. 2009. - Pps. 121-140

Amy, age 15

Amy, a white teenager living in Central Kentucky, discovers LGBT identities on the Internet. Like many of Amy’s rural peers, online representation of LGBT community seemed more pivotal in her sexual identity than fictionalized LGBT narratives. Media visibility seemed to be the progression for equal rights and equal citizenship. Suzanna Walters, sociologist and feminist, says that we may be more widely seen through mainstream media but that does not mean we are necessarily known. Amy’s search for identity through the online medium- is one Bruno Latour calls a “social actor.” The “social actor” perspectives are understood by complicated dialogues- recirculation of coming-out stories. Amy’s queer-identity was built from the material of fictional television characters and online conversations with friends.

Media Genres

Gray draws on Jack Halberstam’s definition of realness to create the genre “queer realness.” As “[R]ealness actually describes less of an act of will and more of a desire to flaunt the unpredictability of social gathering.” (Halberstam 2005, 51) Gary also applies Jason Mitchell’s, media scholar, practice of analyzing a set of themes and patterns that surfaces across medias texts- i.e. Internet based texts operating as a genre of queer realness. Rural LGBT- identifying youth go to see themselves in terms made familiar through the repetitive narrative of coming-out in the queer realness genre.

Queer Realness

If we are to understand the relationship between media and young people’s sense of their sexualities and gender, Gary suggest to focus on studies of media in “in situ” - an archaeologist study of martial artifacts that means “in place.” In situ approaches to media takes as the object of study the processes and understanding of new media within the context of their use. The situ approach applied to the media shows rural queer uses the Internet to engage in youth-spun websites and personal ads on commercial media properties. Rural youth do this to confirm queerness outside the rural boundaries they live in and how to bring that queerness into their home. Richard Bauman notes that the online narrative of chat-rooms, coming-out stories, etc. helps “constructing and negotiating social identity.”  

Negotiating Queer Realness and Rural Racism
Gary tells of Brandon, an African-American male growing up in rural Central Kentucky and later coming out as bisexual in college. Brandon’s upbringing in a high school, in a dominating white town,  had a welcoming discussions of race and social justice did not translate with his sexuality. As Brandon only shared his feelings to an exclusive circle of friends online. Comfortable with his sexuailty, Brandon still finds his bisexuality as threatens his relationship with family and friends. “Youth, like Brandon, use new media to temporarily patch the incongruence or alienation between their sexual desires and other social worlds.”

The Case of John W.: Negotiating Gay Identity and Queer Desire

John W. a “progressive punk rocker” who recently declared himself as “gay”, but is unsure if that identifier resonate with him. John W. discusses his early childhood of exploring his sexual desires and learning bondage. Identifying as “gay” made it easier for him to find other men with who have the intimacy and sexual connection he desired even if a gay identity did not squarely fit his sense of self and his rage of desires.

 

From One White Gay Male to Another: Calling out the Implicit Racism in Dan Savage’s ‘Liberal’ Politics & the ‘It gets better’ Campaign”

Feminist Wire - Grisham, K. Feb 28, 2012.

In Grisham’s post, he challenges Dan Savage and his politics. Grisham’s claims that Savage
“fails to recognize that the popularity of the campaign and its legitimacy depend on the very subtle exclusion of non-white and non-bourgeois bodies.”

The Messenger is Important Too

1. The presidential election in 2008: Dan Savage was crafting a response to the “hoards” of Black voters that came out to vote in the historic election, who, as the media purported, were also voting in support of California’s Proposition 8:  I’m thrilled that we’ve just elected our first African-American president…But I can’t help but feeling hurt that the love and support aren’t mutual. I do know this, though: I’m done pretending that the handful of racist gay white men out there—and they’re out there, and I think they’re scum—are a bigger problem for African Americans, gay and straight, than the huge numbers of homophobic African Americans are for gay Americans, whatever their color.

In Grisham's discourse, sexuality and gender become equitable with race. He sees Savage as prioritizing White “gayness” as more worthy of attention than “Blackness.” He sees the problem relates to the concerns around the motivations behind “It Gets Better.” Grishma believes that Savage does not take into consideration the gay- Black community in the IGB project.

2. Savages proclaim support of the Iraq War: War may be bad for children and other living things, but there are times when peace is worse for children and other living things, and this is one of those times… To stop Islamo-fascism, we’re going to have to roll back all of the tyrannous and dictatorial regimes in the Middle East while simultaneously waging war against a militant, deadly religious ideology… invading and rebuilding Iraq will not only free the Iraqi people, it will also make the Saudis aware of the consequences they face…

Grishma seems to think that Savage is calling for violence because Savage foot holding as a white (gay) male in America. Grishma also believes that Savage’s freedom as  gay-white men in America is important than free Iraqi or Saudi.

 

DQ

1.  Can the argument be made that Dan Savage is completely aware of the media's pull as "he" "only" "allows" gay-white males to be the forefront of the IT GETS BETTER project? Because Savage knows the American public will respond better to a white-male, rather than a minority within in a minority.

2.  Does Grisham's comparison of Dan Savage's support of war carry the same weight (or let alone carry the same meaning) of Grisham's argument that Dan Savage's "ONLY" supports young-white-gay youth?

 

In The Wake of It Gets Better

The Guardian - Puar, J. Nov 16, 2010.

After the hot press on "queer youth suicides" and the IGB campaign, Puar brings back the important question of why are “gay youth” more susceptible to bullying and suicide. Dan Savage’s IGB videos is one of pull yourself up from the bootstraps" immigrant motto. As Savage presents himself as the new archetype of American gays- only made important throughout the deaths of young gay males. Many critics have become angered by how these deaths were made to sever and  highlight aspirational gay citizens at the expense of others. This anger comes from the promotion of “it gets better” gay youth, especially gay-white males. Bloggers- femmephane, Quiet Riot Girl, and Diana Cage- all stand with the IGB mission but call for a non-gender and non-cultural bias.

Another concern is the widespread claim that queer youth commit suicide more than their straight peers, a claim that is not necessarily accurate. Puar initial question is answered by Alec Webley as he writes: "The problem is not homophobia. The problem is bullying." Webley argues that teenage bullying is a widespread phenomenon that affects youth who are "different" and "don't fit in" of many persuasions; he also highlights the wide prevalence of workplace bullying. Puar, like others support Dan Savage’s efforts but sees that “it is imperative that this conversation is connected to broader questions of social justice in terms of race, class and gender.”

 

DC

1.  "Even Barack Obama, who added his contribution to IGB several weeks ago, made note to expand the register of who gets bullied in school beyond this narrow version of gay identity propagated by Savage." It is important to open the IGB project to all youth who are bullied but isn't being bullied for not wearing the right clothes different for being bullied for your sexuality or race?  Shouldn’t a specific group have its own organization to cater to their specific (all race) members?

 

Does It Really Get Better?: A Conscientious Critique

The Bilerico Project - Tseng, Jason Oct 3, 2010.

In beginning of Tseng’s post, he gives an ironic account of what Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project can do for you, “reminding queer youth that high school ends and the bullying stops; you'll move to an urban gay enclave, meet the man of your dreams, and have a wonderful, sparkly, magical life. Maybe even get married, because, you know that's what all the other gays are doing.” Tseng does support the progress and mission statement that the IGB does, but he questions the gay meta-narrative that goes along with IGB. The false idea if you leave your bigoted small-town and become a full fledge member of gay-community you will be welcomed with open arms.

Tseng states that presenting the gay narrative to impressionable teens can do more harm than good.  He suggest that the narrative should be  “real and transparent about the gay community and its problems.” For people like Dan Savage things ultimately got Better after high school, but for others that is not the case. Tseng accounts his own typically unfortunate gay experience, being bullied in middle school, high school, and even to college. His spare time was spent interning at queer organizations, becoming deeply involved in queer politics at school eventually  majored in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. He was building his life towards that gay promise, but only to find that the gay community is not perfect and has its own problems.

The gay community's problems surrounding race and gender became evident to Tseng as queer men of color, especially feminine queer men of color get pushed to the fringes of gay life. He was shocked by the openly racist comments that were slung by gay activists against the African American community over a perceived bias which allegedly led to the passage of Proposition 8. Tseng documented on Bilerico his personal struggles with the gay community, its sexual racism, and its effects both personally and sociologically.

Tseng’s blog post was to acknowledge the It Gets Better Project as a great source for youth. “But we also have to be aware and critical of the very real problems and deficiencies the current gay community has in its inability to make that gay promise accessible to everyone who falls under the rainbow banner.”

DQ

1.  Is IGB's message to leave your bigoted small town overall good? If a town is rooted in homophobia isn't it important to stay and educate the citizens?

2.  Should IGB change their testimony to It Gets BETTER to It Can IMPROVE?

3.  How can IGB or any self-help LGBT websites/organizations promote a better life and show the true 'not-perfect' nature of the LGBT community? Is it even possible?

 

Additional source:

Meet the Man Rescuing LGBT Youth in Rural Idaho - The Advocate.com  David Artavia, June 6, 2013

 

Tom Nestor founded All Under One Roof to provide a safe space for LGBT youth in rural Idaho. This article goes connects to the main reading "to confirm the existence of queerness beyond their locales and strategize about how to bring that queerness home to roost."