Visibility: What Do You Call It?

June is Pride Month! Pride Month marks the beginning of the LGBT rights movement in the United States, which began in New York City in June of 1969 with the Stonewall Riots. This month is about affirming LGBT identities and sexual orientations as a source of pride. Many members of the LGBT community find that celebrating their identity as a source of pride allows them to take a stand against social and political ideas that shame LGBT people. Overall, LGBT Pride Month is about the visibility of the LGBT community.

Le Tigre is a New York City-based band whose music is based on topics related to feminism and LGBT issues. Click here to check out their website.

Le Tigre’s song “Viz” can open up a great conversation about PRIDE! Check out the lyrics below and use the discussion questions that follow to talk about PRIDE! Click here to listen to the song.

“VIZ”

Walk in
Give him my name
Looks up and down
Takes a good look at my pecs

Puts down the clipboard
Opens the rope for my ‘stache
Walk in with my duffle hanging

Hat is tilted
I’m inside
My eyes dream of bedroom surprise

They call it climbing, and I call it visibility
They call it coolness, and I call it visibility
They call it way too rowdy, I call it finally free

There’s a girl
Her lips that have never seen
She comes up
Dances on me

I look into her eyes
I say “Hey, you’re not a dyke”
She says:

“I call it climbing, and you call it visibility
I call it coolness, and you call it visibility
I call it way too rowdy, you call it finally free”

There’s a slap
On my back
I find another butch, hat cocked, and we

We put out our hands
In the crowd
And over and over we jump up and down

They call it climbing, and we call it visibility
They call it coolness, and we call it visibility
They call it way too rowdy, we call it finally free

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you think the speaker means when she says “They call it climbing, and I call it visibility / They call it coolness, and I call it visibility / They call it way too rowdy, I call it finally free”? Who is the “they” she is referring to?
  2. What ideas are “Pride” based in? (Hint: read about the first gay pride march here.)
  3. For some members of the LGBT community, visibility is not a choice, but a constant reminder that some members of society see them differently than those who are not LGBT. The speaker in the song encounters a woman who she mistakes as heterosexual. Do you think the ideas that “Pride” are based in allow for visibility and acceptance for all gender identities and sexual orientations, not just those that are readily visible? Why or why not?
  4. Do you think it’s important to be visible as an LGBT person? Why or why not?
  5. Why do some LGBT people want visibility? Do you?
  6. Can visibility rather than invisibility lead to freedom for the LGBT community? Why or why not?
  7. Discuss and share both positive and negative experiences of LGBT visibility. What is it like when someone recognizes you as LGBT? What is it like when someone does not?
  8. If you have attended a “Pride” event, how did being a part of a visibly LGBT group make you feel?