Monday, December 20, 2004

Okay, if this was in a tv show, it would be wildly implausible. However, it's in today's CHICAGO SUN-TIMES so make what you will of it.

Kids at YMCA swim meet run into cross-dressing ball

Several of the kids' angry parents clashed with participants in a transgender fashion show, which had been under way at the New City YMCA since about midnight, resulting in a chaotic melee that was eventually broken up by private security guards and East Chicago District police.
A YMCA member had reserved the entire facility, at 1515 N. Halsted, from 11 p.m. Saturday through 8 a.m. Sunday for a fashion show and ball, which featured cross-dressing and transgender models in a competition similar to the ones shown in the 1991 documentary "Paris Is Burning." But the facility had also been booked to host the youth swim meet, scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. Sunday. When the swimmers -- mostly elementary and junior high school-age kids -- and their parents started showing up shortly after 6 a.m., many of the parents were upset to see the "House of Escada" fashion show and dance in full swing.

Monday, December 13, 2004

I got an interesting lesson in profiling tonight.

By "profiling" I mean making assumptions about a person based on their clothing or behavior. For instance, seeing young, black men wearing hooded sweatshirts one might "profile" them as being criminals.

Tonight was the "big gig" at the old town school of folk music. When we did this before, in April, it was all the dance students. The carribbean people, the banghra people, the flamenco people, we were all together. But tonight it was a bunch of people playing stringed insturments plus us hip hop people.

So basically, we were performing in front of the people who are totally opposed to hip hop and everything it stands for (sampling, djs, electronic toots and beeps, drum machines, etc.) So it was not an especially warm response.

Anyway, my friend Salah is in both dance and guitar. There were no other twofers, as far as I could tell. So he danced with us (we were 1st on the running order, after us they unrolled the oriental carpet on the stage for proper folkie effect) and then he was going to perform with his guitar class. All the other dance class folks left but I hung around to be supportive and everything.

Salah grew up in Tunisia and has lived in Paris and Stockholm before coming to Chicago. Next on his list is Sao Paulo in Brazil. Anyway, he has all sorts of interesting opinions. For instance, he is impressed with the Chicago police; how very fair they are. It's safe to say that no one who has spent much time with local cops would describe them as being especially concerned with fairness. But Salah, who earns his living driving a cab, is favorably impressed.

Anyway, it's "big gig" night so all the classes are getting up and, as a class, doing a performance. This goes guitar, guitar, guitar, guitar, then, to break up the monotony, they schedule a ukulele class.

The ukulele guys play and sing a bogus Hawaiian song about a princess who is overly willing to share her's all "P" words and mildly double entendre and the audience chuckles agreably.

"They are jews?" Salah asked me, meaning the ukulele ensemble.

This fascinates me. After I told him no, they aren't jews (like I have the foggiest idea but on principle which is to say right there, on the spot, I feel like I should vouch for their non-jew-ness since I was guessing that him declaring them to be jewish wasn't, you know, a compliment and I should speak up for them being, uh, just plain American?????) I there something about seeing men singing corny songs with ukuleles seems, somehow, jewish?

I was into all that vaudeville stuff when I was a kid...Marx brothers, Fanny Brice, etc. And, when looking back on that, I suppose that many of those entertainers were, indeed, Jewish.

So is that something that some households learn? In Tunisia, say, seeing a corny comedian, to make it clear "He's a jew, you know." In the same way that a bigot in the U.S. might think that Nat King Cole is a very classy acting colored fellow but, at heart, nothing more than a colored fellow.

I also thought that, as far as stereotypes go, if I had to choose one for myself, I would choose "he just wants to make me laugh." Sadly, as I am not jewish but rather tennesseean, the stereotype I end up with is "doesn't he spell well?"

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

I am reading "Spirit and Flesh: Life in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church" by James M. Ault, Jr. Really, I recommend this book. I am reading it as background material but really, it is quite riveting and surprising and overall fascinating in the tradition of the very best storytelling.

I had told my Magazine instructor that I wanted to do my final project on gay Nascar fans and she excitedly agreed. Gay Nascar has been a conversational showstopper of mine for some time now and every time I trot it out the response is always "Dude! You gotta write that!"

But, you see, it's a trick. I met a gay Nascar fan (and corresponded with a few online) and I learned about the sport itself. So here's how it works...I say "Gay Nascar!" and, after pausing appropriately in the stunned silence, I go into my 5 minutes about Nascar and why it is, in fact, fascinating and full of drama rather than just boring-ass driving in circles around and around.

My explanation of why Nascar is kind of cool is fairly compelling, I think. But saying "gay Nascar" is just a trick to get my foot in the door. I perk up the ears by saying those two words "gay nascar" thereby earning the right to go on for a bit about what Nascar itself is.

This is the problem, gay people participate in Nascar pretty much like everybody else which is to say that they watch it on television. They don't do it gay-ly. They do it alone or with roommates or family members but they don't wear pink boas or dish or otherwise carry on in a way that lends itself to contemporary journalism. Ultimately, saying that there are gay Nascar fans is like saying there are gay customers at Wal-Mart. And what do those gay customers do??? Why they get a cart and they...


Anyway, while googling-away on Gay Nascar, I tried all sorts of other searches (Gay Blue Collar, Gay Red State, Gay Rural) etc. And "Gay Evangelical" returned a motherlode.

There seem to be two sorts of gay evangelicals...there are the "Ex Gay" sort. This school of thought says that we are all sinners (although sodomy is especially horrible as a sin...if you had the choice between murder and sodomy, you are better off going with the murder, at least per. this crowd) and that homosexuality is a sin of choice, like alcoholism. And, like alcohol, someone might always feel the urge but, with enough prayer, etc. the urge can be overcome.

The second sort is the openly gay, openly evangelical sort. Which says that they don't have to be cured, they are just fine. Which I find fascinating.

Anyway, I'm doing some background reading. Although I grew up around fundamentalist Christians in Tennessee, my understanding was limited to "those people are weirdos." Which is not a very satisfactory explanation of anything.

Indeed, as author Ault makes clear, urbane people have been insisting that fundamentalism is on its last legs forever...that surely modernism will wipe out these backwards people.

In fact, fundamentalism is a response to modernism.

One of the key ideas in the book is that fundamentalists operate on a model of community reciprocity. Think of a village...I help you get in your crops, you, in turn, share some of the butchered hog. Part of the element is that we share with each other, all the time and without being asked, and the other part is that we didn't choose to be this way with one another. We have to be this way, we are in the same village. It's like an arranged marriage.

The modern world, on the other hand, is not like an arranged marriage. It's like a love match. In the modern world I might labor in a factory while you work in a bakery. Maybe we can meet each other's needs but maybe we just need to stay out of each other's way. The people who help me, the people who watch my children or the ones I bring dinner, those are people that I chose and they chose me back. They are my friends, not my family.

Arranged marriages sound kind of appalling but they have an don't get left out of the system. Out there on your own? You might make a love match but you might choose poorly or you might be left out altogether.

This system of reciprocity gets lost in contemporary society. Fundamentalism is a way of recreating the system.

Part of making such a system work is that there is considerable pressure on individuals to conform to the desires and needs of the group. In the city, your choice is your choice, whatever. But in the village, your choice indirectly becomes my choice as well. Your morals become like cigarrette smoke, second hand exposure to them can be dangerous.

So if you are gay and call your relationship a marriage, that does actually feel like a real threat to these Christians. Because then how does the reciprocity work???

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

I love how Bush is going to Halifax to thank those who helped out U.S. travelers on 9/11.
First of all I like the idea that you can just mention 9/11 and everyone will be so distracted they will forget that they loathe you. And secondly, I like the absolute sincerity of the gesture...after all it has only been, what, like 38 months since that happened? Since that part of Canada is soooooooo far away, you can see why it took him so long to get around to being appreciative.