Let’s Act! And Move Our Campus Forward
While going to UCLA may feel like a dream, it hasn’t been easy for all of us. Annual fees have risen from under $8,000 when I applied to over $12,000 this year. In just the past year, hate speech and crimes have targeted a Latina student’s apartment door, the Vietnamese Student Union’s office, and a queer male walking home from a party. And when I am walking through the Westwood apartments late at night, I can’t help but worry that I may be the area’s next mugging victim.
Therefore, it is imperative that our campus elects student government officers who will take action to address these (and many more) issues. We need leaders who will not simply plan fun events, but who are determined to lobby legislators, work with administrators, and engage the campus population to ensure that change occurs. To ensure that the UC system does not continue to face annual budget cuts. To ensure that students whose communities are underrepresented at UCLA feel included. To ensure that those of us who have to walk alone at night can do so safely.
The difference in ideology between the slates is most blatant in the race for President. Carly Yoshida (Bruins United) wants to use the office to strengthen alumni relations (doesn’t the Student Alumni Association do this all year?), solicit more donations from alumni (which the Call Center already does infamously well), and support UniCamp (one of the most successful organizations on campus). Taylor Bazley (Bruin Alliance) is very concerned about increasing USAC’s visibility and garnering student input, but does not offer any tangible sense of what his office would accomplish. On the other hand, John Joanino (Let’s Act!) promises that his office will fight for long-term solutions to secure funding for the UC, work to expand Night Powell toYRL, and initiate a statewide investigation of campus safety—all large-scale and forward-thinking initiatives. If you take a few minutes to look through the slates’ websites, the sharp distinction between the vague and superficial platforms of the former slates and the progressive, change-oriented Let’s Act! candidates will become even more clear.
As queer people, we may be used to feeling left out. We may have experienced the feeling that the world is against us and that there’s nothing we can do to move forward. But in the case, the Let’s Act! slate provides hope that a more perfect campus is on the horizon. While Bruins United-initiated events like Homecoming and free soda night at 800 Degrees may provide one evening of entertainment, a purposeful movement toward a better UCLA will only come from activist leaders who have a proven track record of successful organizing: the ten candidates of the Let’s Act! slate.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author and represent neither the policy nor support of OutWrite Newsmagazine.
PRINTING OUT AND DISTRIBUTING THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED. ALL CAMPAIGN LEAFLETS MUST BE
STAMPED AT THE E-BOARD OFFICE, 313 KERCKHOFF. FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THIS GUIDELINE WILL CONSTITUTE A
VIOLATION OF THE ELECTION CODE.
Queer Film: Ma vie en Rose (My life in Pink)
The movie is about a young boy named Ludovic. Ludovic cross-dresses and generally acts like a girl; he talks of marrying the neighbor’s son and cannot understand why everyone is so surprised about it. At first, his parents think he’s just a phase and that he simply likes to joke around like that. When his family discovers the little girl blossoming in him they are forced to contend with their own discomfort and the lack of understanding from their new neighbors. They decide to send him to a psychiatrist in hopes to fix whatever is wrong with him. This movie is basically about Ludovic finding himself and establishing an identity; it addresses trans-gender and gender issues in general through the eyes of a child.
Ma vie en Rose does a really good job at showing what the parents are feeling and going through but it also shows the audience how difficult it is for the child as well. For example, Ludovic asks his sister and mother whether he is a girl or a boy. They tell him he’s a boy but that simply confuses him more because he feels like a girl and doesn’t understand why he feels the way he feels. It’s probably more of a difficult experience for the child because they don’t know what to do with all their feelings and can’t understand their parents’ views. This movie could be helpful to parents who might want to see things the way their child sees them and maybe help them understand and accept their child.
Parents must let their children express themselves the way they want because that’s the only way they’ll know who it is they really want to be. If parents don’t give them that opportunity then they may be unhappy or unsure with whom they are throughout their childhood.
Queer Spring Playlist
Perhaps my favorite depiction of the cracking forth of yolky spring from hard-shelled winter are Chaucer’s opening lines to The Canterbury Tales (bear with me through the Middle English, the ethical English major side of me disallows me from quoting a modern translation):
WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour...
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmers for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, couthe in sondry londes;
And specially, from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The holy blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke.
Spring, when pale emaciated bodies sense the stirrings of life, nature’s sensual awakening, and imbibes the first slants of filtered light breaking through. Spring, that mixing of regeneration, continuity, bloom — the Dionysian enmeshed with the Apollonian — always seeming to terminate in travel, in rupture and movement.
The following is to accompany the wanderlust-drenched days of Spring Quarter. All of it off-kilter, queer in some way, and 1.2 hours — perfect for you Walkman users.
“Smalltown Boy” — Bronski Beat
A rare instance in which a song referring specifically to the more traumatic elements of the queer experience — familial and social rejection, hiding oneself away (in the closet), nonconforming masculinity (“cry, boy, cry”), gay bashing (to name a few) — gained popular success, this song details the departure of a young queer person breaking from their family, home, and traditions in the hopes of a more fulfilled, authentic “out” experience (“But the answers you seek / Will never be found at home. / The love that you need / Will never be found at home”). Jimmy Somerville’s voice performs the task of expressing the valences of such a transition, tentative, mournful, but also — in its direct address, repetition, and steady rhythm — affirming, comforting.
“Demon Road” — Yeasayer
Textured like the bubbles and warps of melted plastic, this song off of Yeasayer’s most recent album captures that moment of hiding one’s own queerness, socially or interpersonally unacceptable tendencies/desires/beliefs, from one’s significant other — a concealment that dam(n)s the relationship, seems such a dire impediment that all there is remaining is for “all hell” to “break loose,” opening up a “demon road” to “take [you] home.” The narrator cannot conform to conventional/popular scripts of romanticism, astrology, sentimentalism — is instead “into” some unspeakable kink.
“Diplomat’s Son” — Vampire Weekend
A reminiscence on a confused, spontaneous, drug-fueled first-time gay hookup, written by Rostam Batmanglij and sung by the beautiful, twink Endymion Ezra Koenig with an MIA sample, a perfectly constructed narrative replete with time signature changes to reflect tonal changes? Yes please.
“Tryst With Mephistopheles”—Owen Pallett
Speaking of twinky Endymions, no queer indie playlist is complete without mention of Owen Pallett, gay Canadian composer and multi-instrumentalist whose orchestral Baroque-pop delights in ornament, exuberance, and textural depth. I love this song in particular for its queering (if it needs much a queering) of the Faustus story. Moreover, something about Pallett taking Mephistopheles’ perspective and enacting his love for and murder of Owen, “the author,” makes me giddy with Freudian notions of homosexual narcissism and self-destruction. Yes, Marlowe and Freud would be pleased.
This is a song for that one cool, attractive (and usually self-aware of it) hetero guy who goes to gay clubs and is completely down be immersed in the rhythmic sea of queers. But even more than that, it’s an attraction that comes in a highly aesthetic, temporally localized, visceral moment — a refreshing depiction of sexuality which is (for good reason, but perhaps too homogeneously) almost always depicted as biologically fixed, ingrained, and non-dynamic.
“Cliquot”—Beirut & Owen Pallett
Seemingly a song about a homosexual couple sung by one lover about his partner’s slow slip towards death at the hands of the plague (and antiquated Medieval setting of the bubonic plague beautifully fitting with the wild, crass instrumentation), this story could easily be read as an AIDS narrative, one lover wishing his visceral, artistic creation could stay his lover’s fleshly consumption by the “gay plague.”
“Bed of Nails”—Wild Beasts
Shakespeare-laden kink — the quickly ascending, then quickly sinking, darting pitch of the vocals jagged like nails over the smooth, repetition of the instrumentation, an instrumentation which undulates such that one cannot help but recall a Beardsley illustration (at once sensually fluid and horrifyingly barbed!).
“White Night”—The Postelles
Although The Postelles’ frontman Daniel Balk is straight, he’s certainly comfortable discussing
and participating in queer culture. In song, the male-male call-and-response creates the the feeling of two gay partners (in crime, in addiction, in illness?) confiding in each other. Despite the problem-ridden lyrics, the song is upbeat and Balk’s vocals gleam (you won’t find a bigger than me of songs that stage a contradiction between semantic content and formal tone/style).
“Suzanne and I”—Anna Calvi
The power that inheres in every lyric Anna Calvi belts astounds me still today after discovering/becoming obsessed with her my freshman year of college. Sparse in lyrical variety, this song presents an intense bond (at least as perceived from the narrator’s position) between two women. Because of the very noir tone, I can ever only imagine Suzanne and the narrator as two criminals on the lamb. Or, depending on my mood, related in a Notes on a Scandal way, replete with delicious voyeurism and rigid relativism.
If “Suzanne and I” is noir, “Annmarie” is the intimate closeness and unspeakable queer desire encoded in devotion and “mercy” of the Victorian-era. It is the blurred lines between platonism and romance in a rustic time or place where the exacting, concretizing term ‘homosexual’ does not exist.
“A Case of You” — James Blake
James Blake’s voice is like a pristine river on which I want to build a house in which I live out the rest of my days serenaded by the emotional swellings and decrescendos of Mr. Blake’s wrenching tunes — like a really, really emotion Snow White. In this song, Blake covers Joni Mitchell, which turns a song of heterosexual coupling into one of gay love. What I love about this transformation is the way in which the song’s gendering of the couple remains latent. “I met a woman,” he croons, “she had a mouth like yours.” Here, we expect him to use this woman as a substitute for his (assumedly female) lover. However, this woman commands the singer to “Go to him,” to return to his male partner. Something about the way in which the unnamed, nondescript (male) partner can be embodied by a woman, who then reveals the partner’s gender intrigues me. If not just because it points out how immediately and implicitly we view such songs through a gendered lens.
“o0O0o0O0o” — Oberhofer
There are certain songs that accumulate the tonality of a period of one’s life, and this one immediately evokes the unsettled (in not-a-bad-way) of moving to LA from a fairly rural town, growing accustomed to the college experience, and coming out first to myself and then to my friends. “And the cities feeling queer and crass / With beer cans growing blazing grass / To look like something new” struck me at my core. It’s the same feeling evoked when walking through the apartments in Westwood (or any college town) early on a Friday or Saturday morning, when the sordidness, vivacity, and waste from the previous night are fading fast but still evident in the crushed red cups covered in dew. Waste and renewal don’t seem so far apart.
And as resonant as the lyrics in the song are to at least my queer experience, the formal quality of the vocals are marked with a queer theatricality that bolster the verses’ poignancy.
“Normal Song” — Perfume Genius
Perfume Genius, stage name of Mike Hadreas, crafts delicate, cobwebbed and misty songs about such social taboos as sexual abuse and gay pornography. I puzzle over why this of all songs is the “Normal” song, other than that perhaps it doesn’t represent a narrative voice from a super situated position, but rather one preparing for his absence (death?) — something we must all face. In any case, this is just one of an entire album of gorgeous little (dare I say Emily Dickinsonian) gems.
“Cosmic Dancer” — T. Rex
Can’t explain my obsession with this song, but perhaps its due to its associations with the films Velvet Goldmine and Billy Elliot. Dancing, devotion, and queering codes of masculinity through ones composure and unabashed performativity (a prescient insight into one of glam rock’s effects).
“The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us!” — Sufjan Stevens
This song seems to encapsulate one’s first same-sex love — perhaps in a uniformly gendered space like summer camp — when one is too young to be aware of the labels or stigmas or identitarian politics of being queer. One only feels an intimacy for another so intensely (“he was my best friend”) that one can’t help to “tease him,” to “[touch] his back” and kiss him. The ebullient symphonic bursts reconjure the pre-linguistic excitement, the uncomplicated joy of exploration — an emotion that even in Sufjan’s masterful hands can’t quite be replicated whole (I can tell you, the telling gets old”). In this, the song is perfectly nuanced — happily cherishing this moment never to be replicated, with only the slightest shadow of regret in its permanent remoteness.
“Bermondsey Street” — Patrick Wolf
Celebratory, explicitly gay happiness by Patrick Wolf.
“Hey Jane” — Spiritualized
Worth it simply for the music video — one of the most radically, grittily queer I’ve seen in a long while (NSFW).
Queer Identity: Urban Shaman
Most people who have woken up with their same-sex significant other, only to rush back into the closet as they go off to brunch with their family, can relate to the feeling of living two lives. Closeting one identity under the facade of another can lead one to feel mildly isolated at best and completely misunderstood at worst, and the process of shifting identities is always exhausting. However, uniting one’s ‘street’ and ‘sheet’ identities can feel validating and soothing. How exactly can a person fuse the marginalized aspects of their identity with the aspects those around them can understand and relate to? One solution comes from a marginalized community not traditionally associated with the queer spectrum: the community identifying with the title of “urban shaman.”
I interviewed one of my coworkers after learning that she identifies as an urban shaman. Her perspective clued me into the urban shaman community and the ways its associated challenges parallel those facing the queer community.
So, what exactly is a shaman? “To me, an Urban Shaman fulfills the same roles and duties of a Shaman in the Jungles of Peru or the Mountains of the Himalayas, except we shamanize in the concrete jungles of metropolitan communities and sprawling suburbs. Shamans are healers of relationships”. In short, shamans are leaders and healers in their community that work to use their natural strengths to make the world a more loving and unified place.
“Their specialties range from herbalism to exorcism but always they are the healers within their communities. Shamans are the storytellers, the historians, the gatekeepers, the guides, the therapists, the sage ones, the pranksters, the allegorists, the riddlers, the dream weavers…weaving the web of the waking and sleeping dreams, seeking to reveal the connections beyond the obvious to bring unity, love, and healing…usually among a small tribe of about 25 people or so,” Sheri says.
Although identifying with shamanism involves identifying as a healer, and identifying with the queer community involves identifying with an orientation or gender/sexuality label, shamans share some aspects of the queer experience in a literal way. According to Sheri, “shamans are often the queer ones in a tribe. Cross-dressing during ritual, cross-identifying, same-sex relationships….Shamans occupy the in-between spaces of society in every way.”
Also similar to the queer community is the belief that shamanism is relatively fixed. “I could choose to not be an urban shaman but i would still be doing the same things. The title provides order for explaining and describing my craft. Whether it be under the title of cashier, barista, student, or teacher i’m always shamanizing. Always have been, always will be. I feel very lucky to have found a way to focus and engage my energies and gifts.” Despite shamanism being an invisible identifier (in the same way that queerness is relatively invisible), it does not change and is definitely not a phase.
However, unlike queerness, according to Sheri, shamanism can be modified and developed over time. “For me the shamanism is my craft. it is an extension of who i am and thoroughly defines the course of my days and years, but it is only a label for the culmination of many gifts, talents, and passions colliding with the destiny of participating in the arc of infinite history…”
And these gifts and talents do take work to cultivate over time. When asked if she puts work into maintaining her shaman skills, Sheri responded with a resounding “Yes and yes! Always studying, always updating, upgrading, downloading, seeking, learning, sharpening my skills….and at the same time being still and going with the flow, listening to my heart, trusting my instincts and being the most of myself I can be each day. Both must occur to remain active and receptive.” In the same way that one must continually reevaluate and redefine one’s queerness to remain true to one’s identity in a genuine way, shamans must be careful to maintain and refine their skills.
Given the unique nature of the urban shaman identity, it is not surprising that many urban shamans feel misunderstood by their families. As Sheri bluntly puts it, “My Christian family members think I’m doing the work of the devil.” However, having a shaman in one’s life may be more tolerable when one can reap the benefits of their healing powers. “My friends are extremely supportive probably because they’ve benefitted most from my work over the years.”
Despite difficulties coming out and being accepted as a shaman, many shamans find solace in the shaman community. Surprising as it may be, shamans are everywhere! “In fact, there are more urban shamans out there than one might think! They simply use titles like massage therapist, acupuncturist, yoga instructor, psychic…the healing community is huge in Los Angeles.”
However, even with a strong and supportive community of shamans, there are still moments when identifying as a shaman can be isolating. What is the best way to feel validated in one’s identity? According to Sheri, it is a strong and independent sense of self. “First and foremost, I am my own and only authority, i am the source of all things and all the answers are inside of me. Also, I stand on the shoulders of giants, and seek guidance and training from the giants in my life. And I allow the hundreds of encounters that I have each day to teach me, I observe the world around me and allow animals and clouds and trees to speak into my life.”
His name was Terry, but since David had told me his name was Tyler, I wasn’t sure it was him. In a gruff voice, he murmured, “Nice to meet you” as I shook his firm, calloused hand. So this was the Terry (or Tyler?) that David had constantly talked about. I could now fully picture the stories that David had told me about their fights, vacations, and trips to the bathhouse. Until then, I had imagined billows of steam shrouding Terry’s face whenever David recounted his hedonistic adventures over lunch.
I finally understood why he lied to me about his name; Terry was old and David didn’t want me to judge him. He was definitely older than 35, which is what David had told me he was. He had a square face, short white hair, and big round glasses, similar to the ones that my father wears. The two of them together were an unlikely couple. David was short, 22, Vietnamese-American, and wore bright clothes from Hollister. Terry was a tall, burly white man in his late 60s who looked like he had a few grandchildren, or, at least, he dressed like he did.
I like to think of myself as an open-minded college liberal, but until I actually had a conversation with David and Terry I was quick to judge their relationship. The fact that Terry’s own children were 10 years older than David bothered me. It seemed incredibly creepy and inappropriate, almost bordering on incest. Terry even had a grandson. Surely David was having sex with him just for the paid dinners and free rent. And Terry was just a typical Caucasian sugar daddy (or more accurately, grandpa) with a fetish for Asian twinks. The relationship needed to end.
I texted David for lunch to convince him to dump Terry. In the hour beforehand, I had tried to think of a nicer way of phrasing “You should date someone that doesn’t need to be on Life Alert.” But when I saw David sitting at a table, I also saw Terry sitting next to him. He was talking to a business client, and hearing him negotiate a real estate deal only further emphasized how old he was. From an outsider’s point of view, it looked like David and I were students and Terry was our economics professor.
The conversation started out awkward. I couldn’t concentrate on asking him questions because all I could think about was that these two people were having sex with each other. Terry carried the conversation by asking general questions about where I was from, how many brothers and sisters I had, and what I planned to do after graduating UCLA. What ultimately put me at ease was his complete openness and honesty. He started telling me fascinating details of his life narrative: his childhood in conservative Indiana, his marriage and divorce when he tried to live a heteronormative life, his children’s reactions to him coming out. I wanted to be judgmental but I ended up being engrossed in the dynamics of their relationship.
“I see Terry as a form of stability,” David noted. “He’s much more emotionally and sexually mature than the guys that I’ve dated. Young guys my age just want to have sex, but with Terry I feel like I can have more.”
“Younger guys have a great energy,” Terry had told me. “Yes, I’m attracted to them because of their beauty, but what’s more important is that they have this excitement for life that men within my age group don’t have. I like being able to guide David in his life and see him go through this process of maturation, physically, emotionally, and sexually”
As unconventional as their relationship was, I got the impression that David and Terry genuinely cared about each other. Neither one was taking advantage of the other, as I had previously suspected. So what was my problem with their relationship? Yes, I would never date anyone that old, but did that matter? At the end of the day, David and Terry were the ones that came home to each other. David was in a committed relationship with a man who really loved him. I was in a relationship with masturbation and Haagen-Daasz. (I still am). From that conversation, I gained a profound insight about myself. I was just as prejudiced and judgmental as the homophobes and misogynists that I deplore. The Victorian attitudes toward sexuality brought on by my Catholic upbringing still remained deep within my psyche. As I continue to discover what it means to be queer, I need to remind myself that I am subject to bias just as much as the next person and that for some people, age is just a number.
Social Networking and Sexuality
What has become particularly interesting to me of late is the encounter between sexuality and the internet—in particular, Tumblr. Anonymity has always come as a double-edged sword, but for those of us who located ourselves within the queer community, it has certainly provided a freedom that the face to face world never could. Suddenly, meeting and talking to other queer-identified individuals didn’t require outing one’s self to the outside world; Google and a thorough purging of internet history meant there was room to explore what could not yet be spoken aloud, a vast array of resources to help mend the uncertainty. It offered the sort of validation and promise that had for some of us been largely overshadowed by terror.
In many ways, these possibilities have remained the same; for those who are young and unsure—or old unsure—there are still queer communities, and queer resources, likely more than ever before, to be found online. But more and more, in mainstream internet culture, the slippage between sexualities has become apparent. No one really blinks at finding attractive male and female celebrities fangirled about thoroughly on the same blog; no one really blinks when this fangirling blurs a multitude of exclamation points with sexually charged comments. The Tumblr line between wanting someone and wanting to be someone, particularly in the case of female celebrities, is very rarely kept a binary question.
That isn’t to say that no one lists their sexuality, and that certainly isn’t to say that no one claims it, or has very strong stakes in it—and it also isn’t to say that no attempts are ever made at definitive policing—but even those who identify as, for example, gay or straight, often do not let that wholly confine their focus on a variety of attractive individuals. Some are able to express a kind of fluidity that the outside world is less likely to allow; normally stratified categories have the opportunity to exist in a less pointedly divided world. The concept of sexual “exceptions” made for celebrities has, to some degree, become both more and less relevant, perhaps best exemplified by a Tumblr text post that has earned over a hundred thousand notes, which first began “there’s always that one celebrity that makes you question your celebrity” and ended up circulating with a response that went something like “one? more like 28037434.” Which, despite the hyperbole, would of course make them less exceptions and more a kind of recognition of a dynamic sexuality.
Of course, this recognizable fluidity has also inspired a trend that has emerged before: the idea that labels are irrelevant, and we “shouldn’t” put in identifiable marker upon sexuality, echoes label-free mantras that have come before and will no doubt continue to persist. And though many parts of Tumblr, as many parts of the rest of the internet, are abound with problematic things, it seems to lead to the question of an ideal world. What does it mean, to have such a large part of a social networking that has such express interest in (frequently male, but not solely) same-sex couples? Where does the line blur between support and love and fetishization? What does it mean to inhabit a space defined as straight to the non-online world? What does it mean that girls who may not have a vested interest in queer rights may still post pictures of hot female celebrities and tag them “take me”?
This collision of minority and mainstream culture is fascinating in ways that seem in part to destabilize the boundaries that existed elsewhere—though whether this destabilization foretells a similar kind in the outside world, and whether this destabilization is healthy are both questions without easy answers. The potential for a much more nuanced version of sexuality exists—but does that only exist in a world that dismisses the necessity of a queer community, of queer institutions? It is not as if there will be direct evidence in any immediate future, but it seems important to imagine a world that might exist after some of the dust clears. After all, as Game of Thrones’ Talisa says, “You’re fighting to overthrow a king, and yet you have no plan of what comes afterward?” While prejudice may not be a king, we are certainly striving for a world where the prejudiced are not the ones wearing the crowns—and the integral nature of social media in its outcome will only increase from here. Perhaps it sounds like a better kind of world, perhaps a worse one, but when the next battle reaches an end it will at least be different.
Pretty Little Liars Does It Better Than You Think
It’s true: ABC Family is not a channel especially known for its award-winning shows. And perhaps “Pretty Little Liars” does not from the outset seem a show of particular note: its source is a series not noted for its literary merit, and relegated to the teen section alongside series like Gossip Girl and The Clique.
Still, award nominated though it may not be, Pretty Little Liars offers certain aspects that have eluded many other television shows, specifically those whose demographic is largely teenage: for one, Emily’s struggle to find her sexuality and her subsequent love interests have very rarely felt minimized. There are relevant arguments to be made for the fact that her love interests—and possible “endgame” relationships—have shifted more frequently than the other characters, but she has always felt like a genuine character outside of her sexuality. Her coming out story was incredibly important, and functioned as one of the most crucial acts during the first half of the first season.
Even arguably, more important s the fact that the storylines that followed were often irrelevant to her sexuality; there were storylines relevant to her dating life, and the sex depicted between her and her girlfriend Maya onscreen felt by no means unsatisfactory placed within the context of the onscreen sex between the other girls’ boyfriends, but her sexuality never became her singular, most defining characteristic.
There became some debate more recently regarding Emily’s storyline when she began, seemingly, to return a boy’s interest in her, after someone very close to her had died. It’s not for no reason that there was concern over a trope that had been used, time and time again, in the representation lesbians, though Emily was still reeling with a grief that she seemed able to share only wholly with this boy, who also professed a strong connection with the victim. This arc concludes with her shoving a knife into his chest and killing him in self-defense: quite literally, Emily stabs this frustrating, historically repressive trope, and keeps herself alive on her own terms.
The fact of the matter is that the backdrop of the TV show revolves around someone—or perhaps multiple someones—who initially begins by the show by sending threatening texts regarding secrets they had told no one but their now-dead friend, and progresses into a psychotic stalker capable, seemingly, of existing anywhere at any time and quite possibly of murder. And it is partly for this reason that, in the end, the storylines of the individual characters give way to the storyline at the heart of the show, which belongs to four girls trying desperately not only to come out on the other side sane but to discover the identity of their torturer and stop him, or her, or them.
At the very center of this show, then, are four best girl friends who may, in the end, be able to rely only on each other. At every turn, the possibility of betrayal looms large—in the form of their friends, significant others, the town police, and even their parents. Though they have offered up pieces of their secret to other people, at the end of the day they are the ones with all of the knowledge, capable of sharing it only between each other—both as a mean of protecting other people and of protecting themselves.
At the core are four girls who are all very, very different people, and who love each other very, very genuinely. This is not the story of frenemies; this is not the story of rivals, or competitors, or “catfights.” This is the story of four girls who may be each other’s only hope, and who would—and have—gone to extreme lengths in order to protect one another. And finding that on TV is, unfortunately, a startling kind of treasure.
Demonstrating in Drag: Embodying the Student Body Politiqueer
Cyrus Sinai, clad in skirt, blouse, and cardigan, stands on Bruin Walk where he and other members of UCLA’s Queer Alliance passed out the UCPD write-up of a hate crime reported to have been committed near campus.
Monday at noon, students began filling UCLA’s LGBT Campus Resource Center, many dressed partially or entirely in drag, some adding finishing strokes of mascara to already brightly dolled- up faces, some making slogan-emblazoned cloth squares to pin on themselves and others.
These students were partaking in UCLA’s Queer Alliance-hosted demonstration to bring awareness of recent campus sexist and homophobic hate crimes to the general student body. Jasmine Williams, Queer Alliance’s Co-External Chair, said the motivations for the demonstration came from “conversations we’ve had with trans students about how being gender non-conforming hasn’t made them feel safe,” and more immediately, an alleged hate crime reported to have occurred on Gayley Avenue in January, in which two men allegedly threatened at knife-point a bisexual-identifying student who was wearing eyeliner, shouting at him, “Die, faggot, die.”
Eric Adams (left) and Dafne Luna (right) speak to those gathered in Bruin Plaza.
At 1 p.m., the group of about 25 students moved from the LGBT Center to Bruin Plaza, where they distributed the UCPD-issued description of January’s hate crime. Eric Adams, chair of BlaQue, and Dafne Luna, chair of La Familia, (UCLA student organizations serving queer identified African American and Chican@/Latin@ students, respectively) spoke of eradicating campus misogyny, transphobia, racism, and patriarchy. They underscored the gendered nature of January’s hate crime, as well as previous campus hate crimes, such as a November incident in which a Vietnamese Student Union sign was vandalized with a note stating “asian women R Honkie white-boy worshipping Whores.”
To this end, organizers encouraged demonstrators to rally in drag or wear cloth patches printed with their protest message, calling attention to the way in which clothing choice and surface appearance are highly political in heteronormative, rigidly gendered environments — such as UCLA and Westwood. The patches displayed by assemblers variously proclaimed the sexual identities of their wearers, reiterated the brazen logic of homophobic discourse (e.g. “Attack me, I’m a faggot”), stressed gender’s social construction, and celebrated non-normative gender expression.
Demonstrators made and wore “Patches for Equality/Support” to raise awareness of the challenges faced by gender-nonconforming students.
Such theatrics, which organizers deployed to emphasize the spectacular nature of gender, also worked to attract a crowd, as the initial group of demonstrators swelled in size to about 45 as passersby joined the assembly in Bruin Plaza.
Scenes from Monday’s demonstration.
At 2 p.m., demonstrators returned to the LGBT Center for an education and debrief discussion for both those in Queer Alliance as well as members of the campus at large.
One queer-identified first year, who wished to remain anonymous, said that she was attracted to the rainbow flag at the rally and decided to join in. Attending the discussion after the rally was the first time she had ever been into the LGBT Center or been in contact with any of UCLA’s queer student services, citing shyness and not being completely “out” as reasons for this. Seeing queer identified people acting queer in the middle of campus made her feel more comfortable and supported on campus.
Speculating on the effects of UCLA having more rallies of this nature, she said, “I’d be more open [about my sexuality]… every queer would be a lot more open about how they are, and there would be more acceptance.”
However, not every person who saw the rally was supportive. “I gave flyers to the people who I thought would be the least likely to accept them, so basically the ‘bro-est’ looking guys. They vehemently were like, ‘No, I don’t want anything that would associate me with [the demonstration.]’ People were really uncomfortable,” said Cyrus Sinai, a Queer Alliance board member Cyrus Sinai who was on Bruin Walk during the rally handing out information about January’s hate crime.
“It makes me really sad. In this environment, if people are going to act like that even when I’m just trying to flyer, it puts everything into context as to why these hate crimes happen. I just think that how people reacted today is reflective of how it is,” Sinai said.
Sinai flyers on Bruin Walk.
For Sinai, it is for this reason that protests that incorporate bold statements and queer theatrics are increasingly necessary. “I think people need to be pushed out of their comfort zones. People need to be approached by people in dresses with signs that say ‘Attack me, I’m a faggot’ because it puts them on the spot and makes them think about this shit happening. Because it happens.”
Photo-essay: Vietnamese Culture Night
The 33rd annual Vietnamese Culture Night produced by the Vietnamese Student
Union presents Unrequited: Đường Một Chiều, which translates to ‘one-way road’
or ‘one way traffic’. The show challenges the, often conservative, Vietnamese ideas
of gender roles and perception of sexuality.
Opening scene: Daniel (right) is frustrated by his family’s constant nag of finding a
wife. His brother Justin (left) insists on helping accelerate the process.
The brothers are successful in finding a future wife (Thuy) for Daniel through an
online mail-order bride site in Vietnam.
Upon the mail-order bride’s arrival, Daniel makes quick work of proposing to Thuy.
There are no questions asked because both have hidden agendas.
Meanwhile, Daniel’s traditional, Catholic mother is praying that her son can
eventually find a girl. She is very persistent on having a daughter-in-law.
Daniel presents Thuy to his parents, and they are ecstatic of the new addition to the
While Thuy gets accustomed to her new home, Daniel does martial arts with his
close friend, Kat. The audience is introduced with a small glimpse of Daniel’s
feminine side by way of his lack in fighting skills.
Thuy seeks a job at Mary’s (Daniel’s confidante) marketing firm, where she is
introduced to Wes, the flamboyant secretary, whom Thuy looks at for guidance.
At home, Justin’s flirtatious girlfriend hits on Daniel, which spurs more hints at his
discomfort with the opposite sex.
Fast forward: Daniel lies to Thuy about being out with a buddy, when he’s really out
with Wes at Fierce, a gay club. There, Daniel is lured by another man.
After catching him at Fierce, Thuy confronts Daniel and his homosexuality in front
his mother. Daniel is instantly defended by his mother because she refuses to
attribute her son (of God) to homosexuality.
After brawl of words and slaps between Thuy and Daniel’s mom, Daniel reaches his
tipping point, “Mom, I’m gay.” This momentous scene leaves his parents speechless.
After processing what her son had admitted to, Daniel’s mother decided that she did
not want his sinful behavior in her Catholic household.
Back at work, Thuy is shunned by Mary and Wes for outing Daniel and ruining his
family. Thuy is puzzled that no one supports her, considering she was also cheated.
Justin tries to remind his parents that Daniel was still their son and he had worked
so hard to please them by becoming a thriving doctor.
Mary pays a visit to Daniel’s mother and confesses that she knew of Daniel’s
homosexuality all along because he always came over to vent his agony. Daniel’s
mother is astounded that this secret was kept away from her.
Daniel seeks comfort by hearing his two friends’ coming out stories. They assure
him that everything would get better, and life would resume better now that he was
lifted of a burdening secret.
Daniel’s father tries to reason with his mother in hopes of bringing his son back into
the family. She remains stern in her decision, and shows no intentions of acceptance.
Despite tension with his mother, Daniel finds acceptance and love from his father.
After Thuy’s suicide attempt, Daniel tries to make amends. They conclude that
they were both unhappy because they attempted to live a forged life: Daniel with
his homosexuality and Thuy with her gold digging agenda. Both lived life trying to
please their families but, in the end, forgot themselves.
Daniel’s mother performs a monologue dwelling on his childhood and trying to
make sense of where things turned for the worse. She can’t comprehend how his
Catholic upbringing resulted in homosexuality.
Daniel’s mother turns her back on her pleading son- a harsh reality for many queers.
At their departure, Thuy and Daniel agreed that they were destined to marry in
order to find their real identity. They both ended with someone new to confide in.
Follow up from the director, John Le:
The Vietnamese Culture Night was my chance to project the idea that we are the youth, brothers,
sisters, and children of the Vietnamese American community who all support one another
regardless of sexual preference.
I personally know how it feels to be a closeted male. Portraying Daniel came very naturally to
me. Even so, I knew if I advertised the culture night as having queer themes, the audience would
potentially come in with a negative predisposition. Thus, I let it be a secret so that the audience
could react naturally. From then, it was up to them to decide what stance they’d take after the
I wanted the audience, the majority of whom are conservative, to open their minds for just one
night. I wanted to challenge their ideas of gender roles and perception of sexuality. I also wanted
the queer/allies of the audience to keep on fighting the good fight and staying by each others
sides. It’s so important to have a strong support base to keep you going.
With regards to the ending, I don’t consider it a “non-happy ending” perse but rather a realistic
one. A non-happy ending sounds intentional and for the intensive purposes of being different. In
reality, things like this happen all the time. Daniel’s situation is one of the many possible extremes
that are a reality for queer folks.
Having the culture night occur on Martin Luther KIng Jr. Day resonates his dream
of tolerance and acceptance. That’s all I personally hope for one day.
Daniel’s Father-Kyle Nguyen
Daniel’s Mother-Jenny Bao Ngoc