Friday, March 8, 2019

Queer: Good Gay, Bad Gay, Black Gay, White Gay?

The Other Side of The Rainbow: GLAAD Alternative Hall Of Famers

   While Jussie Smollett has admitted no guilt (and indeed hasn't been found so by a jury), Kevin Spacey has "apologized" to an alleged victim. What they have in common is that as things stand  both are causing significant "discomfort" for LGBT+ Inc.

   It was bound to happen of course. As the movement forges onwards with its assimilationist agenda it tends to dismiss Queerdom as an entirely academic pursuit, somehow divorced from a self-imagined reality and undefined by critical thinking. We became the United Colors of Benetton to all intents and purposes. However, People of Color propped up on a Gay Pride float in the hubristic name of inclusiveness is a far cry from how we really feel about "gay boys who offend", and how differingly we might really feel about them along racial lines. While Spacey's accused of underage offenses and Smollett's not, the latter has recently and serendipitously showed up for big-picture consideration -  when, and if, we get past their privileged celebrity.

   A black/white male setup shouldn't be seen as either reflective of Queer global racial interactions or any specific localized example. For some gay men it is so, for some gay men it isn't. While many gay men are completely unaware of their own whiteness, no reasonable Queer assumes that black and white gays are the same, beyond their existence.

   Sameness can't be entertained as an assumptive basis for anything when black men rarely experience the status of a white man in any society: herein lies the necessity of a truthful general gendered discussion which shapes a specific sexuality as experienced discussion. While sexuality can facilitate the crossing of bridges, it isn't the bridge. Less so if it's underpinned by outright denial of disadvantage. When it comes to gay men and race, denial while virtue-signalling can be an exhausting undertaking on the best of days. Time and energy are usually better spent just listening to stories, rather than obfuscating or trying to set an agenda for the betterment of others, as we see it.

   The headline topic is also that of Professor Ian Barnard's most recently published paper (2018). With Smollett on board, the paper is even more relevant. (Barnard is of course a go-to academic whose  Queer Race: Cultural Interventions in the Racial Politics of Queer Theory serves to  effectively challenge tropes like "queer man" equates with "gay white male", all of the time, within its many other definitive insights.) 

   "Good Gay, Bad Gay..." opens with:

"As Deadline .com bluntly put it, 'Kevin Spacey Apologizes to Anthony Rapp for Alleged Sexual Advances; Chooses to "Live As A Gay Man."' The outraged response of progressive intellectuals, activists, and cultural critics to Spacey’s twofold tweet has demonstrated, inter alia, the resilience of old school assumptions and expectations about coming out and about gay identity and gay identifications. These outraged responses have come especially from younger generations of intellectuals, activists, and critics, but also across generations, genders, and sexual orientations. Despite decades of attacks on models of gay identity that center on teleological narratives of coming out, and critiques of the privileging of coming out as the apotheosis of a triumphalist gay identity as racist and ethnocentric in that privileging’s assumption of identity as coherent and univocal, and the assumption of a safe space to come out into (#BlackLivesMatter has served as a forceful reminder of the illusion of such safe spaces for black men, in particular), here we are again at a coming out crossroads, at a coming out as crossroad. 

 Here we are again swept into that narrative expectation of coming out as a crossing from innocence into experience, even when that coming out is compromised and contaminated by decades of denial (on the part of Spacey), by decades of knowingness (on the part of Spacey watchers), and now by the specter of sexual harassment and sexual assault. And despite “queer’s” supposed resistance to utopian or censorious prescriptions for positive representation, the expectation—indeed, the demand—that queer articulation carries with it a triumphal narrative of gay goodness, or, at least a triumphal narrative of victimhood overcome (“it gets better”) persists. Persistence is not always a good thing. It is as if “queer’s” efforts to decenter heterosexuality and heteronormativ-ity are, in the United States anyway, frantically skidding backward into liberal defensiveness in the wake of the Trump-effect’s jolt back to the culture wars, to a multiculturalism no longer taken as given, to kindness and empathy suddenly embattled. Or proof that the triumph of same-sex marriage across the globe is just more evidence of neoliberalism’s cannibalization of queer antiassimilation-ism. As if the antisocial turn in queer theory had not happened. Or, at least, possible evidence of its failure to yet make an impact outside of academia"

(The full - and highly readable - paper continues at Queer: Good Gay, Bad Gay, Black Gay, White Gay?)

   Neo-liberalism/advanced capitalism has form when it comes to throwing us crumbs-off-the-table "rights" like same-sex marriage. It also has form when it comes to pitting groups against each other, with the ever-growing list of LGBTI  "alphabet people" simply seen as vulnerable minority target groups who can be easily picked off without a defined and assertive Queer flag to rally around. ("Defined Queer flag" meaning that queers aren't foot-soldiers and numbers for other groups / ideologies seeking political advancement via alliance: dominion and purpose can quickly become dilution.)

   But the Queer isn't exclusively a political animal, and LGBT is far from a fully-formed personal identity. Staying in your own lane and knowing at what point to rally aren't mutually exclusive. Gay men who aren't in their own lane enough to support and promote a strong and healthy masculinism at nobody's expense have probably learned nothing from feminism. Sublimated masculinity and gender-fluidity aren't interchangeable terms, and men who come to believe they are probably won't have a lot of empathy or solidarity with brothers who in reality are doing it tougher. And yes, I use the term "brother" in both the racial and non-racial senses if there's a perceived difference.

   Aspirational chatter about equality is quite empty when the Gay Dream (or whatever it is), is predicated upon the assumption thats it's equally within the reach of any and all black men. The hail-brother niceness of it all doesn't quite cosmetize what's  essentially archly conservative exclusion. An older generation of gay men for the most part prefers to side-step all intersectionality issues which Queerdom insists he face up to. The young queer man tends to get intersectionality concepts, but he faces significant challenges going antisocially into an age of Pseudo-modernism.
   We've become intellectually sloppy when we don't know the difference between inclusion and tokenism, and revert to old gay habits from the self-defeating closet. Changing times always create newer opportunities for adaptive "passing", and gay men like Milo Yiannopoulos serve to remind us that self-imagined empowerment at the brutalizing and divisive expense of others isn't sustainable anyhow.

   With reactionary forces ominously looming worldwide, LGBTQ+ needs to significantly pick up its game, and look at how it stumbled around "handling" Jussi Smollett and Kevin Spacey. Western alt-Righters have successfully made subtle but deadly inroads, and are ready and waiting with recycled factoids like "gays are racists and pedophiles" and "black men are homophobic", to name two of the more obvious. "Bravely fighting back" will simply evidence that we've lost control of the narrative. We've all got skin in the man game, and we're wise to know it.

   The above notwithstanding, it's easy to see that "man problems" of the non-gay variety aren't going away any time soon. What's not so easy to see is what gay men are doing about our own "man problems". Are we sweeping racism and our gender under every inappropriate carpet we can dream up? 

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