Friday, October 8, 2010

College Journalist: Flamboyant Adult Gays to Blame for Suicides

[TW: Sexual prejudice, Suicide]

So, this article in The Crimson White, by junior political science major Michael Patrick, starts off well enough. First he refers to the "recent string of suicides in homosexual teenagers" and informatively recounts some of the media response. Then, he aptly spreads blame:

"I agree that FOX News personalities and right-wing politicians spewing anti-gay rhetoric have blood on their hands..."

Unfortunately, he continues:

"...but the blame does not stop there."

Oh, surely he's not going to-

"Older gay men and women are also in many ways responsible for the anti-gay atmosphere that has led teens to kill themselves over their own sexuality.

The gay culture has been aggressively pushing a counter-heteronormative agenda that demonizes anything that would typically be considered heterosexual. Many homosexuals take on a flamboyant lifestyle filled with drug use and promiscuous sex, and the media helps perpetuate the idea that this is the normal lifestyle of all gay men and women."

Yep, he did. Sweet.

First note how he accuses "gay culture" of "demoniz[ing]" heterosexual culture, when in reality it is the dominant heterosexual culture which demonizes "gay culture" by branding it pathological, abnormal, and dangerous.

While it is of course ridiculous for Patrick to blame the "counter-heteronormative" lifestyles of "older gay men and women" for creating an atmosphere of anti-gay harassment, rather than the harassers of those who partake in said lifestyle, articles like these are helpful in illustrating a gaping pitfall of the "we're just like you" equality mantra. Namely, that if you aren't the right type of gay person, Normal People don't think you deserve equal rights, human dignity, or the right not to get your ass kicked. The onus for preventing homophobic violence and bullying rests not with those who engage in violence, but on gay adults who act like such flamers. The onus for granting fellow citizens equal rights doesn't rest with the Normal Majority, but rather, with gay people who must prove that they are normal enough, possessing of enough human dignity, to deserve equal rights.

Awesome, thanks for the tips, Patrick.

In this article, we have Patrick who, because he agrees that anti-gay personalities shoulder some of the responsibility for the suicides of gay youths, likely sees himself as a big ally to the LGBT equality cause. I mean, did you see him call out FoxNews like that? Sure. Out of one side of his mouth he's castigating anti-gay bigots, yet out of the other side he's castigating feminine gay men and engaging in some pretty reprehensible victim blaming:

"It is not okay for Fox News to spread hate through what is supposed to be a 'fair and balanced' media outlet....But on the same note, it is not okay to subscribe yourself to a ridiculous lifestyle and blame it on the fact that you are gay."

He then ends, ominously stating:

"Gays in America need to make a culture adjustment; otherwise the next time a homosexual teen commits suicide, they might be holding the rope."

As examples of this "ridiculous lifestyle" that adult gays engage in, he cites prominent gays like Perez Hilton, Adam Lambert, and Glee character Kurt Hummel as personalities who are so "different" from heterosexuals that it's understandable why people would reject them. And not only that, these gay men are actually more dangerous than the likes of homobigot Pat Robertson because flamboyant queens show gay youth that "a person cannot be gay and normal" and this, too, causes gay kids to kill themselves.

But here's the thing. Wait, Grilled Cheesus, why is the virginal gleeky Kurt Hummel grouped in with promiscuous, drug-abusing older gays?! Did I miss a key storyline? Has Patrick even watched Glee? Notice how slippery the definition of "normal" has become here. First, Patrick told us it was the promiscuous drug-abusing gays who were the bad suicide-causing ones, then it also became the flamboyant ones, and now the group of Deviant Degenerate Gays also includes gay teenagers who sing in glee clubs- you know, the very sorts of kids who tend to commit suicide in greater numbers than their peers.

Secondly, not every single media representation of LGBT people is a flamboyant gay man, which throws a wrench in Patrick's argument that gay kids commit suicide because the only model of adult gay behavior is "ridiculous" flamboyance. I mean, this is the era of Rachel Maddow, Ellen, Portia, Neil Patrick Harris, Esera Tualo, and Anna Paquin (swoon). That Patrick seems to think every visible gay adult is a flamboyant gay man only evidences his ignorance and his male-centricity. Homosexual = man, and a feminine one at that, natch. The truth is, LGBT youth have many visible role models (well, maybe not so much the T's, unfortunately), many of whom do demonstrate that some of us can be Just Like Heteros.

Third, and most importantly, some gay and bisexual men in the real world actually are like Perez Hilton, Adam Lambert, and Kurt Hummel. So tell me this. How might telling these men to act more "normal" and stop being so "ridiculous" contribute to their suicidal behavior and the suicidal behavior of youth who see a bit of themselves in these men?

Patrick's article is perhaps well-intentioned. However, it comes off as ignorant, condescending, n00b advice, as though it's some Great Big New Idea to tell gay people to tone the homo stuff down a notch if they ever want people to accept them. Articles like this, no matter how much a person loves gay people and abhors the likes of Fred Phelps, are actually a part of the fucking problem. It's the equivalent of somebody who just discovers there are tensions in the Middle East walking into an discussion about Israel and Palestine by offering the oh-so-helpful advice of "Hey, can't we all just get along?" as though it's just that simple and people just needed an Objective Outsider to explain what's up.

While I understand that the "we're just like you" argument is necessary under a legal regime that is premised on treating likes alike and unalikes unalike, equality rhetoric which is premised on the notion that gay people are Just Like Straight People is flawed because it continues to center the heterosexual gender-role-conforming life experience as the default, normal way of living and being and stigmatizes everyone else as "ridiculous," to put it mildly.

Those LGBT people who are Just Like heterosexuals are seen as deserving of equal rights while those who are not so much like heterosexuals are seen as deserving of ridicule, marginalization, and shame. Gays like Kurt Hummel who are too faggy (read, feminine) are grouped with drug-abusing, hyper-promiscuous, and other "inappropriately" different gays as a form of both sexuality and gender policing. Gays who perform "normal" are rewarded with Honorary Hetero Status, which can be revoked at any time if the homosexual tendencies become too loud which, let's face it, they almost always are at some point in a queer person's life especially if we're talking about anything other than the weather.

Equality? Maybe. Liberation, not so much.

And for the record, Patrick, it wasn't gays who "declared war" on society. It was society that declared war on us. (See, for instance, your article).

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