Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Can LGBT Have Too Much Pride?

So elections are over (thank God!) and while I'm no longer living in New York I'm very grateful that Carl Paladino was crushed in the election. Now for anybody who wasn't following this, Paladino said more than a few not very nice things about gay and alternate life styles. The man is a bigot clearly, but some of the things he said also got me thinking. Now I have to be really careful with how I word this, because if I say it wrong I'm going to get my ass kicked. I might anyways actually but I think this needs to be said.

At this point I believe that the LGBT community is causing some of it's own problems in regards to how we are perceived by the public. It's a thought I've had in the past but it's been sparked again by Paladino. In his attempts to justify his decrying of gays he cited over and over again an experience his family had in Montreal. Apparently he was on vacation there with his family during that city's Gay Pride. To use his words they "went around a corner and there were all these guys in thongs grinding on each other." Now that man is a bigot, and regardless of what he saw or says it should be used to justify his bigotry. However at the same time I think it highlights a big problem, which is how the public perceives the LGBT community.

There is a very high percentage of people in this country who don't know (or at least aren't aware that they know) somebody who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered. This means that their perception of the members of that community is dictated by news, entertainment and what we ourselves put out there. And if the dominant image of LGBT is gay men in thongs grinding on each other in public, is it really any wonder that so many people are afraid of us? Please understand, I'm not knocking pride. I think the feeling of pride and all of the Pride events that take place across the country are very important. The problem is that middle America does not understand that it's like our Halloween, or our Mardi Gras, or our Las Vegas. Basically it doesn't count: it's when we really go nuts because we can. But 99% of the time we're not in ass-less chaps groping each other on Main Street, and that's what people like Paladino need to be made to understand. Until they get that when we're not at Pride events that we're just like everybody else they're going to continue to fear us. Some people always will but there are those out there who only see these aggressive in -your-face antics and then is it any wonder that they start to think we're recruiting their children?

It feels to me like the LGBT community is in a similar place to where the black community was in the 1970s. It's true that there was certainly a rise in the appearance of blacks in film and on television but they were playing walking stereotypes. There couldn't just be a black character, they had to come from the ghetto and/or be a pimp with their own funk soundtrack. I feel like we're in the same place where there are more gay character in film and television than ever before. However they're there to just be stereotypically gay, basically it's gay-sploitation. What's more we're doing it ourselves. LOGO TV may be the worst offender with shows like The A-list just cashing in on the most shallow and stereotypical amongst us.

I realize it may sound like I'm picking on gay men. It's not my intention but it's clear that they are the most visible part of the LGBT community, which also is part of the problem. Lesbians are represented in pop culture primarily by The L Word (which as a premium show wasn't seen by that many people) and Ellen Degeneres. Bisexuals are undermined even within the community and in pop culture have had to make due with people like Tila Tequila, clearly a damaging image to have out there. Trangendered people are almost totally ignored in pop culture aside from the occassional cheap cross-dressing joke on a random sit-com. Drag queens are out there but in truth most of them fit more into the mold of gay man than truly transgendered. Actually backing up Ellen again I really feel that she is more of what is needed right now. She does not hide her sexuality however it is not needlessly flaunted either. She is a very funny person with a fun daytime show who happens to also be a lesbian. Being gay is not her defining characteristic, it's just one part of a whole person. That is the image that needs to get out there more, that our sexuality or gender identity is not what we use to define who we are.

I'm not saying there is no place for these more overtly "gay" shows or movies (I'm still a sucker for RuPaul's Drag Race) but the problem is that they are almost the only representation of the LGBT community that many Americans get. There was a time when the most important thing was just to make sure we were known. That was back when we were in the closet (and I do appreciate that some still are) and were suffering in silence. Now we're out, they know that we're here to stay and the need to be in your face about it just isn't there anymore. I think it's time that "We're Here, We're Queer, We're Not Going Anywhere" were adjusted to a less confrontational form. Perhaps "We're Here, We're Queer and We're Just Trying to Live in Peace." I know it doesn't chant as well but until it can be shown and understood that not all gay men are grinding on each other in front of families on vacation then we're going to keep getting people like Paladino on the ballot.

3 comments:

  1. "The problem is that middle America does not understand that it's like our Halloween, or our Mardi Gras, or our Las Vegas."

    This is an awesome point. There's another way to go besides shock and awe. Maybe after "it gets better" there could also be "and I happen to be queer" ?

    As for positive depictions lesbians on TV, don't forget Tara and Willow on Buffy! And for transvestites, there's always Eddie Izzard. "I'm more of an /executive/ transvestite."

    -erica.d

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  2. Good point with Tara and Willow, probably forgot about them since Buffy's been off the air for a while now. Izzard is a terrific example as well of somebody who is out with his identity but it doesn't define him. Good call!

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  3. Agree on all points made by Erica. An issue with the crossdressing (or maybe even the whole LGBT community) is being in the closet.

    Of course everyone has the right to be, but perhaps the world would look different on it if they realized people they actually knew were part of it. A point I believe you brought forth as well.

    Dare to be yourself, and be proud about it (no matter what people say). Something that I think Eddie Izzards brings up, and Ellen push a lot.

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