Sexual Orientation Role Models

After having few feminist things to blog about for the last month or so, here’s a post that is “related” to feminism.

Today was my first day of my aesthetics class. I got to class to find a strange middle-aged hipster woman sitting on the desk, and not the older-male professor who was to teach the class.  The woman was Lynne Shumow, the curator of the Hagegerty Art Museum. The museum was closed, so we got to go down into the painting and print vaults way down below the museum. Which was, to put it succinctly, totally awesome. The vault smelled like tempera paint and crayons and lit by hanging flourescent lights. The paintings were hung on movable chain-link fence walls. Each chain-link wall was mounted on a track which allowed the wall to be moved out to allow access to the hung paintings. The first painting presented was by Keith Haring.  For those of you who don’t know who he is, he was a pop. artist in the 1980’s. You are probably familiar with his dancing people and dogs on Sesame Street.

Before construction for the Haggerty Museum started, the land was surrounded by a plywood white-washed fence. The then art director, Dr. Curtis Carter, invited Haring to paint the fence. Haring obliged and came with his long-term boyfriend, Juan Dubose. I had no idea that Haring was gay or that he was even dead. As a child I had imagined him as a middle-aged Jewish man who made jovial art that appealed to children and parents. When in reality Keith Haring was a young man who made art that seemed innocent and joyful when really depicted a message against violence, oppression, drug use and ignorance of AIDS. Many of Haring’s paintings are “explicit” depicting homosexual sex and genitalia.

What prompted this post was not only my curiosity in Haring’s life but also the controversy of Haring’s art. Marquette won’t allow The Vagina Monologues to be performed on campus, did they know Haring was gay? In the booklet about Haring published by the university art museum it says,

Despite the fact that there was little money of offer (travel and lodging expense for himself and a friend), Haring respinded enthusiastically to the proposal and agreed to do the project… Accompanying him was his friend Juan Dubose, a New York deejay who shared his life during this period. (Emphasis added by me).

“Friend” who “shared his life”? That sounds like boyfriend to me Marquette. Haring was very open about his homosexuality.

[Rolling Stone] And made it [hiding that he was diagnosed with AIDS] seem like he [Rock Hudson] was ashamed of being gay.

[Keith Haring] To me, one of the most important things is that being sick is not going to make me go back on anything in my life. I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done. I wouldn’t change anything. Everything was natural and out in the open.

I think one of the hardest things AIDS has done is to kids growing up now, trying to figure out their sexuality in an unbiased way. They always will have their sexuality shoved down their throats, but they’ll make their own way because it’s such a strong thing- it will override everything, no matter how much brainwashing’s going on. So imagine how horrible it must be to some young kid who knows he’s gay or someone thinking of experimenting. They could have a sentence of death. It’s horribly frightening. It gives so much fire to the people who are telling you that it’s wrong to be who you are. There are so few people who are good openly gay role models or just good people who are respected who are open about their sexuality. Now there has to be openness about all these issues. Kids are going to have sex, so help them have safe sex. People still don’t do safe sex. I know so many kids that think that if they’re screwing girls it doesn’t apply to them. They hate wearing condoms. But heterosexual transmissions is one of the leading causes of new cases.

What struck me most was the idea of a sexual orientation role model. The idea that someone can positively represent sexuality. I think the biggest deficit is with heterosexuals. Can you think of a man or woman who positively represents heterosexuality? I can think of plenty of men and women who represent heterosexuality in an oppressive and cookie-cutter way, but no one who is positive. As someone who struggles not only with their sexuality, but with what it means to be a woman and to be feminine I can only think of Rachel Levy, the author of Female Chauvinist Pigs. But what does it mean to have a role model? And who is your sexual orientation role model?


11 Responses

  1. A few years ago the museum did a tribute to Haring and allowed several student groups to contribute to a mural in Haring’s style that was displayed on the AMU lawn for about a week. GSA was able to do one of the panels of the mural, and we were able to incorporate the National Coming Out Day logo (another creation of Haring’s) and a big ol’ rainbow into the design. Myself and the President at that time ditched class for several days to get the thing done, and it was totally epic.

    If I ever get a hold of a scanner, I can post pictures.

  2. I love Keith Haring!

    Also, what’s this aesthetics course you speak of? Is it phil?

    • It is “Philosophy of Art and Beauty” and you should join. It’s taught by Dr. Carter and today I got free books from Ms. Shumow (who I intend to befriend) about Barbara Morgan and Keith Haring. And how can you turn down free books?

  3. How does one represent a sexuality?

    • one embodies a positive definition of said sexuality, i guess? how do you imagine one to do so, if one can?

      • Honestly I’m not sure.

        To me a positive heterosexual is someone who is heterosexual and holds no grudges or harsh feelings towards people of different sexual orientation. Respecting your partner would definitely be a positive thing.

        Though I’m not sure if that is what you were asking for.

  4. On the roll models question:
    This is kind of obvious, but I appreciate the examples of John Stuart and Harriet Taylor Mill. I think the healthiest marriages/decades-long couplings are between best friends, and that the surest way to prove this friendship is to maintain a platonic relationship for years before becoming romantically involved. Mill and Taylor did this for decades; and though JS probably developed romantic feelings for Harriet before her first husband died, he did not seem to resent him, and was happy for and friendly with the couple.

    • *role model

    • Hmm, when I was thinking of sexual orientation role model I was not thinking an example of marital felicity. I was thinking of someone who not only positively represents your sexual orientation, but also is someone who sets a “good example” for you to follow more so as an individual. But now that I read what I just wrote, JSM and HTM are a fine example. Just not one I would chose.

      • I picked Mill not because he was a model of marital fidelity. I picked him because
        i.) he was half of a relationship made of two best friends.
        ii.) he was able to remain friends with a woman he was romantically interested in without being consumed by jealousy for either Harriet or her husband.
        For both these reasons, he embodies an example I think heterosexual men should strive towards, since many have problems maintaining platonic relationships with women, and have jealousy issues.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: