Sunday, April 13, 2008

THE IMPORTANCE OF "THE PRESENTATION OF SELF"

A post was written on April 12th entitled, "Gay Catholics plan 'respectful presence' along pope's route (spew massive chunks alert)" on The Free Republic website.

I'd like you to read, not only the post, which says that "Gay Catholics and especially gay Catholics associated with DignityUSA will launch formal protests in Washington and New York against Benedict and his 'anti-gay stances,'" but also please read the comments attached to that post.

The vilification of LGBT people by such people as those who commented on that post is expressed by ignorant and sometimes hateful people who use as "justification" for their homophobia the most bizarre public face that is presented and that is felt by them, and by many potential allies as well, as personifying Gay people, Gay identity, and Gay life. And many LGBT people are more than willing to provide the ammunition to our enemies who then stereotype all Gay people according to that bizarre public face, and thereby the cause of the acquisition of full and equal civil and sacramental rights is sabotaged!

A grave disservice to the cause of acquiring full and equal civil and sacramental rights is committed by LGBT people who present themselves and, by extension, other LGBT people as "outsiders," "deviants," and as "abnormal," through the language they use (such as referring to themselves by use of hateful words as self-identifiers--for example, please see my posts of March 21st and March 31st on "The Million Fag March"), and by "a presentation of self" that is guaranteed to alienate many potential allies, thus facilitating and reinforcing the homophobia that resonates all too well with those who view themselves as "decent," "moral," and "religious" people.

I am not blaming the victim!

I am blaming those who are enabling and facilitating their and others' victimization and victimhood by their political apathy, reveling in "outsider" status, being content with the crumbs of incrementalism (such as Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions), and, most importantly, presenting a public face that virtually guarantees vilification by others, many of whom feel "righteous" in their condemnation of LGBT people because of that public face.

It is nothing short of irrational to support the presentation of a bizarre face to the public in the names of "liberation" and "diversity," and at the same time expect to win the hearts and minds of others in the struggle for full equality!

It must be understood that the media concentrates on the extremes, and lives by the mantra, "If it bleeds it leads," and so one picture like the above (and there are countless others that have appeared in the mainstream media) weighs far more heavily on the minds of not only homophobes (who are unlikely to be persuaded to embrace Gay people, no matter the public face presented), but of potential allies; such a presentation of self sticks a finger in the eye of potential allies and is counter-revolutionary and counter-productive to the cause of equal rights.

In this connection, I want to post the links to posts that Don Charles who is Blogmaster of the excellent blog, Christ, The Gay Martyr, and I wrote regarding this issue. I'm going to take the posts from Pam's House Blend where they were also posted, in addition to our own blogs, so that you can read the comments each of these posts elicited.

Clearly, I feel very strongly about this issue of self-defeatism and its psychological, social, and political sources and consequences, as full and equal civil and sacramental rights will only be won once a healthier, more mature, face is presented that truly represents the diversity and the inherent dignity of LGBT people and their relationships, just as there is diversity and dignity that are conferred to, and enjoyed by, Straight people and their relationships.

I wrote the first post entitled, On The Need To Grow Up that met with such revulsion that my good friend, Don Charles, was prompted to kindly come to my defense and to the defense of that post.

His post was entitled, In Defense Of Growing Up that was met with at least as much revulsion as was mine.

He then trenchantly followed up on that post with his post entitled, The Necessary Pain Of Growing Up.

Please read or re-read these three posts, along with the comments associated with each of the posts.

And please give these ideas a great deal of consideration, realizing that just as we don't hear Jewish people refer to themselves as "kikes," and we don't hear Italians refer to themselves as "wops," we are not to denigrate ourselves, or fool ourselves into thinking that by using such terms as "queer," "dyke," "fag," and "tranny," that these hateful words are being neutralized by being appropriated.

To do so, and to present bizarre depictions that are bound to offend the sensibilities of those whose hearts and minds we seek to win over, is equivalent to having African-Americans celebrating the image of Stepin Fetchit; to having Jewish people celebrating the image of Shylock; to having Italian people celebrating the image of a career criminal.

The use of pejorative self-identifiers are not in any way serving to neutralize the hatefulness of those terms, but is merely reinforcing in one's own mind, and in the minds of others, the "legitimacy" of those very words; they are terms that must not be appropriated, any more than other hateful and demeaning epithets should be appropriated that have historically and currently been used to confer gross indignities onto LGBT people and onto other minority groups that have suffered discrimination and oppression.

And we must realize that these hateful words are still being used while our LGBT sisters and brothers are being brutalized.

As I've written before: LGBT people and allies must engage in grassroots activism, such as picketing homophobic churches (and there are plenty to choose from!); writing letters to the editors of their local newspapers; having groups of Gay couples who seek to marry continuously agitate for the same marriage rights as their heterosexual counterparts; speaking out to neighbors and friends; boycotting businesses that in any way discriminate against Gay people, and other such modes of activism so as to aid and abet the cause of acquiring full and equal civil rights!

And let's not sabotage that cause!
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2 comments:

DON CHARLES aka "STUFFED ANIMAL" said...

Yes, we are sabotaging our own movement, and that sabotage takes three main forms: 1) The belief that LGBT folk are "queer" (meaning weird, strange and abnormal), and the act of encouraging Straight people to think and speak of us as such. 2) The belief that LGBT identity is based on nothing but sexuality, and the act of distorting and/or exaggerating that sexuality. 3) The belief that clownish and/or shocking and/or stereotypical public actions can convince a society that knows little about us to support LGBT equality.

Frankly, Jerry, I think internalized shame is at the root of this sabotage. A significant number of us believe that we don't deserve equal rights, and so we try to make sure that we'll never get them. We attack marriage equality and open military service with almost as much ferocity as the religious Right Wing. We eagerly embrace meaningless incrementalism, even when its promises exclude a large segment of our population. We stubbornly clutch stereotypes to our collective breast, no matter how twisted they are. We willingly climb into the coffin labeled "queer", close the lid after ourselves, and invite society to cover us over with dirt.

As God is my witness, there will never be room in that coffin for me! I will not climb into it. I am determined to live in the mainstream. I will not die in a marginalized space!

Jerry Maneker said...

Thanks, Don Charles. I wish everyone saw the truth in how sticking a finger in the eye of potential allies is doing inestimable harm to the cause for full and equal civil rights.