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May 1, 2007

rainbow families conference

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A few months ago, my friend told me about an opportunity to make some money working with little kids. Just from that, I was hooked, but she went on to explain that it was at a conference for GLBT families. After that, I became even more interested. The organization responsible for the event is Rainbow Families, which is one of the largest regional lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parent organizations in the country. On the application, I had to fill out what experience I had working with children, what activities I had planned for them, and lastly, my reasons for wanting to work at this conference. I think that this organization is super important in supporting a community that generally receives negative attention, and I wanted to help by spreading the positive message.

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Debra Davis

A few weeks ago I got a chance to meet and speak with Debra Davis over in McNeal Hall on the St. Paul campus. A rather large group of students turned out for her presentation and workshop, and that surprised me because, at the time, I didn’t really know who she was or what she was all about. Soon thereafter I did find out that she is nationally known not only for being the first secondary educator to transition from male to female, but also for being the Executive Director of the Gender Education Center which is “A Minnesota non-profit corporation of differently gendered people dedicated to support, advocacy, and education.?

Debra Davis is also “an award-winning transgender educator and activist.? Her awards include, but are not limited to, 2001 Brian Coyle Leadership Award by the Human Rights Campaign, 2000 Minneapolis Pride Grand Marshal, Person of the Year? in Lavender magazine, and she continues to be a role model and mentor at many LGBT evens all over the nation, but particularly here in the cities.

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The Avengers

The Twin Cities Avengers is a group of activists devoted to issues facing lesbians and lesbian visibility. Of the meetings I have attended we mainly worked of the 2007 Dyke March and butting heads with the Twin Cities Pride Committee.

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April 30, 2007

Invisiblechildren.com Displace Me - Chicago

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On April 28, I went to Chicago’s Soldier Field for an event called Displace Me. Chicago, being one of the 15 cities across the U.S to take part in the event, had almost 4,000 participants. Displace Me was sponsored by an organization called Invisible Children, which is trying to open the world’s eyes to the heinous crimes that have been committed against the families and children of Northern Uganda for years.

The Invisible Children started with three traveling filmmakers in their early 20’s from San Diego, California who set out to Uganda in the summer of 2003 in hopes to capture a story about the truth of Africa. They first found themselves in a desolate Uganda taking video footage of termite hills, fighting wild snakes, and throwing up from dehydration. This was until they met a 9 month pregnant woman in a neighboring village named Jolie. Jolie did something that broke the societal norms of her Ugandan community. She informed them about a silent secret of Northern Uganda. Jolie drove the young men to a Sudanese refugee camp in Gulu, Uganda and here is where they uncovered exactly what they wanted to document and show to the world.

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Jack Halberstam

For my activist event I attended the talk by Judith/Jack Halberstam. This event took place at 6:30 on April 26th in room 125 of the Nolte Center for Continuing Education. This talk was sponsored by the Global Sexualities Research Collaborative of the Institute for Advanced Study and the Transgender Commission.

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April 27, 2007

Sexual Violence- The Aurora Center

This past week, I attended the sexual assault presentation in the basement of Coffman Union. Since April was awareness month for domestic violence, the Aurora Center had plenty to share about spousal abuse, rape, and other instances of violence occurring in relationships. They also had plenty of handouts targeting each category of domestic violence, and were encouraging onlookers to fill out a question about prevention to be eligible for an ipod and other prizes. The Aurora Center is a sexual violence program that got its start after a case where three UM basketball players were convicted of rape. The president at the time wanted quick action so the students would feel safe. Since being founded, the Aurora Center offers training to volunteer peer advocates who also run a 24-hour crisis line. The center has worked in conjunction with the Hennepin County Sexual Violence Center and the University hospital, which contacts the Aurora Center every time a victim goes into the emergency room. Many times, a victim of assault or rape is often confused and doesn’t know where to turn, especially since they may be college. The Aurora Center along with the UM police offer transportation to the emergency room and to court for orders of protection. The University has established a sexual assault victims’ rights policy, and was actually the first college in the country to form a campus safety improvement program that perform safety inspections for all campus buildings. Other services provided by the Aurora Center include: arrangements for different housing, some tuition advice, classroom safety arrangements, filing complaints, and additional walk-in services.
The Aurora Center’s booth focused primarily on the feminist theory of abuse that I researched. The theory was that abuse is a demonstration of the structure of power created in a relationship. The victim is the passive, weak partner usually characterized as the woman, whereas the man is the superior, dominant perpetrator. This form of feminism also believes women’s position in society is based on the oppression from the patriarchal society. Essential to this belief is that women are dominated in all aspects of life, and men are looking only for control. The flyers that I received focused mainly on prevention tips for men such as: understanding the effects of rape, confronting sexist or racist jokes, not buying magazines that degrade women, supporting political figures that care for domestic violence, don’t exploit women sexually, etc.
Since I happen to be researching on domestic abuse, I thought it would be nice to share my opinion on how I could prevent violence; yet, I found it very hard to describe what I would do in the small space provided. As a guy, I think the first step in preventing abuse is by becoming aware of it. A class such as this allowed me to see the female side of current events, and really made me understand what they have to go through. After learning about power structures and patriarchal societies, I think it’s only appropriate for a guy to share what they’ve learned with their friends. This doesn’t have to be in a classroom type of setting. It can be in a bar, at a party, or at any game; sexist comments are commonly heard at these places, and they offer a good chance for a man to stand up against the sexist remarks. I think every guy should take the opportunity to either take a women’s’ studies class or attend an event sponsored by a sexual awareness group like the Aurora Center. I think their relationships would most definitely improve as the sex barriers representing control and power are broken down.

April 22, 2007

AIDS Action Day

On Tuesday, March 6, I attended AIDS Action Day 2007 at the Minnesota State Capitol. I have been working on my senior thesis entitled: AIDS, Ethics, and Accountability: Local Activism and Global Politics, and I decided attending this event would give me insight into local AIDS activism. AIDS Action Day is organized by Minnesota AIDS Project, (MAP), and it serves as an opportunity for the community to personally lobby their representatives and senators about policy issues. This AIDS Action Day, volunteers came to lobby for the Senate initiative S.F. 678, (House initiative H.F. 942) regarding the MAP AIDSLine. The AIDSLine is a vital resource for Minnesota as it is the most recognized comprehensive source for AIDS-related information and medical services. In recent years the AIDSLine has experienced drastic cuts in funding that resulted from cuts in federal HIV prevention allowances. Lobbyists came to participate in AIDS Action Day to lobby for public health by advocating increased state funding to keep the line in operation.

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March 11, 2007

12th Annual Women's Day Celebration

For my activist event, I attended the 12th Annual International Women’s Day Celebration on March 3, 2007. This event was held by the Minnesota advocates for human rights and the human rights program and the University of Minnesota at Coffman Memorial Union.
The women’s day celebration was a day long ceremony that included inspirational and informational lectures, educational films, slam poetry, music, and, my favorite part, a section of the day dedicated to all the women’s organizations in Minneapolis. Over 65 organizations set up tables in Coffman’s Great Hall, and I spent the afternoon wandering around and learning about all the opportunities available around me. I picked up pamphlets from local sexual assault and unexpected pregnancy help centers, international relief organizations, and even learned about a Minneapolis bookstore dedicated to teaching peace and unity.

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March 6, 2007

The Beauty of The Vagina Monologues

I attended the 8th Annual Vagina Monologues on February 15, 2007. MPIRG put this on production based on the play written by Eve Ensler in honor of V-day. V Day was born from the Vagina Monologues to raise consciousness about the realities that women face in violent situations. V-Day is “an energy, a movement, a catalyst, a day to end violence toward women?. The money from the event went to getting stricter security at a woman’s shelter in the Twin Cities area.

The production was put on in the theater of the St. Paul Student Center. In my opinion this was the perfect location because the theater was small enough to feel personal, yet still have the stage effect to feel like you were in the audience. The actresses were women from around campus who were passionate and dedicated to the cause; dedicated to teaching people about the personal stories of many women around the world. The women all dressed in black and red. Though they were in a color uniform, each woman dressed differently. Some wore pants, some skirts, some dresses. The women who were in the production were of different ethnicities and ages.

I really enjoyed the play because it was an experience that men, women and children could learn from. People had the opportunity to learn about personal stories and also about the general concepts about women’s lives through history. Many of the stories represented numerous women. A single story could speak for women who had experienced similar situations, and many women have. Though this was is true, it was made very clear that every women has her own story to tell and every woman is unique. This production was about celebrating womanhood and combating the forces oppressing women. I was able to cry and laugh along with many other women. This was a play in which is brought women together and taught the broader audience about real lives.
I had never been to a production that was so forward with the vocabulary about women and the issues surrounding women as a whole. Hearing the word cunt being promoted was quick a shock. This section of the play used very loud vocals and humor to display the previously unrealized impression that cunt can mean. I think that it was really neat to see this section most because in every other context I have heard cunt mentioned, it was in a very negative, derogatory meaning.

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Margaret Cho

Event Report: Margaret Cho

District 202 Benefit
Margaret Cho
Saturday February 17, 2007
8:00 PM
Part of the Alphabet Soup Conference
At Northrop Auditorium, U of M campus

Margaret Cho held a benefit for District 202, a local GLBT homeless youth center, on Saturday, February 17th. The performance was part of the Alphabet Soup Conference hosted by the University of Minnesota, specifically the QSCC and GLBT Programs Office. Northrop Auditorium was filled with eager fans, a large majority being student conference attendees.

The opening act was a transgender/queer comedian who spoke about being transgender and coming out along with the difficulties and challenges of transitioning. This was interesting to me because Margaret Cho has always been GLBT friendly, but has never specifically addressed any issues of gender and specifically transgender issues. The mere act of slating a transgendered person to open for her impressed me. One of the most interesting things about Cho is that she doesn’t identify or label her sexuality yet she is seen as an ally and a person directly within the community. Her unspoken refusal to categorize her identity is incredibly interesting and subconsciously aligns itself with the tenets of queer theory.

As an outspoken Korean, sexual, real-bodied immigrant woman, Cho addresses a wide-range of stereotypes and norms in her comedy acts. Cho questions why things are the way they are and states how she wants the world to be. She is also, however, forthcoming about her conditioning and how she sometimes succumbs to society and “norms? or expectations. The way Cho reveals her vulnerabilities makes her relatable and funny. For example, Cho spoke about her experience fad dieting, trying to lose weight. One of the diets she was on only allowed her to eat a certain vegetable, nothing else. Subsequently, she defecated in her car in a traffic jam. She explains that she was so preoccupied with becoming thin that she was now paying for it by sitting in a pile of shit. She also creates a safe space to think about our own relationships with these different issues and to question them but also not feel guilty for being human and following norms.

How she identifies as an ally with all issues seems like a “feminist, queer, intersectional analysis? of society and expected norms within daily life and identification. She challenges labels in all of their forms. She also makes fun of herself and what she knows, she picks it apart so we understand clearly and she’s not academic or pretentious, she’s relatable and lewd but compassionate.

Margaret Cho is an activist without buying into the activist culture. She does so much work without acknowledging it and without manipulative rhetoric or talking down to people. She isn’t selling anything; she’s just speaking her mind and views.

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