There are days when I’m really excited about the future of the gay rights movement, like when the Iowa Supreme Court bravely stood up for equal protection under the law and made marriage legal for us ‘mos. And then there are days when something happens that’s so debilitatingly depressing that I wonder what I even care for. A few days ago I had one of those moments.
My younger brother is a sophomore in high school in the simultaneously rich and trashy city of Asheville, North Carolina. Since he lives with my mom and stepdad (currently deployed to Iraq), I don’t see him that often anymore, and he’s really grown up to be quite different than the little brother I was raised with. He skateboards, loves Bob Marley, shaves his head super-close, and basically possesses every attribute known to man that would make him my complete opposite. Not that I love him any less, it’s just hard to find things in common when the lil guy I used to know has been so adversely affected by his surroundings and the brainwashing of his father. (That’s a whole ‘nother post. The man once told me that “the Anti-Christ will be someone just like me.”)
Well, the other day he Facebook friended me. I thought nothing bad of it, clearly, and added him. Exchanged a few comments on pictures, etc. It was actually really nice, feeling like I had some sort of window into what was going on in his life, especially since my mom and I haven’t talked for a few months. Yeah, there were some things that gave me cause for concern, but it’s not my job to police his profile, and I said stupid stuff when I was younger too. But then up came a status update calling someone who didn’t show up for a fight afterschool a pussy and a faggot. Now, any of you readers who know me will instantly understand how my thoroughly nonviolent self reacted to the proposition that my brother had become just another street thug in baggy clothes looking for a fight after school, but that’s clearly not what upset me the most.
If we’ve built a culture that is so accepting of discrimination and hateful language against gays that our own families use those words without a moment’s thought about the consequences or messages they’re sending, how are we ever going to achieve equal rights? If it’s so ingrained in our culture that degrading gays, lesbians, and transgendered people is acceptable, and even cool, where does that leave the movement? Yes, I realize that the words and actions of schoolyard bullies may not reflect their true feelings, but haven’t we as a society failed in a fundamental way if it’s still okay to use these words?
And so, just days after New York State Senator Ruben Diaz lambasted the gay marriage movement as threatening traditional moral values, I’m fighting my own personal battle. Not with a state legislature, or with a panel of judges, or with the National Organization for Marriage, but with a 16-year old boy so caught up in the swirling social forces of high school that he’s blinded to how his language affects even his closest relatives.
Where do we even begin?
Walt Disney just released concept art for a CG film adaptation of Rapunzel, which prompted me to think about the role the company plays in the current American psyche. The message of so many recent Disney products has been, I feel, muddled and in conflict with other projects that were created just to be vehicles for promising young performers.
Take Hannah Montana, for instance. Miley Cyrus’ character repeatedly reinforces the concept of hiding oneself in a false persona. Granted, it’s for purposes of avoiding throngs of stampeding fans, but the message is the same: it’s okay to have a double personality. While this could be considered as a positive message in the context of acceptance for those with mental illnesses, in this case she makes a conscious choice to fragment herself, denying herself the happiness and stability which comes with whole personhood. Now, contrast this with Sharpay’s brother in High School Musical. Instead of fragmenting his personality, he just is never acknowledged as what he really is: a gay teenager. This juxtaposition communicates to children that hiding yourself from fame, something regarded as positive in our society, is okay, but hiding yourself from homosexuality is not — instead, you should not even acknowledge it. Which is kind of mind-boggling, as one would think something considered positive would want to be openly and unabashedly reinforced.
Classic Disney was all about embracing undervalued aspects of one’s personality. Pocahontas glorified the naturalistic world-view of Native Americans, introducing children to a different belief system and a host of worldly spirits. Cinderella taught children to embrace their true selves, regardless of their current station in life; be a princess, even if you’re temporarily scrubbing floors. It will be interesting to see how the upcoming Princess and the Frog enters into this discourse, especially as Disney’s first black princess spends so little of the film in that form. Disney has always been about a decade behind the curve of acceptance, not wanting to alienate the conservative families which powerfully support their enterprise. But wouldn’t it be nice to expect something more of the people on whom many of our childhoods were built?
Mark this day on your calendars, as I usually find every word from Jon Stewart’s mouth to be golden. But in this clip from the other night, he really does get it all wrong. Planned Parenthood provides important services, with the majority of their operating budget going to cancer screenings and contraception. Abortion services account for less than 6% of their expenditures and are all privately funded — Planned Parenthood uses none of the money gained from government contracts or funding to push a pro-choice agenda. When even the champions of rationality like Jon Stewart are maiming the public’s impression of Planned Parenthood by reinforcing this false abortion-machine image, low-income families who partake of the clinics’ services suffer. The right is already mounting a campaign to stop the federal government from contracting with Planned Parenthood, a move that would reduce their budgets by up to 35%. Planned Parenthood provides vital services and is not, as Stewart insinuates, a nefarious organization hell-bent on convincing women to abort their pregnancies. Shame on you, Jon. (But great job with the Huckabee interview from the other night! Even when I’m mad at you, I still love you.)
Important news on the gay marriage front! The governor of Massachusetts repealed a 1913 law preventing marriage licenses from being granted to those whose home states wouldn’t recognize the marriage. This means that homosexual couples can now be married by the state of Massachusetts. Although it doesn’t ensure recognition of those marriages in their home states if those states have mini-DOMA laws, it does mean recognized marriage for those in states which do not. As Dory says in Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” One day we’ll have achieved full equality under the law, and Massachusetts will be able to pride itself on taking concrete steps to have brought that achievement into being.
This one goes out to all my fellow homos: when straight people have to have endoscopic procedures, stay away from them during the few hours afterwards when they discuss every aspect of how uncomfortable it was. Because, inevitably, they will ask you how you’d like it if someone shoved their finger in there and started groping around.
And you will have the urge to say “Just a finger? I hope you felt your money hit you on the back on your way out!”
Everyone remembers middle school dates, right? You joke about getting your picture taken in the little booth with a curtain, when really you want your first kiss. You go all out and buy the biggest drink and popcorn available so that you’ll look like a gentleman, but really you just want to assure yourself that you’ll have something to fidget with for the entire movie. You feel like a badass walking up to the porch to pick them up, when really you’re some punk midget with a lollipop shoved in your back pocket.
At the beginning and end of school each year, I get the distinct pleasure of traveling through one of my favorite states: Pennsylvania. All of the fields and hills are gloriously beautiful, and some of the nicest strangers I’ve ever come across have been in the Keystone State. But today I was given another reason to celebrate the land of Hershey’s chocolate — a gay marriage ceremony for four couples presided over by the mayor of State College, home of Penn State.
“Gigi! I just made out with you!”
“No, no, you didn’t! You’re GAY!”
“Ohhh, right! Well…awesome party!”
“Can it be called bad sex if it’s too small to have sex? Or is it just bad rolling around in bed?”
I find the cultural infatuation with “man-crushes” intensely amusing and fascinating. Watching straight males squirm when they try to express their feelings for another guy is intensely satisfying for me, in a twisted point-at-the-uncomfortable-guy kind of way. A blog post over at men.style.com on the topic has me asking some questions, though.