Monday, February 23, 2009

On "The Annoying Gay factor"

Here's the full article as seen in my Rainbow Bloggers conribution:

Jay Brannan talked about "The Annoying Gay factor" in his blog:

Q. the big annoying GAY factor: why do you hate being called a "gay" singer-songwriter, or being told you write "gay" songs, or always being asked to participate in gay-themed activities, etc.?

A. it's 2009. i think it's time that everyone, the "gay community" included, allow gay people to take their place in the world as real people, rather than continuing to be defined and separated by their sexual orientation. i want the freedom to be myself, unafraid and uncensored, without having to market myself based on a sexual orientation, or attaching that sexual orientation to my name as a title.

in recent years, an entire industry has developed around "being gay" -- ...most of these entities are built around cheesy, outdated and cliché ideas of what it means to be "gay," what gay people want, what is "sexy," or what sells.

...i don't want my album or the films i'm in to be in the "gay section" of a music or video store. i think having a gay section at the video store is the same as asking black people to drink from a different water fountain, or to sit at the back of the bus. why can't films with gay characters be classified with all the other dramas, or comedies, or horror? "gay" shouldn't BE a genre.

Does labeling ourselves "gay" work against the acceptance of homosexuality in society? Is it actually, in a way, self-discriminatory?

I don't have all the answers, but this much I believe:

The power of a word

In Semiotics, we are taught the power of the word. Naming actions, people, thoughts etc. is, in a way, acknowledging their existence or significance.

It's a very simple matter. We label ourselves as "gay" (or lesbian, bi, or transgender) because by doing so we acknowledge the reality of our sexuality.

As for things (songs and movies in the case of Jay Brannan's blog) we label them as "gay" to attach those "sexual realities" to such things.

Hence, for example, people would be inclined to call "Jay" as a "Gay Indie film". We could stop at calling it "Indie", but most would add the label "Gay" just so to specifically connote that the film discusses gay issues or that it is about gay people, etc etc (though of course the story is SO much more than the character's sexuality)

Likewise, for people, I for one could just label myself as a blogger though I'd be more inclned to add the "gay" label because: (1) I am gay; (2) I blog about stuff that is of the homosexual inclination.

"We are not like you"

In the opening of Zsazsa Zaturnnah, Ada says, "Ako si Ada, isang bakla... Yun lang!"

However, bakit walang nagpapakilala ng, "Ako si Baldo, straight."?

Jay Brannan adds:

the bottom line is this: we're all basically the same and go through the same things, and pronouns and gender have nothing to do with that. if you can't see through pronouns in a song, you're....well, kind of stupid. i have never had trouble relating to a man singing about a woman, or a woman sing about a man. people are people. don't be so simple-minded. it's a trap that both gay & straight people fall into, and it strengthens the childish and ridiculous boundaries between all people for whatever minor differences we may have.

Growing up, I always knew I was different. I didn't know yet that "gay" was the term for my "being different". It wasn't until I had crushes on my classmates (I went to an all boys school) that I knew I was gay.

But even then I never felt like there was something wrong with me. I always felt like I was like everybody else, I felt that I was normal. That is until the guidance councilors called me in and told me otherwise.

We live in a heteronormative society: largely Catholic which calls homosexuality as a sin.

And I guess that has to do with the obsession of labeling everything as "gay": to say that something does not go by the norm of sexuality; to warn the "normal people" that something is not for them, at para tawagin ang mga kabaro at sabihing "Ito ay para sa atin"

It is like raising a red flag saying "we are not like you"

In effect, this simple coining of terms not only classifies but also defines the labeled name and most importantly SETS IT APART from the norm.

"In your face"

The LGBT community is definitely more visible and more well-represented compared to the Philippines. They are more socially and politically active and aggressive which is probably why Brannan takes this stand.

But things are a bit different here in the Philippines. We are not well-represented by the media (and often misrepresented pa). In a country that is still very much conservative (though probably more lenient) there are those who still shy away from the "gay" label due to stereotypes and the ever-looming social judgment.

Yes, we do not have to flaunt our sexuality nor let it define who we are and what we do. But personally, I feel that we will remain unheard if we don't shout it out. The "normal people" will forget we exist and fail to recognize that gays are also people unless we plaster our sexuality and our reality into their faces.

So if it works against our assimilation, why still do it?

...because it brings people like us together...

...because with our fathomless empathy, it rallies us to a common cause...

And most importantly, because we have pride.

Because we have the balls to be different!!!

The reality is, there will always be labels. Whether homosexuality becomes accepted is NOT totally dependent on the labels. It's not the label that has got to change, it's the attitude towards the word.


Who is Jay Brannan?

Jay Brannan is (in his own words):

a singer/songwriter living in new york city, and i'm as tragic as i look in the above photo.
He is known for this REALLY wonderful song:

He's appeared in the much-raved-about "Shortbus" by James Cameron Mitchell (Yes, the same dude who's wrote the brilliant 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch')

He was also in that horrible movie that tries (that's the key word right there) so hard to be artistic, "Holding Trevor" (Haven't seen it? Not a big loss, believe me)

1 comment:

  1. You have good points to raise. And some I agree with. But I remain "label-less" because I feel no need on my part to *name* myself in other people's words -- though I still fight for my opinions on sexuality.

    Well, and because I'm an old school Euro-brid who still uses "gay" to mean joyous. Hehe...

    Same goes for religion.


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