This semester, I was able to create my own course content with my blog in Mining The University. My blog definitely showed off my personality and interests. Each week is filled with GORGEOUS selfies, kisses, and fashion. My visuals were much more than proof of attendance, but rather proof of glamour. I had a lot of fun taking visuals for documentation. Even my logo to my blog has my lipstick stain on it. I tried to make the feel of my blog consistent with my artwork and personality, which I do with anything school related. Even in high school I would get in trouble from my English teachers for kissing the bibliography of my papers with colored lipstick, or spraying my research papers with beautiful perfumes. POINT IS I’m fucking fabulous. Although I attended a small amount of the excavations I posted, there was a content thread that had surfaced throughout my blog posts this semester: Queer Issues. Altogether, nine of the lectures I went to had to do with gay/lesbian issues or struggles of minorities in today’s society. It all started in February when I went to a lecture as a celebration of Black LGBT History Month. Keith Boykin was a troubled child, but always had a dream of getting into politics. He talked about his journey and hardships of being a gay black male in the political office and how he became so successful, eventually working for presidents. After this came a discussion on Race, Gender, and Body Image in the media at the Women’s Resource Center. This hot topic really started a stir, especially with me in the room, because a lot of the people probably put the blame on myself, and other fashion photographers, for body image issues in America. I’m not shoving your finger down your throat, do NOT blame me. Anyway, the discussion took me by surprise and became extremely heated for me when I rebutted that body image is more than just people with an eating disorder. There are much more complex issues with body image, especially for transgendered folk. How can you tell someone to love their body when they feel they are born in the wrong one? This topic interests me because I try to change what society thinks is beautiful with my fashion and beauty photography. I don't exactly fit society's mold of a man and everything he needs to be. However, I am a man, and I like being a man. I don not want a sex change. Nonetheless, I do wear makeup and I do fashion. In the gay community, there are different categories of gays. Transexuals are individuals who have had the sex change. Transvestites are men who dress in women's clothing for sexual pleasure/fetish reasons. Drag queens are men who dress in women's clothes for performance purposes. I don't fit any of these categories. I'm a man who just likes to wear makeup and fashion. With my photography, I push the androgyny because I want to create a category for us men who like to dress this way just because that's how we want to dress/feel ourselves in. I know there are a lot of gays like me out there, and I know they are just as confused and don't know what to call themselves either. And if you don't have anyone to compare yourself to or call yourself to make your feel more "normal", that can lead to an identity crisis. I think this lecture, although it was more a heated debate, was the most relevant and logical to my current artwork and interests. After this week, I went to a lecture exploring Indigenous women's organizing. Even though I went on accident, again MOLLY KROHE I can kick you. I surprisingly found that it still interested me in a way, even though I didn’t expect it. I enjoy learning about other minorities as well...not just us LGBT folk. The thing I found most interesting about this lecture was the issue of Indigenous feminism. Any indian man who marries a white settler can move onto the reserve. In contrast, any indian woman who marries into a white settler must leave the reserve and move away with the settler. These three women try to rework what gender means in indigenous culture. This is about women, and there is nothing the men can do to operationalize it. The next lecture I went to involving my interest in queer issues was a Scandinavian Movie Night showing “Patrik 1.5”. This movie was a dramatic comedy where a gay couple thinks they’ve adopted a 1.5 year old child. When the child arrives, it quickly becomes apparent that someone misplaced the decimal point on the age of the adoption papers. Patrik was a 15 year old boy. If that wasn't enough to set them over the edge, the boy is extremely homophobic and not happy about being adopted by gay men. I'm really glad I came to this event. Goran and Sven have their troubles, but their troubles are not that different from those of a heterosexual couple if they were going through the same situation. I also related to the parts of the film where the couple felt shunned outsiders of their new community. I feel that way quite often in this shitpot of a world. Most importantly, I found Sven inspiring. He does get a bad wrap because he left his husband, but he delivers a message about the strength of love and the power individuals have to change. Later in the semester, I went to a gender women’s studies class that my friend is in called Lesbian and Queer Media Culture. This class, we were given two readings about gay life in America that were extremely interesting. One was "The Sixth Man" by Jess Stearn, the other "Gay New York" by George Chauncey. We discussed the readings and compared how gay life in the 20’s was much worse than now, and how society has come a long way. We aren’t finished yet, but have improved nonetheless. Next came a lecture I attended with Lucas Brooks, who educated us on all of the LGBT apps and dating websites to meet men. This event I didn’t find as interesting. Another I did love was the lecture where guest speaker Isis King from America’s Next Top Model came and visited the LGBT community here at the university. She talked to us about her journey going through life as a transgendered male and her struggle in the eyes of fame. The week after, I attended a lecture by David Yost, the original Blue Power Ranger. He spoke about his life and hardships of being a queer actor in the 80’s. For my final lecture, I went to a free kitchen lunch festival for the Sikh faith. They talked about their religion and stereotypes given to them after 9-11. As a minority faith, they are welcoming to all walks and beliefs of life. As you can see, I went to TONS of lectures that coincided with my interests, personality, and lifestyle that have helped inspire new artwork for me. Other random lectures I went to consisted of gun violence, hypnotism, food and drink hazards, and other random interests, but queer issues were definitely my top choice.
There was one lecture that did disappoint me, even more than the event about gay apps and dating sites. A brownbag lecture about social personality shocked me a bit and came off a little racist. Kisha Jones, a black woman, gave an entire lecture about a theory called Adverse Impact. Adverse Impact is the selection ratio of any race, gender, or sexuality of any minority group getting jobs in America. She didn't talk about anything but black vs. white hirings, and to me it seemed pretty ignorant. Her research and points were inaccurate and unfair to make any sort of hypothesis. She defended her research by stating that growing up, a black child develops a racialized schemata and bias of jobs Then, they age into race-based stereotypes from media and their surroundings in America. After this, they conclude their biases. I also thought that was a load of bullshit. We are all people, made up of the same DNA. We all need jobs, and we'll all get them if qualified.
My creation of this course has allowed me to research myself and my interests more as a gay man. A lot of times I feel like the university doesn’t have many places for us to go, but this class has forced me to find them. I think I’ve made my mark on the campus with trying to educate the heterosexual community on gays. Whether it be from interviews in champaign magazines and newspapers, or just having a conversation with a frat boy in a bar, the heterosexual community in Champaign knows about me and what I stand for. Mining for events that are in correlation to my interests has educated me and has given me the opportunity to make more friends like myself.
In conclusion, I found this class more educating than a lot of the other classes I’ve taken in the past four years here. Not only do you get to to learn, but you have the opportunity to pick and choose what you learn about which is the best way of learning in my opinion. Each week, I’d look at the title of every student’s blog post. If it sounded interesting to me, I’d read it. I looked forward to posts by other people each week. I’m going to miss updating this blog and reading the thoughts of others. I hope a lot of you continue to document your thoughts through writing and art. I know I will.
Love you. Mean It.