Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Talking Gay Without Feminism

[TW/Content note: Implied sexual assault "joke"]

While reading a piece at the Independent Gay Forum on Blankenhorn and Marquardt's opposition to North Carolina's proposed anti-gay amendment, a man who opposes same-sex marriage but apparently LOVES the gays left the following comment, in part:

"I’m straight. I’m so straight I have no idea how to decorate a home, and I am unable to communicate with a woman on a meaningful basis, or any basis for the last 15 years or so. So, hopefully you can appreciate I have some experience here.

First off, I don’t think anyone should discriminate against gays. I love the gays. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been carried home from a pub, too drunk to look after myself at the time, and been welcomed into a gay man’s bed. They are SO sharing.

But gay men should not be allowed to marry." (emphasis added)

A-wha? That's a thing? The inability to communicate with The Female Of The Species is an indicator of male heterosexuality? In what universe is that rational? Wouldn't it make more sense for dude to be gay if he found women to be so.... different and Other than him?

How interesting.

So many assumptions are revealed.

For one, note the total absence of queer women from the conversation. Not only do women not appear to be participating in the convo, but the "gay marriage" issue is the pressing, male-centric one: "Gay men should not be allowed to marry."

And women? Meh. Just a buncha dudes talking to other dudes about dudes' rights! (In a totally straight way, though). Which, you know, is fine to do. But let's not pretend what's happening in such a discussion is some sort of Universal Conversation about all humans.

I'm reminded of when raging bigots cite the alleged ickyness of anal sex, or HIV rates in men who have sex with men, as a reason to deny all LGBT people equality. In my experience, such bigots often don't know how to react when confronted with the fact (a) oh yeah, queer women exist too, and (b) the CDC has confirmed no case of female-to-female sexual transmission of HIV. Ever.

Heterosexual men, especially those who oppose LGBT rights, center gay men in their Very Important Conversations About Gays a lot. In many of their heads, Default Gay Person is often a white, cis, well-to-do, somewhat effeminate gay man. Think Jack from "Will and Grace."

Two, and related, notice the comment author's lazy reliance on stereotypes.

Gay men love decorating hardy har har and, in fact, being a gay man is practically like being a woman. So much so that gay men can even speak Woman-Talk, unlike the commenter, who is SO STRAIGHT he doesn't even know how to talk to a woman "on a meaningful basis"! (See also, Men/Mars, Women/Venus).

This is, I contend, what happens when people talk about gay issues while not being feminist.

In such environments, women are invisibilized or marginalized, and homosexuality is often conflated with gender identity. When we are discussed, women are largely Othered, while men are discussed as though they exist on a binary of heterosexual/masculine or homosexual/feminine, with nary a shade of gray.

And rape "jokes." Those are often okay too. Because presenting gay men as sexual predators and straight men as victims is apparently hilarious. (Don't worry, feminists, I'm sure the MRAs will somehow still blame us for this too).

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