I recently wrote this short essay about what and who Jerry Blossom is to me, and the importance of queer people and queer spaces in my development as a person and and artist.
Please read and support In Our Words, a salon for Queers & Co. And as always, comments appreciated :)
Who is Jerry Blossom?: Clearing Misconceptions, Confronting Privilege and the Politics of Representation http://wp.me/s1VgfI-21427
“Jerry Blossom is a refusal to adhere to gender and sexual binaries. Jerry Blossom is not separate from me. Jerry Blossom is not simply an act, a character, a fetishization, or an embodiment of man/womanhood. Jerry Blossom is the distillation of parts of myself -actions, vocal accent, mannerisms that have been subdued and assimilated through my own socialization – through family, religion, the immigrant experience, social norms, and military career. Jerry Blossom is about the instability of personhood. The ﬂux of identity as something learned and always in negotiation.” - Kiam Marcelo Junio on their performance persona Jerry Blossom
Tomorrow night at Roxaboxen, Jerry Blossom will sing classic American songs on #karaoke for Anatomy/Gift/Association presents: Cabaret Cabaret One Year Anniversary. Don’t miss it! #art #performance #chicago #politics #immigration #diaspora #America #colonialism #capitalism #military #USA ##workinprogress #queer #failure
Actions for an Asian Immigrant
performance, 45 min. duration
Kiam Marcelo Junio, 2012
The Bank of Canada purged the image of an Asian-looking woman from its new $100 banknotes after focus groups raised questions about her ethnicity.
The original image intended for the reverse of the plastic polymer banknotes, which began circulating last November, showed an Asian-looking woman scientist peering into a microscope.
The image, alongside a bottle of insulin, was meant to celebrate Canada’s medical innovations.
But eight focus groups consulted about the proposed images for the new $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 banknote series were especially critical of the choice of an Asian for the largest denomination.
“Some have concerns that the researcher appears to be Asian,” says a 2009 report commissioned by the bank from The Strategic Counsel, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
“Some believe that it presents a stereotype of Asians excelling in technology and/or the sciences. Others feel that an Asian should not be the only ethnicity represented on the banknotes. Other ethnicities should also be shown.”
A few even said the yellow-brown colour of the $100 banknote reinforced the perception the woman was Asian, and “racialized” the note.
The bank immediately ordered the image redrawn, imposing a “neutral” ethnicity for the woman scientist who, now stripped of her “Asian” features, appears on the circulating note. Her light features appear to be Caucasian.
“The original image was not designed or intended to be a person of a particular ethnic origin,” bank spokesman Jeremy Harrison said in an interview, citing policy that eschews depictions of ethnic groups on banknotes.
“But obviously when we got into focus groups, there was some thought the image appeared to represent a particular ethnic group, so modifications were made.”
Harrison declined to provide a copy of the original image, produced by a design team led by Jorge Peral of the Canadian Bank Note Co.
Nor would he indicate what specific changes were made to the woman researcher’s image to give her a so-called “neutral,” non-ethnic look. He said the images were “composites” rather than depicting any specific individual.
The Strategic Counsel conducted the October 2009 focus groups in Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Fredericton, at a cost of $53,000.
The Toronto groups were positive about the image of an Asian woman because “it is seen to represent diversity or multiculturalism.”
In Quebec, however, “the inclusion of an Asian without representing any other ethnicities was seen to be contentious.”
One person in Fredericton commented: “The person on it appears to be of Asian descent which doesn’t rep(resent) Canada. It is fairly ugly.”
Mu-Qing Huang, a Chinese-Canadian who has peered into microscopes for biology courses at the University of Toronto, called the bank’s decision a “huge step back.”
“The fact that an Asian woman’s features were introduced to the bill … I think itself is a huge step forward in achieving true multiculturalism in Canada,” Huang, 24, said in an interview in Ottawa.
“But the fact that the proposal was rejected represents a huge step back.”
She said the “overly sensitive” decision to remove the Asian features suggests prejudice against visible minorities persists in Canada.
“If Canada is truly multicultural and thinks that all cultural groups are equal, then any visible minority should be good enough to represent a country, including (someone with) Asian features.”
WHAT THE FUCK, CANADA?
WHO IS JERRY BLOSSOM?
Jerry Blossom is an Asian person of ambiguous descent. He is often seen wearing a blonde wig, and uses foundation that’s at least 3 shades lighter than his natural skin tone. Outwardly, he seems to be desperately trying to fit in to a Western ideal image of blonde hair and fair skin, and yet he does so critically and consciously. He is not “playing whiteface” or acting as or pretending to be, a white person, but rather, embodying (or failing to embody) the standards of global whiteness.
His manner of dress is often that of a dandy, appearing to be upper-middle class male, although he also plays with wearing women’s garments.
Jerry is a social chameleon, able to ingratiate himself in the favor of people from varied personalities, gender ambiguities, and social classes. By changing his personality with each encounter, however, “the real Jerry Blossom” remains a mystery.
Jerry is also an entertainer and somewhat of a celebrity in Southeast Asia, and is the current face of Eskinol, a skin lightening facial cleanser popular in the Philippines.
How can someone call themselves “pro life” with a straight face when they’re actually not interested in protecting life at all, but rather punishing women who don’t embrace motherhood at every opportunity by either forcing them to be pregnant or end their pregnancies by hiring untrained charlatans to attack their ladyparts like a clogged rain gutter?
Now that Governor Phil Bryant has signed a law requiring every abortion provider to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, the state’s only remaining abortion clinic’s existence will be threatened when the measure kicks in on July 1.
WHAT. THE. FUCK.
Reblog this shit. People should be really angry about this.
This is an important essay, and a very quick read. Everyone should find 2 minutes of their time to read this.
I don’t think that racism is defined only in terms of black and white. I also don’t think white supremacy is a simple vertical hierarchy with whites on top, black people on the bottom, and the rest of us in the middle.
So why do I expend so much effort on lifting up the oppression of black people? Because anti-black racism is the fulcrum of white supremacy.
Who is Mister Junior?
An Artist Profile by Kiam Marcelo Junio
Mister Junior (née Alberto Ramón Gutierrez) is a burlesque performer from New Mexico and currently in Chicago, who dances and strips his way into your heart. He is of mixed nationalities, bridging his Mexican heritage and American upbringing. He is in the company of Vaudezilla Burlesque and Productions, (named by Chicago Reader as “Best Burlesque 2011”).
What makes Mister Junior unique from any other male burlesque (often called “boylesque”) performer is his use of the art of burlesque to address larger conflicts. On the stage, his presence is commanding, eliciting cheers of excitement to see him remove the next garment. But it goes beyond this. Each of his acts seeks to question societal expectations of race and gender normativity and performance. He playfully adapts Hispanic stereotypes such as the Lover, the Bull/Bullfighter, and the expectations for a male body and subverts them before your eyes.
The second wave of feminism in the mid to late 20th century brought female empowerment into the social consciousness, asserting that women and men, though inherently different, should be treated as equals - that the woman’s place is not just behind the man, as a secretary, or housewife. That women have as much political, social, and sexual agency as men.
Today’s critical discourse surrounding gender and sexuality is no longer concerned with the binary distinction of male/female, but rather the blurring of these boundaries. Gender (a socially performed aspect of personality) is inherently different from sexuality (sexual attraction), and between these two tenets are infinite combinations.
Going to a burlesque show brings all of these issues into focus. On the stage, the performers take charge of their bodies, stripping garments to their own pace and desire to reveal their bodies, not as vulnerable submissions for public consumption, but rather as active assertions of power. Yes, these are breasts, and they are mine. Yes, these are curves, see what I can do with them? Yes, here is a male body, watch me fuck with your expectations.
Beyond the spectacle, Mister Junior uses the art of burlesque as a platform for addressing these social issues. How are Latinos stereotyped in the media? What is the difference between a man and a beast? Do puppets have agency? What makes a man, a woman, beautiful or sexy - can one use tools from the other, and still be as such?
Burlesque (which derives from the root “burla” or joke) is part parody, part caricature, part satire, in the format of a striptease. It began as an art form in the Victorian era, as an alternative to theater. In the 1860’s to the 1940’s, it gained popularity in cabarets, clubs, as well as theaters with its mix of comedy, dance, and striptease. The art remains true today in its current format, usually as a variety show, in which singers, comedians, magicians, and other entertainment acts punctuate the shows between stripteases.
If you’ve never been to a Burlesque show (and watching the Christina Aguilera movie does NOT count), I highly suggest going. If you’re in the Chicago area, check out Mister Junior and Vaudezilla.com for upcoming shows.
I know it’s still Christmas, and we all should be thinking positive, being happy, and stuffing our faces and stomachs to the brim. But when ready, please read the article linked. And think how we each have made an impact on the world, and how we have been framing our minds around our personal and social environments. Then, begin to think how we can prepare ourselves for the coming year/s, and what changes we need to make in our own lives.
This is a crucial point in American, no - World, history. We can’t continue ignoring the problems as they surmount. And change always begins with the individual.
It is the cult of self that is killing the United States. This cult has within it the classic traits of psychopaths: superficial charm, grandiosity and self-importance; a need for constant stimulation; a penchant for lying, deception and manipulation; and the incapacity for remorse or guilt…
…And this is also the ethic promoted by corporations. It is the ethic of unfettered capitalism. It is the misguided belief that personal style and personal advancement, mistaken for individualism, are the same as democratic equality. It is the nationwide celebration of image over substance, of illusion over truth.
As my friend Hilary says, Bush deserves more of the blame.
(via Washington Post)
This is not just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make or break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. Because what’s at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement.
Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for way too many years. And their philosophy is simple: We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.
I am here to say they are wrong. I’m here in Kansas to reaffirm my deep conviction that we’re greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules. These aren’t Democratic values or Republican values. These aren’t 1 percent values or 99 percent values. They’re American values. And we have to reclaim them.
Every Asian-nay-everyone should read this.
(Inspired by the commentary on this post)
For the purposes of anti-racism struggles, that’s all you need to go by.
Yes, the term, “colored” is not normally associated with Asian people these days, but it was definitely used to label people of Asian descent in this country in the past. We have been and still are the targets of White racism:
Believing the fallacy that people of Asian descent are not authentically or legitimately ‘Colored’ or ‘People of Color’ is wrong because:
1) It ignores the long history of racial discrimination and persecution of Asians in the U.S. (e.g. the Chinese Exclusion Acts, the Japanese-American internment during WWII, explicit campaigns to drive Asians out of the American West, the lynching of Asian Americans. (Which is something that is not commonly known due to the fact that many Asian and Mexican victims of mob violence in the 19th c. were classified as ‘White’ in official records*)
2) It ignores the history of White European imperialism in Asian countries, which intersects with White racism against Asian immigrants in White-majority countries. I assure you that White imperialists certainly did not view Indians, Chinese, or Vietnamese as being anything other than ‘Colored’
Imperial map of Asia, source of map
White European man receiving a pedicure from South Asian servants
3) It plays into the White racist divide-and-conquer strategy.
Even a brief look at the history of race/ethnicity in U.S. law alone makes it apparent that a key aspect of White racism has been the classification of non-Whites according to (white-defined) categories.
Those hailing from Asia (as well as the Middle East, the Caribbean, and Latin America) have been legally categorized in a myriad of ways—very occasionally as White, but more often as non-White (e.g. Ozawa v. United States, United States v. Thind). In general, Asians have occupied a strange ethno-racial limbo as ‘Other’ (e.g. the Census prior to 1870). As far as Whites were concerned, Asians might not have been ‘Negros’, but we certainly weren’t White either. Our otherness made us targets for discrimination and violence, and—because our right to citizenship has constantly come under attack—we’ve historically had as little recourse to the protection of the law as African Americans have.
Massacre of the Chinese at White Springs, Wyoming (source)
Yes, Asian people have (somewhat more recently than you think) enjoyed certain perks due to our ethnicity/race compared to Black and AmerIndian people (e.g. ‘the model minority’). But that’s just a more recent aspect of the divide-and-conquer strategy, which the White hegemony has used to pit minorities against each other so as to distract us from the real problems facing our communities.
And yes, some Asian people are complete racist dicks to those who aren’t Asian or White, but that’s internalized White racism. If you’ve been kicked and beaten by your master for years, then suddenly given a few scraps from his table, would you throw them in his face? Or is it more likely that—as beaten down as you are—you’d give in to Stockholm Syndrome and play along? (To be clear: that’s an explanation for Asian racism, not an excuse.)
Even so, incidents of Anti-Asian bias (e.g. Vincent Chin, Wen Ho Lee) and straight-up racist violence occur frequently enough these days that Asians are hyper-aware of the fact that many—including non-whites—don’t view us as Americans, let alone ‘Colored’. We’re simply foreign ‘others’.
So if White is grudgingly treating you OK, while Black and Brown seem to hate and distrust you, then whom do you ally yourself with? More importantly, who benefits from this apparent alliance?
In the American black-white paradigm of race relations, ‘others’ like Asians get shit on no matter which side we’re on. So the Asian internalization of White racism makes a twisted kind of sense as a survival strategy, particularly if your natural allies (other victims of White racism) are treating you like foreigners and even equating you with the oppressor himself.
My point: Asians’ conflicted, sometimes tense, relations with African Americans and those who have been historically, categorically considered ‘Colored’ is an artifact of White racism. This means that if you exclude Asians from ‘Colored’ solidarity against White racism, you are reproducing a highly successful strategy of White racism.
Let that sink in for a minute.
To conclude: Anti-Asian exclusion from POC solidarity movements is ignorant, wrong, and just plain stupid. Asians’s current role as a prop of White racial supremacy is not our doing, just as our historic role as the foreign ‘Other’ is not our doing. The peculiar place of Asians in race relations today has been the result of the intersection of White racism, xenophobia, and imperialism. It is a mistake to think otherwise.
TL;DR: Questioning the identity of Asians as “people of color” reinforces White racial supremacy.
This question keeps me awake all night, tossing and turning. Why, why, has America been so cruel to white males? They ask for so little. And what do they get?
Well, besides everything.
Somebody better hold me back.
What? I just…I don’t even. Did they even look at the picture?