Wednesday, October 13, 2010

ON THE NEED TO GROW UP

A couple of years ago, I wrote the article, On The Need To Grow Up that met with largely negative comments. I feel very strongly that the use of such words as "queer," "dyke," "fag," etc. by LGBT people is not only counterproductive to the struggle for equality for LGBT people, but shows a degree of shame and self-loathing that is inimical to one's being a viable participant in that struggle.

The following is a reprint of that article:

As I've written before, I would have my class think of the first word that occurred to them when I said the word "Gay." All of them said that the first thing that occurred to them was the word "sex."

As I told them, let's assume that the average couple has sex three times a week, each session lasting about 15 minutes. That means that only about 45 minutes a week is devoted to sexual activity.

Clearly all of us, Gay or Straight, are awake for far more than 45 minutes a week. All of our lives encompass far more than the engaging in sexual activity!

Being Gay, just like being Straight, is about one's whole being: his/her perceptions, sensibilities, and emotional/affectional/sexual preferences. We are all multifaceted, and to restrict oneself or others to being a mere one-dimensional sexual animal does a grave injustice to both logic as well as to Gay people themselves.

The unfortunate fact is that many Gay people, too, have bought into the false notion, inculcated by religious and secular homophobes, their very oppressors, that they are merely sexual beings who are mere "selfish hedonists", and who then, therefore, portray themselves, and view themselves, as just that: one-dimensional people who focus on sexual activity, and who define themselves by their sexuality and by little or nothing else.

Moreover, the appropriation and use of pejorative and hateful self-identifiers, as well as the engagement in frivolous activities that also mark one as an "outsider," as a "deviant," as "the other," and even as "the enemy" to what is considered to be "normal" and "moral," tells us far more about the given person than it tells us about anything else.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being into BDSM or being a member of the Leather community, for example, but the blatant hostility of the latest Folsom Street Fair, for example, was consciously and/or unconsciously designed to keep LGBT people in their place of being viewed by most of society as justifiable victims to persecute; reinforce LGBT people in taking pride in being in an "outsider" status, as "sexual outlaws," who have no desire to be part of mainstream society.

This activity and its consequences was done by unconscious and/or unconscious design! It seemed to me to be far less a celebration of the Leather community than it was a statement telling others, particularly religious people, "F***k You."

One can blame centuries of discrimination for the unconscious and/or conscious self-loathing that prompts the appropriation of the hateful epithets of the oppressors by which many LGBT people identify themselves, and the sexualization of the self as the major component of one's very being that is held by many LGBT people, but that explanation only goes so far, and gives such LGBT people too much slack when any of us put the onus of self-hate solely on those who discriminate against the oppressed.

There is a point when one has to own his/her dignity, demand the respect due to any human being, demand full and equal civil and sacramental rights regardless of the negative messages and hostility that have been visited on that person in the past, or even in the present.

And those goals will not be realized as long as the minority group accepts its inferior status, and revels in it by referring to its members by the very same terms used by the most virulent homophobes throughout history and in our midst.

No self respecting person, Gay or Straight, stands for being treated as less than fully human; no self respecting person, Gay or Straight, uses negative self-identifiers that have been historically (and contemporarily) used by their oppressors. The slave mentality is blamed on others, but the fact is that it ultimately resides within each human being whether or not to accept that mentality.

On one progressive, LGBT-friendly site, Don Charles and I tried to convince others of that fact. It was remarkable how the venom against our contentions (and sometimes against us) started pouring out from most of those who chose to comment. Deep down I'm convinced that they knew we were right, but they didn't have the guts to overcome and transcend the big lie that they deserve to be treated as second-class citizens.

They really believe that they are "sinners," regardless of whether or not they are religious and, in the case of those who had that message constantly reinforced by "ex-gay therapists," it may well have insinuated itself in their unconscious that drives them to continuous, life-long self hate. With psyches like these, there can be no meaningful activism.

When we throw into the mix political expediency, as seen, for example, with Barney Frank and the ENDA debacle; being grateful for the crumbs of incrementalism in the name of "progress"; "liberals" who go whichever way the wind is blowing; inertia where people are self-satisfied if they perceive their immediate needs are being met, regardless of the cost to their dignity and humanity, meaningful activism falls on deaf ears.

Moreover, such psyches and political anemia only serve to further embolden the homophobes, as they see these factors as signs of weakness, and the tragic conclusion is that they are right about that perception.

So, I say to those who revel in using pejorative and hateful self-identifiers, 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.


In this vein, please read the important article, Putting Out Fire With Gasoline by my good friend Don Charles.
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4 comments:

DON CHARLES aka "STUFFED ANIMAL" said...

Nothing is more pathetic, Jerry, than seeing Gay adults (such as The Nation magazine's senior editor Richard Kim) bemoan bullying and unsafe conditions in our nations schools for LGBT children, even while they persist in calling them "queer kids". Evidently, they are so accustomed to heterosexist cruelty, they don't even know when they're engaging in it.

Jerry Maneker said...

They dont' even have a clue as to the harm they are doing, Don Charles! They are told the same thing over and over again, and they appear too dense to understand that hateful epithets are antithetical to one's positive self-image. Best wishes, Jerry.

genevieve said...

That's why adopting names that are used to belittle us is so stupid. It's an oxymoron and a deadly one at that.

Jerry Maneker said...

Absolutely, genevieve! And by using such terms, all LGBT people are doing is to further confirm to the homophobes, and to potential Straight allies, that they are "abnormal!" It further shows the latent shame and self-loathing that lie behind the use of those words by LGBT people, whether or not they are out! And yes: the use of such words is "deadly!" Best wishes, Jerry