Autostraddle Roundtable: So … Prop 8 Was Upheld. What Do We Do Now?




Yes! Now I can talk about my favorite topic, Symbolic Annihilation, or the “absence of representation in the media.” Sociologist Tuchman divided the concept into three aspects: omission, trivialization and condemnation. In 1991, Larry Gross’s essay “Out of the Mainstream: Sexual Minorities and the Mass Media,” applied this specifically to gay people: “The gender system is supported by the mass media treatment of sexual minorities. They are ignored or denied – symbolically annihilated … of all social groups (except perhaps communists) we are probably the least permitted to speak for ourselves in the mass media.”

Furthermore, “representation in the mediated ‘reality’ of our mass culture is in itself power … when groups or perspectives do attain visibility, the manner of that representation will itself reflect the biases and interests of those elites who define the public agenda.

There are a lot of people who will never respond to our anger, our rallies, or even to our straightforward pleas for empathy & understanding—the only way to reach many of these people is through media visibility and responsible representation.

The sad truth is most people are ignorant and don’t pay much attention to political nuance, or to questioning indoctrinated religious ideals and right-wing propaganda. Furthermore, I suspect a lot more stalwart hearts & minds were changed by Portia being on Ellen than by any PSA or rally.

There are a lot of people who will never respond to our anger, our rallies, or even to our straightforward pleas for empathy & understanding—the only way to reach many of these people is through media visibility and responsible representation.

This doesn’t have to be a compromise, because I don’t think there’s anything about our stories or our art that’s inherently distasteful to anyone, or inherently “fringe,” and I think it’s possible we can tell our stories honestly and be heard on a mass level without sacrificing our queer sensibility or community solidarity. Outsider voices are always where the interesting and exciting stuff is happening anyhow.

We need to be seen and it needs to be GOOD. TV shows, movies and also in the news—people need to know stories like this one are happeningAs lesbians this is particularly important—and difficult—we struggle against sexism and homophobia and the patriarchy, and many of us also must contend with racism. ellen-yup-imgayGay men are further along than we are w/r/t media visibility, I think, and part of that is ‘cause men are conditioned socially to believe they are worthy and powerful, and that’s how despite our society’s aversion to the perceived threat on masculinity posed by homosexual men, when it comes to business deals and big media, they’ve still been able to get things like Will&Grace and we got um … um. A few eps of The O.C.?

We’re worth it, we must believe that we are worth it. We must fight hard for the social and cultural capital that will get us into the political arena, we must never give up on that.

When people feel they are seen, or feel they have allies or women they can relate to, they will feel more comfortable coming out to their families and friends. Then change will really begin. We will turn far-away faces into human face-to-face faces!

“An oppositional strategy is the subversion and appropriation of mainstream media, as well as the occasionally successful infiltration … the ultimate expression of independence for a minority audience struggling to free itself from the dominant culture’s hegemony is to become the creators and not merely the consumers of media images.”

(Larry Gross)




So, the question: What is the biggest thing that needs to change in order the LGBTQ community to achieve equality, including in marriage??

Eeeeeks! I am going to talk a bit crazy now, a bit broad and abstract-y. Bear with me. An overhaul/realignment of the “value” system in the US is necessary. There is an urgent need to stop(!) policing sex, proscribing gender, and regulating sexuality; we need to delink religion and policy; our policies should be based on equality, respect for diversity/differing realities and experiences.

Hey parents, grandparents: stop teaching hate and discrimination. Let people be…people. Full and whole. Teach love and acceptance, even if you disagree or dislike.

A changing of public sentiment toward gender and sex must happen. How? This is the question. I suppose the answer lies somewhere in the realms of education, media, visibility, and representation.

I think education and media are key: this is how minds change. The older generations can play a huge role, too.

Hey parents, grandparents: stop teaching hate and discrimination. Let people be…people. Full and whole. Teach love and acceptance, even if you disagree or dislike. It is not your place to police others’ lives (this is what Jesus would want, I am sure of it …in fact, I am sure that religion, by definition, preaches the “be nice, don’t judge” doctrine. No? Also, trust in younger generations is important-we all have things to learn from one another.

So, the big picture: shifting public perception. Also, though, I imagine specific interventions are useful: securing the right to marry, removing “the don’t ask don’t tell” policy, teaching sex education in schools from a non-heteronormative stance…

It is here that Obama and US government representatives need to step the FUCK up!




I don’t want to appear like an ungrateful Gen Y-er, but I think my country (Australia) would be closer to achieving equality if younger people were able to take on more prominent positions in the parliament and the media.

My country is still being run by Baby Boomers who are set in their conservative ways, and said ways do not favour unicorn concepts like gay rights…

My country is still being run by Baby Boomers who are set in their conservative ways, and said ways do not favour unicorn concepts like gay rights or same-sex marriage or civil unions etc. So I guess Gen X needs to start rising up and creating change, ‘cause it’s my belief that the public would be open to it. In saying this, Australia has a habit of blindly following the USA’s footsteps and so the more cynical side of me sometimes feels like we won’t see equality until it is achieved in the USA first. But we’ll see. My country often surprises me and I hope it keeps doing so in all of the good ways.


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  1. I don’t think we need any new laws. Every law we could possible want is already in existence, it just isn’t interpreted to be inclusive for everyone. What this country needs is a healthy dose of legal revision…and in the case of DOMA/DADT legal repealing.
    I also really love the generational differences pointed out by many members of the roundtable. One of the first things my mom said after I came out (and after quite a bit of crying) was “I’m glad your grandmother isn’t alive to see this.” It wasn’t that mom didn’t love me, or didn’t wholeheartedly support me (she’s the greatest)…it was just that grandma, in all honesty, was a bigot. And a racist. And she really liked to vote. Grandma didn’t understand, much of her generation doesn’t get it, but they aren’t always going to be around and the most reliable voting bloc in the country.
    i also love when tinkerbell participates in anything.

    • You know what was so weird to me? that because of all the generational differences I have heard so much about, I was never going to tell my grandparents — and i was told by a family friend who’d read my blog that my grandma never needed to know. and then i found out that she does know, and she just wants me to be happy and stuff. but also, i think maybe I am very lucky, family-wise.

      tinkerbell loves to participate.

      • I think a lot of times we don’t give the older folks enough credit. Like they are super fragile or something when, in fact, they are probably stronger than us.

        My girlfriend and I have been together so long that it is pretty much impossible to hide the true nature of our relationship from family members, yet out of respect for her mother’s request we never formally told her grandparents about us. When her grandfather passed away last year, without us saying anything at all, her grandmother listed me in the obituary along with all the other spouses of the children and grandchildren.

  2. Um…Robin, what the hell was wrong with your health teacher? That whole AIDS exercise is beyond bizarre.

    This touched on something that has been bothering me lately and that’s kids. The “I’m confused” NOM ad basically says that opposite marriage must be protected for the sake of the children because, apparently, if kids find out about the existence of gay folk they’ll burst into flames or something. Well, what about gay children? Do they not matter? Is their emotional well-being less valuable than that of a straight child?

    If the Bill O’Reilly’s of this world are really concerned about protecting children, all children, like they say then how about promoting a positive inclusive atmosphere so that our young brothers and sisters don’t feel so alone and wrong and different. All this “protection” the crazy Christians seem to want for kids can do untold damage to a certain kind of kid.

    I just wonder why no one calls them out on their shit and asks why they seem to consider gay kids driven to suicide by their heteronormative propaganda acceptable causalities.

      • we did the aids thing too! we also did a fun [not] exercise where we all had to spit into dixie cups filled with water and then “have sex”/combine our cups with each other. at the end, she had us all pour our little cups into clear containers so we could see how disgusting they were. ew.

        • that is so wrong on so many levels.

          all I remember from sex ed was something about female condoms.. the rest was just us being immature and giggly– and pregnancy talks

          i don’t remember anyone in my high school being out except MAYBE 2 people – I was talking bout this with my senior year english teacher over my break and she said “this school has changed alot since you were here (2004)” I take tht as a good sign of kids being more open

    • I went to this private school where the sex ed teacher told us she loved having sex with her husband (though orgasms were never discussed and i actually had no idea how sex itself would actually work, or that women had orgasms, until like many many years later) which totally grossed us out and made us never want to have sex ever. She also invited an old friend to come in and tell us how he burned a hole in his nose from doing cocaine and how much it sucked to be in jail, and our school brought in four people who actually had AIDS to tell us about it. also they had us put condoms on bananas. The only thing they really lied to us about was drugs. this was in 7th grade i think. i remember though that in all the private & public schools i went to, we were never allowed to talk about abortion. It was just a forbidden topic, across the board, like someone had decided it would just be easier that way.

      • In my school when we had sex education we were made to put condoms on a banana as well. One girl was allowed to sit it out after claiming that her religion (judaism) forbid her to touch condoms. I asked my teacher about protective sex for gay people and my teacher drew a sigh and said “I’m afraid I’m not allowed to answer that question”. Good old section 28 in the UK!

  3. I also feel like sex education is so important, mostly ’cause my class was useless and I left high school feeling no less confused about anything. We never, ever discussed homosexual relations. At that time I wasn’t sure if I was gay or bi, but I knew I was attracted to girls. Do two women need condoms too? How do they have sex? Why did nobody ever talk about this? The worst would be to raise my hand and ask — this would lead to weird looks and giggles from my classmates, alienation in high school is too much to bear. I stayed silent and I know I’m not alone in this — too often we’ve been silenced and made to feel like if the teacher wasn’t talking about it then it was important enough to ask. It starts with education and schools can no longer pretend that gays and lesbians don’t exist. Tinkerbell should be a sex ed teacher, she’s so smart.

  4. ‘What is wrong with you people’ Tinkerbell’s piece was the best!
    Also, I asked my sex ed teacher what an orgasm was.. eeek!

    Hey, be grateful your president isn’t teaching your youth that showering after unprotected sex with an HIV positive woman, will stop you from getting AIDS. I’m serious, look it up people.

    Great roundtable, as always!

  5. TINKERBELL FTW as usual!!
    No but seriously, another great roundtable. Socialization and the gender construct is so intriguing and complex. What is innate and how does society shape us?
    And like Debs, I think it’s interesting how so many people pointed out the generation-gap. It helps to show we’re moving forward with opening our minds and progressing (slowly/surely as it may seem) towards equal rights. As we know, history repeats itself and equality concerning the “unicorn concepts” like Crystal says, is sure to come in time! Keep pushing Autostraddlers :)

  6. Move to MA and NE because next it will be civil unions repealed and child adoption. You folks started this and we are to end it by removing the above. Last enforcement of old sodomy law. 10 years of this baloney. We are going to finish it.

  7. We did something similar in my health class in high school with the name gathering. But in the end we all had an STD (not just HIV/AIDS) and our teacher didn’t tell us all we were dead! Actually, sex ed was more productive/informative in my 8th grade when they separated the girls and boys and let us ask literally ANYTHING we wanted either in the group or via anonymous questions submitted earlier… but then again, hardly anyone was bold enough to ask important questions.

  8. I haven’t read everything (because I’m skimming, it’s late and I have to come back to read everything) BUT – I wanted to mention something that I learned about the U.S. constitution this week that I never knew – which is that “under God” was an add on in 1954 after a campaign by The Knights of Columbus (round the time of McCarthyism) and was never part of the ORIGINAL text.

    Alex – you’re my gay idol.

    Love the round tables…

  9. A Speech from ” LOS HOMBRES DE PACO cap.96 ” by Povedilla :
    Do u know what’s not normal ?
    It’s not normal to think that making love is a sin!that’s not normal..It’s not normal to think that God doesn’t love the lesbians and homosexuals!that’s not normal!
    It’s not normal that the church covers up abuse of children n doesn’t allow priests to marry. It’s not normal-the riches of the vatican/the rings/the gold/the money thrown at publicity campaigns & it’s absurb that meanwhile 30 million people in Africa contract AIDS bcoz they dont use condoms. God gave us 2 arms and 2 feet & also gave us the capacity to love, to want to touch each feel with ur fingers an accelerated heart beat w/ excitement.And that cant be a sin..Love isn’t easy,and you’re trying to make it so much harder and more complicated as if it’s not complicated enough, as if it’s not enough that all of humanity complicates it already.To love is to also understand rejection. To understand that you’re going to get hurt, you’re going to suffer, you’re going to cry. It’s to understand that things are very different from holy matrimony.
    Today, you marry and you live happily ever after? False!
    As much as you want to keep proclaiming it. You know what I think? I think you don’t know what it means to love, because if I’ve learned something after all these years, it’s that if to hold someone so tight that you don’t know where you begin and they end is a sin? Gentlemen, I’m a sinner.Because the only God I believe in is love. Do you understand? Love.

  10. you know i really love it when everyone gets all serious and talks about actual issues. it makes me happy to know people actually acknowledge this stuff out there in the real world. once again…. i have alot of thing i want to say, but i wont. i will say that i love about everything Alex had to say.
    and riese, i love that you linked that story. makes me happy. i mean… not the story…but the fact that you linked it. more people should know about it.

  11. Carly – I agree more than 100%, which probably means it’s spilling over onto other people…

    Another example: Venezuela gay rights organizations explicitly asked that the term “co-inhabiting association” be used in current negotiations of same-sex legal unions in Venezeula.

  12. I remember in grade 9 health class we were talking about AIDs and our teacher told us that it was most prevalent in homosexual men. I raised my hand to ask her why that was and her response was: “(big sigh) do you really want me to explain it to you?” I said yes and she went on to tell us how gay men have sex which can lead to tearing and the spread of AIDs. She made it seem like I shouldn’t have asked the question (I’m not a man so why should I know about their sexual health after all) and that the rest of the class should be grossed out because I’d made her explain it. Oh public school sex ed…you didn’t teach me anything useful.

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