19 March 2008

Stumbling Blocks To Gay Liberation: STEREOTYPES

Stumbling Block

Stereotypes are defined by Merriam-Webster as standardized mental pictures held in common by members of a group which represent an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment. This is an accurate definition that, just like the definition of Ignorance, downplays the great harm Stereotypes do. Here, sketched broadly, are the main Stereotypes that heterosexual society has of LGBT folk:

The prissy F*ggot, a cartoon caricature born to do your hair, make over your wardrobe and decorate your apartment!

The depraved Leather/Fetish Queen, a certified sicko with a fully-equipped BDSM torture chamber in his basement!

The hulking Bulld*ke, a beastly figure who despises her own womanhood, objectifies other women sexually, sees men as a threat and is ten times more macho than John Wayne!

The hedonistic Lipstick Lesbian, a Victoria's Secret fantasy babe who loves nothing better than to have a man watch while she has sex with her girlfriend!

The outrageous Drag Queen/Tr*nny, whose only purpose in life is to model the latest in femme couture and trick innocent Straight men into believing she's a biological woman!

The AC/DC, screw-anything-that-moves Bi Guy, a promiscuous, sex-obsessed horny toad who by nature is unable to commit to monogamous relationships.

The “radical” Gay Pride Marcher, a gender-bending carnival clown with “I'm here, I'm queer” placard and pink feather boa in hand, gyrating to a Disco beat, bare breasts bouncing, and genitalia swinging free!

Each one of these characters is likely to be a sexual predator; an advocate of public sex, underage sex, polygamy and incest; and a danger to children, the family structure and every societal norm. There's always a grain of truth in Stereotypes, but these are so distorted, they border on the delusional! I believe these twisted images of LGBT folk are even more harmful than the Uncle Tom, Aunt Jemimah, Zip Coon and Stepin Fechit images that have historically plagued African-Americans!

Stereotypes will always be with us, but when they’re as offensive as the ones I just mentioned, we need to be wary of them. When such ugly myths proliferate, they undermine the goals of a Civil Rights movement! For reasons only psychoanalysts really understand, if you can reduce a person to a crude Stereotype, then it's easier for you to mistreat that person and disregard his or her basic humanity. This is a strange-but-true fact of human nature that communities of color have known for a long time; that’s why Latinos, Native, Asian and African-Americans sometimes seem overly sensitive about their media portrayals. We need to be at least half as sensitive as they are!

Our media is careless about how it depicts us! Pick up a Gay publication (fiction or nonfiction), and more likely than not you'll see a sexually provocative cover. Usually, it’s a naked or half-naked White man in a “come-get-me” pose. Otherwise, it’s likely to be a Transperson (or not) whose make-up and clothing are over-the-top. Then there are the many magazine covers featuring Hollywood celebrities (they don’t even have to be Gay icons!); these feed into another Stereotype of Gay people as star-struck fanatics. Recently, The Advocate sold a cover that was both sexually provocative and worshipful of celebrity; it showed comedienne Kathy Griffin emerging from a car, her dress pulled up past her crotch and her legs sprawled open. The Advocate is supposed to be our premier Gay Rights periodical! What does this kind of cover have to do with Gay Rights?

We’re not doing enough to limit negative imagery in mainstream media, either. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) may have been founded to serve that function, but frankly, they've done a lousy job! Just look at the recent crop of Gay TV shows: “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy”, an insult! “The L Word”', sexual objectification of Lesbians! “Queer As Folk”, sexual objectification of Gay men! And what about I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry, a recent feature film that GLAAD saw fit to give its dubious stamp of approval? That stupid movie trivializes our relationships, exploits Gay Stereotypes big time, and is riddled with sexual slurs! Of course, GLAAD raved about the overrated Brokeback Mountain, too, but overlooked the fact that Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jack Twist character is a classic Bi Guy Stereotype!

Both Gay and Straight media seem to prefer depicting us either in a soft-core porn context or playing us for a limp wrist joke. African-Americans did not and would not have tolerated those kinds of portrayals at the height of the Civil Rights struggle! They recognized marginalization when they saw it. It’s just pathetic, the way we consistently fail to challenge dehumanizing, one-dimensional images of ourselves! We pay a price for it every time a grade-schooler taunts one of his classmates with a that's-so-Gay putdown.

I once heard actor Harvey Fierstein say it didn’t matter how LGBT folk were depicted, as long as depictions of us were out there to be seen. With all due respect, I couldn’t disagree with him more! Our depictions need to be diverse and reasonably accurate. Many Gay people seem to think they’re stand-up comedians; they're always railing against so-called "political correctness"! Exaggeration and shock value aren't bad when you’re doing a comedy routine; they may even get you a bigger laugh, which is what a comedian wants. We’re not doing comedy routines, though! Last I heard, we were doing an equality struggle, in which case guffaws are definitely not what we want!

Nor do we want to shock people just for the Hell of doing it! We want, and need, to be respected. Not ridiculed. Not objectified. Not feared. Respected! Anger over media stereotyping is a surefire sign that a community wants respect; and a sign like that will do us ten times as much good as one emblazoned with that tired old cliché we're here, we're "queer", get used to it.  Liberation is about breaking free from your bonds . . . not re-adjusting them!

"Stumbling Blocks to Gay Liberation" continues with BIBLIOLATRY.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to respond to an anonymous poster whose comment I had to reject because he used the Q-word casually. I don't allow that usage on my blog. However, this person made some very to-the-point observations that should be considered.

    Anonymous wrote:

    "Gays are still getting, and spreading 'HIV', (supposedly,) whatever THAT means. IF HIV is real, and AIDS is caused by it, what excuse is there in this day and age, after a quarter of a century of public education, for ANY Gay man to spread HIV?"

    The reason? Internalized shame. And I wouldn't call that an excuse. It's just a sad fact. LGBT folk will always be engaged in some suicidal behavior or other until they take internalized shame seriously and confront it proactively.

    Anonymous wrote:

    "You say Gays need to have respect. That's a laugh. You receive respect in direct proportion to how much you respect YOURSELF. Respecting yourself SHOWS. Respecting yourself doesn't mean huffing on poppers and doing drugs and hanging out at bars looking for easy sex. Self respect isn't about constantly seeking others approval, constantly lowering yourself to other people's lack of standards."

    Why would you think I disagree with this statement? I've said as much myself in the past.

    Anonymous wrote:

    "You can not liberate ANY community which is perpetually decimated by disease and medical subjugation. You wonder WHY oh WHY the road to Gay Liberation has not led to where it should. And I wonder why it is that you thought that road was a drunken garden path filled with poppies and dealers and prostitutes and pornography, and not a narrow path to be carefully sought and strove."

    When and where did I ever convey the idea that I approve of or engage in the lifestyle you're describing here? In what blogpost did I suggest that such diversions led to liberation?

    Anonymous wrote:

    "And more and more Gay men and women . . . do not associate with the larger 'Gay Community'. More and more have CHOSEN to reject the sex-addicted, self-obsessive, needy and destructive trappings of the so-called 'Gay community'. More and more of us do not have any interest whatsoever in defining ourselves almost exclusively by our sexuality."

    I certainly hope you're right about this trend. If you are, then I count myself among that number.

    "It's always the people who complain loudest about 'Gay stereotypes' who are the first to accuse the REST of us of 'not acting gay enough' for not conforming to their diseased, dysfunctional, self-destructive, and sex-compulsive lowest common denominators. It's always the ones who are shouting about their 'rights' who are the first to shirk all their responsibilities. Enough already. If you are tired of Gay stereotypes, stop BEING a Gay stereotype."

    I am more than tired of Gay stereotypes, I'm sick of them! I am not a Gay stereotype. At least, I'm not the kind you describe. What's more, I have never accused anybody of "not acting Gay enough." I don't even know what that means! There are as many different ways to be a Gay person as there are to be a Black, a White, an Hispanic or an Asian person. You evidently haven't been reading my blog for very long. I invite you to peruse my archives. For months, I've been speaking against the very behavior you're condemning here. Instead of venting your outrage at me, someone who finds much to agree with in what you say, aim it at the Web's sizable "queer" contingent; the ones who celebrate and encourage self-destructive hedonism and resist calls to turn the liberation struggle inward. You and I are almost on the same page. You just don't realize it.