Monday, July 1, 2013

Pride and Marriage and Homophobia - Oh My!

Your boy Ryan is exhausted.

So much has happened this past week. So many things I’m trying to make sense of.

San Francisco Pride was yesterday. And as many flocked to the city to participate in the festivities, I remained inside my air-conditioned home, avoiding the heat and flocks of people. I am grateful for spaces like pride festivals and see the good and potential they have to be powerful spaces. My feelings can be adequately summed up by this cartoon:

The turn-out to pride festivals, especially among heterosexual "allies," alway surprises me. I would love to know where these “allies” can be reached the other 364 days of the year, while my community works on projects to address homelessness among LGBTQ identified youth, as well as issues of homophobia, harassment, and violence. It’s also important to remember that many individuals choose not to come out about their sexual or gender identity as a matter of pure safety and survival. That for many years, as a closeted teenager, I myself looked onto pride festivals and wondered if I would ever get to participate in them, if it would ever be safe for me to do so, and how would I even get to the point where I could. When are we going to address this problem?

But perhaps I forgot an important part of the puzzle: for pride festivals to include these things, people need to be present to make sure they’re included. In other words, for issues that I want to be represented, I should ensure that they are. And moreover, my own self and life journey need to be celebrated every now and then. I can certainly critique pride festivals and work towards more inclusive spaces, without having to completely withdraw from them.

A pride festival this year without marriage equality as a key focus was inescapable, as the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and California’s Prop 8 on Wednesday. I knew the equal signs of the Human Rights Campaign would be plentiful throughout this year’s pride.

These decisions are historic and celebratory for those who will now be able to access marriage and its benefits. When the Supreme Court undertook these cases back in March, I wrote about my feelings on same-sex marriage

And to this day, they remain the same.

The magnitude of these decisions is large. But to be honest, some individuals within the LGBTQ community, including me, are not even thinking about marriage at this point in our lives. This ruling does not address the fact that I am still called “fag” while innocently walking the streets where I live. This ruling did not address the persecution many LGBTQ and religiously identified individuals face within their churches. If anything, The Church’s response to the rulings shows how that opposition has only strengthened. The list of inequalities and unfairness goes on and on. This ruling did address assimilation into social norms, specifically heterosexual social norms, as a way to obtain privileges and benefits that maybe should not be available solely through marriage. While marriage is a great opportunity, it won’t mean much if people are dead and unable to enjoy it. This spoken word piece addresses that:

Despite this ruling, many have assured me (especially “allies”) that this is a great step for my community, and an initial way for people to come around to eventual acceptance. But is it?

Amid my worries with pride and the hype of the Supreme Court rulings, I missed quite a bit in pop culture. If you’re like me, and have missed the Alec Baldwin Twitter controversy, catch up here

Baldwin was quickly reprimanded for his “homophobic” tweets. While I don’t invalidate these claims, I notice how easily things are labeled homophobic, and only homophobic. This excludes the gender, racial, and hierarchal issues at the center of many of these instances. In the case of Baldwin, the word queen refers to matriarchy and femininity, used derogatorily to demasculinize the reporter. And femininity is enforced here as a bad thing. Thus, the use of “queen” incorporates a gendered element necessary for discussion, as femininity is seen and deployed as an insult.

What did strike me about Baldwin’s statement, however, was his apology. In it, he claimed to have “done political work with marriage equality groups and insists he wouldn't advocate violence against someone for being gay.”

It’s ironic how this apology utilizes marriage equality as a way to denounce hatred towards gays. But the point remains that Baldwin’s remarks are seen as offensive towards members of the LGBTQ community and, based on my breakdown before, to femininity as a whole. Can we really say, now, that the prevalence of same-sex marriage is going to solve the LGBTQ community’s various struggles? These supporters of same-sex marriage, who claim to be or allies, still perpetuate many harmful issues for our community, that are we really moving forward? Are we really closer to changing people’s minds?

That’s it. I don’t do pride, I don’t do marriage, and I don’t do homophobia. And behind all these beliefs is this thought: am I a bad gay? Is there something wrong with me that I can’t enjoy a pride festival? Or be excited about marriage? Or ride someone’s comments off as purely homophobic? I think it means I’m just unwilling to drink to the Kool-Aid anymore that others keep trying to feed me. And that’s fine. That can be prideful. That can be relationship-material. And that can combat societal ills. 

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