Again in keeping with my previous post, the entry below was a re-print of a letter-to-the-editor I sent Bruce Steele at The Advocate; coming off of the previous entry about this subject, I contacted him with my concerned over an image I felt that his magazine and much other popular gay media was perpetuating. This entry was dated May 13, 2006. Unfortunately I don't feel that the particular situation has gotten any better in the time since.
Dear [The Advocate editor] Mr. Bruce Steele,
I'm taking the time to write to you to point out a growing and disturbing trend amongst most of the gay publications of our day that I feel your magazine is helping continue to perpetuate. Now, I realize in all social movements there will always be those who complain that the leaders of it aren't doing enough to demand greater strides in equality, but that aside I feel that there's something you can actually do about this problem. I read your magazine with reasonable consistently, and for the most part I'm generally content with what you and your writers have to say. But recently I've begun to see a certain tendency poking its way up and out of the woodwork of your collected words, and the message I read between the lines bothers me immensely as a human being and a gay man.
By no means are you the only one guilty of this, but you have a part in it. Littering every issue of your periodical are countless examples of you patting those happily on the back who you feel are making great strides to break notions of stereotypical homosexuals. Please allow me to explain why this irritates me so much:
Firstly, what exactly is the stereotype you're so eager to rally against? I imagine it's likely the loud, faggy queen who has every Cyndi Lauper and Cher album, including singles and imports, and can quote Priscilla, Queen of the Desert by heart without pause. Because I've come to notice that the "gay media" has now happily traded out the scapegoats of our past for the effeminate gay men, drag queens and flamers of the present. I invite you to check out any gay chatroom, personals website or club and pick up a cross section of men to ask them what they look for in another guy and I'm willing to bet that the majority of them will say some derivative of the following three things:
* and no "fems"
And unfortunately the majority of gay magazines of today, the majority of gay television shows of today, GLAAD, HRC, and pretty much any vocal, public organization are happy to support this. You're happy to parade around Ohio State University students who hold "Guess the Straight Person" panels (May 9 2006) as if they're doing something good for the community– indeed, your very opening to the story began with a snarky comment about Madonna and Brokeback Mountain. You give a page to a lesbian mother (May 9 2006) walking a section of the California coastline in an effort to show those she meets along the way that gay people are just like everybody else. Now these people and those like them, I have absolutely no doubt, come from a place where they think they're doing something good for gay people overall.
But, unfortunately, they aren't. And by holding them up high on your shoulders because they're making Cletus Jr. in Spur, TX realize gay people don't all walk around wearing boas and vogue-ing you're only helping to ensure that the next generation of gay people grow up to hate our louder brothers and our lumberjack sisters. You're teaching us to hate ourselves and our peers while you hypocritically cry foul at the Phelps and Falwells of the hour.
It seems that now in order to chase after equality for gays, we have to ostracize those who can't be mistaken for straight people. We have to root out the individuals and the expressive ones or the straight people won't take us. For my part, I will have nothing to do with that. I won't sacrifice any member of our community and I won't stand idly by as I watch the voices of our movement do just that.
So here's my novel idea. How about instead of vilifying those who are representative of these stereotypes that we ourselves might not be, we come to terms with the fact that there are gay men who can attract dogs when they talk and there are gay men who for whatever reason will vote for Republicans in any given election. There are those who will wear tight shirts and frequent pulsing dance clubs and there are those who want to raise children and make a pot roast at home. There are lesbians who make the cast of The L Word look ugly and unkempt and there are those who can benchpress more than any Chelsea gym rat. How about we accept these facts and love these mosaics of our community and realize that ultimately we have no right to demand equality from those who hate us when we don't even grant it to each other. How about we stop rewarding those who so staunchly claim that gay people are just like everybody else and realize that some are and some aren't, and there's nothing wrong with it either way.
Instead, let's reward those who are inclusive of all without judgments whether or not they wear eyeliner or shave their legs. Let's be proud of those organizations that are proud of all of us. And I have a feeling that if we become a role model of acceptance to the now-budding generation the repercussions of that ascendancy will be even wider than our own rooms, homes, Castro districts and circuit parties.