At 25, Christi Furnas was diagnosed with schizophrenia. This queer-identified woman has used her disability as inspiration for making beautiful art and connecting with other mentally ill artists. Based in Minneapolis, MN, Furnas has been involved with Spectrum Artworks, an organization that serves as a community and studio space for artists with mental illness.
I emailed Christi recently to ask her about the truth behind the "madness = creativity" myth, her muse, and her views on being a mental illness/LGBTQ/feminist activist.
I have a confession to make. I was raised in an evangelical Christian home, and when I was much much younger... I was a fan of contemporary Christian music (CCM). Oh, yes. I reailzed just how much of an affront to music it is almost half of my life ago, but lately, I've been thinking about just how entrenched it is in the ideology of the Christian Right. Consider this awful 1995 track by Twila Paris called "Rescue the Prisoner." (The "prisoner," it turns out, is a member of the LGBTQ community who is said to be "demanding rights" and "defending wrong.")
There's a script for women in commercial country music that doesn't necessarily coincide with more mainstream stereotypes and assumptions about women. If you've ever heard Carrie Underwood's ubiquitous 2007 single, "Before He Cheats" (lyrics), you'll recognize the tropes.
Of course there are exceptions, but the ideal country woman is often blond (and white), feisty, world-wise, and hot. She is deeply possessive of her man, and aims to squelch competitors for his affection. She gives the appearance of working-class roots even if she didn't grow up working class, and she's equally comfortable talking about guns (Miranda Lambert's "Gunpowder and Lead"), Jesus (Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel"), and heterosexual romantic relationships (Dixie Chicks' "Cowboy Take Me Away").
One of the newer variations on these themes is the girl group Pistol Annies (Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley). Check out the first single of their August LP, Hell on Heels (lyrics):
In May, Religion Dispatches published my first interview with former darling of the Christian contemporary music scene, lesbian singer-songwriter Jennifer Knapp. Then over the summer, I got to meet and interview Knapp in person while covering the Wild Goose Festival, an event that celebrated (predominantly Christian) spirituality, justice, and art. We talked a bit about the limitations of Christian music, feminism and sexuality on the same day she filmed the "It Gets Better" video below. I'll be critiquing some evangelical Christian music later in the series, so I'm very excited to share unpublished parts of our interview with you here today:
Vancouver artists Jen Crothers and Kona have created a delightfully nerdy project to raise awareness of queer language and its evolution, and to raise money for the local organization Out in Schools, which educates young people about homophobia and bullying. It's called the Queeriodic Table, and it's going places.
Looking into libraries for this post I decided to talk to my former colleague Tara Robertson. In 2009 Tara put together a group called the Lesbrarians to take part in the Vancouver Dyke March. Last year they had about 35 lesbian, bisexual, and queer women who worked in libraries, archives or other information organizations, as well as writers and library lovers. We met when we both worked at the Vancouver Public Library and she’s done quite a bit of work on LGBTQ and feminist issues, so I knew she’d be a great resource.
For LGBTQ and disability rights activists, allies and California youth, as of April 14th, it got better. The CA senate voted 23-14 in favor of a bill mandating the inclusion of curriculum based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, and if the bill is adopted by the state assembly, the teaching of LGBTQ history will become lawful. Much like the cultural contributions made by women, people of color, immigrants, aboriginals, and workers, if the bill is signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, California will become the first state to require the inclusion of LGBTQ history in schools. Hardly mentioned in the media thus far, the passage of the bill will also grant people with disabilities long overdue space in California classroom curricula.
On Monday, the GA Voicebroke the news that Atlanta's Crest Lawn Memorial Park cemetery will soon have a section "for gay people—couples, their children, single people, people who want to be with their chosen families." The Advocateand Queerty quickly picked up on the story, and it's likely to get bigger as the days go by, especially with the catchy misnomer "gay cemetery." (The lightning-quick spread of the innacurate term "Ground-Zero Mosque" comes to mind.)
For a number of reasons, the idea of a specifically queer section in a cemetery is troubling to me.