My pal, Don Charles [Pictured], who blogs at "Christ The Gay Martyr," posted this superb essay to the comments section of GayAmericablog.com, and he kindly gave me permission to reprint it here.
His comment is essential reading for all people who are truly desirous of obtaining full and equal civil rights for LGBT people:
It's February 2010, and we're upset that the Obama administration has once again kicked us to the curb. The President is still renegeing on his promise to repeal the US military's Don't Ask/Don't Tell policy (DADT). The anger is justified, but there's an elephant in the room that needs to be acknowledged. It's a question: Why isn't the LGBT rights movement taken seriously by mainstream society? Why do Democrats and Republicans find it so easy to play us? What can we do to lessen the stigma that's attached like a barnacle to LGBT status?
Late last year, the Nation's Laura Flanders hosted a roundtable discussion on this very topic on her show "Grit Radio". One of her guests posed the question this way:
"Why aren't queers taken seriously?"
One answer could be found in the very phrasing of the question. Typically, nobody on the panel picked up on it. Can you?
I think it's time for the Gay "community" to decide what it really wants: To be seen as a radical counterculture that defines itself primarily by sexual behavior, or to be seen as fully entitled American citizens who, like the heterosexual population, are not defined primarily by sexual behavior. That decision has not been taken.
When gayAmericablog staff cite people like Dan Savage as leaders, who cheerfully refers to himself as a "faggot" when he appears on TV, I know that decision has not been taken. When San Francisco assemblyman Tom Ammiano publicly refers to himself as a "queen" and the Gay media adores it, I know that decision has not been taken. When activists cheer after a Lesbian biker club wins a copyright for the name "Dykes on Bikes", I know that decision has not been taken. When Pride parades thrive on frivolty, intoxication, exhibitionism and shock value, and fail to communicate the gravity of living as a Gay person in this world, I know that decision has not been taken.
Do we really think that kind of retrograde language and display works to the benefit of a Victor Fehrenbach or a Dan Choi? There has long been a profound lack of dignity and seriousness in our public presentation. And we wonder why it's so easy for our enemies to get anti-Gay amendments passed. I'll tell you one big reason why: We make it easy for them!
Now, I'm not saying this to excuse the behavior of the Obama administration, the HRC or any agency that isn't living up to its promises or stated mission. I'm just saying that when I compare the desegregation movement of the 1950s and '60s with today's equality struggle for LGBT Americans, one of them I can clearly identify as a Civil Rights crusade undertaken by a dignified and noble people, and one of them I can't identify as such. Guess which is which?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his marchers would not have earned the international respect they had if they'd come across in the media like Butterfly McQueen and Stepin Fetchit. With all due respect to Marc Shaiman and his Prop 8 musical on YouTube, a Civil Rights movement is not a comedy skit. If we want respect, our presentation has got to indicate as much. Even more to the point: if we want respect, it's got to start with our own self-perception.
Too many of us truly believe we are "queers", "faggots", "queens", "dykes", etc. The oppressor tells us who we are, and we fail to challenge his definition. We don't even have the ambition to challenge his terminology. We've got some work to do, and it begins by taking a hard look in the mirror.
In this connection, a couple of years ago, I wrote an article entitled, On The Need To Grow Up, that generated a lot of revulsion by ostensibly Gay people; part of that article reads as follows:
...I say to those who revel in using pejorative and hateful self-identifiers [like Queer, Dyke, Fag, etc.], who are content with being treated as second-class citizens, who are delighted with crumbs of incrementalism, who are self-satisfied as long as their immediate perceived self-interests are being met, who tolerate the indignities attendant upon being treated as "the other," and "the deviant," who allow homophobic clergy and others to demean them with impunity: Grow Up!
When we were children we usually, and for some of us all too frequently, allowed adults to define our realities for us. Now that we're grown, we have an obligation to act our ages and demand to be treated with the same dignity and have the same civil and sacramental rights as anyone else! And not settle for anything less!
Listen to the Apostle Paul: "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." (1Corinthians 13:11)
To the degree we act like children, either by centering our lives on frivolous and self-destructive activities, or by allowing others to define our realities for us, or by not demanding full and equal civil and sacramental rights, or by using negative and hostile self-identifiers that serve to perpetuate "outsider," "deviant," "abnormal," and "inferior" status, it is to that degree that homophobes are further emboldened; what rights that are currently enjoyed are threatened or may even be rescinded; increasing numbers of decent people will find "justification" for considering LGBT people as "not one of us," and the fight for full and equal civil and sacramental rights will be greatly harmed.
Moreover, such harmful behaviors and self-concepts are inimical to the fire in the belly that is needed to acquire the dignity and civil and sacramental rights that are enjoyed by all other citizens in the U.S.
It's time that many LGBT people, including professional "activists," fish or cut bait: either embrace the role of "sexual outlaws" that pride themselves as being countercultural, OR see being Gay as being just as normal as is being heterosexual, present a dignified self-image that demands that one be treated with dignity and respect; demand full equality in every single aspect of life.
The publicly expressed persona of the former virtually guarantees the retardation or denial of the latter!
And we are to make no mistake: those who insist on using pejorative and hateful epithets as self-identifiers, have wittingly or unwittingly internalized the hateful messages of the homophobic oppressor; ironically often do so in the name of "liberation" or "empowerment."
To put it in context, it is inconceivable that any university would have a course or program entitled, "Kike Studies," yet "Queer Studies" courses and programs abound in many of our universities. I have yet to hear any Jewish person refer to him/herself or other Jewish people as "kikes." It's a matter of honor, dignity, and the refusal to appropriate and articulate such a hateful word used by many anti-Semites.
Why should Gay people view themselves any differently? It should be a matter of honor and dignity to never use such hateful words when referring to oneself and/or other Gay people!
As I've written in an article entitled, Confronting Internalized Homophobia, that I hope you will read in its entirety:
I know right out of the starting blocks that this article is going to offend a great many people, but I feel very strongly that many LGBT people are seriously sabotaging the cause for full and equal civil rights by referring to themselves by the use of historically and current hateful epithets, using such terms as "Queer," "Dyke," "Fag," and other such demeaning and hateful words that have been historically used by their oppressors, and are still being used by their oppressors. Also, the many behaviors and images that are viewed by most potential allies as offensive, and that become public presentations of self, help reinforce the fallacious stereotype that Gay people are sex-obsessed deviant and abnormal hedonists, and these public images are doing tremendous harm to the struggle for, and the cause of acquiring, full and equal civil rights....
Jews usually don't have self-loathing; LGBT people all too often do have witting or unwitting self-loathing, and use those historically punishing words on themselves in the name of "liberation," ignorantly (or stupidly) thinking that they are appropriating and neutralizing those words, even when gay bashers use those very words when bashing their victims and, furthermore, they even perpetuate and encourage further use of those words among university students when titling those courses, programs, minors, or majors, and freely use those words within the curricula as they do in other public venues.
Please take Don Charles' insights and all of these words to heart, and understand that as long as hateful words are used as self-identifiers, as long as being Gay is projected and seen to be solely sexual and devoid of the same romantic emotions held by heterosexuals, that presentation of self bespeaks self-loathing (recognized or not) and bespeaks lack of the dignity necessary to fully feel worthy to fight for the same rights and privileges that heterosexuals enjoy; be taken seriously by potential Straight allies, as well as by politicians and jurists when they deal with the unconstitutionality of denying LGBT people the same rights and privileges held by every other citizen in society.