Celebrating sexual and gender diversity

The ideas and viewpoints expressed in the posts on the Ideas and Creations blog are solely the view of the author(s). Luther College's mission statement calls us to "embrace diversity and challenge one another to learn in community," and to be "enlivened and transformed by encounters with one another, by the exchange of ideas, and by the life of faith and learning." Alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of the college are encouraged to express their views, model "good disagreement" and engage in respectful dialogue.

This spring I'm teaching COMS/WGST 335 Masculinity in Film, a course that takes a feminist perspective to analyze portrayals of sex and gender in film with a particular focus on how men and masculinity can be represented.  As a class, we study a number of topics and films. For example, to engage gender performance we view Some Like It Hot (1959), to confront "the gaze" we watch The Full Monty (1997) and to grasp documentary constructions of reality we screen The Mask You Live In (2015).

Today signals an important opportunity to reflect on the course because today is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. In short, "It (IDAHOT) was created in 2004 to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people internationally. In under a decade, May 17 has established itself the single most important date for LGBTI communities to mobilise on a worldwide scale" (http://dayagainsthomophobia.org/). 

As I think back on May 8, the date of our last class, I see connections to today, May 17. During lecture, I encouraged my students to continue to read critically and evaluate gender-related representations in film. From there, they might go beyond just seeing films for entertainment, but instead analyzing films for meaning. And, they might go a step further and consider writing a letter to the editor or a blog post to praise and/or critique constructions of gender in Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens (2015), Moonlight (2016), or Beauty and the Beast (2017).

Additionally, I challenged my students to recognize the complexity of gender.  This, in my opinion, is particularly salient because while some say males are inherently masculine and females are inherently feminine, I say an acceptance of such thinking polarizes rather than unites.  Furthermore, I say there is nothing innate, natural or normal about any human traits.

Today, people in more than 130 countries will celebrate sexual and gender diversities with events and recognitions. With this in mind, I ask you to acknowledge that you perform your own gender identity. And, of equal or greater importance, I ask you to judge others by human norms rather than by gendered norms. By doing the latter, we take a crucial step in creating spaces that respect and revere our society's human and cultural diversity. 

Find a general brochure on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia online.

Thomas Johnson

Thomas Johnson

Thomas C. Johnson, an Associate Professor of Communication Studies, has taught critical media studies and media production courses at Luther since 2011. Along with teaching, his research interests include pedagogy, sport media, television studies, gender studies and documentary film.

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  • May 17 2017 at 10:46 am
    Char Kunkel
    Great reminder to celebrate all of us in all our diversity! The world is what we make it. Thanks Thomas.
  • May 17 2017 at 11:47 am
    Gwen McGlaun
    A course like this would be brilliant in elementary schools. Think of all the horribly derogatory things children learn at very early ages, like that being a girl is inferior ("you throw like a girl",) or that emotions are effeminate ("only a sissy cries"), or that homosexuality is synonymous with being bad ("that's so gay"). how much damage is done to children everywhere on the spectrums of sex and genders and sexual attractions with these learned behaviors and attitudes? Studies show that these are socially learned, not innate. Babies are not born sexist, racist, homophobic, or possessing any other "ism". Hopefully all of the students in this course will go on to educate and advocate for all of humanity in all of its glorious diversity!
  • May 31 2017 at 7:07 am
    Thomas C. Johnson
    Thank you, Char and Gwen. Gwen - for further information on the issues you speak of, give "The Mask You Live In" (2015) a viewing. It's a tremendous resource and required viewing for parents, educators, coaches, etc.
  • June 26 2017 at 10:49 pm
    Wow! You are the one who causes a lack of unity by consistently claiming the LGBTQIZGGHiQ agenda polarizing the majority of conversations. Who wants to talk about your problems, sexuality, and queer concerns and agenda but you and traumatized people like you. Leave us alone! Let us get on w life and other agendas that really matter. You brought it up, wrote the article, teach the classes, and have the conversations bc you can't identify well with yourself so far out of the norm. There are fewer of you than you want us to believe, but your queer ideas are becoming more pervasive with your high drama and need to require acceptance of your perverse ways and thoughts which haunt you. In the meanwhile, you open the conversation to pervasively insist you must be okay in the eyes of all, and you are not. We don't have to think your perverse, unnatural, confused and feminist male identity is okay. We can't stand you forcing it down our throats. Moreover, You want to not change society but recruit and prey upon others who you may confuse. Please Luther College, get a spine and quit producing this trash! You don't have to take it! This isn't normal nor acceptable unless you decide to accept it. There are few of these perverts, and you should n't let them think this is so normal. These just want to be accepted no matter how weird or confused they are, and letting them speak about it all the time, which is what they do and want, they start to sound significant in number and in cause. Talk about real world matters. Why is this LGTBQZFB agenda important in a college? Learn Math, Science, Engineering, Architecture, Medicine, IT, Business, Languages and more. What a waste of time! How sad so many educational and journalistic dollars are given to this, and pay teachers to teach this crap versus creating real world technicians, accountants, nurses, teachers, and other professionals. No wonder there isn't money for real students eager to make a living and improve their world!
  • June 30 2017 at 5:29 pm
    Thomas C. Johnson

    Hi, "Del.”

    Luther College's Mission Statement opens with the following: "In the reforming spirit of Martin Luther, Luther College affirms the liberating power of faith and learning.  As people of all backgrounds, we embrace diversity and challenge one another to learn in community, to discern our callings, and to serve with distinction for the common good."

    Please note the last line  -- "As people of all backgrounds, we embrace diversity and challenge one another to learn in community, to discern our callings, and to serve with distinction for the common good."  When we say "people of all backgrounds" we're referring to any and all individuals no matter of race, ethnicity, class, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, etc.

    In your post, it’s clear you’re interested in marginalizing people based on a narrow idea of what is “normal” and “natural.”  On the other hand, I'm invested in a culture of equity and inclusion that respects people “no matter who they are or who they love,” as President Obama once stated. 

    Furthermore, in your post you espouse heterosexist and homophobic statements that are divisive rather than peaceful.  On the contrary, I speak up about threats of injustice against LGBTQ folks rather than sit silently as bigotry occurs. 

    There’s no doubt that each person on this planet is "weird” and “confused” regardless of one’s gender identity or sexual preference.  As a heterosexual male, I’m definitely “weird” and “confused,” but I must say it’s strikingly more appealing than it is to be “normal” and "acceptable.” 

    Ultimately, I'm going to continue to "talk about real world matters" affecting “people of all backgrounds.”  In my mind, this very much includes creating just and open-minded environments, as well as producing room for grace, beauty, and freedom in an increasingly complex world.

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