“We want the audience to understand that this story is about Amy and her struggle to figure out and navigate her sexuality.”
“While MTV’s Faking It pushes heteronormative boundaries by including queer characters in prominent positions and depicting these characters exploring their queer identities in complex ways, it ultimately privileges heterosexual relationships, continuing to marginalize its queer characters. We present a revision of the show, entitled The Trials and Tribulations of Amy Raudenfield, which presents a more sensitive and complex portrayals of Faking It’s existing queer characters.”
—Maeve O’Connor-Bethune, Lexi Davis, Tierre Allen, Casey Schuller, and Charlie Theobald
The Original Faking It Promotional Poster
“Karma and Liam intensely lock eyes while Amy is boxed out in isolation on the right. Although this show is marketing itself as progressive with the plot revolving around a fake lesbian relationship, the ad shows no indication of this relationship besides the homecoming queen sashes […] Although Faking It has some progressive elements, the ad covers it up and plays it safe to draw in a wider audience by showing a typically desirable image.”
The Original Faking It Trailer
“Liam is highly over-praised for being an LGBTQ ally. He is seen as a good guy because he is friends with a feminist and an out gay man. This is problematic because Liam is not a supportive ally. Even though Karma is not actually queer, Liam sexualizes her perceived sexuality, discounting her feelings towards women and invalidating her relationship with Amy. Karma’s lesbianism is seen as novelty and sleeping with a lesbian is described as a ‘straight man’s fantasy.’”
The Revised Faking It Trailer
“Our trailer borrows a montage from ’s first season, when Amy has a number of dates with different women. She is an awkward, bumbling mess but in a loveable way. It simply isn’t realistic for Amy to come out and suddenly know how to do all things queer. We want her to be young and awkward and to mess things up, but we still want her to be able to find love and explore herself.”
It would feel more realistic to say that it was six months ago that I stepped off the plane to find myself in Germany’s capital; as I blog, however, it has been 21 days. The experiences I have shared with my peers in this short amount of time will remain pertinent and influential in my memory for years to come. As bittersweet as it is to already be leaving, I think it is safe to say that the FemGeniuses are experiencing stimulus overload, exhaustion, and maybe even a touch of homesickness. Nevertheless, our final day in Berlin was brimming with adventure, laughter, and reflection.
Despite the weather forecast, we woke up surprised to find gloomy skies followed by bursts of rain. The apartment was buzzing with nostalgia and delight, and after we said our first goodbye to Blaise, several of us headed to Hackescher Markt to seek out some last-minute Berlin memorabilia, perhaps for our family members whom we promised souvenirs or maybe as a last-ditch effort to spend the rest of our “monopoly money” euros. The tourist atmosphere was stifling, and after a while, we headed to BBQ Kitchen to grab some lunch, minus Casey, who was determined to find schnitzel before she left Germany. With our stomachs full, we easily traversed the bustling cobblestone streets and navigated various forms of public transport. We’ve come a long way since first arriving in Berlin with wide eyes and frantic expressions (at least I have).
Our main attraction for the day, the Lesbian and Gay Festival, was 13 U-Bahn stops from “home.” The streets there were colored with lesbian and gay pride, the air boisterous with affirmation and eccentricity. The product of small town Colorado, I could count on one hand the number of LGBTQ people I knew and had met while growing up. During my time in Berlin, however, I have seen more couples and met more LGBTQ activists than I’ve known in my brief 18 year existence. Nollendorfplatz brought more immediate comfort and relief than I was expecting. Before the rain started again, our group navigated the colorful streets in childlike awe and happiness, collecting brochures, stickers, and buttons—text in English not required. We all wished, however, that we had at least a basic knowledge of German language in order to enjoy a drag queen’s stage performance or read informational pamphlets of various activist groups. For me, the experience was valuable even without total linguistic comprehension. Although it soon began pouring, the weather couldn’t rain on the parade—there were enough rainbows around to keep the people smiling.
On the train that afternoon (after we left the festival) and again that evening (after we returned to check out the night scene), I exchanged social discomforts with other passengers. Kadesha told me about the rude commentary of a couple, which included the German term for lesbian, “lesbisch,” followed by laughter. And later, I was pressed to boldly stare back at an ill-mannered man whose eyes couldn’t seem to be separated from my new Amnesty International t-shirt and short hair. Throughout the trip, I had heard from several of my classmates that they felt particularly Black in Germany, and before these incidents, I hadn’t fully understood what they meant, since my whiteness, at least, helped me blend in. Discrimination and loathing isn’t always overt, and I find this to be a dangerous issue. When those with the “normative” privileges can instill discomfort in the “other” without laying claim to its problematic subtleties, oppressions scoot under the radar, beyond basic discourse and action. That’s why I find the experiences we had in Berlin with activists and authors who are at the front of various socio-political movements so significant. Where awareness is lacking, intersectionality and kindness suffer.
Our late afternoon and early evening was peppered with unique experiences as well. In the lively Alexanderplatz station square, we found ourselves in the midst of another cultural event, the Afrika Festival. We instantly wished we had come here in place of our visit to the Hackescher market, but that didn’t stop us from purchasing several hand-crafted, distinctive products from the kind vendors. In our interaction with an eager salesman and musician, Kadesha managed to acquire two free hand-carved creatures, an elephant and a hippopotamus she promptly named “Hippa.”
A short walk away, we found ourselves craning our necks in order to see the tip of the TV Tower. We entered Berlin in style with our meal at 368 meters (1,207 feet), and our exit was no different. Our accommodations the entire trip never failed to disappoint. 147 floors above the ground, we ate a three-course meal on a revolving floor that allowed us an exquisite 360-degree view of Berlin. Together, we shared tasty delicacies and laughable memories from the trip. Although we all came from different places, including Peru, Turkey, Malaysia, and the United States, we were collectively one unit from Colorado College. We embarked on an adventure with an esteemed professor who helped introduce us to the revolutionary activism in Germany surrounding race, gender, sexuality, class, and migration. Each of us left with some new perspectives, whether on an international or personal level, and for that, I feel eternally blessed. As a child, when I dreamt about travel, I never imagined it occurring so soon in my life or that I would also be meeting and conversing with the authors of the books I studied for this course, the front-runners of a historical movement. Now, as we enter the air to go back from whence we came, we have new knowledge in our minds and new outlooks in our hearts.
Stefani Messick is a rising sophomore at Colorado College and hopes to major in English and Education. She also runs for the cross country and track and field teams, and has been finding time to run laps around the block near the apartment where she lives in Berlin, rain or shine. She prefers shine.
Today, during the second day of class, we went as a group to Lambda Berlin, the home to Queer @ School, which focuses on educating students in schools and universities and empowering student bodies in their representation of queer students.
Lambda is an international organization that supports and advocates for LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex) communities. Diana Rücklicht, who has worked for Lambda and Queer @ School for eight years, talked to us about their work in Berlin, which led to a great conversation about how issues regarding sexuality are common in USA and Germany and how the socopolitical power dynamics change through time.
When we found the building where they have just recently moved (a former youth center which is now a queer youth center, as Diana told us), Diana and Sannick warmly welcomed us into the group meeting room and treated us with pretzels, cookies, chocolate, tea and coffee. The first thing I noticed was the black and white portraits of beautiful young people holding signs that read, “Schwule? (Gay?),” “Lesbisch? (Lesbian?),” “Bi?,” and “Egal! (Doesn’t Matter!)” There were also loads of brochures/pamphlets/etc. for helping queer youth come to terms with their sexuality, including resources and tips about safe sex.
While we waited for their colleagues Lena and Corny, Lambda volunteers, and the rest of the class to arrive, I had a chance to see a lovely sign in the restroom that reads, “We are so queer that we shit rainbows!” This year, I’m going to make the theme for my toilet “shitting rainbows.”
Lena and Corny also joined us in the talk, and we all introduced ourselves by name and our gender pronoun preferences. Sannick was the first person I met who uses “they” for their pronoun, as they didn’t identify either by she or he. We had a brief discussion about how language limits genders and forces people into a choice to which they might not necessarily belong. In Turkish, we do not have gender pronouns; the only pronoun used is “o,” which sounds pretty progressive even though Turkey is definitely not a progressive culture for liberating people from their gendered categorizations.
Then, Heidi explained the purpose of our class, and how she searched different organizations and groups in Berlin working on race, gender and sexuality. Queer @ School definitely seemed happy to talk to us, as this is exactly what they were doing. Queer @ School is a project Diana and Sannick have been working on for the past few years, communicating with schools around Berlin and leading workshops and educational sessions with students. They said that at first it was difficult to acquire schools and promote their work, but that today there are many schools that contact them and ask them to conduct workshops. Their volunteers talk to and counsel students with sexualities that don’t fit the norm.
Corny and Diana
We learned from Diana that Lambda hosts different groups of youth in meetings for activities and discussions. There are gay-specific groups, lesbian-specific groups, and mixed and open groups that meet. Based on their discussions, Lambda takes important points and shape their work accordingly. Their main aim is to create a safe space for queer youth and to fully support them in their process of self-identification and also their interaction with the heterosexual world. Even though Germany is a relatively open-minded and progressive country, I was surprised to learn that in some states and districts, there are a considerable amount of citizens standing against equality and working to repel government decisions on LGBTQ rights. For example, we learned that a southern German state has decided to include sexual diversity in school curriculums and it almost got repelled by a citizen petition. What I usually experience in countries where I live is that citizens petitions against really bad ideas of governments, and those ideas usually end up passing as laws, increasing the oppressions of marginalized groups.
Politically, Lambda is also working on increasing transgender and intersexual people’s presence in LGBTQ events and demonstrations. The rest of our discussion, then, was about how the internet is affecting the power dynamics by creating anonymous spaces that increase the tendency of aggression and violence, leaving activists vulnerable as it simultaneously allows them to reach out to more people who need to get together in order to stand in solidarity. This is a common problem/development everywhere. We also discussed how the subtlety of homophobia is changing and getting in and out of surface with time. The more extreme and physical violence gets, the stronger victims stand together and fight against it audibly (and hopefully, non-violently).
This made me think of the 1990s in Germany, as the aggression and racism towards immigrants, Jewish, and Afro-German people became very physical and threatening, thus bringing all the oppressed minorities together to stand strong and fight harder. Along these lines, Cassandra Ellerbe-Dück’s focus on a need for safe spaces for marginalized communities also makes sense here in order to create an environment where people can talk and feel a sense of belonging, as well as strengthen their solidarity without the “dominating gaze of majority groups.”
After our discussion, we went on a tour of the Lambda office and got cool posters and stickers, which made my day. The stickers with the LGBT, bi-sexual and pan-sexual colours are now in residence on my laptop computer, and the poster with the signs I mentioned above (with “Homophobia and Transphobia? Not with us!” written in German) shall hang on my wall in Colorado.
Beril Mese is starting her senior year at Colorado College this fall as a Music major. Her plan for life is to explore different cultures and its different aspects such as their music, social changes, and philosophies, etc. This means that she will be a very broke person.
No, the “A” in LGBTQIA+ doesn’t stand for “Ally.” It stands for Asexual. No, we shouldn’t have a straight pride month. Every month is straight pride month. No, Macklemore isn’t the only artist in hip-hop who cares about gay people. There are a plethora of hip-hop artists who are actually queer and have lots to say on the matter.
Being a good ally doesn’t mean you will tolerate two men kissing in privacy, it means you actively fight the hetero and cis sexist power structure under which we all live. Don’t expect extra points from queer people just for putting up with us.
The people who are actual allies do amazing work for the queer community every day. That being said, they still belong to a privileged class. They never have to explain their orientation or gender to anyone. People assume correctly that they are straight. They don’t have to live within a system that discriminates against them based on their sexual identity. It’s not a bad thing that some people are straight. It’s a bad thing that heterosexuality has benefits everyone else doesn’t get. And, just because an individual works to alleviate that problem, doesn’t mean they are no longer privileged. Hopefully, the future will bring more good allies who can check their privilege and help the world become a better place for everyone.