Friday, 29 April 2016
The writers for the Canadian television show Saving Hope have come up with a pledge to improve the representation of LGBT people on television. Their pledge seems to me to be a case of way too little, way too late
The recent death of a lesbian character on The 100 has caused young (presumably queer) youth to harm themselves. Adam Pettle (writer) and Noelle Carbone (producer) state that “queer characters are so underrepresented on television that killing off even one makes a tremendous negative impact.” They go on to say “it perpetuates a message of despair when what we really should be saying is, ‘Hang in there. It gets better!’”
First of all I don’t think that writers should be making pacts with other writers and producers to write one particular type of story or version of life. Life is hard, eh? Does it serve anyone to whitewash it and make it look pretty when it’s not? And though I’m sure gay youth have it tough these days, protecting them from certain images and ideas is simply going to do further damage to their tender psyches. In this digital age it’s all about how many people give a thumbs up on Youtube. But entertainment only approaches art when it sails in uncharted territory. Trigger warnings on TV we don’t need — they will only make our TV shows more banal than ever before.
And why present gay and lesbian characters in nothing but positive situations — when the world is getting worse for queer people?
New anti-gay hate laws are now on the books in Indiana, Arizona, Mississippi, and Georgia, allowing employers to discriminate against queer people in the name of ‘religious freedom.’ Kids everywhere are still afraid to tell their parents they are gay, because they know they might get kicked out of the house. Gay men right now are seeing a serious epidemic and drug usage (crystal meth is rampant ). What about all the confusion about AIDS and condom-less sex and PrEP? What about the criminalization of AIDS? And I don’t know how to tell you this, but our future can look pretty bleak sometimes, because after struggling with AIDS for thirty years, we queers are brimful of guilt, shame and anxiety about something that just used to be lots of fun — sex!
Anyway, it shouldn't be about fostering greater gay and lesbian representation on straight TV shows; it should be about throwing old straight TV shows in the trash and creating new and fantastic Gay and Lesbian TV shows and movies, PERIOD!
Why not have TV shows that feature only gay and lesbian characters and delve into the complex details of our postmodern lives?
Wouldn’t straight people want to watch these shows?
Come on. For years gays and lesbians have been enduring straight TV shows, trying to sympathize with all their straight-people-problems — and doing a pretty good job of it. Why can’t straight people watch shows about gays and lesbians and try reading their lives into ours?
A good start might be if mainstream reviewers stopped criticizing gay and lesbian stories because they are gay. For instance, Norman Wilner in this week’s Now Magazine trashes a movie called Viva (about a gay hustler drag queen) as “just a bog-standard indie about a son coming out to his disapproving father.” Wow Mr. Wilner. How many movies have you seen that feature the ol' ‘bog standard’ plot line ‘boy loves girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl’?
It’s time for straight people to open up their minds and hearts and sex lives. People sure seem to love opening themselves up to other cultures these days (My Big Fat Greek Wedding was one the most popular movies of all time and spawned a recent piece-of-garbage sequel). Why not take some tips from queer culture?
Where are all the gay and lesbian TV and movie writers, producers, actors and actresses?
Why don’t they come out and start creating shows about themselves?
(Noelle Carbone, why not take a lesson from Christine Vachon?)
And now that Leonardo di Caprio finally won an Oscar — is he also finally going to admit he’s a fag?
These are the serious questions on my mind, while Saving Hope prays for more positive role models.
Saturday, 9 April 2016
I was at a trans event the other day. The speaker was a self-identified trans writer and performer who uses the pronoun ‘they.’ The room was filled with what appeared to me to be lesbians (along with a smattering of trans people). The trans speaker was talking about their experience as a young girl playing hockey and not being allowed to play on the boys’ team. It struck me as ironic that a room full of lesbians had come to hear someone speak about a subject that used to be a lesbian narrative (i.e. ’my difficult tomboy past’). However, now — it has become a trans narrative.
I’m not of course suggesting that the tomboy narrative should be owned exclusively by either lesbians or trans people. But it does strike me that what was once thought largely to be a lesbian life story, has now for many become instead a trans story.
And could this have something to do with what some have termed the dilemma of the ‘vanishing lesbian’?
I would certainly say that gays and lesbians are somewhat to blame. Gays and lesbians these days want to be just like straights. In the same way that gay men no longer wish to be associated with effeminacy, lesbians no longer wish to be associated with masculinity. Gays and lesbians would rather be seen as gender ‘normal.’
But there is another huge contributing factor here: the trans community’s rejection of its own history. Traditionally, trans people claimed to be ‘trapped in the wrong body.’ Through surgery they were able to correct this. These days, the mantra I hear from trans people everywhere is ‘Please don’t repeat that annoying old idea that trans people are people who are trapped in the wrong body! That’s really out of date!’
Is it out of date?
Or is it history?
And why anyone seek to erase history?
Now I understand that trans people might want to expand the notion of trans to include people who have no desire for surgery. And I agree with the whole concept of self-identifying. We all must all be allowed to choose our gender, regardless of our equipment. But must the trans community reject those whose trans identity is intrinsically bound up with dramatic body modification (i.e. the creation of a new set of genitals?).
It seems to me that — at the same time as lesbians and gay men are disassociating themselves from gender issues— the trans community is seeking exclusively to own gender issues.
The result is more than just a tragic denial of history.
Being gay and lesbian is now only about who we have sex with, and being trans is now only about gender. Doesn't this fracture our community? Doesn’t this now, ironically, divide us further and increase our dependence on labelling? And doesn’t this encourage tomboys to think of themselves as young trans people, rather than as lesbians?
Why can’t trans people proudly include in their ranks (and their philosophy) those who wish to have sex changes due to dissatisfaction with their own bodies? Why can’t trans people realize that being gay and lesbian is as much a gender issue as an issue of sexuality? And most of all, why can’t gay and lesbian people be proud of masculine dykes and feminine fags — instead of demonizing them and trying to convince the world that all gays and lesbians are gender normal?
I say this as proud gay man, and a drag queen. But I also say this as someone who identifies as a trans person.
Come on, let’s all get together! It will serve us all. And it will serve the cause we all have in common.
The liberation of queer people.
Wednesday, 6 April 2016
I know this may seem strange coming for a gay man, but I’m going to try and tell you what it means when a man loves a woman (apologies, Percy Sledge).
I’ve noticed that when Donald Trump and other straight men are accused of being misogynistic, they often come up with the same answer. ‘I love women,’ they say, adding, for good measure — ‘I’ve always loved women.’
Well I wish to clarify the difference between having sex with women and loving them.
You see what these guys mean when they say ‘I love women and therefore I am not a woman-hater,’ is ‘I desire women, sexually, and have sex with them, and therefore I am not a woman-hater.’
But sex is not the same as love. And just because you have sexual desire for women and/or have sex with them, doesn’t mean that you love women.
What does it mean to love a woman?
To love a woman, you must, first of all, have respect for her. You must give her the same respect you give a man. She must feel free to get angry: do not call her a bitch if she raises her voice. You must not demand that she ‘act like a woman’ but accept that whatever way in which she chooses to act is the way a woman acts, because she is, after all, a woman. You must listen to her. If you, as a male, have greater body size, weight and power than she does (as most men do) then you must not threaten her with that power. Above all, whatever sexual or romantic feelings you have about her, you must always remember that she is a human being, and not just a body you are attracted to. You must focus on, respond to, and interact with her personality, intelligence and her ideas. You must install governments that give her equal pay, and you must only be employed by corporations that are governed by equal numbers of female CE0’s and Vice Presidents as men. Finally, you must acknowledge that any work that women want to do, is suitable for them. And, most importantly, you must want to do all the things I have articulated above. The impulse must come naturally. You mustn’t have to work hard to ‘give women what they want.’ It should simply be common sense to treat women (when you are not having sex with them) exactly the same way as you would treat men.
Now when you think about the above, does it frighten you, or make you angry? Do you have a deep nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ when ‘men were men and women were women’?
If so, you may be misogynistic
But don’t worry because it’s probably not your fault.
After all, we live in a patriarchal culture that still heavily privileges men and which is fundamentally distrustful of women (remember Eve and the serpent?).
All you can do is your best. Try and change.
And what if the idea of treating a woman like a man makes relationships with women seem less, well….sexy?
That’s just because ‘difference’ of any kind is both scary and sexy, and power differentials are the sexiest thing of all.
Just remember that if it turns you on to have power over someone else — or for them to have power over you — that is sex. Even just talking is sex — if you are playing chatty power games. If you want to consensually do that with someone — go ahead. But please don’t do it while you are planning your retirement income or arranging to have someone come in and spray the trees. It’s sexist and inappropriate.
You can only ‘play with power’ when you are having consensual sex.
And you can’t have sex with women 24 hours a day.
And if you don’t understand that concept, then —at the very least — you need professional help.
It takes a village to raise a child; and it takes a gay man to tell you guys how to love women.