Remembering My Hat

29th May 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 16:41
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Some largely unrelated (except for the seminar theme) notes from the LGBT Lives seminar I attended in Edinburgh yesterday. Mostly not summarising the papers given, just noting the things it made me think about.

Looking around the audience – how interesting that very short haircuts have ended up as one of the common markers of queerness. I can see why this is so for women, given the historic and ongoing connections between dissident sexuality and dissident gender, but why don’t gay men stereotypically have long hair? (There are, of course, other historic and ongoing reasons why gay men stereotypically have very short hair too, but I was suddenly amused at the idea of adding a couple of feet of hair to most of the men present).

Elizabeth Price (Hull?)
An example of a gay man who wasn’t out to his father before his father developed dementia. The endlessnes of the coming out process when you have to do it before lunch (‘Carl’s coming round later.’ ‘Who’s Carl?’ ‘My boyfriend’ ‘What?!’ etc.), after lunch (‘Carl’s going to be a bit late.’ ‘Who’s Carl?’ ‘My boyfriend’ ‘What?!’ etc.), before tea (‘Ah, that’ll be Carl now.’ ‘Who’s Carl?’ ‘My boyfriend’ ‘What?!’ etc.) and again before bed  (‘Right dad, Carl and I are going home now.’ ‘Who’s Carl?’ ‘My boyfriend’ ‘What?!’ etc.). This interests me as a further problematisation of the notion of coming out.

She also had an example of a MTF transperson with dementia living in a care home, who had forgotten that she had transitioned. The care staff thought they were doing the right thing by maintaining her female dress and appearance, but were getting into issues of consent, because s/he now thought of herself as a man again. To my mind this raises interesting ethical issues about the rights that people’s past selves have over their current selves, especially when those past selves are hard won. And also throws into the spotlight the ways in which all people with dementia are policed by their carers, being made to dress (reasonably) ‘sensibly’ and gender appropriately. It must be hard in practice to judge when you are going over the line from ‘appropriately maintaining someone’s dignity’ to ‘making them look as other people expect, so that they and I don’t get judged adversely’.

My question/comment/collaborative answer with Liz Price and Stephen Pugh (Salford) – I’m currently obsessed with normative life courses, and how people negotiate around them when they don’t have them. What can we find out about the stages and features of a normative lesbian or gay life course from the disruption to biography of becoming a midlife carer? Respondents felt re-closeted by becoming a carer, and cut off from their ‘gay world’. Perhaps this tells us that being (largely) out is one of the features of a normative modern L or G life course.

Your sense of other people’s biographies and the life course trajectory you thought family members or friends were on. Can you be hurt by the disruption to someone else’s lifecourse? Not by the disruptive event (e.g. onset of chronic illness, classically, see Mike Bury article) but by the disruption to normative expectations? Yes, of course you can, but I hadn’t thought of distress from other people’s biographical disruption before. Seems obvious now. Wonder if anyone’s written about this?

Eric Anderson (Univ of Bath) paper on young straight and gay male athletes.’
In his fieldwork, he finds no homophobia among young athletes. Instinctively, I’m not entirely persuaded, but obviously I don’t know anything about the topic and haven’t seen the data. My suspicion is that there may be no outright expressions of hostility, at least when he’s around (it is ethnography, so he is around a lot), but I would guess that there is still a process of otherising. Which I suppose, could be categorised not as homophobia but as heteronormativity. Either way, it was cheering to hear him talking about how much better it is now than 20 years ago.

One of his conclusions was that this lack of homophobia means that straight young men are more able to display a wider range of gender behaviours because they are not constantly warding off the possibility of being gay. I find that very encouraging.

But, he notes, it doesn’t work like this for young women because one lesbian pollutes the whole team as lesbian – being athletic is already suspicious gender behaviour for women, whereas for men it’s not, so it doesn’t.

Various speakers highly recommended the ‘Hearts and Minds’ report on the Scottish Govt website. In particular, it was identified as having a really good definition of transgender. I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, but plan to.

Tim Hopkins (Equality Network)
In the Netherlands they have civil partnerships and marriage for all. About 10% of different sex couples opt for civil partnership and 25% of same sex, even though they are legally almost identical to marriage.

There’s a spirituality group for transpeople in Edinburgh called Transendence. What a genius name! They were involved in producing a dvd with St Mungo’s museum of religious life. Unfortunately, there was a technological problem at the conference, but I’d like to get hold of a copy.

Lindsay River also recommended the Regard website – group for disabled lgbt people.’ Particularly their current campaign for ‘Sue’s law’ about nominating next-of-kin (I haven’t looked yet). Sue’s story also there.

(Posted from a train speeding through the Lake District. Ah the joys of modern life.)


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