Saturday, October 30, 2010

Studying LesBians: Fun with academia –The Dyke Diagnostic Manual

Studying Lesbians is a monthly column in which I look at recent and not so recent research involving lesbians. This month I want to talk about an article I saw in the Journal of Lesbian studies.

A few months back I told you about this awesome scientific journal, the Journal of Lesbian studies, in which real researchers and professors publish articles about lesbianism. As a researcher and a writer, getting paid to write about research on lesbians is about as cool as it gets.

I read the Journal of Lesbian studies regularly, trying to keep track of interesting research being conducted. While looking through some of the articles from the last few issues, I came across a piece entitled A new classification system for lesbians: the Dyke diagnostic manual. The title grabbed my attention and I was both intrigued and appalled.

From the title and the abstract it looked like someone had attempted to write a diagnostic manual especially aimed at lesbians. For the non psychologists among you, most psychologists and psychiatrists use the DSM manual, which describes the most common disorders, ranging from depression to Schizophrenia. The thought that lesbians have their own special set of disorders or need a new manual is kind of offensive.

When I actually started reading the article, I soon noticed that this wasn't a serious scientific paper, but simply author Dr. Michele J. Eliason, having some fun with lesbian stereotypes.

You don't see people in academia making fun of their profession often. In fact most people I've come across take their work way too seriously, so it was a nice surprise to find this article.

Reading through it, it did make me wonder just how accurate these lesbian stereotypes are. To me the list came across as a list of stereotypes I have read about a lot, but I never actually seen in real life.

It might me a generational thing or a cultural thing, but hardly any of these supposed disorders sound familiar, not when it comes to me or most lesbians I know.

Let me share a few "lesbian disorders" with you and please let me know if you feel they are accurate and/or you think they're funny to be considered lesbian disorders.

The supposed manual is divided into many parts, the first one is entitled lesbian fetishes. A fetish is getting sexually aroused by something that's not normally thought of as sexual.

For example, some people might have a fetish about feet or leather. Eliason suggests lesbian fetishes come in 4 categories: the femi-feline fetish, the dog park cruising zone, lesbian teddies and lesbian polyanimalry

The first two categories refer to lesbians who are too obsessed by their cats and dogs. I have heard so much about all lesbians loving cats and/or dogs, but in real life I have never really come across it.

At least not to the extend where lesbians actually think of their pets as their children. Do you know any pet obsessed lesbians?

The third category refers to being too obsessed by or having too big a collection of stuffed animals. The author illustrates this with the most unbelievable story ever, of lesbian friends of hers inviting her over to dinner where they had set the table for their teddy bears as well. Although if you're reading this and it sounds familiar, go for it. Teddy bears need to eat too!

The second part of the manual is called lesbian celebrity groupies, for which two examples are given: Rachel Maddow and the L word. I like both Rachel Maddow and the L word (ok at some point I started to love to hate the latter), but I can't see how one would become obsessed with either.

Do you find yourself becoming obsessed with lesbian celebrities or watching lesbian TV series over and over again?

We have now arrived at the third part of the manual, where things get a little weird, but also strangely familiar. This part is called lesbian ex-lover fusion syndrome. Eliason refers to the strange phenomena where lesbians turn their ex-girlfriends into their best friends.

It is always possible that after a relationship has been over for a while, you become friends with this person again. But to keep all your ex-girlfriends around as friends, or even have them as best friends, just feels wrong. Or am I being too judgmental?

Then there's a few other categories I don't really relate to, including lesbian mother superior, which is supposed to refer to someone in a group of lesbians who makes sure everyone follows "the rules".

This includes real creepy examples (wearing 100% cotton and never buying sex toys shaped like a penis) of the rules that applied to when the author came out in the 1980's.

I have never understood group behaviour or the need for rules or conformism. The way I see it, being a lesbian just means that you are into women. That's all. What do you think, am I right or do you have your own set of "lesbian rules" you live by?

The article then goes on about obsessions with things like going to brunch and partying, neither of which I think are specific lesbian things. The only familiar thing among the remaining lesbian disorders is the much talked about U-Haul syndrome. I don't think it's as prevalent as some people claim, but I do know of some lesbians who moved in with each other after just a few weeks.

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All in all, a fun article in a place where you don't really expect it, I just wish I could relate to the examples a little more. Do you feel the same or can you relate to the "lesbian disorders"? Do you think their should be more humour in academia? Let us know in the comments.

This post was first published on eurout.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cartoon: Rainbow Duo - 1 - Lost in Corn

This is the first in a series of cartoons created by my girlfriend and I. The Rainbow Duo shows the adventures of 2 gay stick figures in love, which is loosely inspired by our real life experiences.

In the first cartoon you can see what happened when we/they decided to go for a walk a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lists Are Hot: 11 Great lesBian movies you should watch

Lists Are Hot is a monthly column for all those that love lists. This month I want to share with you some of my favourite lesBian movies.

After talking about the worst lesBian movies last month, I thought I'd look on the positive side this time and tell you which lesBian movies I think are really great.

Over the years I have seen many, many lesBian movies and even though some might have been bad, boring or in other ways disappointing, some were actually really enjoyable to watch.

This is a very subjective list, so feel free to disagree. In no particular order, here are 11 lesBian movies (11, because I couldn't decide which one to leave out) I think you should watch:

11. Itty Bitty Titty Committee (US, 2007)

I really like Itty Bitty Titty Committee, because it's just a nice, fun lesbian movie. There's not nearly enough lesbian movies out there that are just fun. It has a great plot, likeable characters, great acting, a fun soundtrack and it stars lots of actors that I like (Carly Pope, Clea Duvall, Melanie Lynskey).

It tells the story of Anna, a young, shy girl who doesn’t really know what kind of excitement life has to offer. She comes into contact with a group of radical feminist women who run a little guerrilla group called Clits in Action (CIA).

They try to show everything that is wrong (read women unfriendly) with the world by sneaking around at night and defacing public and private property with spray painted messages against the established. It really changes her life in the way that you can only be changed when you are still young.

Even though the topic of the movie is rather serious and perhaps the message a little heavy handed, I thought IBTC was a fun watch. It is a great portrayal of what it must be like to be part of a movement like this.

 

10. All over me (US, 1997)

A movie that definitely cannot be described as light and fun is All over me. This teen movie from the 1990's shows the harsh and depressing reality of being a gay teen, including one gay boy actually getting killed.

What I love about this movie, is that amidst all that homophobia and hard life stuff, there's a beautiful, realistic love story. Or not even a love story, just two young girls realising they really like each other. Claude is madly in love with her straight, best friend Ellen, but throughout the movie she ends up falling for a girl who actually likes her back, Lucy (played by a much younger, very cute Leisha Hailey).

 

9. Heavenly creatures (New Zealand, 1994)

Heavenly Creatures tells the story of two teenage girls who live in a kind of fantasy world and have a very close friendship. Slowly this friendship evolves in something more.

Their parents aren't two pleased about their relationship, and in order to be able to stay together they decide to kill one of their mothers. It's kind of creepy, even more so if you realize this film is based on a true story.

The main characters are played by Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynsky, when they were still young and innocent looking, and the movie is directed by Peter Jackson (from Lord of the Rings). It's a really good movie that I recommend you check out, unless the murder part puts you off.

 

8. The Edge of Heaven (Auf der anderen Seite) (Germany, 2007)

My next pick is not a typical lesbian movie, but it does feature a prominent, but matter of fact, lesbian relationship. Auf der anderen Seite (the Edge of heaven) is about the differences between everyday life in Germany and Turkey. It tells the story of Nejat who after his father dies, goes to Turkey to search for Ayten, the daughter of his father’s prostitute girlfriend.

What he doesn’t know is that Ayten is a political activist who has already left Turkey and is currently in Germany. In Germany Ayten meets Lotte, a lovely German do-gooder, who after discovering Ayten has no money or a place to stay, offers her to move in with her and her mother. Lotte’s mother isn’t too pleased by this, and I cannot really blame her.

Quickly a strong bond forms between Lotte and Ayten and the two of them embark on a relationship. Then Ayten is arrested and deported back to Turkey where she ends up in prison. Lotte decides to follow her to Turkey and try to get her released.

This is a really good quality movie that just happens to have a lesbian plotline. An added bonus if you will, as Auf der anderen Seite is a great and interesting movie even without the lesbian storyline. It’s not a light movie and it might make you want to shout at your screen a few times, but I promise it will not leave you indifferent.

 

7. Chutney Popcorn (US, 1999)

As much as I complain about the lesbian pregnancy storylines in movies, there is actually one movie on the subject I really like.

Chutney Popcorn tells the story about lesbian Reena, who's sister Rita can't have children and she then offers to have a baby for her. Of course her girlfriend isn't very happy about this, especially when the sister decides she no longer wants a baby.

To make the story a little more interesting, the Indian background of Reena and Rita plays a big part in this film, including specific traditions and lots of yummy food. It nicely shows that no matter what your family is like, we all want the same thing; for us and our loved ones to be happy.

What I like most about this movie is that it's just a really nice movie and even though the subject might seem a little far fetched, the relationships portrayed in the movie seem very realistic.

 

6. But I'm a Cheerleader (US, 1999)

This movie is a parody on so-called sexual reorientation camps and is probably not everyone's cup of tea. It is at times all a bit much, but I really like the idea behind it and, more importantly, I think the love story between Megan and Graham is very cute.

In But I"m a cheerleader, Megan gets send to a sexual reorientation camp by her friends and parents to be made "normal". Of course, the sexual reorientation camp is the gayest thing you have ever seen. Even if she wasn't convinced yet she's a lesbian, the cute Graham (played by Clea Duvall) soon makes her realise she's never going to be straight.

This movie was produced by Jamie Babbitt, who also worked on Itty Bitty Titty Committee.

 

5. If these walls could talk 2 (US, 2000)

If these walls could talk 2 consists of 3 different 30 minute stories about being a lesbian, each in a different time. The first is set in the fifties, the second in the seventies and the final part is set in the nineties.

It shows very nicely how far we've come, and also how lesbianism is something of all times, but each time has it's specific struggles and themes.

I have watched the DVD of If these walls could talk many times and I have to say I love all parts for different reasons. The first part is heart breaking, the second part is very hot and the third part paints a great pictures of a modern lesbian couple.

Here's a scene from the second part, starring Michelle Williams and Cloe Sevigny:

 

4. Unveiled (Fremde Haut) (Germany, 2005)

Unveiled is about an Iranian woman named Fariba who has to flee her country to avoid prosecution. Fariba tries to seek asylum in Germany, but she is denied residency. To avoid being send back to Iran and risk being killed for being a lesbian, she takes on the identity of an Iranian man from the refugee camp.

Now Fariba finds herself living as a man in a small town in Germany. She knows the only way she will be able to stay in the country long term is if she can arrange for some fake identity papers. Fake papers cost a lot of money and therefore she finds herself a job in a cabbage factory.

It is here where she meets Anne, a beautiful blonde German woman who catches her eye from day one. They get on famously and slowly fall for each other. Of course, it is only a matter of time until Anne will find out Fariba’s true identity.

Fremde Haut is about the harsh reality of life as a queer Iranian, as well as the hard life of asylum seekers in general. Yet at the same time, it is also a love story. It makes you think, about life and about how we as a society decide to treat other people. Bust most of all, it makes you realize that love is love no matter what form it takes.

 

3. Tipping the velvet (UK, 2002)

What can I say about Tipping the velvet that hasn't been said before? I discovered the adaptation of Sarah Waters' novel of the same name by accident one night on the BBC back in 2002. It was a very pleasant surprise.

Tipping the Velvet makes historic dramas fun, for me mainly because of the lesbian element. Tipping the velvet tells the interesting life story of Nan King, from Oyster girl to rent boy to theatre star. More importantly, it has some really hot sex scenes.

 

2. Imagine me and you (UK, 2005)

Imagine me and you tells the story of Rachel (played by Piper Perabo) who is about to marry her long term boyfriend Heck, whom she has always thought of as the love of her life. That’s when she meets Luce (played by the lovely Lena Heady) and everything changes.

Rachel and Luce immediately hit it off and become really good friends. Soon it becomes clear that their feelings for one another go much deeper than mere friendship.

Rachel starts to question her sexuality and soon she will have to make some tough choices between her familiar life with her husband and a chance of happiness with Luce.

What I love about this film, besides that it’s just a really good romantic comedy, is that it has a very prominent lesbian storyline, yet the storyline is treated as part of the movie and it’s not the entire movie. Moreover, I like that the subject of being gay isn’t treated as something awful or problematic.

 

1. Show me love (Fucking Amal) (Sweden, 1998)

My number one pick has to be Show me love, simply because it's such a cute teen love story. This Swedish film is about two seemingly different teenage girls who go to the same high school in a little town called Amal and end up falling in love with each other. Agnes is a shy girl with not many friends and a huge crush on Elin the most popular girl in school.

Elin gets dared into kissing Agnes, then runs off laughing, leaving Agnes both humiliated and heartbroken. In fact, in true dramatic lesbian teen fashion she decides things are so bad that she is going to kill herself.

She is all set with a set of razors in her hand and depressing music playing in the background, when Elin shows up again to apologize for kissing her.

Soon the girls realize that they quite like each other, but before they are ready to openly admit this to each other, themselves, and to the world, they have to overcome a few obstacles, including boys, family members and the nightmare that is called high school.

Fucking Amal is not just a love story, even though watching these girls figuring out they like each other is one of the cutest things I have ever seen. It’s a movie about finding out you are queer in high school, or perhaps it’s just a movie about what it’s like to be in high school: trying to fit in, trying to figure out who you are, and of course there is lots of self-created drama.

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So what do you think of my favourite lesBian movies? Do you like my choices or not at all? Which movies are missing from the list?

This post was first published on eurOut.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

People are shallow: most popular blog posts

Since a few months Blogger offers you some stats about your blog. This includes how many visitors, page views etc. you receive in a given day, week or month. It also tells you where those visitors are from and how they found your blog. It's quite a nifty tool, and one I admit to looking at quite regularly.

Over the years I have blogged about tons of different subjects, serious topics, LGBT issues, favourite TV shows, books, music videos, personal accounts, holiday adventures and the list goes on and on.

Obviously, some of these posts are more popular than others, but I was quite amused when I looked at the 10 most popular blog posts of all time (or since Blogger started keeping track of them). To sum it up: People are very shallow. Meaning, anything to do with hot women is almost guaranteed to be popular.

Don't believe me? Let's have a look at that top 10. Here are my 10 blog posts that you all viewed the most:

10. Because you're hot: Lena Heady (June 13, 2009).

LenaHeadey10Hot100-2008-lena-headey2

I used to regularly write posts about women I thought were hot. One of those was Lena Heady and people still find this post (mainly though Google) when looking for either Lena Heady or hot women in general.

9. Because you're hot: Clea Duvall (July 25, 2009).

Slightly more popular than my post on Lena Heady is the one about Clea Duvall. I'm not sure this reflects actually popularity or just the fact that it's harder to find posts on Clea Duvall.

8. Because you're hot: Christina Cox (August 8, 2009).

Yes, another Because you're hot entry, this time about Christina Cox. It seems I spent a lot of time writing about hot women in the summer of 2009.

7. AfterEllen's Hot 100 (June 2, 2008).

AfterEllen's annual Hot 100 used to be, and still is, a very popular list that many women and men try to look at, over and over again. Both on my blog and on eurOut, we keep getting page views for posts about this list.

6. Top hot butches list: My picks (June 30,2009).

NatashaKai610xIt's interesting this post does even better than all the previous ones I mentioned. It's equally fascinating to me to read back all these posts about women I wrote. Yet another one from the summer of 2009. I guess I shared the preoccupation with women with most of my readers.

5. Lists are Hot: 10 European movie actress who have played gay or should (April 21, 2010).

Lists are hot are very popular columns, both on my blog and on eurOut where I wrote them for originally. They are guaranteed to get a lot of page views, but some are even more popular than others. I guess a lot of people out there are wondering about those actresses who have played gay.

4. The 100 hottest women from Germany according to Bild magazine (May 25, 2009).

Another post that was originally published on eurOut. Do you see the pattern yet? People are shallow. Anything with hot in the title does well, especially if the hotness refers to women.

3. Lists are Hot: 10 European lesBian TV couples (January 11, 2010).

Another Lists are hot entry. I'm not sure why the TV couples are more popular than the actress one, perhaps it's just because this one was posted earlier in the year and, thus, has had more time to accumulate page views.

2. How I WANT the final episode of the L Word to be (March 6, 2009).

the-l-wordThis is the only post that stands out a little. Granted, indirectly it's still about hot women, but the content is slightly different. It's surprising so many people care what I thought of the final episode of the L Word. It's amusing to me, as I never even saw it. I just wrote about how I would've liked it to end.

1. Because you're hot: Erin Kelly (August 10, 2008).

Here it is, my most popular blog post. It's kind of ironic Erin Kelly won, because to be honest I am sitting here wondering why or when I thought she was hot again. Well, the date stamp says the summer of 2008, but I can't really remember. Oh well, I guess lots of you still like her.

What do you think of this list? Does it show how shallow people are or just that these posts are easiest found by search engines?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Studying LesBians: how many of us are really out there?

Studying LesBians is a monthly column about recent and not so recent research into lesBians and the LGBT community as a whole. This time I want to talk about a British study saying much fewer people identify as gay than originally thought.

Last week a British study was published which showed that only 1,5 % of the UK population identifies as gay. Immediately all the online (LGBT) news outlets were all over it, reporting it as if it were fact. It made me raise my eyebrows, for several reasons.

First of all, as a researcher I am very aware that study results cannot just be generalised to the general public, unless the number of people asked were significant enough and they are representive of the general UK public. A quick look at the study showed that there was not much to worry about on those grounds.

The Office for National Statistics surveyed no less than 238,206 people. Plus it's the Office for National Statistics, their entire purpose of existing is to provide data that are representive for an entire country.

The second, and more important factor, that made me question these results is how exactly questions about sexual orientation were asked. It really helped that the nice people at the Guardian provided a spreadsheet giving us the number of people selecting each of the options:

94,8 % percent identified as straight, 1% as gay/lesbian, 0,5% as bisexual, 0,5% identified as other, 2,8% ticked the box saying they either didn't know or refused to respond, and a final 0,5% skipped the question all together.

You don't have to be good at math to see that all the headlines with their 1,5% weren't exactly accurate. For starters, I bet bisexuals were annoyed they were just lumped together with the gays & lesbians. But even if we wanted to know which percentage of the population identified as queer (or as not straight), it would make more sense to also count the 0,5% identifying as other. That already makes 2%.

I might be reaching a little here, but I think it's fair to assume that most of the people who refused to answer this question are not straight. After all, if you were straight why not just admit to belonging to the majority? A long time ago, when I was still in the closet, I always refused to answer those questions too. It didn't make me any less gay, just not out.

The same reasoning can be applied to those people who said they did not know their sexual orientation. Confusion about sexuality in the majority of cases leads to later identifications as not straight.

If we add all those answers together we end up just a little under 5%. This also happens to be the average estimation most organisations dealing with or helping the LGBT community use.

When we look once again at the spreadsheet, and look at the divisions by age groups, it looks like the figures aren't quite right. It is very interesting to see that in the younger age groups, very few people identify as straight. But the spreadsheet also shows over 20% in each age group refused to answer the question.

So how can they then come to the conclusion that 95% is straight, if so many people didn't know what they were or refused to answer? (Do let me know if I'm reading this spreadsheet all wrong).

I was not the only one to come to this conclusion. This week many of the gay news outlets were writing about the 1,5 % number not being accurate.

You might be reading this and thinking why does it matter? Well, it matters because there are still a lot of people out there who think organisations trying to improve things for the LGBT community are just naggers, always worrying about problems that don't exist.

With papers nationwide quoting only 1,5% instead of 5% of the population is gay, it justifies people into thinking being gay is rare and therefore, we are not important enough to support.

What do you make of this study and they way it's been portrayed in the media? Do you think the numbers are accurate? Do you always fill in the sexual orientation questions when taking part in a survey?

This post was first published on eurout.