Lady Gaga Goes to Maine to Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
Lady Gaga just spoke in Maine to members of her generation -- not to be confused with"the generation of the senators who are voting" to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) later this week but are being blocked by Republican senators who threaten to filibuster the bill. Instead, Gaga was there speaking for "the youth of this country." Said youth, mostly local Portland, Maine middle school, high school and university students, likely ditched class to see Lady Gaga be grassroots activists for LGBTQ rights.
Gaga's monsters took the role of grassroots organizers, assembling online via Ustream but were kicked off in favor of the UN Delegation. The online crowd went bananas. We were shoved around to different streaming outlets, landing a solid stream just in time for her late arrival.
Gaga's rallying argument to repeal DADT, which restricts the US military from inquiring about or revealing a service member’s sexual orientation, rested on the angle that gay soldiers must keep quiet about their sexuality, (an issue in itself based on an assumption of heteronormativity) and if they are "outed" (by way of surveillance, spying), they must return home while straight soldiers, who are presumably homophobic, get to stay in the military and fight for freedom and equality.
Gaga spent 48 hours writing her speach and the result was a few good gems:
"..Discharge the solider with the real problem of homophobia... not willing to fight for equality within his own unit."
"Should the US government be able to treat the constitution like a buffet where they get to pick and choose equality?"
Gaga then proposed new law that sends home the soldier that "has the problem" of homophobia. She called the law "If You Don't Like It, Go Home." She added, "You (gays) can risk your life but you're fighting for straight people...you're not included when we say equal. You're not included when we say freedom."
"...Senators: Equality is the prime rib of America... of what we stand for as a nation and I don't get to enjoy the greatest cut of meat that my country has to offer."
The biggest moments came when Gaga declared that she herself was gay ("Because I'm gay, I don't get to eat the best meat the country has to offer") and when she said her real name ("I, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, am an American").
The Christian Science Monitor says this appearance won't change anything, ever ... but then, they also equated her VMA appearance to an "entourage of gay service members".
The importance of a pop culture icon making a political statement on behalf of her (presumed) community is commendable and anything that gets her activism (and her fans) off the internet and in the streets is a success.
Gaga is one of few out celebrities who have encouraged youth participation in politics, an obviously sticky situation as being queer and encouraging a political discussion are two great ways to offend middle American fan bases and hurt the artist's (and label's) bottom line.
For me, the biggest issue with Gaga's depiction of DADT was that she failed to mention how dehumanizing it is for service members to live closeted, unable to be fully public with their identity. Studies show that being closeted increases anxiety and lowers self-esteem. There's even a higher risk of suicide. It may seem too "Free To Be You and Me", but imagine living in a highly flaboyant culture of Broadway meets P-Town meets Miami and constantly being forced to keep your heterosexuality (your husband, your kids, your married life, etc) on the DL for fear of offending gays. DADT has exposed how hetero-centric (and harmful) our culture is and how gender and sexuality dominates institutions such as the military.
What do you think of Gaga's appearance? Were there issues she left out?
How do you feel about the institutionalization of gender and sexuality?