What this Black Girl learned from today's gay rights movement
Some would never suspect that the 1st third of my life was spent as an artistic type who skipped through the halls of my high-school barefoot in a pinafore dress and paintbrushes pushed through my hair. Yep, I went to a performing arts high school and was surrounded by the quirky, good people some would call freaks. The experience allowed this proud freak to encounter otherness and to BE other on a daily basis. One such other was the quintessential male gay best friend who, in those days, had no clue they were gay(maybe they did and hid it). We, their multinational harems, prided ourselves on knowing well before they did. I remember feeling so relieved when without prelude, we would all start talking about boys. Suddenly none of us had to pretend any more and we could move on to true stereotypes of sass and fierceness where the harem was complimented and lambasted in equal measure. That was coming out in those days, no announcements necessary.
Fast forward to current times and most of us gals can say we carried on the tradition of the GBF either with the same early years crew or traded up for a new, more age appropriate set. Through it all, I have seen my Gay Best Friends suffer through painfully trying to tuck away their personalities while trying to impress our parents or appease theirs. Listened to them laugh half-heartedly as they were made the punchline of some lame joke by a straight kid. The best always came when a wit made razor sharp by years of suppression and deflection would lay said jokester flat with a mere sentence. I lived for those moments.
Now here we are in 2013 and in the midst of another civil rights upheaval as people fight, not for special treatment but to be treated like everyone else. I have heard comparisons for this fight for sameness to that of of the Civil Rights movement in the 60s. As a Black Woman this is especially powerful because I now have a unique perspective on of the beginning of a Civil Rights movement and how it compares to one that is purportedly over. Here is what I've learned:
Positive media exposure Did you love Nathan Lane's version of The Birdcage? How about Will & Grace ? That show was a favorite of mine because it mirrored some of the hilarity I experienced with my own gay guy friends. It was a window into our lives for middle America to see that being gay was more normal than it was not. Granted, it was a bit stereotypical but hello, life really could be that funny with a gay best friend, trust me. Not to mention, the characters were successful and full of life so in that way it was the Cosby Show for gays and the people who loved them. Couple that with the push for closeted celebs to finally come out of the closet and suddenly the public was faced with the fact that some of their heterosexual idols were gay. Did the revelations make them less talented and successful? not necessarily. We need more successful Black people to proudly stand front and center in the media and we need them to not be whitewashed nor embody a stereotype. We need to diligently show that being black can be successful in more incarnations than rapper and baller. We come in all industries. This should happen during regular programming and on mainstream networks but especially in the news.
Rejection and regulation of hurtful words Back in the day we wantonly used the words fags, homo, fag-hags, breeders etc to decribe who we were in and to the gay community. Then, ever so slowly, those words started being phased out of appropriate day to day language. I remember using a couple of them even 6 years ao and being shushed by my gay friends. Since then the basnishment of those words has become an unspoken rule that is enforced in the whenever those words come up in the media. There was no re-appropriation of past words and phrases to mean something good. They were just deleted and the public was forced to look past them to see the people behind the labels. If the Paula Deen fiasco taught us anything is that the N-word cannot be reconfigured no matter how cool we play it. A sword is still a sword even if you dull its edges- it can still be used to stab you bluntly or beat you about the head, even if you're carrying it yourself. It is the same with N-word. Everyone needs to denounce the use of negative stereotypes and racial slurs in the media because the media is a tool for the distribution of information and representation of the society it covers. Why should we accept a single representation of ourselves in the media? Why would you accept that in your own home? Demand more respect, command more respect.
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