The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History in QB

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The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History in QB

Post by Aegir » Mon Nov 03, 2014 10:07 pm

Before I start this post, I want to make it clear that I'm not outright arguing for one side or the other. However, it has come to my attention as a relatively new Quizbowl player (I've been to around four tournaments, and read maybe thirty full packets on my own) that LGBT culture and history seem to have a low distribution (I'll refrain from using underrepresentation, because that implies that there needs to be more).

In order to have a discussion about whether there is an underrepresentation, we must first evaluate the claim that LGBT culture and history rarely comes up.

Note: I used Quinterest for this, if you're curious.

A quick search -
Stonewall: 1 Tossup, 1 Mention in clue about NY
Prop 8: 2 Bonus Parts
Lawrence v. Texas: 1 Bonus Part
DOMA: 1 Bonus Part
DADT: 2 Tossups
Harvey Milk: Occasional mentions in tossups about SF
Gay Marriage: Two late mentions for Washington State and the Fidesz party

This probably isn't comprehensive, but it is fairly telling. Regardless of your stance on it, same-sex marriage has been one of the most pivotal social issues in American politics in the last ~10 years (whether it deserves to be or not), and there's not a single recorded tossup written about it. Other sub - movements, issues, people, and groups that one would expect to come up at least a couple of times also just don't (stuff like LGBT homelessness, the "It Gets Better" campaign, the concept of coming out, as well as gay-culture icons and subgroups, for example).

If we take this as a conclusion that LGBT topics are disproportionately not represented, it is then necessary to examine the claim that they should be given a more fair distribution. However, there are a number of problems to address with this topic in general:

1. The "closet" case: If a question comes up that is specifically about gay culture, and you are a closeted gay person, you may be reluctant to reap the benefits of that knowledge purely because of the potential that it arouse suspicion as to your sexuality.

While this is certainly possible, I would argue that this conflation of knowledge of gay culture = gay relies on stereotypes, and if we're validating stereotypes in this scenario, then this phenomenon already exists. Powering "drag queens" off of a list of contestants in RuPaul's Drag Race may be slightly more suspect than powering Beyoncé or Lady Gaga as a purportedly straight male, but the same juvenile assumption is involved. "Shame points" already very much exist, but it is an interesting question as to whether this type in specific could be potentially mroe harmful (and, indeed, maybe it is this potential that keeps most of the tossups about LGBT topics in matters of law).

2. Tossups about subcultures are only convertible by people with experience in that subculture: While this may be more generally true (and is certainly a good argument for excluding tossups about obscure films, books, animes that cater to a specific audience), there are plenty of ways to write a perfectly convertible tossup about LGBT culture in a way that isn't accessible to only LGBT enthusiasts. For example, the aforementioned theoretical "drag queen" tossup could also mention drag queens' role in the Stonewall riot, information that should be convertible by good history players. It could also be ended with an extremely convertible FTP line like "FTP, identify this term used for men who dress up like women to provide entertainment".

3. Tossups with answers like "homosexuals", "transexuals", or even "gay marriage" could be ridiculed: Quizbowl is a sort of international phenomenon, and even within the U.S. there still does remain a large amount of bigotry and ignorance. While I'd like to think that members of the Quizbowl community are on average more enlightened, there is certainly a risk of slurs being used to answer tossups, or some other form of discrimination that could be offensive to someone else in the room. In general, though, I doubt that misconduct of this sort would be all too prevalent, and certainly not enough so to offset the benefit of greater exposure.

I'm still very much new to the world of Quizbowl, so I'd be fascinated to know some of your opinions on whether there deserves to be a higher distribution of questions about LGBT issues and culture. Even if you don't think that these topics are necessarily underrepresented, I think it's worth discussing the topics that are brought up (overwhelmingly just legal cases) in lieu of the larger definitions, blanket terms, and issues that are really more relevant to current events.

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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by Amizda Calyx » Mon Nov 03, 2014 11:13 pm

Hi Aegir, welcome to the boards! Your post is very thoughtful and does bring up some of the (unintentional) deficiencies in the distribution; LGBTQ history is certainly an important subject that probably ought to come up more often. I just wanted to point out that Quinterest isn't comprehensive; you'll find more examples of those topics using packet search, although this database isn't complete, either.

For example:
Stonewall riots
Lawrence v. Texas
LGBT
transsexual
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University of Washington, 2010–14
Rutgers University, 2015–20??
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by RexSueciae » Mon Nov 03, 2014 11:17 pm

Being the scatterbrained person that I am, I can't pull many specific examples off the top of my head, but during my high school career I distinctly remember at Cavalier Classic three (?) years ago, a current events question on same-sex marriage and a trash question on RuPaul's Drag Race. I'm pretty sure both of those questions were from an NAQT set, which Quinterest doesn't archive--plus, there's the fact that Quinterest had a bit of a hiatus in its maintenance, and is only now being updated again. Quinterest especially seems to lack more recent question sets that would've been written in an era when LGBT+ affairs had more widespread acceptance in American society (a majority of Americans didn't approve of same-sex marriage until around 2011). I'd have gone through and searched through the packet archives myself, but I'm lazy and Joelle seems to have beaten me to the punch. :razz:

On a moderately related topic, I'm reminded somewhat of a thread from way back discussing liberal vs. conservative bias in questions that I stumbled across once upon a time, which was a very interesting read.
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by no ice » Mon Nov 03, 2014 11:20 pm

The fact that most LGBT stuff is so recent makes it a part of the already-small current events distribution, so obviously when it's only a fraction of the 1/1 or 0.5/0.5 or less, it doesn't have very many opportunities to come up.
Also, LGBT culture isn't that well-known, and I don't think writers necessarily need to make a conscious effort to include more.
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by RexSueciae » Mon Nov 03, 2014 11:42 pm

Another thing I just thought of--it depends on how one defines LGBT+ culture, or how one defines its representation in quizbowl, but there are a large number of quizbowl-significant LGBT+ figures who do, in fact, come up regularly--in literature alone (and even at the high school level), we have such writers as Walt Whitman, Thomas Mann, Virginia Woolf, Simone de Beauvoir, W. H. Auden, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Willa Cather, Truman Capote, and William Shakespeare. (Listed in no particular order.)

In all honesty, it shouldn't be necessary to have to make an effort to include LGBT+ representation, because writing a tournament without mentioning historical / literary / mythological figures who weren't straight would be an unusually difficult undertaking.
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by alexdz » Tue Nov 04, 2014 1:54 am

I've often pondered this topic as well, and have made an effort when writing questions to include topics relating to LGBTQ culture in some way when it made sense to do so. It's a topic I'm passionate about (possibly even studying it for a graduate degree someday), so I'm glad someone began a discussion here.

I think that in many ways, everyone here has been at least sort of right - there does seem to be, at face value, a dearth of LGBTQ-related quizbowl topics coming up. When you look at it a little deeper, we do often write about figures who indeed would count as belonging to the community, so its not as if the representation doesn't exist. I can recall more than one instance of a lit, myth, music or art question referencing an artist's same-sex "lover" or "partner". And, as has been said, many topics are covered under current events, which occupies a small portion of the distribution.

That being said, while I don't necessarily think we need to embark on some quizbowl-wide campaign here, perhaps, like the issue of women, it's something we need to become aware of and take seriously when questioned about. For instance, if an entire question set exists without an explicit mention or two of an LGBTQ figure or event, then I think we've made a grave mistake. (By "explicit mention" I mean actually acknowledging someone's LGBTQ status within a question text.) This is admittedly unlikely, and I certainly wouldn't support some kind of LGBTQuota system, but like many things in quizbowl it will often just seem unbalanced to a nuanced eye.

On the topic of why this is the case, I'll submit one piece of evidence for consideration. In my 7 years of involvement with the pyramidal quizbowl community, I have never once seen a player or team react negatively to a question about an LGBTQ topic. And I have read for some very small, very rural, very religious schools in Missouri. I think we are lucky in that players acknowledge the importance of the topics in history and culture, regardless of their personal ideological beliefs about the matter. I've seen players of all presumed or known sexual orientations answer questions about these topics, with no visible negativity from teammates.

A related question: I'm sure this has come up before, but does anyone have any thoughts on the idea of LGBTQ students representation as quizbowl players? Should this/does this have any effect on the discussion we are having about question content?

(And, for the record, another LGBTQ figure who is extremely important in quizbowl [indeed all of modern history!] is my main man Alan Turing.)
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by Banana Stand » Tue Nov 04, 2014 3:39 am

Since I'm reading it right now, I'll throw in Angels in America as a work that is very commonly asked about and important to LGBT history. Rimbaud's relationship with Verlaine is also talked about in most mentions of them. I think LGBT topics are pretty fairly represented in quizbowl right now, especially in more CE-oriented sets like NAQT's.
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by The Polebarn Hotel » Tue Nov 04, 2014 8:27 am

I think that there is a fair amount of LGBT representation in quiz bowl, but it's not as obvious as something like the Stonewall riots or straight-up tossing up "same-sex marriage" or anything like that. If the topics specifically pertained to LGBT-related events, terms, etc. there wouldn't be that many questions to ask about. It's a relatively recent point in history.

However, as a lot of people mentioned, there are usually clues about someone's homosexual lover in clues for people who aren't necessarily famous for that. You could have the examples of Hadrian, Barber/Menotti, Edward II, etc. and then even literary works specifically related to LGBT issues/characters, like Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, Mishima's Confessions of a Mask (and a lot of other Japanese lit), Walker's The Color Purple, etc. I don't feel like LGBT culture is as underrepresented as it is subtle, and I don't necessarily think that it should be made any more obvious than it is. I do think it should be taken into consideration when writing a tournament, though.
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by Aaron's Rod » Tue Nov 04, 2014 4:37 pm

Well, this should be fun.
RexSueciae wrote:Another thing I just thought of--it depends on how one defines LGBT+ culture, or how one defines its representation in quizbowl, but there are a large number of quizbowl-significant LGBT+ figures who do, in fact, come up regularly--in literature alone (and even at the high school level), we have such writers as Walt Whitman, Thomas Mann, Virginia Woolf, Simone de Beauvoir, W. H. Auden, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Willa Cather, Truman Capote, and William Shakespeare.
Yup. LGBT history is a really cool and important area of history (one keyword that also comes up that hasn't been mentioned yet–Mattachine Society). LGBT culture? I would rather have nothing rather than people write about RuPaul's Drag Race and Lady Gaga and think that that's being LGBT-friendly or -inclusive. Ugh. See also making trash questions more women-friendly by including more "girl" stuff. It's needless stereotyping (if not condescension).
alexdz wrote:A related question: I'm sure this has come up before, but does anyone have any thoughts on the idea of LGBTQ students representation as quizbowl players? Should this/does this have any effect on the discussion we are having about question content?
I.e., are you wondering what proportion of Quizbowl players identify as LGBTQ?
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by Maury Island incident » Tue Nov 04, 2014 6:22 pm

The Stonewall riots, gay marriage and Angels in America were all tossed up at HSNCT this past year. NAQT does not release their questions for free, and therefore they are not available on Quinterest. Also, I think Stonewall and Angels in America are probably a little obscure for most high school sets. Were you searching all difficulty levels on Quinterest? In addition, I recall the gay marriage tossup feeling kind of transparent, which might be a reason for its not being asked as much.
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by alexdz » Tue Nov 04, 2014 7:32 pm

Aaron's Rod wrote:re you wondering what proportion of Quizbowl players identify as LGBTQ?
Yes. I am aware this is not a number we have or could obtain readily. I mostly wondered if people felt that quizbowl was either over- or under-populated by LGBTQ players compared to the general population. (Not that we have good numbers on that either.)
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by The Polebarn Hotel » Wed Nov 05, 2014 8:51 pm

alexdz wrote:
Aaron's Rod wrote:Are you wondering what proportion of Quizbowl players identify as LGBTQ?
Yes. I am aware this is not a number we have or could obtain readily. I mostly wondered if people felt that quizbowl was either over- or under-populated by LGBTQ players compared to the general population. (Not that we have good numbers on that either.)
Are you basing this on stereotype? You can't know someone's sexuality by looking at them. You might be able to make a guess. Even so, there's no way for anyone to say "I think that quiz bowl is 'overpopulated' by LGBT people" - that just sounds ridiculous on so many different levels.
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by heterodyne » Wed Nov 05, 2014 8:58 pm

Crazyflight wrote: Are you basing this on stereotype? You can't know someone's sexuality by looking at them. You might be able to make a guess. Even so, there's no way for anyone to say "I think that quiz bowl is 'overpopulated' by LGBT people" - that just sounds ridiculous on so many different levels.
A better phrasing would probably be "are LGBTQ people over or underrepresented in qb" which is a totally legitimate question to ask.
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Wed Nov 05, 2014 9:23 pm

Crazyflight wrote:
alexdz wrote:
Aaron's Rod wrote:Are you wondering what proportion of Quizbowl players identify as LGBTQ?
Yes. I am aware this is not a number we have or could obtain readily. I mostly wondered if people felt that quizbowl was either over- or under-populated by LGBTQ players compared to the general population. (Not that we have good numbers on that either.)
Are you basing this on stereotype? You can't know someone's sexuality by looking at them. You might be able to make a guess. Even so, there's no way for anyone to say "I think that quiz bowl is 'overpopulated' by LGBT people" - that just sounds ridiculous on so many different levels.
Ratchet your anger back a little bit, man--I'm pretty sure the question was more along the lines of "do you think there's a greater or lesser percentage of LGBTQ people in quizbowl than there is in the general population?" and not "Y'ALL FEEL LIKE THERE'S TOO MANY QUEERS AROUND HERE?".
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by alexdz » Wed Nov 05, 2014 10:24 pm

Ukonvasara wrote:"do you think there's a greater or lesser percentage of LGBTQ people in quizbowl than there is in the general population?" and not "Y'ALL FEEL LIKE THERE'S TOO MANY QUEERS AROUND HERE?".
Better words than I was able to put it in, thanks. And yeah, DEFINITELY not the latter. But I did originally phrase the question in such a way to make it seem slightly less kind than intended. For that, I apologize.

I certainly agree 100% that we cannot really know any person's sexuality if they aren't open about it. On second thought, I regret asking people to make this kind of judgment call about their peers. Perhaps my gut feeling of there being a higher percentage LGBTQ quizbowlers than in the general population is just an extension of the fact that I am particularly attuned to noticing these kinds of things when they happen. Observer expectancy effect, you guys, it's real!
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Wed Nov 05, 2014 10:39 pm

A couple other examples off the top of my head that I don't recall being mentioned in this thread: I specifically recall gay demonstrators being beaten as being used as a clue in a current events tossup on Georgia at VCU Open 2013, a Putin question from one of the NASAT sets mentioning anti-gay stuff before it became extremely widely known outside of Russia, a tossup on Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner from ICT 2012 mentioning her legalizing same-sex marriage, and a bonus on same-sex marriage in the final game of the 2013 ICT between UVA and Yale (both of the latter two from podcasts available on the NAQT site). I think "Oscar Wilde's homosexuality" was an answerline in some packet I played within the last two years as well, though I'm not as sure about that one and would have to look it up.

Thankfully, unlike some less friendly elements of our society, I don't think quizbowl as a collective actively discriminates against gay people. The Danticat trend of copying other peoples' topics seems to be dying in favor of specifically writing on topics that don't see the light as much these days, and things that don't come up tend to end up coming up more over time - if LGBTQ+ topics fall into this category, I'm pretty sure they'll come up more in the future, though in my experience quizbowl gives them a reasonably fair treatment.

Relatedly, in accordance with Weiner's Laws, I expect a surge of LGBTQ+ specific history and noted LGBTQ+ individuals to start coming up soon, and encourage astute individuals to re-read Paul Verlaine's poetry and re-examine the Twinkie defense (which maybe should have been re-examined by the jurors in 1979 as well).

(EDIT: added another example)
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by blizzard » Thu Nov 06, 2014 12:47 am

Will mentioned the Russia tossup at NASAT, which I wanted to point out as being a really great current events tossup on LGBT issues without tossing up "gay marriage" or "Proposition 8." Sure, the answer was Russia, but the clues were (I think) exclusively on LGBT issues/events. Although writing a tossup with only LGBT clues on countries/people/places may be difficult, there could certainly be more standalone clues that don't take up the entire question.

In regards to history questions, again it's hard to write LGBT-centric gossips without resorting to asking about Stonewall or Harvey Milk or Matthew Shepard, but history tossups on people or countries or cultures can still have LGBT clues without being the focus of the entire question.

Like Alex, I have never seen a negative reaction to any LGBT-related questions.
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by The Polebarn Hotel » Thu Nov 06, 2014 8:58 am

Ukonvasara wrote:
Crazyflight wrote: Are you basing this on stereotype? You can't know someone's sexuality by looking at them. You might be able to make a guess. Even so, there's no way for anyone to say "I think that quiz bowl is 'overpopulated' by LGBT people" - that just sounds ridiculous on so many different levels.
Ratchet your anger back a little bit, man--I'm pretty sure the question was more along the lines of "do you think there's a greater or lesser percentage of LGBTQ people in quizbowl than there is in the general population?" and not "Y'ALL FEEL LIKE THERE'S TOO MANY QUEERS AROUND HERE?".
Did that sound angry? Huh. Well, I certainly didn't mean for it to be, and I'm certainly not angry. I'm questioning how someone could assume the relative amount of LGBT quiz bowl players compared to regular society. I know this is all based on perception, but what tools would someone use to make those observations? What would they do to determine that if they didn't actually know the person/the person wasn't 100% open about it? I just find it interesting.
alexdz wrote: Better words than I was able to put it in, thanks. And yeah, DEFINITELY not the latter. But I did originally phrase the question in such a way to make it seem slightly less kind than intended. For that, I apologize.

I certainly agree 100% that we cannot really know any person's sexuality if they aren't open about it. On second thought, I regret asking people to make this kind of judgment call about their peers. Perhaps my gut feeling of there being a higher percentage LGBTQ quizbowlers than in the general population is just an extension of the fact that I am particularly attuned to noticing these kinds of things when they happen. Observer expectancy effect, you guys, it's real!
This might also be because the quiz bowl environment in general just might be a little bit safer and more accepting than the rest of the world. It's just a hunch, but I'd wager that the percentage of quiz bowl players that are homophobic is smaller than that of the general population. With that, someone might feel a little bit better about being more open. Like Sam said, I've never seen a negative reaction to anything LGBT-related in quiz bowl, while I certainly have seen negative reactions to that in the outside world. I don't know, though. I don't really have an opinion on whether or not there are more or less LGBT quiz bowl players.
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by jasongg17 » Thu Jul 23, 2015 6:47 pm

The only thing I have to add is that I will be quite annoyed if there are no questions on Obergefell v. Hodges next year.
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Thu Jul 23, 2015 8:24 pm

Well, one could argue that the decision was pretty much inevitable. Regardless, I'm sure it will show up in some form, though not necessarily as an answerline.
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Re: The (Under?)representation of LGBT Culture and History i

Post by sephirothrr » Thu Jul 23, 2015 10:39 pm

jasongg17 wrote:The only thing I have to add is that I will be quite annoyed if there are no questions on Obergefell v. Hodges next year.
You could always write them yourself!
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