Friday, March 14, 2008

Southern (Un?)Comfort

It is difficult, at first, to understand what this documentary (Southern Comfort) is about; in context, though, it makes sense that it is about transsexuality/homosexuality/etc., because we are talking about queery theory in class right now. Nonetheless, I identify the opening comments of the film—about the KKK (e.g., "They probably feel like they did the right thing.")—with issues of race, so the sudden (perceived) "shift" into the realm of transsexuality is jarring. That the film opens in this way is indicative of its complex nature, as it carefully connects race intolerance with gender/sexuality intolerance, forming a cohesive overall argument against intolerance in general. At this point, I would like to preface my remaining comments with the following. I like to think of myself as an open person when it comes to sex/gender and sexuality (not to mention race, class, etc.). Henceforth, I do not mean for anything in this post to be offensive/negative, and any perceived negativity arises merely from my own social position and my lack of knowledge about the subject(s) at hand, a disconnect between the "politically correct" terms and attitudes and my own limited knowledge/understanding.

One of the stereotypes I often hear about homosexuals is that they are atheists, that they have a hard time integrating into the world of religion (and, in support of this societal assessment/reading, I happen to know at least one homosexual who IS atheist). Interestingly, one of the first things I notice about the main "character" of this film (Robert, I believe) is that he is always wearing a large cross necklace, a religious symbol. His son wears one as well. I realize that Robert is not homosexual, but I think the same worry applies here: It seems homosexual men and women worry about the religious condemnation of both homosexuality and general immorality and, thus, it makes sense that they would "steer clear" of religion or be wary of it. I definitely sympathize with this cautious view, as most of the religions that I have ever encountered have harshly condemned homosexuality, among other characteristics, and turned it into a crime against God and the world.

What is interesting in the film, then, is how unashamed Robert is of his sex/gender and sexuality, how comfortable he is with it. With this notion, one can see the complexity of sex, gender, and sexuality in the minds and psychological underpinnings of men and women. In the most fundamental ways, sex, gender, and even sexuality are the results of biological innateness (there is actually more proof that sexuality is a biological factor than there is that it is a choice, according to Dr. Bankart's human sexual behavior class). However, there are cultural/environmental factors that help to shape these characteristics in all living beings—which one might recognize by remembering the term "homophobia," which describes one of the very concepts that lead people to socialize/construct one being as "gay" and another as "straight." With these thoughts in mind, one can see Robert as a complex example of how sex, gender, and sexuality come into being. it seems Robert saw his biological gender (female) as a child and realized (through his own experiences as well as his perception of his own biology) that it was wrong; in all seriousness, he IS a man, and always has been. This is a fascinating notion, and if anyone is interested in learning more, I would encourage him/her to read more about it (unfortunately, Dr. Bankart will no longer be teaching his sexuality class, so taking it is not an option). There is much more I could say about the film, but this post is getting long, so I will wrap it up. Simply put, it is refreshing to see that Robert does not worry about what other people think, about the homophobia that is rampant in the world; he is just another man in the world, another RELIGIOUS man. He is comfortable enough that he can partake in religion, despite his situation and social location as a transsexual. In this way, he is able to transcend intolerance and live out the rest of his life as a man first, then, perhaps, a transsexual.

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