Monday, February 16, 2009

The hate ... The hate...

Why on earth is it that if you happen to disagree with someone or with some group, you're immediately told that you're full of hate. I can certainly disagree -- vehemently disagree with someone -- without "hating" them (although it doesn't seem to work in reverse). On my recent post on asexuality -- in which I simply expressed an opinion; I did not rage that asexuality is evil or that asexuals should be rounded up and shot -- I got the impression that most of the people who disagreed with me hated me a lot more than I supposedly hated them. [For the record I don't hate people who identify as asexual. And I don't hate those who identify as bisexual, although I've been called biphobic more than once, mostly because I don't always believe that everyone who says they're bisexual is genuinely bisexual anymore than I think everyone who claims to be straight is actually straight. Sue me.]

It seems the only way you can convince some people that you don't hate them is to agree with everything they say. Jeez-- what would be the point then of writing anything or even expressing an opinion? I have never lied about how I feel just to get people to like me. Sure I can be wrong at times, and when and if I come to that conclusion -- about anything -- I'll say so.

As a gay man I'm almost constantly told that because I'm discriminated against I mustn't dare say anything about any group that might be considered a teensy bit negative. I've been told that I must be transphobic (even though I've mentioned more than once that I support transgender rights) because I don't write more often about transgender issues. Actually I have written a few posts on transsexuality, sometimes with irreverence, never with hatred.

But the fact remains that I can not be a spokesperson for the transgender community. I am a gay man, and am knowledgeable of what it means and what it's like to be a gay man. I am not transsexual and can't write from personal experience about what it means and what it's like to be transgender. There are plenty of transgender blogs for that. And asexuals can have their say by starting their own blogs. I do have to say -- here comes the "hatred" again -- that while I find aspects of transsexuality to be rather fascinating, I do not have a similar fascination with asexuality [or bisexuality, for that matter]. There will be immature people who will instantly decide that I therefore must hate asexuals. So far no lesbian has ever accused me of being anti-lesbian, misogynous, or homophobic because I may write more about gay men -- understandably -- than about lesbians.

Some of this attitude comes from youthful mis-directed fervor, some from immaturity, some from mental instability. We don't like to talk about it much, but just like the straight community, the GLBT community and other "out there" groups have some members who are not playing with a full deck or to put it more kindly have mental or emotional "issues." This is not due to their various sexual orientations (although it could be exacerbated by self-hatred or society's disdain) but comes from a variety of causes as it does with straights.

The trouble is that a gay man and activist is not allowed to come right out and say "I think this is silly, I think it's stupid, I think you have emotional or mental issues," even if this is the case. Right away you're slapped back with "but gay people were once thought [still are in some quarters] to be mentally unstable -- how can you discriminate against anyone else?"

Well ... if I think someone is a little nutty (as opposed to eccentric), I think they're nutty, and it doesn't matter if they're also gay or at least GLBT. They are perfectly free to think I'm nutty, too.

For instance, on one progressive message board a person suggested that F for Furry be added to GLBT. "Furries" are people who dress up as cartoon animals, hold conventions, and the like. This person thought of furries as a persecuted minority group and felt that since many furries were gay, they should be added to GLBT. [Let me make it clear that unlike the groups on my "sexual minorities you never heard of" post, furries actually exist! Yes!]

Frankly, even on this progressive board, he didn't get much sympathy.

I left a comment that went something like this. "Perhaps we should add an H for Honeymooners to GLBT. I am a gay man who loves The Honeymooners with Jackie Gleason. There are many gay Honeymooners fans so surely this would be the right thing to do."

Naturally, the furry and a couple of GLBT furry supporters slammed me as a bigot and said I was full of -- you guessed it -- hatred.

I didn't hate that guy. I just thought he was being foolish. But saying someone is being foolish is enough to get you branded a hateful bigot these days. Especially in the modern GLBT community where sensitivity and touchiness is at an all-time high. I understand the reasons for it -- attacks from the Religious Right, the ongoing gay marriage debate, and so on, everyone needing their own space and spotlight, wanting complete understanding (and total agreement -- or else) -- but when it leads to gay men being called Fascists and Nazis simply because they have a differing opinion it's a little ridiculous. [Most of the people who fling out the terms Fascist and Nazi at people who disagree with them have no idea what those terms really mean. Talk about hatred!]

Years ago there was this guy who invited me and a friend to a party without first telling me that most of the guests were into not men but boys. Young boys. As soon as I realized it I turned to my friend and said "put down your drink. Head for the door. Do not say good-bye to anyone. Just leave." When I saw the guy who extended the invitation days later I freely admit I shunned him. "Oh ... the hate, the hate," he muttered as he walked away. Did I hate him? Let's just say I was furious that he had simply assumed because I was a gay activist that I was "okay" with pedophilia, which I'm certainly not, and found his guests to be repellant. People like this have been no help to Gay Rights and have only helped perpetuate ugly stereotypes.

Compared to those people, I haven't much of a beef with asexuals.

Years ago all of [most of?] the sexual minorities were lumped together under the GLBT banner for political purposes. While in some ways this makes perfect sense, it has also created its own set of problems. Gays and bi's and transsexuals do not always look at the world in the same way or from the same vantage point. Bad enough that within the gay community itself there are nasty disagreements based on varying levels of "outness" and identifications (butch vs femme etc.). And of course there are generational disagreements.

Many of the ones who feel "hated" are people in their teens and twenties with various identities who want very much to be taken seriously and are furious when they're not. Believe me, I, too, was young once, so I get that. What I get and they generally don't get is that people in their teens and twenties are still finding themselves for the most part. [Older people can still be finding themselves, of course, but it's more often a phenomenon of youth.] They may be bisexual at 25 and gay at 30. They may see themselves as being gay at 14 and realize that they're really transsexual four years later. Some of the attitudes that they most cherish while in college may seem as ridiculous to them as they do to me when they've been out in the real world for several years. But you just can't tell them this; they have to learn it for themselves. And along with generational conflicts comes age discrimination, which can admittedly work in both directions but which is more likely to target the older person, despite the fact that he or she is clearly more experienced, at least at some things.

If you're gay you sometimes feel as if you're almost forced to stand up for the entire experience of the sexual spectrum, whether you're qualified to or not. You don't dare criticize. At all times you must be politically correct and totally progressive. If you don't you're branded a bigot. And you're always slapped with that "But you're gay so you of all people should understand ..." and so on. I'm really beginning to resent it. This doesn't just come from outside the gay community but from within it. I have actually heard gay men who complain that their favorite gay bar and safe haven is becoming a little too straight for their comfort level being called "heterophobic" from other (and very, very silly) gay men. The former gay men don't hate heterosexuals nor do they wish to discriminate against them, they just get a little nervous when a bar becomes so straight-friendly that straights who are not so gay-friendly come into the place in droves and take over the joint.

But some GLBTers see objecting to this as bigotry. If I think they're ninnies, I'm going to say so. [Ironically I have straight friends who completely understand where the gay guys are coming from and don't in any way, shape or form see this as anti-straight discrimination.]

And why is it politically correct to talk about biphobia and transphobia among gay men and lesbians but politically incorrect to talk about homophobia among some bi's and transsexuals?

Yes, gay men are discriminated against. That doesn't mean we have to buy or agree with everything or risk being branded a bigot.

Our community is diverse. Let's celebrate that diversity [of opinion] and not expect everyone to toe the line and have the exact same opinion and attitude of everyone else.

Just my opinion.


Ksen said...

You know, maybe the issue is the alphabet soup. You know how the GLBTQQSABCDEFG...... All the little categories and and compartments will never be enough to encompass the full spectrum of Queerness, and it gets in the way because somebody always feels excluded. Feelings get hurt.
Never mind that the categories tend to bleed into one another. I am trans, but being attracted only to men means I'm gay too. So am I Gt or Tg? Which part of my identity goes first in the alphabet soup, and should I have to choose? Should there be a C for cub in there too? A P for passing straight? At the end of the day, I'm Queer and at hats pretty much it. Same thing with the Asexuals. Are they Homophiles first or Asexuals second? Who gets to decide? And is the cookie cutter even applied?
There's too many compartments that are supposed to signify some fort of a community, but IMHO the ever expanding acronym is doing more harm than good.
Just my 2 cents.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you about the PC stuff--I think in some cases it gets to be quite ridiculous, even to the point that people attempt to brainwash others through the use of "sensitivity programs." And I, personally, don't think it's un-PC to talk about homophobia among some trans people--Christine Jorgensen certainly wasn't fighting for gay rights, now, was she. Go ahead and blast her for it, if you want.

However, I do think there may be a generation gap here, because I think "hating" is a word that older people and younger people actually define quite differently. You seem to be taking it at its original meaning, as in to harbor intense antipathy towards something. But to younger people, it's just slang for making any kind of negative comment, with or without any real malice behind it. This is probably why it seems so frivolous, and makes them seem overly dramatic--because to you, it implies something much more serious than what they are really trying to imply. Though, personally, I really dislike the word "hating" in any sense.

I'm not entirely sure what your point about youth actually was, though. If you are pointing to it as a reason why asexuality doesn't need to be taken so seriously, I don't really see how that applies. There are a number of older asexuals out there, too.

I also agree that you can't be a spokesperson for trans people. But there's a very fine line you have to tread here, because in the GLbt community, trans people often get lost in the shuffle. Whether they are intentionally dismissed or ignored (as unfortunately often happens), or just because people don't take the time to understand what their issues are, I think the people involved need to recognize their culpability. Being part of (especially a leader of) an organization that claims to support trans people means that if you decide not to include them in something, you ought to be held responsible for it.

It's fine to have blogs and things which are mainly focused on gay issues. Trans people and asexuals will, and have, started their own blogs. These are communities within a community, and it's fine to branch off in different directions like that. But when you start talking about the larger community, then we get into problems of inclusion vs. non-inclusion.

Personally, I think we all have a lot more to fight for than just gay rights, and I'm NOT talking about asexuality. I wouldn't claim that asexuals should be a major focus, although I do think it is important to recognize how phallocentric and sexualized our culture is. I think gender, rather than sex-related, issues are more radical, and more at the heart of everything. I believe that if trans people are taken seriously, and given the rights they should have, then all the rest would naturally follow. But change seems to be happening starting on the outer edges of the issue and working itself in, rather than the other way around. People can only handle so much of it at a time, I suppose.

All of this is mirrored very well in the feminist community--you have black feminists getting upset at white feminists for not recognizing their issues, and different schools of thought warring with one another at the same time. I can certainly see why gay assimilationists wouldn't want to include other queers within their community, although I think their approach is a little like putting a tiny band-aid on a giant, gaping, gangrenous wound.

And, just to hit the "slippery slope" argument before it rears its ugly head, I absolutely do not support pedophilia, bestiality, furries, and so on as being a part of the queer movement. I think that we probably ought to define what "queer" means more specifically, because all these things are related to GENDER norms, not just challenging any norms. Some sanctions are there for a good reason. I think we are being too vague, and inviting people to claim that this is about purely sexual minorities, when clearly it is not. There IS a valid reason why these people are trying to get in on our movement, and we should take responsibility for it.

I do think that asexuality inherently challenges some aspects of heteronormativity (which I've already outlined in my own blog), but I'm not saying that to edge into your community. I'm already here, as an asexual woman partnered to a trans woman, doing more visibility work for the lesbian community than for either ace or trans stuff. The discrimination I face from that makes whatever crap I get about asexuality seem like barely a speck of dust.

Maybe we have different ideas of what the community ought to be. But I really don't think we (two) are disagreeing all that much. You have every right to your opinion, and although it may have been formed in some level of ignorance, I'm not going to say you're hateful or being oppressive. I'm not going to call in the PC police. Say what you want, go ahead and call me a nitwit! I, for one, am not terribly sensitive to name-calling, and in fact, I quite enjoy a bit of verbal sparring. Hopefully, my comment will inspire some food for thought. :)

Bill Samuels said...

Thanks for some very interesting and thought-provoking comments, Ksen and grasexuality.

While I do interact with younger people, I have to confess I was unaware of the new use of the term "hate." I'll keep what you say in mind, although it does generally seem as if people are using it in its original definition, at least some of the time.

Whatever groups are included or may at some point be included in GLBT, as long as everyone in whatever group has a support system of some kind and access to the media -- even if it's just a blog or website -- to get across their pov, it should help them feel less marginalized.

As for how to identify when you cross over two or more groups, I suppose it depends on where and with whom you feel most comfortable. People often stand with the group that they feel needs more exposure and understanding.

Again, thanks for your comments.

Anonymous said...

I read the original post, and yes, it WAS hateful. You're a self-righteous c*nt who wants to be "the only gay in the village," and viciously rip into anything new like the homophobes which preceded you and your generation. It was incredibly meatheaded for you to say those things, that asexuals were "trying to muscle in on your territory" and giving us a bunch of ridiculous, fallacious spin trying to deny that isn't fooling anyone. For a great many people, you will forever be that irate, closed-minded yokel who proves once and for all that once new ideas are accepted, humanity slips back into its old ways, and even homosexuals can harbour stinging prejudice, and be self-righteous, and self-centred, and otherwise pig-headed goons.

**** you,

Bill Samuels said...

"Josh" thank you so much for your reasoned and rational comments. You are obviously a deeply unhappy person and for that I am truly sorry. But your comments only prove just what I was saying in my blog post, which I doubt if you read, and which you certainly aren't mature enough to comprehend even if you did. Reread your comment and you can see that it positively drips with SELF-hatred.

I am not being facetious when I suggest that you might benefit from counseling or therapy. You clearly suffer from N.P.D. [] and who knows what else.

In the meantime, I have noted your IP address, sweetheart.