Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Double-Sided Nature of a Society that Has It All

David Michael Conner, contributor to the Advocate magazine, published an article entitled 'The Trouble with Happy Endings' on the LGBT magazine's website. Now, I'd like you to please go read the article first - don't worry, it's short - and then come back and read my response. I think you'll be surprised at my stance.

When I began reading the article, I knew I wanted to comment. However, as I read on, what I wanted to comment on changed. On the one hand, I agree, and on the other I don't. Though, both ideas are quite relevant topics. Thus, you get both Riots.

The First (in which I agree): When Lady Gaga came out with her single 'Born This Way,' the gay community gave up a resounding "Yeehaw, Amen, and All That Jazz." They rejoiced, mostly. It was a song by a legitimate pop star with worldwide fame singing specifically about the need for equality and embracing individuality. In short, it was a song that spoke to the collective 'Snowflake' mentality that has come up in the past few years. P!nk did a couple of songs on her recent album ('Fuckin Perfect' and 'Raise Your Glass') about how we're all just so wonderfully unique and that we should embrace that. Christina Aguilera led the charge on 'song as equality anthem' in the mid-2000s with 'Beautiful,' and it goes on from there. But, I think we can all agree that in the past year or two, songs such as these have become excessively prevalent. 'Firework' by Katy Perry. 'Who Says' is the latest from Disney queen Selena Gomez. (What is it with gorgeous female pop stars wanting to let everyone know life is just dandy, despite appearances?)

Back to Lady Gaga. So, we have this trend of equality anthems stemming back to the disco era that seems to have culminated in the past year's teen queen success stories on the music charts. We also have this buzz around Gaga's new sound, new song, new anthem that everyone from uberfan Elton John to producer RedOne said was going to be the biggest thing...well...ever. And then the song came out, and for all intents and purposes it looked like it was going to be the biggest thing ever. The song went platinum in a week, became #1 in over a dozen countries, and played every other minute on the radio. It. Was. Huge. And the gay community loved her for it.

Until they didn't.

Yes, folks, reading the gay blogs and listening to some of the podcasts opened my eyes to a second wave of attention on this song by the gay community. It was quite negative. The outcry was that she was pandering to an audience. She was using the gay community's causes and tribulations to sell records to that community and to all those that can identify with the fight for equality.

I'd like to transition to this article in particular. The author references the most trivial, superfluous, disgraceful, and supercilious tendencies of the gay community at large. The author is over 30 (33), claims to be less than average looking, and is - according to his own recounting - kind of a bitch. (To put it bluntly) In a subculture that is so youth-obsessed and oriented, where wealth and status are necessary if one does not possess an under 21 driver's license or has a set of abs you could grate cheese on, this guy laments that he just can't find a date or a circle of friends. And, I empathize with that. Now, what grounds do I have? I'm 24 (25 next month). I'm tall, blonde, work out regularly, eat healthy, am in a long-term relationship with my partner of nearly 5 years (in May), and I can't really complain about my job or living situation. My life is most definitely not perfect, but I shouldn't have too much to gripe about personally. Right?

But, I can see what is happening to our community as a whole. The author is right to look at the images portrayed by those older, wiser gay men and women and say, "Is that really a representation of the rest of us?" More on this later.

What more could we ask for? What more do we require? These are my questions to cultures and subcultures that feel as though they are on the outs from society. Whether you're gay, black, pagan, or from the planet Vishnu 7, I must ask you what else could you possibly want or expect from the mainstream community? What else is it that you're asking of your specific subculture or local community?

In this specific case, I must ask the gay community what else could we have asked for, and why in the world are we spitting in the face of the woman who gave us what we thought we wanted? A major pop song that got major sales and major radio play specifically talking about how great it is to be gay. And, yet, we find something wrong with it. We say, "Ok, sure, she put it out, but she didn't put it out in the right way. It's too this and it's too that." But...we wanted mainstream recognition, right? We wanted major actors and actresses and singers and politician singing the praises of the gay community. When it happens, however, we are quick to let those same people know they did not do it correctly.

This is an issue directly relating to the pagan community. Recently, we had our own 4 seconds in the media spotlight with the Christian Day debacle. Someone got up the gumption to get in front of the media and sing the praises of the pagan community - or, at least, that is one side's interpretation of events. We all (including me) got very up in arms over the portrayal of the pagan community by Day and his cohorts. However, if, say, I were to get in front of the camera with my Colgate Whitestrips smile and my blonde hair and exercised physique; if I were to get in front of the camera with my J. Crew wardrobe and Brooks Brothers haircut; if I were to get in front of the camera with my nice, safe pagan practice and my college degree and my articulate, verbose speech...if it were me getting in front of the camera, I doubt things would have been too different. Because for as much as we hated on Christian Day's ethics and definition of witch (or warlock) and manner of dress and way he went about the whole ordeal, we don't really want anyone representing us. We're pagans, a mostly solitary religious group - which is an oxymoron by definition.

The gay community is the perfect example of a people on the verge of acceptance. We are (forgive me) the black population in the 50s and 60s. We are fighting for equality, and we have some big named heavy hitters on our side. We are winning more battles than we are losing, and the latest statistics say that the country is ready to concede the war and give us the right to marry. But, with all of this equality and coming out and being loud and proud...we have begun to injure our own. With our ever-increasing ability to seek out other gay people, first with gay clubs and then via the internet, we first became enveloped in this community, and then we started creating a caste system within it.

The gay community - much like the pagan community - has segmented itself based on wealth, power, position, and physical appearance. If you don't have the right look or the right amount of success or the right lineage; if you don't know the right people or otherwise aren't 'in', then you might as well be dead, because the community wants nothing to do with you. There is a not-so-funny joke about the gay community that 30 is your Deathday. You are dead to the gay community at 30, because you are now too old for this youth-obsessed culture. Contrariwise, the pagan community seems to be age-obsessed in reverse. We despise the young, the new, the inexperienced. Instead of taking them under our wings, we smack their hands and tell them to wait in the corner while the grown-ups talk.

It is 2011, and we have the world at our fingertips. Are you lonely tonight? Well, thanks to online hook-up dating sites, you won't be for long! In fact, if you log on now, you might have a date for both lunch and dinner! Hungry? You can order your dinner from your smartphone while surfing for the next impulse buy on your laptop.

We, as a people, are beginning to believe that we are much more entitled and deserving than we actually are. We bought our press, believing that since we have conquered the world each of us deserves the hottest sex partner, the best face and body plastic surgery (or Photoshop) that money can buy, and that if someone we're talking to doesn't peak our instant interest, then we click 'Next'. And it sucks. It's bullshit. I know what I look like. I know that on a scale from 1-10 that I probably won't ever get past 7, and that most days I hover around 4-5. That's ok. I'm fine with that. Ok...you know what...no I'm not, but I accept it. I know it to be true, and I don't whine that I didn't get born with Tom Welling's DNA.

So, in this instance, I agree. We expect more than we should. We are appalled when others tell us that we aren't worthy of their time, their bed, their friendship, etc., because we know we are the greatest Snowflake to ever fall from Heaven.

The Second (in which I vehemently disagree): About halfway through the 3 page article, however, I notice a change in tone. The author is not writing merely about the superfluous nature of a culture and subculture that has it all and feels entitled to more, but, rather, about the 'It Gets Better' campaign. For those who aren't familiar, this campaign is aimed at GLBT youth, letting them know not to get down, depressed, or suicidal about how they are treated in high school, because eventually they will not be tormented on a regular basis. In essence, life will eventually get better.

The author is focused on the physical appearance of some of the men in the videos, spotlighting the muscular physiques of those on camera. He discusses the way they speak, the types of drinks they have, etc. He basically labels them as the 'hot, in-crowd' type of gays. Whereas, apparently, this author is not one of those. In fact, when you read the article, you'll notice how every gay man he talks about looks like a model or has muscles bulging out of his t-shirt. I suppose Conner is lamenting his own lack of musculature.

He is representing the opposite of the silly, superfluous, muscled, wealthy gay man. He is the slim, average, self-loathing gay man. He wasn't born with the right DNA, so he's an outcast even from his own community. Or, at least, he seems to think so. When he looks in the mirror he sees pock marks that cover his face and all of his areas that are lacking. I guess he must have Photoshopped them all away, because they don't seem to appear in his dreary self-portrait that accompanies the article.

But the 'It Gets Better' campaign doesn't say that the day you graduate high school life is roses and someone waves a wand and you get 6-pack abs, a killer tan, and the ability to bed anybody you choose. All it is saying is that, eventually, once the high school bullies are gone and you're off in college or a job, you get the opportunity to remake your life. You don't have to let it be dictated by bullies or high school hierarchies. Adults - probably - aren't going to call you terrible names to your face or throw things at you or stuff you in a locker or drop a bucket of corn syrup on your head in the middle of prom right before you kill them all with your pyrokinesis. (Hmm...I seem to have gone on another Carrie tangent.)

There is no guarantee to life, and I don't believe this article is representing the hard truth that Conner thinks it is. All it's showing is a depressed, bitter, self-loathing gay man in his early 30's that seriously needs therapy and medication, which, thankfully, he's getting. Here's the harsh reality about life: it's harsh. There are ups and there are downs, but - unlike high school - there are a lot less downs. I suppose it depends on your perspective, however. My perspective is that high school was hell and, while my life is far from perfect, the real world holds a lot more promise and opportunity for happiness.

But, that's the key to both of my points: we are only promised the 'pursuit of happiness.' We are only promised that we get to try. If you don't try. If you let your community, your country, your society, or yourself tell you that you don't deserve happiness, that you aren't worthy, then you're fucked. Plain and simple. You'll end up like Conner, who doesn't understand why - given his severe depression, loathing of the gay community, and all around pleasant demeanor - Abercrombie models aren't just beating down his door begging him to screw them senseless.

We also need to get over this whole idea that when our causes are championed, that they need to be championed exactly how we decide they should be. Until you are the one grabbing the microphone, shut up, sit down, and celebrate the fact that the world is celebrating YOU.

In short, we need to get over ourselves. We should take the recent disasters in Japan, Haiti, and the southeast coastline of the US as a reminder that we are only human. Flesh and blood and a will to survive without equal. But, despite how easily it is to create your own online pagan community of which you are the Grand Pooba, despite how easy it is to get easy sex via the internet, despite how quickly and easily each of us can obtain things, we absolutely must remember that when we are denied...there's more to life than the carrot dangling in front that we can't have. You can just get off the track and let the rest of your community run that ridiculous race around and around. Sure, they might run faster at times, but they're still going in circles of convention and expectance and dogma.

And, we're not so bad after all. Life only gets better if you decide, truly, that you want it to.

The pagan community will only move forward when we get the broomstick out of our collective asses and progress. The gay community will only move forward when we come back down from the pride parade float and deal with real issues. The various racial minorities will only further their causes by policing their own, saying "Screw the stereotype. We are individuals and we have voices and brains and beliefs." We will only be a people united when we stop trying to tell everyone they are a snowflake and then berating them for that same acknowledgment.

Seriously, what more could we ask for?

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

7 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Well I'm glad you that one point. I sat back at one point and thought, well maybe if I didn't wear eyeliner [ancient egyptian magic], a cape adorned with ashes of my dead mother, lightning struck wood, charms, and keys (all magical accouterments), maybe if I picked a different topic, maybe if I changed my name. And then I thought, wait. I knew these various folks, one a top ten rock act in Australia, another a TV celebrity interviewer, another who wrote eight books on Witchcraft, another who starred in a TV show on SyFy, another a world renowned scuba instructor, another a frequent skydiver, another who flies planes as a hobby, another who teaches spin/yoga classes to people throughout hollywood, and another who is just sweet, gorgeous, and always fashionable. Oh wait, that's all one person: Fiona Horne. And they ripped her apart worse far than they did me. So, sorry Charlie Sheen, but this is one area in which there is no ... winning. Therefore, I say just be yourself. People will either love it or they won't. :)

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  3. To be fair, this post wasn't really about that incident, and definitely wasn't about Charlie Sheen. It was about a community and culture that has it all and doesn't seem to want it or know what to do with it.

    Just clarifying.

    FL

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  4. Oh I get it, but the issue was talked about, and I think it relates to the fact that we're all trying to figure ourselves out. Some people choose to live vicariously through others. I think people should just be themselves. :)

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  5. I'm glad you addressed this. I read, or, I began to read, that article when it first cam out inline, and couldn't get through it. By your prompt, I went back and read it all the way through, and realized why it had ticked me off so much.

    I was really put off by his "Eeyore" attitude. Not to say that I wasn't sympathetic, but I couldn't help but feel that his article was a whiny cry for help, and not the thoughtful alternative perspective he meant it to be (not by a long shot).

    There was such a good point to be made there, about how a "pat on the head" and a "can-do" attitude plus a rousing rendition of "the sun will come out tomorrow..." will not always make the lamb stop screaming. For some people, more is needed. I even got excited when he mentioned the perils of depression, because it is for those people especially that this "hopeful" attitude is impossible—and can actually become a problem in and of itself.

    Instead, however, he just fell apart and completely missed the point of both the campaign, and his own experiences. He didn't really have anything to say about "It Get's Better" except that he himself was a tired, scared, and jaded human being...not to mention butthurt that his problems hadn't been whisked away by some unseen power after puberty—and apparently that he lives on a planet plagued with linear time and acne causing bacteria.

    In short, I found his article a total waste of time. Until I read it again (in full), and read your thoughts on the matter, I could not explain exactly why it bothered me. You had a lot of insight into the article and its message that helped me understand my own reaction...as well as brought up some interesting points that I would otherwise not have considered.

    As always,
    Thank FL!


    P.S. Dude, we've your pictures. You and I and yo momma and all the interwebs know very well you ain't no lousy 5 or 7. Witch, please. You know you're a solid 8 even on your worst day. Don't front. And shame on you for the blatant fishing expedition. ;) <3 xoxo

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  6. "But, that's the key to both of my points: we are only promised the 'pursuit of happiness.' We are only promised that we get to try." This may be one of the best statements I've ever seen on your blog. In fact, I'm writing it on a postit right now and hanging it by my desk and quoting it on facebook.
    Now, on to my point of view. I was lucky. High school was not overly traumatic for me. I was the first out lesbian the school had seen and it wasn't really a big deal. I wasn't popular, but I didn't suffer any real bullying either. In fact, I came out and suddenly it was a trend to be bisexual. About ten girls followed my example, claiming bisexuality which they later recinded. However, my little brother was not so lucky. He is bisexual and was the victim of much bullying and since he was a little boy I have been telling him that it gets better. When his 18 year old best friend went to jail for murder last year I was extremely grateful that he had believed me and hadn't been a part of that revenge plan.
    I have seen quite a few "It Gets Better" videos and I don't remember noticing anyone's chiseled muscles or feeling insecure. I think this author is an extremely insecure man himself, and he needs to work on that. Not everyone in the gay community feels the way he does.
    Also, on to Lady Gaga. How can anyone say she is using the gay community to sell records? Last year she came to my little state of Maine to speak one on one with our representatives about DADT. She wasn't promoting a cd. She came here out of her way mid-tour to speak simply about that. Didn't make me want to buy her cds, because it still sounds like manufactured music to me, and it still doesn't have a soul. But I don't feel she is using the gay community. I feel she truly believes in the gay community and is doing good things for us. Her song, complete crap. Beautiful lyrics, but I was very dissapointed in her song. But she's not so bad.

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  7. On the topic of Lady Gaga, celebrities, and the media in general championing our cause (whether that’s the causes of the gay community or the Pagan community), I think that people would do well to remember the acronym NYPA. (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=NYPA)

    Personally, I think that Conner fails to understand that while he may complain about and despise those aspects of the gay community that seem to be superficial and centered on youth and beauty, he still seems to be playing by those same rules, thereby reinforcing the system he despises. As a gay man who is thirty-six, weighs 240 pounds, and has other physical characteristics that many will consider strikes against me, I seem to do well enough for myself. I’ve managed to build friends with many younger guys. And while none of my boyfriends or sexual partners would probably make it as CK models, they have all been incredibly good looking. (I’d argue some should have been “out of my league.”) I’m firmly convinced that it doesn’t matter so much what you have in the looks department, so long as you know how to work with what you have. Sure, you might still get rejected or ignored by someone who is looking for that (highly fictional) ideal adonis. But then, no matter what you do, there are always going to be a lot of people you just don’t click with. Learning to accept that and move on to find those you do click with is essential.

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