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 epithets as self-identifiers, as well as the public 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.
Indeed, it seems to me that many Gay people revel in their being categorized as sexual outlaws, and are quite content to be treated as second class citizens so that they can enhance in-group solidarity and define themselves largely, if not solely, in sexual terms. It must be acknowledged that these people, often mere publicity seekers, are witting or unwitting traitors to the struggle for full and equal civil rights for LGBT people!
For example, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being into BDSM or being a member of the Leather community, but the blatant hostility of the Folsom Street Fair of a few years ago (mocking the Last Supper and parading around with whips and chains), and other such frivolous and hedonistic displays that can often be seen in Pride Parades, are 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.
These frivolous and hedonistic displays are done by conscious and/or unconscious design! They seem to me to be far less a celebration of the Leather community, or other aspects of Gay communities, than they are statements telling others, particularly religious people, "F***k You." Indeed, these displays stick a finger in the eye of potential Straight allies who are desperately needed to assure equality for LGBT people!
One can blame centuries of discrimination for the unconscious and/or conscious self-loathing that prompts the appropriation of the hateful epithets used by the oppressor by which many LGBT people publicly (and, undoubtedly, privately) identify themselves, such as "Queer," "Dyke," "Fag," and the like, 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 the source 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.
I have yet to hear any Jewish person refer to him/herself or other Jewish person as a "Kike!" Can you imagine the revulsion and outrage that would occur if any university in the world had a course, program, minor, or major in "Kike Studies?"
Yet, when it comes to LGBT people, it is viewed as perfectly acceptable, and even encouraged, for those very same universities to have courses in "Queer Studies." The difference?: Most Jewish people possess a sense of dignity and demand the same respect given to any other group of people, and that difference makes all the difference in determining the fate of achieving the goal of full and equal civil and sacramental rights for LGBT people!
On one progressive, LGBT-oriented site, Don Charles and I tried to convince others of the fact that hateful epithets used as self-identifiers by LGBT people was inimical to the achievement of equality. It was remarkable how the venom against our contentions (and often against us) started pouring out from most of those who chose to comment. Deep down, I'm convinced that most of those who wrote negative comments knew that we were right, but they didn't have the insight or 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, where a few years ago he agreed to remove transgender people (later agreeing to their inclusion when there was a lot of revulsion expressed against him for his stance) from its protections; being grateful for the crumbs of incrementalism, such as being content with "civil unions" rather than "marriage," 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, their world is not in any way rocked, and they are left alone to live their lives as second class citizens, 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. Using the oppressor's hateful epithets as self-identifiers, epithets that are often the last words LGBT murder victims hear when they are being killed because of their gender status and/or affectional/sexual orientation, merely emboldens homophobes and reinforces the negative stereotypes that all too many Straight people have regarding LGBT people.
So, I say to those who revel in using pejorative and hateful self-identifiers; who sexualize their defining identities for public consumption; 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 that 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, especially after the 2012 elections; increasing numbers of otherwise 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, if not retarded.
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.