Tag Archives: identity

Rebel with a secret | The story of Lucy Ann Lobdell and the 1st same-sex marriage in the U.S.

Lucy Ann Lobdell was in her 20s when she wrote a short self-published memoir about her early life in New York in the 1800s. She hunted in the mountains, an unusual pastime for a girl and a young woman. She went to a learning academy, getting a better education than most girls of the time. And she briefly married a man who abandoned her in pregnancy.

About 41 pages into this 47-page memoir, Lobdell tells the reader, “I made up my mind to dress in men’s attire to seek labor, as I was used to men’s work. And as I might work harder at house-work, and get only a dollar per week, and I was capable of doing men’s work, and getting men’s wages, I resolved to try … to get work away among strangers.”

And that Lobdell did, setting out to find independence and earn a living.

“So, I stole away with a heavy heart, for I knew that I was going among strangers, who did not know my circumstances, or see my heart, so broken, and know its struggles.”

On the next page of Narrative of Lucy Ann Lobdell, the Female Hunter of Delaware and Sullivan Counties, Lobdell writes, “I must now leave the reader for a short time, and then I intend to write another book, in which I shall give a full account of my adventures whilst I adopted male attire.”

If Lobdell did write a second narrative, it was never found.

So William Klaber wrote the book for her — The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell, published this spring by St. Martin’s Press and described as “historical fiction.”

Fact or fiction, Klaber’s memoir is riveting for readers.

And also resurrecting a debate familiar to queer studies scholars about Lobdell’s identity — a pioneering transgender person who lived as a man among strangers or a pioneering lesbian who was joined by an unsuspecting judge in possibly the first same-sex marriage in the United States.

Klaber, a part-time journalist, lives in Upper Eddy in upstate New York, not far from where Lobdell lived 160 years ago. He and his wife bought the farmhouse in 1980, and it was there that Jack Niflot, a local historian, delivered to him a satchel containing recollections and articles about Lobdell. The historical record contains details of how Lobdell took the name of Joseph, taught music, song and dance, traveled from east to the frontier, married a woman named Marie Wilson and was committed to an asylum as a case of “sexual perversion” with a history of “Lesbian love.”

Niflot had collected a lot of information about Lobdell, but couldn’t find a second memoir. He turned his research over to Klaber, who made an unsuccessful search for the book and then decided to write his own.

“Lucy lived at a time when women did not commonly carry a rifle, sit down in bars or have romantic liaisons with other women,” said Klaber. “Lucy did these things in a personal quest — to work and to be paid, to wear what she wanted and to love whomever she cared to.”

Klaber’s story — brilliant and beautiful — begins about where Lobdell’s own memoir ends, with Lobdell quietly leaving home and catching a train, a transformative journey.

Lobdell, near the end of her narrative, writes of passing a neighbor on her way to the depot, “I heard him say, ‘There goes the female hunter.’”

Klaber, in the opening chapter, writes of Lobdell settling on the train: “There were no leaves yet on the trees, and as the sun flickered through the gray branches, I could see on the glass a faint reflection of myself, appearing and disappearing like a spirit trying to enter the world.”

Brand identity? Hall and Oates sue over Haulin’ Oats granola

Hall and Oates can’t go for this: a New York company selling granola called Haulin’ Oats.

The pop music duo has sued Brooklyn-based Early Bird Foods in federal court. They’re accusing the company of violating trademark protections with its “phonetic play on Daryl Hall and John Oates’ well-known brand name.”

The suit asks the court to order Early Bird Foods to stop using the Haulin’ Oats name on packages of granola. It also says the company should hand over any profits made off the brand.

Hall and Oates are best known for decades-old hits like “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do),” “Sara Smile” and “Rich Girl.”

There was no immediate response to messages left with Early Bird Foods.

Brand identity: Pro-LGBT campaigns celebrate Pride

Many recognizable brands are showcasing their support for equality through high profile LGBT-centered advertisements and social media promotions as Americans celebrate Pride Month.

In years past, many companies and brands rarely — if ever — used LGBT-specific themes in marketing or advertisements. Today, businesses recognize that a pro-equality stance is a way to entice the millions of fair-minded Americans who champion LGBT civil rights as an important issue, according to a survey by the Human Rights Campaign. The nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group keeps track of corporate policies and positions for a ratings guide that’s released annually.

While companies increasingly are showing off rainbow stripes, Christian right boycotts against them are failing. The National Organization for Marriage’s calls for boycotts against Starbucks and General Mills — after the companies endorsed marriage equality initiatives in Washington and Minnesota — had no lasting impact on sales and only emboldened the corporate giants to be more vocal in their support for equality. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told one anti-equality shareholder, “If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.”

Some of the more visible brands and their LGBT Pride campaigns:

• Marriott International made news with its #LoveTravels campaign featuring images of LGBT people in print ads, billboards, and social media promotions. 

• Macy’s, which partnered with HRC to celebrate Pride Month, is featuring Pride merchandise in stores.

• Apple is celebrating LGBT Pride in the iTunes Store, where it offers a collection of LGBT-themed movies, apps, music, books, and more. Many Apple employees and their families are marching in the San Francisco Pride Parade on June 29.

• Honey Maid has changed the profile picture on its social media platforms to two graham crackers that form an equal sign.

• Google adds a rainbow-colored border to its search bar when users search for LGBT-related terms.

• Designer Kenneth Cole has offered limited edition T-shirts featuring the red HRC equal sign logo inlaid with the text, “Unite The States of America … Support Marriage Equality for all of U.S.”

• AT&T has launched its “Live Proud” campaign, inviting users to create and upload their own memes in celebration of awareness, empowerment and Pride.

• Nike has released a limited edition #BETRUE apparel line to celebrate Pride.

• Levi’s launched a Pride Month collection. 

• General Mills is using Lucky Charms as the face of its Pride promotions. The company launched a Web video that encourages social media followers to tweet and post the reasons why they’re proud using the hashtag #LuckyToBe.

• Ben & Jerry’s has shared Pride-themed images on social media with the slogan, “Love Comes in All Flavors.”

• Nordstrom has asked its LGBT and allied employees to share their thoughts on Pride Month in a photo montage on the store’s website. 

Without fanfare, Obama advances transgender rights

President Barack Obama, who established his bona fides as a gay and lesbian rights champion when he endorsed same-sex marriage, has steadily extended his administration’s advocacy to transgender Americans.

With little of the fanfare or criticism that marked his evolution into the leader Newsweek nicknamed “the first gay president,” Obama became the first chief executive to say “transgender” in a speech, to name transgender political appointees and to prohibit job bias against transgender government workers. Also in his first term, he signed hate crime legislation that became the first federal civil rights protections for transgender people in U.S. history.

Since then, the administration has quietly applied the power of the executive branch to make it easier for transgender people to update their passports, obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, get treatment at Veteran’s Administration facilities and seek access to public school restrooms and sports programs – just a few of the transgender-specific policy shifts of Obama’s presidency.

“He has been the best president for transgender rights, and nobody else is in second place,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said of Obama, who is the only president to invite transgender children to participate in the annual Easter egg roll at the White House.

Religious conservative groups quick to criticize the president for his gay rights advocacy have been much slower to respond to the administration’s actions. The leader of the Traditional Values Coalition says there is little recourse because the changes come through executive orders and federal agencies rather than Congress.

The latest wins came this month, when the Office of Personnel Management announced that government-contracted health insurers could start covering the cost of gender reassignment surgeries for federal employees, retirees and their survivors, ending a 40-year prohibition. Two weeks earlier, a decades-old rule preventing Medicare from financing such procedures was overturned within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Unlike Obama’s support for same-sex marriage and lifting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on openly gay troops, the White House’s work to promote transgender rights has happened mostly out of the spotlight.

Some advances have gone unnoticed because they also benefited the much larger gay, lesbian and bisexual communities. That was the case last week, when the White House announced that Obama plans to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In other instances, transgender rights groups and the administration have agreed on a low-key approach, both to skirt resistance and to send the message that changes are not a big deal, said Barbra Siperstein, who in 2009 became the first transgender person elected to the Democratic National Committee.

“It’s quiet by design, because the louder you are in Washington, the more the drama,” said Siperstein, who helped organize the first meeting between White House aides and transgender rights advocates without the participation of gay rights leaders.

The 2011 meeting came 34 years after Jimmy Carter’s administration made history by meeting with gay rights groups. Obama’s Cabinet and federal agencies have followed up with actions significantly expanding transgender rights without congressional approval.

For instance, Health and Human Services said in 2012 that it would apply the non-discrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act to investigate federally funded health plans and care providers that refused to serve transgender individuals.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Education Department informed public schools that under its reading of Title IX, the 1972 law that bans gender discrimination in education, transgender students are entitled to federal civil rights protections. The information was included in a memo on schools’ obligations to respond to student-on-student sexual violence.

Obama has made clear the guidance has potentially broad implications.

“Title IX is a very powerful tool,” he said last week. “The fact that we are applying it to transgender students means that they are going to be in a position to assert their rights if and when they see that they are being discriminated on their college campuses.”

Meanwhile, religious conservative groups’ opposition to transgender advocacy has trickled in.

The Traditional Values Coalition has lobbied against a bill that would provide federal workplace protections for gay and transgender people by warning that it would require schools to permit teachers to remain on the job amid gender transitions. Group President Andrea Lafferty said no one should mistake the absence of vocal opposition for acquiescence.

“There are other people who are concerned about these things, definitely. I think America is just overwhelmed right now,” she said. “Everybody is going to have to take a step back, and that step back is going to be this November.”

The stage was set for Obama to become a champion of transgender rights when the LGBT community split over an earlier version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that Lafferty’s group is fighting.

In fall 2007, openly gay Rep. Barney Frank pursued, with the blessing of the nation’s largest gay rights group, legislation prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians, but not transgender people. As Frank put it plainly, there were not enough Democratic votes to get a “trans-inclusive” law through the House.

Transgender advocates who had lobbied for legal recognition of same-sex relationships were livid and persuaded more than 100 civil rights groups to oppose a bill that left transgender rights for another day.

“The community was forced to decide: Where are you going to stand?” recalled Diego Sanchez, who was the first openly transgender person appointed to the DNC’s platform committee and later became the first transgender staff member on Capitol Hill as Frank’s top senior policy adviser.

At the 2008 Democratic convention where Obama was nominated, 28 years after the party pledged to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation, language was added to accomplish the same for gender identity.

As president, Obama has embraced the task of putting that pledge into practice, said Sanchez, now national policy director at Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

“It’s easier for voices to be heard once you are already in the room,” he said. “What has changed is who is listening.”

Group sues California over new law protecting transgender students

Groups trying to overturn a new California law allowing transgender students to choose public school restrooms and sports teams that correspond with their expressed gender filed a lawsuit claiming state officials are unfairly refusing to count signatures seeking a referendum.

Sacramento-based Privacy For All Students, a coalition of right-wing groups, filed the lawsuit against the secretary of state and two counties.

It says a courier delivered signatures collected in Tulare ahead of a deadline of Sunday, Nov. 10, but offices were closed early before the three-day Veterans Day weekend. In Mono County, a courier dropped the signatures in a county mail slot a day before the deadline, but workers did not return to their jobs  until the deadline had passed, according to the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs say the secretary of state’s office is refusing to validate the signatures from the two counties.

The secretary of state’s office did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Opponents of the law that goes into effect on Jan. 1 said they have collected enough signatures for an initiative that would repeal it. Counties, however, were still reviewing the signatures.

The state previously said an early random sampling from counties via the secretary of state’s office found only 77 percent of the signatures qualifying.

The coalition submitted 620,000 signatures to get the initiative on the November 2014 ballot, said Frank Schubert, political strategist handling the signature gathering effort.

To qualify, at least 505,000 valid signatures of registered voters must be verified through a random sampling. After that, it is likely the state would order a full review before the measure could be place on a ballot.

Japanese artist puts himself into iconic images

Yasumasa Morimura’s art may enter your subliminal space before you begin to consciously question what’s disturbing about it. That’s because he starts with visual imagery already burned into the viewer’s psyche and tweaks it in a way that challenges comfortable norms.

“Yasumasa Morimura: Theater of the Self” comprises work from three major ongoing series: “Art History,” “Requiem” and “Actresses.” In each, Morimura has substituted his image for the original. The large captivating exhibition at The Andy Warhol Museum reveals the breadth of the Japanese artist’s output over three decades and also makes a strong argument for his claim to being Warhol’s “conceptual son.”

His interest in self-portrait, art history, popular culture, gay and transgender life and celebrity align him with Warhol, said Nicholas Chambers, museum and exhibition curator.

The show is not only a thorough look at an acclaimed contemporary international artist but one with an anchor in Japanese culture and its interrelationship with the West. This is a welcome dip into dialogue initiated on the far side of the Pacific Rim that may be credited to museum director Eric Shiner, who studied in Japan, speaks fluent Japanese and wrote his master’s thesis on Morimura.

When the artist steps into the frame where one expects to find Vermeer’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring” (“Vermeer Study: Looking Back (Mirror)”) or Manet’s “Olympia” (“Portrait (Futago)”), he raises issues of identity and gender, a now somewhat commonplace practice in contemporary art. But as a Japanese he intensifies these, layering in race and cultural influences that have traded on waxing and waning historical exchanges.

He winks as he titles “To My Little Sister: for Cindy Sherman,” a work based on the famed American artist’s “Untitled (hash)96” of 1981 from her centerfolds series. Morimura and Sherman were unaware of one another’s practice when each began to deconstruct image, but they have since met, Chambers said. She visited The Warhol exhibition during opening week.

Morimura’s medium is photography, but such works begin with extensive research as he studies for the character, he said through a translator when here for the exhibition opening. The performative aspect is enhanced by very detailed sets, makeup, costume and complementary artifact.

“It’s quite important to have imagination as well as reality,” Morimura said. “The artist lives on the border of imagination and reality.”

The artist’s “relationship to the canon was always through reproductions,” Chambers said, but the viewer’s relationship “is always mediated through photography. There are other disciplines involved … but in the end it’s all about the photograph.”

As a photographer Morimura is technically, as well as aesthetically and conceptually, accomplished, so adept at the craft that he’s able to push boundaries to believable if unlikely effect. Evolving digital applications have helped this along, but “Daughter of Art History (Princess A)” was an analog production. The background to the figure inspired by Velazquez’s “Las Meninas” was painted on drywall. The artist made the dress and attached it to the drywall into which he cut a hole to stick his head through. Where Warhol comes from the surface, Chambers observed, Morimura is “about tactility … understanding in the nuts and bolts way.”

The “Requiem” art, drawn from photographic images, contrasts with the “Art History” section as much in source medium as in subject. “It’s a dividing line between the 20th century and the centuries before,” said Chambers, “when the preeminent mode of representing the world shifts from painting to photography.”

Representative and timely is “A Requiem: Oswald,” a remake of the harrowing photojournalistic image of when President Kennedy’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald is shot. Morimura subs for all of the players.

“A Requiem: Mishima” is a video in which the artist performs as Yukio Mishima, a right-wing activist who in 1970 made an impassioned speech decrying foreign influence and his country’s abdication of traditional Japanese values. Afterward, he committed ritual suicide. Morimura substitutes a critique of the Japanese artworld slavishly following international trends.

The most enigmatic, vulnerable and thus beautiful images are the “Actresses,” modeled upon noted film stars or scenes. They are also self-portraits wherein Morimura is his most naked (sometimes literally), and the characteristic introspection exudes a searching pain.

Perhaps the greatest accomplishments of this body of work are its challenge to the ways humans construct social states — rituals, standards of beauty and power, who’s in and who’s out — and its confrontation of comfortable notions of time and space.

His re-representation of seemingly fixed imagery conveys approval to those similarly inclined to question rather than automatically accept, whether image or dictum.

More profound is the idea of the perpetually evasive image _ that rather than being dated and fixed in place, living and even inanimate matter exists within flickering frames of simultaneous truth and illusion, ultimately beyond eye of camera or of man.

On the Web …


Photo: M’s self-portrait No. 56/B 9 or “as Marilyn Monroe” at The Andy Warhol Museum.

What you ‘like’ on Facebook can be surprisingly revealing

Clicking those friendly blue “like” buttons strewn across the Web may be doing more than marking you as a fan of Coca-Cola or Lady Gaga.

It could out you.

It might reveal how you vote.

It might suggest that you’re an unmarried introvert with a high IQ and a weakness for nicotine.

That’s the conclusion of a study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers reported analyzing the likes of more than 58,000 U.S. Facebook users to make guesses about their personalities and behavior, and even whether they drank, smoked, or did drugs.

Cambridge University researcher David Stillwell, one of the study’s authors, said the results may come as a surprise.

“Your likes may be saying more about you than you realize,” he said.

Facebook launched its like button in 2009, and the small thumbs-up symbol has since become ubiquitous on the social network and common across the rest of the Web as well. Facebook said last year that roughly 2.7 billion new likes pour out onto the Internet every day – endorsing everything from pop stars to soda pop. That means an ever-expanding pool of data available to marketers, managers, and just about anyone else interested in users’ inner lives, especially those who aren’t careful about their privacy settings.

Stillwell and his colleagues scooped up a bucketful of that data in the way that many advertisers do –through apps. Millions of Facebook users have surveyed their own personal traits using applications including a program called myPersonality. Stillwell, as owner of the app, has received revenue from it, but declined to say how much.

The study zeroed in on the 58,466 U.S. test takers who had also volunteered access to their likes.

When researchers crunched the “like” data and compared their results to answers given in the personality test, patterns emerged in nearly every direction.

The study found that Facebook likes were linked to sexual orientation, gender, age, ethnicity, IQ, religion, politics and product use. The likes also mapped to relationship status, number of Facebook friends, as well as half a dozen different personality traits.

Some likes were more revealing than others. Researchers could guess whether users identified themselves as black or white 95 percent of the time. That success rate dropped to a still impressive 88 percent when trying to guess whether a male user was gay, and to 85 percent when telling Democrats from Republicans.

Identifying drug users was trickier – researchers got that right only 65 percent of the time, a result scientists generally describe as poor. Predicting whether a user was respectively a child of divorce was even dicier. With a 60 percent success rate, researchers were doing just slightly better than random guesses.

The linkages ranged from the self-evident to the surreal.

Men who liked TV song-and-dance sensation “Glee” were more likely to be gay. Men who liked professional wrestling were more likely to be straight. Drinking game aficionados were generally more outgoing than, say, fans of fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett. People who preferred pop diva Jennifer Lopez usually gathered more Facebook friends than those who favored the heavy metal sound of Iron Maiden.

Among the more poignant insights was the apparent preoccupation of children of divorce with relationship issues. For example, those who expressed support for statements such as “Never Apologize For What You Feel It’s Like Saying Sorry For Being Real” or “I’m The Type Of Girl Who Can Be So Hurt But Still Look At You & Smile” were slightly more likely to have seen their parents split before their 21st birthday.

Some of the patterns were difficult to understand: The link between curly fries and high IQ scores was particularly baffling.

Stillwell, designer of the myPersonality app, said revenue from it came from advertising. “I’d prefer not to say how much, but it wasn’t enough to live on,” he said.

Jennifer Golbeck, a University of Maryland computer scientist who wasn’t involved in the study but has done similar work, endorsed its methodology, calling it smart and straightforward and describing its results as “awesome.”

But she warned of what the work showed about privacy on Facebook.

“You may not want people to know your sexual orientation or may not want people to know about your drug use,” she said. “Even if you think you’re keeping your information private, we can learn a lot about you.”

Facebook said the study fell in line with years of research and was not particularly surprising.

“The prediction of personal attributes based on publicly accessible information, such as ZIP codes, choice of profession, or even preferred music, has been explored in the past,” Facebook’s Frederic Wolens said in a written statement.

Wolens said that Facebook users could change the privacy settings on their likes to put them beyond the reach of researchers, advertisers or nearly anyone else. But he declined to say how many users did so.

For the unknown number of users whose preferences are public, Stillwell had this advice: Look before you like.

The like button is “quite a seductive thing,” he said. “It’s all around the Web, it’s all around Facebook. And it’s so easy.”

Chubby Checker sues over name for shoe size-penis app

Rock ‘n’ roll legend Chubby Checker is twisting mad over a software app that allowed users to estimate the size of a man’s penis based on his shoe size.

Checker, whose real name is Ernest Evans, filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Hewlett Packard and Palm Inc. in federal court in Fort Pierce, Fla., this week, saying that the app “adversely affects Chubby Checker’s brand and value.”

The app, which was called “The Chubby Checker” and apparently is no longer available, was an unauthorized use of Checker’s name and trademark, the lawsuit alleges.

“He’s hurt,” said Checker’s attorney Willie Gary. “He worked hard to build his name and reputation over the years.”

Checker, 71, is seeking a half-billion dollars in damages and restitution.

HP issued a brief statement about the matter on Feb. 14.

“The application was removed in September 2012 and is no longer on any Palm or HP hosted web site,” wrote Michael Thacker, HP’s director of corporate media relations.

He told The Associated Press that the app was removed the same month that Gary sent a cease-and-desist letter to the companies on behalf of Checker.

It’s unclear how long the 99-cent app was available to customers.

According to the industry website WebOSNation, the app sold fewer than 100 copies.

The app was not developed by HP or Palm; it was developed by a third-party. The app developer is not named in the lawsuit.

“We’re going straight to the source,” said Gary.

The lawsuit said that Checker has received patents and trademark licenses for his name to be used for a line of snacks and other food products.

Peck School of the Arts students take on the archetypal identity quest

The Union Art Gallery at UW-Milwaukee opens the Foundations XIII: Identity exhibit on April 6 and will conclude the weeklong celebration of personal identity on April 13.

The foundations program in the UW-M Department of Art and Design provides all first-year visual art students with a broad background in basic drawing, 2-D and 3-D concepts and the digital arts.

It also provides an understanding of contemporary art practice and exposure to various academic major options.

Each year the foundations area chooses a theme around which instructors may link assignments and readings. This year’s theme is “identity.”

“Identity, with its complexity and layers, has been a topic that artists and designers have investigated in their work for centuries,” a news release said. “Our individual identity and how it is formed, our identity within a family, a group, a vocation, a culture, all have a strong impact on who we are, what we believe and how we live our lives day to day.”

Students are exploring this theme using a variety of media and approaches.

The gallery is on the campus level of the union.

For more, visit unionartgallery.uwm.edu.

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