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Wednesday, September 26, 2007
It Doesn't Matter What "They" Think
This year's ad for the Folsom Street Fair (site probably NSFW) has generated some controversy. Well, I say it's generated controversy. Really, the only significant complaints I've found have been from the (male) spokesman of the Concerned Women of America, Matt Barber, who said of the ad "Scripture says that God is not mocked, yet it doesn't stop people from trying. As evidenced by this latest stunt, open ridicule of Christianity is unfortunately very common within much of the homosexual community. Gay' activists disingenuously call Christians 'haters' and 'homophobes' for honoring the Bible, but then lash out in this hateful manner toward the very people they accuse. In their version of The Last Supper, Christ, Who gave His life for our sins, is despicably replaced by sin itself as the object of worship." You can read a press-release about it here, but I don't recommend investigating that site too much.
Now, outrage from the hard-right Christian fundamentalist community is nothing new, and nothing to be surprised at. But what I always find interesting, and depressing, enough to find the term "interpressing" appropriate, is the number of (apparently) gay people who find offense in the ad. Andrew Sullivan doesn't like it, but Andrew Sullivan is a notorious right-wing crank and hypocrite, so fuck what he thinks, frankly. But if you look at the comments section at popular gay blog sites like Towleroad and Joe.My.God, you'll see lots of everyday-gays attacking the ad.
The basic complaints all boil down to one thing: ads like this make us look bad to "them." Ad like this alienate "them" and that hurts gay rights. You see variations of this argument all the time. Drag queens in Pride parades make us look bad to "them." We should distance ourselves from that married politician who had an affair with another man because it makes us look bad to "them." Effeminate teenage drama queens on the Internet should be scolded for making us look bad to "them." I'd like to chalk these arguments up to internalized homophobia, but more often than not they simply seem myopic to me. Because the counter-argument I'd like to propose is that it really doesn't matter what we, as the gay community, say or do in our efforts not to offend "them." Because "they" hate us. Not for what we do, but for who we are. It doesn't matter what we do, "they" are going to be offended. Things like kinky ads, drag queens, closeted politicians and effeminate teens just give "them" a convenient excuse.
Every gay person in the country could be a white, middle-class Republican, living in the suburbs, not ever dreaming of doing anything remotely kinky or "gross", up to and including actually have sex with a person of the same sex, violently insisting that no, really, we don't want equal rights, equal protection under the law or to be treated with basic human decency, and "they" would still hate us. What makes me so sure of this? Because there was a time, not so long ago, within the living memory of many gay men certainly, where the idea of a kinky leather festival was unheard of. Not just unheard of, unimaginable. When there were no such things as Pride parades, much less drag queens marching in them. When closeted politician's careers were over, and quite possibly their freedom. When effeminate teenage queens might as well just kill themselves, because they had nothing to live for. A time when the only homosexuals were "good" homosexuals, living in the closet, in fear and shame, and risking their jobs, homes and livelihoods just to go to a gay bar. Because if the police decided to raid it the night you happen to be there, well, kiss everything you have and know goodbye. And "they" hated us then. Quite possibly more so than "they" do now.
So no, ads like this don't hurt gay rights. Gay people sniping at other gay people to "behave, look presentable, and for God's sake stop acting gay" hurt gay rights. The failure of people in our community to support one another against hateful outside pressures hurts gay rights more than all the kinky leather daddies, drag queens, closeted politicians and teenage queens ever could. So you don't personally approve of any of those things. So what. Find a gay cause or group you feel you can support, and simply sigh and move on when one of those horrible, evil leather daddies or drag queens comes into view. It's far past time that gay people stop worrying about making "them" happy.
Two slight codas, one visual allusions to the Last Supper are nothing new. And they haven't elicited controversy or complaints in significance before. This, I think, really drives home the point that this outrage and controversy is manufactured, and driven more by homophobia than any sincere religious feeling.
Also, one of Matt Barber's comments bears closer scrutiny: "We further challenge the media to cover this affront to Christianity with the same vigor as recent stories about cartoon depictions of Mohammed and other items offensive to the Muslim community." Ah, so Matt, you want the Christian community to be portrayed as a bunch of small-minded, ignorant, backwards fundamentalists, who threaten people with murder if they don't get their way, all because you're not culturally sophisticated enough to understand the principles of free speech, artistic expression, and learning to live and let live? Because, I got to say, you guys are doing a bang-up job of that all on your own.
Plus, all those guys in that ad? Hot. Heck, even that woman on the left gives me a funny feeling...
Extra Note: I really hate playing the "Pete card" but in the context of this discussion I thought it worth mentioning. So, Pete, my boyfriend, of nine years? The minister in his church and director of a gospel choir? That Pete? Cool with the picture. Kind of likes it, actually. So let's cool it on both the "Christians are evil" and the "gays are irreligious" talk, shall we? Actual quote: "I think it's great they used a black Jesus."