The Myth of Queerness

Latifah

QUEEN LATIFAH

The Gender Monologues
The Myth of Queerness
A Gay Pride Month Feature

Nowadays, fakery is in vogue among LGBT folk! There's an over-abundance of vulgar representation, fringe behavior, counterculture posturing, and pandering to stereotype. Typical of what I'm talking about is how San Francisco's Pride festivities are being promoted this year; the organizers hope to lure Straight spectators with tantalizing descriptions of "pansy divas", "ballroom queers" and "tranny witches". Already, the Faetopia Festival has staged an "eco-fag" fundraiser with nude Gay wrestlers smeared in vegetable oil.

People of blended gender are being packaged like an illicit commodity! It reminds me of the Prohibition-era Black nightclubs, where rich White folks went slumming. Just substitute the exotic "Queer" for the primitive "Darky" of yesteryear: See degenerates by the dozen! Catch a fever for the flavor of sex perverts! I'm disgusted at how some of us willingly sell ourselves out to play scripted roles in a heterosexist fantasy.

Nothing looks more fake than our attempts at male and female impersonation. More often than not, Gay men in femme drag portray women as shrill, bitchy and silly. To a lesser extent, Lesbians in butch drag portray men as dour, loutish and one-dimensional. They take binary gender and exaggerate the Hell out it! They especially play up the negative aspects. At the same time, they distort their own blended gender to the point where it’s insulting. The worst drag performers stage a sexist burlesque act that's more extreme and insensitive than anything Hollywood has ever put out; and then their Gay audiences slap the same contemptuous terminology on them ("queens", "bulldykes") that bigots use.

How skillfully our oppressors have trained us! We're so eager to affirm their twisted notions of who we are! Half the time, we don't even realize we're doing it. We applaud when Transsexual women are portrayed as cross-dressers and exploited in a trashy horror flick(Ticked-Off Trannies). We applaud when Gay Pop singer Adam Lambert performs a semi-pornographic dance routine on national TV. We applaud when a Gay teenage boy gets elected "prom queen" by his high school classmates. Hardly anybody stops to consider the unpleasant ramifications: Transwomen’s lives and experiences reduced to a crass joke; reinforced Right Wing talking points about rogue sexuality among Gay men; homosexuality once again confused with transsexuality. We don't care. We're too caught up in the myth of Queerness!

That myth has transformed Gay Pride parades into pageants of ludicrous imagery: Stone butch "Dykes on Bikes". Drunk and nearly naked “Disco queens”. Leather-clad Dungeon Masters, leading their sex slaves on a dog leash. Topless “trannies” and kilted muscle boys, flashing their goodies. Bewigged and bejeweled drag divas. This is our version of an ethnic festival. We "proudly" present these tacky parodies of ourselves as authentic examples of "Gay culture". We brag up a storm about how liberated we are, even while we give heterosexual supremacists exactly the kind of sex and gender freak show they expect. Somewhere under all the taffeta and glitter and leather lie our plain, unembellished Transgender selves. What do they look like? Why are we afraid to let them be seen?

Yes, there's a little bit of truth in every stereotype. However, that doesn't mean stereotypes are the truth! I shudder to think what I'd be like if I believed otherwise. In my lifetime, an alarming number of people have seen fit to remark on my effeminacy. I've been told that I'm a "queen", a "queer", a "punk"(the working class Black man's definition), a "faggot", "a "he/she", a "sweet b*tch", and numerous other misogynistic names I won't bother repeating. I'm sure you get the idea.

Both casual acquaintances and complete strangers have suggested that I dress up in women's attire and go as female, “just for fun”. They imply that this is what I was born to do. If I have no desire to cross-dress, then I must be "repressed", or "a closet case", or ashamed of what I am; and what I am in their eyes seems to be some bizarre hybrid of "homo-thug" and drag ball débutante! Incidentally, some of these same people recommend that I sleep with women occasionally so as to maintain my "manhood". Lord, deliver me!

I'm expected to put up with this insane clown crap because so many Gay men, Lesbians and Transfolk have let themselves be shoehorned into false "gender queer" identities. My strength is that I've always been very self-aware. Nobody can make me buy into lies about myself. The Devil himself couldn't accomplish that feat!

"Queer" is a denigrating, exploitative and wholly fictional concept that doesn't describe me in any way, shape, or form. When it comes to my identity, I can't be misled! I don't allow anybody to define for me what it means to be a man, a Black man, or a Black Gay man.

Believe me, there are plenty of folks out there who are eager to do that! They come at me from both a Left Wing and a Right Wing perspective. They've got very rigid ideas about how I'm supposed to look, behave and identify myself, and they get terribly upset when I don't conform. Sounds like the definition of bigotry, doesn't it?

That's exactly what it is! It's rank bigotry, regardless of whether it's a Straight Black man urging me to suppress my feminine traits, or a Gay White man urging me to exaggerate them. Both bigots have serious gender issues that they'd better deal with as soon as possible. Here's how I deal with their mess: I live my life authentically, as free of artifice and buffoonery and internalized shame as I can make it; I treat my femininity with the respect that it deserves; and I pen myth-busting essays like this one. How do you like me now?

There are at least two closets that LGBT folk can shut themselves up in. One closet is Orthodoxy, which houses the stereotype of a binary gender person. The other is Queerness, which houses the stereotype of a blended gender person. Both are constructions of Heterosexual Supremacy. Both promote falsehood. No matter which closet homosexual, bisexual and transsexual human beings choose to hide in, the result is the same: Nobody knows who we really are. Lately, I don't think we know, either.