How Soon is Now?

This is perhaps the best known song produced by The Smiths. However, it speaks volumes when applied to the memory of LGBTQ history:
“I am the son and the heir of a shyness that is criminally vulgar . . . of nothing in particular . . . how can you say I go about things the wrong way? I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does” (Morrisey / Marr).
Aside from the fact that I love this song*, listening to it (coincidentally, I am) parallels what my peers Sam, Allan, and Derek just presented on the subject of “Queering the Arts.” Throughout history, expressions of the LGBTQ community (hereby referred to as “community”) have been lost inside the memories of those past and of those who will follow; individuals who identify as LGBTQ have been forced into obscurity; to deny their own, true selves; and to have their queer identities  erased and denied. It was easier for those of the past to find expression through the arts  ̶  whereby they were able to express their true identities, the context of their expression was only operational under the pretense that their expressions of themselves were figments of creativity. Allan likened it to a glass window in which each side wanted something that the other side offered, but could only safely obtain by passive observance: for the audiences, they were curious about the queerness presented and for the presenters, they were able to express themselves.
Allan presenting to the group
Allan presenting to the group
In more recent times, as our community became more visible, queer art has become a means of communication and activism. For example, the banners we made while working with ACT UP in NYC are a form of activism in art: see here and here. We’ve come a long way from the days when our community had to “act” and pretend in order to express ourselves; however, despite having a much more prominent voice than in days past, there is still much work to be done. Unfortunately, sterilization is still occurring, as is discrimination against members of our community.
As an American, I am as familiar with the (debatable)”high moral standards” of the United States as I am with the reality of what actually happens, and that is of how sex, particularly heterosexuality, sells. In few words, there seems to be a torrid love affair between hypocrisy and moral standards for the country at large, but that is a topic for another time. In NYC, I saw more members of the community openly and proudly identifying themselves than I’ve ever seen in Indiana, even at Indy Pride (which, by the way, those of us on the trip who are from IN are missing right now), although I regret to say that I still heard whispers of intolerance and discrimination. Amsterdam was the most open and accepting city we visited (in my opinion )  ̶  the first day we were there, our server proudly exclaimed that “[they] were the first to legalize gay marriage” when she asked what we were doing in the city (other than trying to avoid all the bicycles). I saw queer expressions everywhere – particularly at night- as well as features of lesbians in photography as early as 1880 in the Sex Museum. In Paris, although the right for same-sex couples to marry was passed just last year, there is a good amount of opposition to it and there are people who are still fighting against it.
"Marriage will change the lives of homosexuals but it will not change your life"
“Marriage will change the lives of homosexuals but it will not change your life”
However uncomfortable expressions of sexuality may be for some, it is becoming more acceptable for respectable persons to explore such expressions as part of history and art, regardless of their own identification. How else could we visit the Musée de l’érotisme (Museum of Eroticism) as part of a scholastic endeavor to uncover the hidden history of our community? In Paris, one can buy a museum pass, which they can use at the Louvre, or the d’Orsay, for example… and if this museum was not a respectable museum, there would be no possibility at all of it being associated in any way with a world class museum. In Amsterdam, the Sex Museum was in no way, shape, or form affiliated with the Rijks Museum. The fact that some affiliation is allowed between the Louvre and the Museum of Eroticism shows that there is a willingness to open up some sort of dialogue. In searching for queer in the museum, I saw many depictions of lesbian expression, but relatively few of male expression. I actually saw more works depicting gender ambiguity and mixed-sex bodies than I did of gay males. After discussing my observations, I understood the overwhelming heterosexual and male influence on the collection: the reason for the larger number of works depicting lesbian sexuality is because it is not necessarily a celebration of lesbianism as a beautiful thing, but rather, as fetishism.

the fetishization of lesbianism
It is important to note here that much of the idea of power and structure amongst genders and sex are social constructions in order to better understand the context of my observation. Lesbians are not as much a threat to the male hierarchy, as it were, because there is no male penetration; so, it is just another way to sexualize the female body for (implicitly heterosexual) male gratification. Males engaging in homosexuality is viewed as a threat in this way, since the power structure is thought to be disrupted. In ancient times, notably with the ancient Greeks, sex was used to exert power, particularly with the sexual relationships between older male citizens and young adolescent males, but there was no stigma attached unless a male citizen were to penetrate another male citizen, and then it was frowned upon because it feminized the penetrated, thereby emasculating him. Adolescent males were acceptable to engage in sex with because they were essentially female in the way that they were not yet fully grown men, so being penetrated was acceptable. Fast-forward to the present: we are more accepting of various sexualities and have the knowledge to deconstruct the realities attached by the past in order to break the cycle of exclusion, but there is still a lot of stigma in the world today regarding any sexuality other than heterosexuality. There has been discrimination, fear, and hatred directed towards the community throughout time, and the only real reason is a very basic human sentiment: we fear what we don’t understand. However, the beauty of humanity is that we have the power to change this for the future.
The 7 deadly sins, portrayed as queer men
The 7 deadly sins, portrayed as queer men
In closing, this will be the last blog detailing our travels to the not-so-far-away NYC and far-away Amsterdam and Paris. As a self-proclaimed francophile (meaning that I love the French language and yearn for the day I am fluent), I particularly enjoyed Paris. I am, however, ready to return home. Between getting food poisoning for the first time in NYC and visiting the Catacombs of Paris, I miss my significant other, our beautiful cat (we call him our son), and falling asleep together. I haven’t been away from my little family for this long in quite some time, but I am returning with wider eyes and a responsibility and preparedness to have those difficult conversations regarding sexuality. Queer is in the air and it’s everywhere: “We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not going anywhere!” (exact origin unknown). In order to create a more inclusive world that is accepting of our community, it is absolutely necessary to scrub all of the whitewashed surfaces in order to find the gems of truth hidden beneath. The final stop on our trip together as part of our exploration of the city was the iconic church, Sacre Cœur (Sacred Heart). I’ll leave you with an image of the view. If you look hard enough (zooming in helps), you can see a rainbow on one of the buildings in the center.
The view of the city from Sacre Cœur
The view of the city from Sacre Cœur
Until next time,
<3 My-Lan.
Continue reading How Soon is Now?

A Journey to a Memorial

Hello Readers,  

By now the group is starting to feel the effects of travel. Many of us are exhausted and have plenty of blisters to prove just how much walking we've done of the course of the past two weeks. 

Despite the weariness, we trek on with our journey of learning.   Today we visited the deportation memorial just behind Notre Dame and across the street. This seems like a prime location where many people would visit right? Not quite. The memorial is behind hedges that block out the entire park. There are only two entrances. The big entrance was locked and the smaller is a bit more down the road. There is something to be said about how hidden this memorial is.  We first examined the plaque of the memorial, which was unique in itself. At the bottom of the plaque the triangles are displayed that named the "crime" that the prisoner was accused of. Notice how each star is on the same level as if to say that all suffered equally under the Nazi regime. Something that is truly unique about this sign is that it has a French, English, and German translation on it. Every museum we've visited so far has had primarily French on their signs. English is rare and usually only on the more popular artworks. It's very intentional as to why they included these three languages.  

The next part of the memorial is the open field and garden beds. Note how the flowers are arranged in a triangle. This was also very intentional, but something that caught our group's eye was that the flowers were pink. The pink triangle is the symbol that the Nazi's used to identify homosexuals. It is most likely that the planners of the memorial didn't intend for this meaning, but we've been trained to read between the lines and look for queerness everywhere. Too often our history is erased. It's quite possible that the landscape architect knew the significance of the pink and purposely chose pink flowers to plant. Our queer Brothers and Sisters are everywhere and leave their marks in a hidden language.


Now, I'm very sorry to disappoint our readers, but we were unable to actually view the real memorial on the bank of the river. The memorial was closed with no explanation or signage showing why. Lowell & Dr. Pitts assured us that they had checked online multiple times to make sure the memorial would be open. We even checked the website when we were at the memorial to see if there was a random reason for it being closed. Nothing. The silence surrounding the reason as to why the memorial was closed was frustrating.


In lieu of the memorial, Dr. Pitts gave us a mini-lecture on the history of this particular site as well as an explanation of French collaboration during the occupation. Over 30,000 French Jews were lined up and deported to a holding camp called Drancy, before being deported at this location to Auschwitz. Before being lined up at this location, they were kept at the Velodrome d'hiver, an old motorcycle track. The track is in a glass dome that acted as a greenhouse where these Jews and other "criminals" were kept for days without food or water. Some when insane from heat exhaustion and jumped from the stands to commit suicide.

Drancy, the holding location before many Jews were sent to Auschwitz.
Drancy, the holding location before many Jews were sent to Auschwitz.
We also learned quite a bit about why the French collaborated with Nazi Germany. The collaboration was mostly due to the losses that the French had during WWI. They lost a whole generation of young men to WWI and didn't want the same thing to happen again. So the French believed that by having their government collaborate, they could still have French officials in power and minimize French losses. Thankfully, a young French general by the name of Charles De Gaulle escaped to England and acted as the official French government. This enabled the Americans and the British to have someone to confer with during the war. It was interesting to compare the acts of resistance in France to that of the Netherlands, who declared themselves neutral in the war. 


Today, the French are beginning to understand and come to terms with just how much collaborating cost them. In the early 2000's plaques have been placed around the city at sites where Jews were deported. Plaques like these are the beginnings of the French atonement for collaboration. It's hard to think about what I would do in that situation or what I would want my government to do. I think it's important to not judge all the collaborators, especially since many might have felt that they were doing what they needed to do to survive or what they thought would bring the least about of harm to themselves and their community.  


Everyday, I seem to be learning more and more about not only queer history, but about the history of the wars as well. Never did I think I could absorb this much information in such a short trip. It's really nice to be able to see and touch the sites where so much history has happened. It has truly been an honor to be a part of this trip and I can't help but be sad knowing that we only have another day before we depart home.  

Your traveler and student,  

Derek McDowell



A “Queer Day” In Paris

Bonjour de Paris!

My name is Rickie and I would like to share our extraordinary day with you. Our day started in the lobby of our hotel where we had a brief processing session of yesterday’s visit of the Louvre.

Once the meeting was over we explored the open Market at Bastille. The market is a combination of what we Americans would call a flea market and a farmers market. This market spanned 3 blocks and had 4 rows of venders, one row going up each side and two rows going down the center of the plaza. There appeared to be no organizational placements of the venders, they were dispersed trough out the space sporadically. For example there were a couple venders selling clothing and jewelry followed by a produce stand that was followed by a meat vender. It reminded me of the flea market back home. (Only we called it a sale barn, because it started at the barn located near the local meat processing plant)

There were several Queer themed items for sale at the market, as well as a handful of LGBTQ community members. LGBTQ identified persons seem to have a broader acceptance here in Paris. This is evident by the freedom to walk hand and hand through the city with little or no opposition to their “Queer behavior”. Their ability to display their love and affection for one another is beyond this American’s imagination.

Below are a few pictures of the market with my favorite piece of “Queer” jewelry.

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ACT UP-Paris

ACT UP-Paris
ACT UP-Paris

Meet Tom Craig of ACT UP-Paris, our mentor for the day. Mr. Craig is a former New Yorker that relocated to Paris more than 30 years ago and has been working with ACT UP-Paris for 20 years. It should be noted that he also worked with ACT Up-New York prior to moving to Paris.

ACT UP-Paris is an activist organization that speaks out for the LGBTQ community when it comes to HIV and AIDS education, treatment and prevention.

The Black Years of the Plague!

In the early 1980’s when the HIV and AIDS epidemic broke out ACT UP-Paris was extremely active and had an extensive membership base. Just like any other organization that we have experienced on this trip that has dealt with the HIV and AIDS epidemic, ACT UP-Paris is struggling to keep their doors open. Within the past year they have dwindled to three (3) full time associates and just a handful of volunteers. The downsizing of the organization has not swayed the loyalty and dedication of the full time staff and its volunteers. They are giving 110% to the cause and are working with the French government to put an end to HIV and AIDS.

3 Areas of Focus

The three areas of focus for the group are Progression, Community and Prevention.

Progression: This is the process that tracks the spread of HIV and AIDS throughout the LGBTQ community. In 2013 there was a reported 3,000 new HIV infections in the LGBTQ community. This is significantly less than that of the US, which had an increase of 50,000 infections for the past several years. Unlike most countries, the infection rate increase is larger within the older generation; ages 50 and up. This is due to a cultural disconnect from the modern times and the older generation that have practiced unprotected sex all their lives. The use of a condom is foreign to them and they are hesitant to change to a more safe sexual experience.

Community: ACT UP-Paris supports local Pride events as well as other social LGBTQ events through distributing condoms and educational materials.

Prevention: ACT UP-Paris has an excellent education program. However, according to Mr. Craig these educational materials, as well as condoms, are not received well within the community. They are currently looking for new ways to present the material to reluctant community members.

Mr. Craig added that there has been an increase in HIV infections within the sex industry. Although prostitution is legal in Paris, most are immigrants and or illegal aliens that are unaware of the health care system, which will treat them free of charge. The language barrier seems to play a huge impact on the lack of education of the sex worker.

A Comparison of France HIV and AIDS Educational Material

With the passing of the Jesse Helms Amendment in 1987, any organization that receives federal funds for HIV and AIDS cannot make any reference of homosexual activity. This not excludes an entire community; it prevents any organization receiving federal aid from creating specific educational material for the LGBTQ community.

France has not put this restriction on the use of funds set aside for the education and prevention of HIV and AIDS. While visiting the ACT UP-Paris offices we were able to see some of their ad campaigns and much to our surprise they were very explicit and displayed same-sex partners kissing, as well as a few that showed a penis wearing a condom.

Health Care

There is a hidden HIV epidemic in France. ½ of those exposed are unaware that they are infected. This is a huge concern since Healthcare In France cannot be denied to any one that tests positive! France covers 100% of HIV treatments to include Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PeP). Although PeP is covered PreP is not at this time. France is currently doing clinical studies to see if PreP is effective when taken 3-4 times a week, instead of a daily regime.

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By Abby Schneller

Yesterday, we made our way to the last stop on our tour, Paris, France! We took the train from Amsterdam to Paris, about a three hour ride, then rode the Metro to our hotel. I slept for the majority of the train ride; doing so much traveling and studying is exhausting! After getting our roommate assignments for the remainder of the trip, we took a short break to relax. We then headed off for a walking tour of Paris headed up by our very own Dr. Pitts and Lowell. On the walking tour, we got to see many historic buildings, ending with the Notre Dame Cathedral. I’ve been to Paris before, a year ago. Last time I was here, I came with Purdue Musical Organizations and had the privilege of watching the Glee Club perform in Notre Dame. While it was not quite the same without the guys’ singing, it was still an incredible sight! The stained glass was so intricate and beautiful, just like I remembered.

After we viewed the Notre Dame, we were released to eat dinner or explore the city. I went with a few classmates to go shopping, which was really fun (except for a very rude saleswoman). We then went back to the hotel to change into nice clothes for dinner. We went to a brasserie called Café Les Artiste, and spent the night talking and getting to know each other. When we got back to the hotel, I spent some time with Angel and Beth, practicing make-up and talking. It was so nice to get to know them and their stories better, as well as share my own story with people who are so open and accepting.

Today started with a private tour of the Louvre set up by Comtesse Sabine de la Rochfoucard. We saw so much famous and beautiful artwork, like the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, a sphinx, crown jewels, and so much more! After the guided tour, we were even able to walk around and look at whatever we wanted to in the Louvre. I went off on my own and looked at the Napoleon III Appartments, which were incredibly lavish. We were also told to find a piece of art that spoke to us as being queer, just like our assignment for the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam. I found a statue of a man in a very feminine position, whose penis was covered by fabric. This man struck me as queer because the artist seemed to portray him as emasculated, with his male parts intentionally hidden. We are also writing a comparative paper on the pieces we found in the Rijks versus the Louvre.

Breaking for lunch, a few of us went to a café and had some really fantastic pizza. Of course, it was nice to sit for a while after a long morning of walking around the Louvre. On the way back, Beth took some great pictures of some of us, as well as a man in a Speedo doing yoga, which was silly. But after we met back for a short check in, we were set free to roam once again. Some of the group went back to the hotel, but myself and others went to try to find the Champs Élysées, a shopping district. We may or may not have gotten a little lost (hint: we did), and after searching for it for about an hour, Beth and I decided to give up. So we broke off from the group and maneuvered the subway system to find our way back to the hotel.

Upon arriving to the hotel, Beth and I took a break to relax and rest our tired feet. We then met up for dinner and ended up at this (somewhat sketchy) restaurant. It had good prices and the food itself wasn’t bad, but the bathroom sink didn’t work, so I’m a little nervous about food poisoning. Hopefully they had another sink where the employees wash their hands? Anyway, after dinner we went a few doors down t20140611_034100o a cute ice cream and sorbet shop. It was very nice; they even made your ice cream cone look like a flower. Beth got chocolate and coffee ice cream and I got chocolate sorbet. On our way back to the hotel, we got a little lost and walked too far on the wrong street, so we just took the subway back. I’m pretty sure we’ll be experts on the Paris Metro after this trip is over.

Overall, it’s been a great first two days in Paris! Missing home, of course, but thee’s nothing like being here in Europe. It’s amazing to be around this beautiful old architecture and a whole different culture, with different norms, languages, and people. I also love seeing the different ways that ‘queer’ manifests itself in this new-for-me environment. I am so excited to see what our last few days will be like and what I will learn. This opportunity is just incredible

Au Revoir, Amsterdam!

Greetings from Amsterdam! Today was a bittersweet one for me.  On one hand, it was our last day in the relaxing city but on the other, we were able to explore world class art in the Rijksmuseum and gain a new perspective on the Holocaust at the Dutch Resistance Museum before being turned loose to explore the city for the remainder of the day.

The Tram in Amsterdam
The Tram in Amsterdam
ID cards for a Jewish boy who went into hiding by transforming to a girl.
ID cards for a Jewish boy who went into hiding by transforming to a girl.


Gary Holman
Gary Holman
Sam Walburn
Sam Walburn
Angel Avina
Angel Avina
Treaty of Munster
Treaty of Munster
Treaty of Munster
Treaty of Munster
The treaty of Munster
The treaty of Munster

Our day began at 8:45 AM with a stroll to the Rijksmuseum.  (One of the wonderful things about our hotel is that it is located in the Museum District so we were just a short walk from stunningly famous and historical art, buildings, and most obviously, museums!)  From the outside, the Rijksmuseum resembles a palace.  It is covered in brick and inlayed artwork such as mosaics and intricate stained glasswork. Once inside, the appearance is more modern – it looks like a palace turned art gallery, oddly enough!

Before we arrived at the Museum, Dr. Pitts and Lowell challenged everyone in the group to find hidden sexuality and look deeply for signs of LGBTQ people in the various forms of artwork in the museum.  We found sexuality on bowls, in paintings,  and in sculptures large and small.  One of the very large Rembrandt paintings, The Treaty of Munster, gained our attention and let it suffice to say that the negotiations may not have been all business!

In the very front of the painting, you find two men, judging by the looks on their faces and the fact that one of the two has his hand placed gently over his heart, they seem to be discussing something personal. In the background of the painting there is also a man with a limp wrist which, traditionally suggests homosexuality, although we cannot be sure of the context in the time period.  This was just one of many examples found within the walls of the gorgeous museum.

For lunch, my group dined at a small cafe about a block from the Rijksmuseum where we enjoyed round steak, sandwiches, crepes, and of course pommes frite (which are Dutch french fries essentially).  European dining is quite a different experience than American.  For one thing, if you are dining in a large group, the waitstaff detests splitting bills and they do not hide their annoyance.  Another thing is that restaurants often do not accept cards, only Euros – we found that out the hard way on the first day!

After lunch we reconvened at the hotel to walk together to the tram stop towards the Dutch Resistance Museum.  One interesting thing about the tram is that you scan your pass on the way onto the tram as well as when you are leaving the tram.  That, and I find it odd to see a train and a regular car driving on the very same streets.

After the tram ride and a short walk, we arrived at the Dutch resistance museum which is located just across the street from the Amsterdam Zoo.  The Amsterdam Zoo is also the site of a major historical event yet there wasn’t a plaque nor a mention of the event.  The current location of the Amsterdam Zoo used to be a site of record keeping during World War II and it was bombed by a group of 12 people, one of which was Willem Arondeus.  Willem Arondeus was an openly gay artist who helped the resistance by making fake ID papers for people in risk of being taken to concentration camps. He, along with  11 other people, bombed the city records and saved thousands of people from persecution and possibly even death.

Diagonally across the street the Dutch Resistance Museum was located.  The museum was extremely interactive and creatively set up.  We began the tour with a short video chronicling three common reactions to the Nazi occupation of Holland: resistance, collaboration, or adaptation.  The video gave a sense of an answer to the looming question when one studies the Holocaust and wonders how someone could go along with such a thing.

As the group split up to explore the museum we found videos, artifacts, and stories of resistance and valiant efforts.  I think it is important to mention that one must take the museum with a grain of salt as it was created by the Dutch as a remembrance of their positive actions in the war and it often ignores the collaborators while celebrating the radical resistors.

Once we had explored the Dutch Resistance Museum for a while, the group was allowed to explore the city in the area or head towards ‘home’ in the Museum District to recover from the day.  Personally, I chose to freshen up and was planning to explore a bit more but my plans were ruined by an impromptu nap!

My wonderful roommates awoke me to go to dinner.  We went to a homemade pasta place called ‘Pasta Pasta!’  Where they had pasta dishes from several different cultures as well as a killer tiramisu!

Amsterdam has been beautiful, wonderful, and educational.  One thing that I’ve really taken away from the Amsterdam portion of the trip is looking at museums with a critical eye especially toward the hetero-normative ways so often used by historians, curators, and sadly even the education system.  This is why we’re doing this though isn’t it? To change these hetero-normative ideals within society and to understand why this happened in the first place.


Quite Frankly….

By Allan Summers

Today’s adventure took us all around the city. We awoke early to head to the Ann Frank House. We arrived at the actual house and Secret Annex of Anne Frank and her family and a long line met us with more than 100 people even though it was only 9:00am. Luckily, we had purchased our tickets in advance and didn’t have to wait that long to see this historic site. For those of you who do not know, Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl who went into hiding with her family from the Nazi Party during the Second World War. It was the goal of the Nazi Party to exterminate the Jewish citizens and during their persecution Anne Frank documented her experiences as she and her family hid for about 2 years. Anne was also the author of many short stories and collected her favorite sentences while hiding in secret. On August 4, 1944 Anne, her family, and the rest of the inhabitants of the Secret Annex were arrested and processed by the Nazis. Anne would eventually die at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Nazi Germany at the age of 15. Of the eight residents of the Secret Annex, only one, Otto Frank, Anne’s father, survived. He was rescued from the camp only one month after Anne’s death.

A video played in the museum narrated by Anne’s childhood best friend, another survivor of Auschwitz, and in this video Jacqueline van Maarsen talks about hope and how they tried to make the best of their situations. The two were definitely lucky to have each other in those hard times. Jacqueline recalls the last time she saw Anne that she looked so “hopeless”. Anne thought that she was the last of her family to survive the camps. Unbeknownst to her (or anyone), a month later would the camp be liberated and she would be reunited with her father who was held in the infirmary. Jacqueline van Maarsen believed that had Anne known that her father was still alive, she could have held on a little longer and potentially until the liberation of the camp. I believe that hope could have given Anne the strength she needed, even if she wasn’t going to survive.

Directly out side of the Anne Frank House is another national monument called the “Homomonument”. This monument was presented to the public on September 5, 1987 to commemorate the gay men and women who lost their lives during the Second World War. Gay men and women were harshly punished and sometimes killed under Nazi rule because they “did not fit” into the Aryan identity the Nazis were trying to attain. Those sent to concentration camps were forced to wear a pink triangle on the right corner of their shirts and as well as on their pants to signify to everyone else that this person was either a homosexual or “committed same sex crimes”. Lesbian women were seen as social deviants and so they were forced to wear either black or red triangles on their clothing. Still, the Homomonument is not only meant for those queer persons who suffered in World War Two, but for any body who have been or are still persecuted and killed by political and government groups.

The monument itself is actually composed of three, pink granite, equilateral triangles connected by a band. The three triangles actually form a fourth triangle as a whole. Each point in the monument represents the past, present, or future and also points to another famous landmark in Dutch history. What I found so shocking about this monument was that it was so close to the Anne Frank House they the line continuously spilled over literally on top of the Homomonument. The general public seemed to be entirely clueless as to what all of the symbols on the ground mean, and what this kind of monument means to queers all over the world. Not to take away from the impact of the Anne Frank house, I just wanted to make note on how this landmark is literally “hiding in plain sight”.

We were let loose for the rest of the day and I chose to spend some time in the sex museum. This museum was full of very rare art that would otherwise be hidden from various cultures. We saw same sex acts in photography and art dating all the way back to the 1800s! These pieces of art would probably never be seen in a museum in the States. Cultures from all over the world were represented from the Middle East, to the Americas, all the way to Japan and Polynesia. It was amazing to see much older cultures recognize different sexualities and different sexual identities and how it can seem how we have taken steps back in censoring how we view our bodies and identities.

The last part of our day took us to the infamous Red Light District in Amsterdam. This section of the city has a very open view on sex acts and sexuality and many shops celebrated the use of sex toys and enhancers for partners of all types. This part of town is also widely known for the regulated prostitution. As we walked along the narrow streets, we peeked inside windows normally used to advertise potential partners for the night. Thankfully we weren’t solicited! The openness of all sexualities was extremely interesting. We, as Americans, have been so conditioned to turn away from nudity and from sexual exploration, so it was refreshing to see people of all ages celebrate something that can be so beautiful.

At night, I ended with some Indonesian food at a local spot. I had to try it out because it seemed that there was no shortage of Indonesian, Peruvian, or Argentinian restaurants. I can’t wait to try the other two types of dishes tomorrow. All in all, we are still on the right track to discovery and liberation. I know that I have been taking every opportunity to try something new or walk a little bit further to see the next museum. Because who knows the next time I’ll get to do this again…I may not know, but I’m not going to waste it this time around!Anne Frank Statue

Group in front of Anne Frank Museum
Group in front of Anne Frank Museum
1/3 of Homomonument
1/3 of Homomonument

The Land of Canals




Friday marked the beginning of the second leg of the trip.   We started the day with a meta discussion of our time in New York.  Afterwards we checked out and started to wait; we waited two and a half hours to be shuttled to Newark, and there we spent 3 hours in the terminal.  Personally, I was very glad when the plane was finally in the air.  The bird’s eye view of New York City was stunning.


We arrived in Schiphol at 8:00am on Saturday.  The uncomfortable plane seats didn’t allow for much sleep, so most of the group was tired and tense as we tried to exit the bustling airport.  Luckily, it was relatively easy to get outside; the lines were short and none of our bags were given extra attention from customs.  I have nothing to compare this trip to, but later in the day, Our Dear Leaders mentioned that it was the smoothest foreign airport exit they had ever experienced.


Our home for the next few days is NH Museum Quarter.  Although most of us needed a shower and a nap, we couldn’t check into our rooms until 1:00p so we took the liberty to explore a little bit.


This photo is the canal alongside Hobbemarkade.  Amsterdam is prettier and cleaner than NYC.  There are fewer people here and biking is a major mode of transportation; bikes are EVERYWHERE compared to a paltry few in NYC.   The streets are narrow and most sidewalks are barely big enough for two people to walk side by side.  At first I was intimidated to come to a country without the language, but it seems like almost everyone in Amsterdam speaks english, at least the people in the cafes and shops.  Coffee and a sandwich were 6.50 euro (about $9.00), which would be high for Indiana, but the prices don’t faze me anymore after spending a week in New York City.  Our lunch took a long time, but long meals are part of the culture in Europe.




Many group members got some much needed sleep before the canal tour at 3:00p, which Lowell and Dr. Pitts had graciously procured during the morning free time.  The photos above were taken on the tour.  The canals are a bit confusing because  instead of going north, south, east, west, the canals are concentric circles that surround the center of the city; it makes it difficult to remember where you have been and judge distances as well.  Although I think the boat ride was intended to make learning to navigate the city easier, I don’t think it helped much other than to show the beauty of the city.  Amsterdam is a very old city.  New York is an old city too, but most of the buildings have been replaced by skyscrapers so you can’t see the age on the street.  However the buildings here are only four or five stories tall because some go as far back as the 17th century.  Some are leaning to the side from age, while others lean into the street because they were made to do so as a status symbol.  House boats are also common in some canals, originally used because they were cheaper, but now the boats are valued real estate because the city isn’t giving out more permits.  I don’t know the housing market in Amsterdam, but I assume that rent is very expensive like NYC.  It’s a small city and everyone wants a piece.

GLSEN, Stonewall Inn & much More!

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Hola everyone! My name is Angel Avina, and it’s my turn to share with you today’s adventures we had through out the city of New York! We started the day out bright and early meeting in our dorms lobby at 9am to start our subway ride to the offices of GLSEN. GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) is a k-12 education program that works in providing numerous resources for students and academic professionals to promote the inclusion of LGBTQ communities into education. Emily Greytak, Director of Research, and aunt of our lovely Abby Schneller, greeted us in their conference room with a box full of delicious pastries and where we started right off the back with introductions. After intros we met Ikaika Regidor, Youth Program Director, who took us into a hall to do an exercise that involved us placing ourselves in a time line according to a slip of paper that stated a fact on LGBTQ history, some dating back to the 1600’s.


After we were done we came back together around the conference table and had the opportunity to meet the different members of the other departments and what exactly each one of the departments was currently working on. I was actually pleasantly surprised by how mentally engaging this organization was since I had never heard of it before. I’ve recently been interested in the reformation of sexual studies in k-12 institutes, so getting an insight on how one organization has been able to provide so many resources in this field has elevated my interests to another level. After each representative spoke we were able to ask questions and below is just a sample response that we received.


GLSEN was wonderful in providing us a synopsis of what they do and what is left to accomplish in providing for the LGBTQ communities in schools. We got to go home with a really nice folder packed with all their resource information and contacts, and trust me; I look forward to working with GLSEN in the future.




After GLSEN we made our way over to Christopher Park, right out side of the Stonewall Inn. Today was the first day of our small group presentations on the historic locations that we will be visiting through out our travels. Today Abby, Jynx, and Jake presented on the history of Stonewall including its riot and what came after it for the community.  Below is a bit of Abby’s presentation.

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After the presentation we crossed the street over to Stonewall Inn where we met with Tree Sequoia. This man was definitely a character and one that had us laughing through out his whole presentation. He gave us a very blunt history of the place, no sugar coating. It was run by the mafia in its earlier days, as were most of neighborhoods. He focused mainly on the aftermath of the riot in regards to the Inn, such as the bar getting split into two and how the community supported them by allowing them to come into their stores so that the police couldn’t arrest them. He also mentioned that one of the police officers that was in the riot later apologized for deeming them as sick before he passed away. Tree spent most of his time talking about his life growing up and how he came to be so well rooted into his queer community. He told us how his career started out in the bars and was always bouncing around from one to the other. Tree put the time period into perspective for us stating:

“Years ago you had to worry about being gay. I was in a gang and I used to have to hide having sex on roof tops and on top of piles of trash bags and then go back home and lie about it to the gang. I’d say I was away with my family or something”


He finished up with answering questions and the last question that I asked was what advice he would have for a group of young queer individuals and he responded with;

“Play it smart, meet the right people and learn how to live on your own so that you don’t have to rely on anybody.” “Go to school, get your education and then you can afford to be gay.”

After our session with Tree, our group activities came to an end but I would like to mention how I finished the rest of my day. A group of us headed over back to Times Square to buy some Broadway tickets and decided to watch Kinky Boots. Let me just say, Billy Porter was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!! Everyone reading needs to see this man while he still in the show. The lights, the music, the vocals, the crystal encrusted Boots; all had me at the edge of my seat in goose bumps. We met him after the show and he was surprisingly humble, and even knew where Purdue University was. The person that really took my breath away for the night was a complete surprise, Lady Bunny. The legendary drag queen goddess came out of the same doors and I was not expecting it. I chased her down a few blocks in order to get a picture. I must say, the inner elementary school girl came out of me and was in utter shock. After the picture I thanked her and re-joined my group a few blocks down.

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Over all, my day was full of queerness and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The day completed my stay here in New York City on an ultra high note, from the resourceful information from GLSEN, to the history of Stonewall Inn and ending with the experience of my second Broadway show. On my way back I was thinking to myself as I looked back to these past few days, and I can truly say I took full advantage of this opportunity and New York was everything I expected and more!

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Roots & Hoots – NYPL & Cabaret

Greetings loved ones, followers, and those who may stumble upon this blog unintentionally! My name is Eliot Blackburn and I will be giving you a brief reflection upon my trip experience these past few days. Yesterday morning our day began with a group reflection session where we discussed our thoughts of the previous day (for more details see Gary’s post). A few things stuck out to me that I felt were worth sharing widely. Those are the central role the HIV/AIDs epidemic has had on the LGBTQ community and the prominence or invisibility of women within queer history. While HIV is generally associated with gay men in the United States, the past few days have actually shown us that hemophiliacs and intravenous drug users were/are disproportionately affected by HIV. These two groups were highlighted by ACT UP members Jim Eigo and Annette Guadino and these groups came up again on our trip to the New York Public Library.

Group meeting before heading out for the day

After having the morning to sleep in (thank you Dr. Pitts & Lowell!) the group headed to the New York Public Library’s Schwarzmann Building on 5th Avenue. We had the distinct pleasure of meeting with Jason Baumann, Coordinator of Collection and Assessment and LGBT Collections for the New York Public Library (NYPL). Jason gave us a brief overview of the LGBT collections and records available on request and online across the various NYPL libraries. We learned 4 libraries make up the NYPL (Humanities & Social Sciences, Science Industry and Business, Performing Arts, and the Center for Black Research and Culture). What struck me about the LGBT collection is that while it is mostly a political history of the HIV/AIDs epidemic during the 1980s and 90s, representations of LGBT individuals exist in a multitude of locations throughout the NYPL system. For example, the Humanities and Social Sciences library houses the archives for ACT UP New York while the Performing Arts division has a collection of ethnographic first hand accounts from many early ACT UP members.

During his presentation Jason addressed a number of questions the group posed to him. We discussed the politics surrounding attaining and maintaining an individual or group’s archive as well as the difficulties making the collections available to the public. LGBTQ history has been historically ignored and not recorded for a variety of reasons and Jason pointed out a way to “research around” the records. He encouraged the group to be creative and think out side of institutionally constructed research guides and archive structure. In all honesty this was a bit surprising to hear these suggestions in light of the experience we had at the Lesbian Herstory Archives. The LHA has been and continues to be structured in such a way that challenges conventional archive formations. While Jason was quick to encourage us to be creative and engage with the collection, the Herstory archive was literally hands on. We were able to touch the documents, pick them up, and even photocopy some of them. This was not the case at NYPL. It was extremely insightful to experience a community based archive such as the Lesbian Herstory Archive and the professionalized NYPL. They both have strengths and weaknesses but overall their goal is the same – preserving the lived experiences of LGBTQ individuals.

Grand Central Station, On the way to NYPL
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Lowell pointing out important landmarks
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NYPL 5th Avenue location, We’re Here!
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Jason Baumann addressing the group
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“Women get AIDs too,” NYPL LGBT Collection
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Jason gave us a quick tour of the 5th Avenue location and we spotted a Gutenburg Bible!
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Now to the second part of our day – Broadway! Our group saw Cabaret at the legendary Studio 54. Before entering the space we were able to take a group photo (below) in our semi-fancy outfits. The production first opened in November of 1966 and has experienced many revivals since in the United States and England. For those of you unfamiliar with Cabaret (like me before seeing the show), the musical is set in Berlin, Germany during the 1930s leading up to World War II. Act I opened with the Emcee (Alan Cumming) welcoming the audience to The Kit Kat Club, a salacious place that one of the main characters, Cliff Bradshaw describes as, “a bunch of teenagers partying in their room waiting for their parents to find out.” Aesthetically the production reminded me of burlesque shows and the sexual freedom and autonomy associated with such spaces. The Kit Kat Club serves as a hub of social interaction for the main characters and becomes a site of regulation during Act II after the Nazi Party comes to power in Germany. The overarching theme of Cabaret tracks the progressive loss of freedom to express sexuality and political ideology. Until the last few scenes of Act I the production seems to be about the sexual relations and social interactions of people living in 1930s Berlin. After a local Nazi party member warns his friend marrying a Jew would not be good for her future, the play begins to lose its playfulness and upbeat nature. Act II sees less sexual escapades, the local “working girl” taking up a steady boyfriend (the local Nazi), and a terminated pregnancy.

So as not to completely ruin the production for those of you who have not seen it, suffice it to say there was a lot going on in Cabaret. In terms of the goals of this Trans-Atlantic Sexualities course, the big take away for me is that persecution and the destruction of a community or society can happen almost instantaneously. When the Emcee of the Kit Kat Club sheds his overcoat to reveal striped gray and white attire with the Star of David and the pink triangle, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I remembered painting the pink triangle on ACT UP banners the day before and wondered what it must have been like for those accused of sexual deviancy to be murdered or sent away to concentration camps. It gave me chills to think that a symbol previous generations and my generation use to symbolize power and community may have been the last thing a person saw before their death.

More than anything today has made me more appreciative of LGBTQ people and communities that existed long before my existence on this earth. I was moved by the letters and posters at the NYPL documenting the lives of women who died of AIDs related complications before the U.S. government even admitted it was possible for women to become HIV positive. In the cab back to NYU a disagreement occurred over some of the “facts” presented in Cabaret. Whether it was completely factual or not is inconsequential. The point of Cabaret, visiting the NYPL, and working with ACT UP New York is that we (LGBTQ people and our Allies) must live authentic lives and advocate for ourselves. If LGBTQ history is allowed to fade away into the space of time we will end up like Cliff Bradshaw and Sally Bowles, dancing away to the end of the world without a clue or care in the world.

Entrance ticket for Cabaret

In front of Studio 54 – the venue for Cabaret.
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After the show some of the actors met with fans and signed playbills. We were all starstruck and very excited to meet the actors.



Alan Cumming signing autographs for Purdue students.


Sharing a news clip from NYC

This is a brief news clip about the rally for homeless LGBTQ youth Sam wrote about on June 2…please watch and consider taking action:

An AMAZING resource helping LGBTQ homeless youth is the Ali Forney Center – – check out the great work they do, and how YOU can be involved in creating change.
Flyer for the rally
Flyer for the rally


Exploring gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender history and culture!