When I was a college professor one of the only writing assignments I gave to my Dance Appreciation classes was the following: Write a two-page paper explaining how your major is connected to dance, and also why taking my class was not a waste of your time. Something that I wanted to drive home to my students was that everything in this life is connected. Everything. I can show you dance, but only you can show appreciation for how it benefits or enhances your world. That was my students’ task, and the life lesson I wanted them to take from me: There is no such reality as “useless information.”
With that in mind I want to look briefly at one of the ways in which gay men dismiss and abuse one another.
Before I begin, let me say that a short list of the people I love most and who most deeply inspire me or command my respect (in no particular order) includes my mother and grandmother, Janet Jackson, my dance partners and classmates, Jen, various queer performance artists and activists, and my cat. There are SO MANY others, of course, but I have a point to make here: Most, if not nearly all, of these beings I mentioned are women. I grew up, came of age, and became a trained dancer/choreographer in an almost exclusively female world. I love girls. I am very comfortable with them. I admire them very much. And so it is rather foreign to me that calling me names that feminize me should be insulting. The terms themselves aren’t nearly as infuriating as the intent behind them.
When gay men use she/her terms to each other in a friendly, joking, or coy manner, it is arch. It’s camp. It’s fun and funny. It illustrates the bond many gay men enjoy with their own fluid senses of gender and identity. When people use those same terms in a pejorative manner, however, something else comes into play. It is far too common a presumption that all that is not masculine must therefore be feminine, and (by extrapolation) unpleasant, dirty, stupid, or weak.
When gay men “diminish” me by calling me a queen, bitch, pussy, or diva (and when they use these terms in some kind of aggressive or dismissive tone), what they are doing is reinforcing the notion that since women are “obviously” less than men; and since gay men are “obviously” not masculine (and therefore feminine, and thus less than); and since gay men (who “must” be non-masculine) are thus “obviously” less than straight men, BECAUSE of a perceived “femininity;” then it is alright to treat other gay men with disdain (or conversely, to “reduce” gay men who have angered them by first making the target of their anger female), despite having the very attributes that are “repellent.”
What I want to say is this: Calling me names that turn me into a woman do not offend me. At all. Making comments that I am a “bitchy diva” or a “pussy, flaming queen” do not function. Although the people who use these terms against me (or any other man, gay or otherwise) may have scored some kind of point in their own minds, they haven’t really affected me. I love women. I don’t want to have sex with them, but turning me into one of them as a form of attack is a wasted effort.
Ultimately, the idea that “no one is free until everyone is free” is what is at stake here. And it’s true, since everything is affected by everything else. There is only one reality, and you can find (if you look closely enough) the degrees of non-separation between any departure and any destination. Issues of social equality are interconnected between women and the LGBT community. There are also many overlapping issues concerning race, age, health, and wealth. People who are marginalized can’t afford to invest in the idea that they will be empowered at the expense of another minority (or, in the case of women, disempowered majority). If you do not respect women, it is impossible to respect other gay men. Think on that.
And then consider why it is a false assertion to say “porn doesn’t matter.”
This we know to be true: The Earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the Earth. This we know: All things are connected, like the blood that unites one family. All things are connected.” – Chief Joseph