Racism and Gay Culture

So. This is the inaugural post to this blog. As you may have assessed from the title, this blog is all about using my specific critical lens as a gay man to analyze and critique pieces of media that I come across. It’s a bit awkward for me to be doing this, in all honesty. I’ve written blogs before, but never anything quite like this. I’ve blogged about video games, creative writing, other hobbies of mine, but nothing that’s intrinsic to me. Like my sexuality, for instance. I’m white, upper middle class, male – pretty much all of the boxes I check on forms are privileged. But then there’s the combo breaker of sexuality that I’ve barely let myself explore in my 20+ years of life. So without further ado, let’s talk about racism. (Great segue, right?)

In the article “Racism Without Racists,” the author heavily discusses “abstract liberalism” in pertinence to racism. They write, “By framing race-related issues in the language of liberalism, whites can appear ‘reasonable’ and even ‘moral,’ while opposing almost all practical approaches to deal with de facto racial inequality.” This thought process can also be extended to sexuality, though of course the paradigms of race and sexual orientation are entirely different.

People of any sexual orientation other than “straight” know this line of thought all too well: you can marry now, you’re equal, you’ve gotten what you’ve wanted so now you can stop protesting. Yes, it’s wonderful that people in the LGBT community can now get married, but there’s still plenty of inequality out there. This abstract liberal notion of equality is a falsity, and every minority group knows it. Just because one thing has changed for the better doesn’t mean there isn’t mistreatment of gays in the workplace, it doesn’t mean that violence towards transgender people has disappeared. It’s destructive for anyone to assume one solution has suddenly fixed every problem, as it slows down the process of fixing the problems that still need fixed.

The article “Enlightened Racism,” which focuses on the effects that The Cosby Show had on American perceptions of the black population, made strikingly similar points. It suggests that the hyper clean-cut image of the Huxtable family skewed the image of what the average African American family was. In reality, the Huxtable’s wealth was a rarity for the African American community, and it possibly made white audiences think such disparity was nonexistent. I’d argue that it simply normalized the possibility for a black family to be wealthy and successful, just as shows like Modern Family normalize gay relationships.

I’ve begun reading Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation, which I believe in many ways can apply to sexuality. There are various images in gay culture that attempt to encapsulate the solidarity of the LGBT community – the rainbow, in particular, stands out to me as a complex symbol, and perhaps even a simulacrum. In theory, the rainbow represents a diverse group of people (i.e., different colors) that coexist in harmony – just as the LGBT community hopes to do. It also references the very nature of rainbows, wherein they appear after rough storms as a beacon of hope, so to speak. Now, however, the image of a rainbow has been stripped of these meanings, and instead simply represents the idea idea of the gay/LGBT community wholly. You see a rainbow, you think gay. The two have become intrinsically linked, but perhaps at the cost of deeper meaning.

As a quick aside, Baudrillard (or at least the translation of Baudrillard) made a reference to homosexuality that I perceive as a poorly thought out slight. He wrote “Today it can discharge a very good simulator as exactly equivalent to a “real” homosexual, a heart patient, or a madman.” In this logic, he’s equating homosexuality with disease and insanity. I understand that the early 1980’s were a different time, but I find this comparison to be unnecessary and undercooked. Just thought I’d throw that out there.

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