Yesterday’s post addressed Michael Sam’s getting signed, liberal media’s obsession with individual queer faces and its failure to represent those of us unwilling to cry on cue. (Yes, you should read it.) The following was one reaction when a friend shared it on social media.
I’m not much of a drama blogger, but it’s a painfully familiar topos, especially (for me) in response to critique of the GGGG establishment. Pipe down, lucky young fags with modern perspectives and easy lives, and know your place. Your gay elders, who remember how things were, have lessons for you. Pay close attention.
When I write about queer culture, it’s often in opposition to the status quo. As a young person expected dutifully and gratefully to heed the wisdom of gays over forty, I therefore tend to struggle. If we’ve so much to learn from you, as you and RuPaul’s Drag Race would have it, why did things go to shit before my time? Who am I cleaning up after, if not you?
I’m sure I’ll hear all this again in future, so because it deserves a proper response, here’s one.
I might have benefited from advances you couldn’t count on – sure. But I spent years of my life being physically and sexually assaulted, spat on and harassed in public; I lived under written parental threat of homelessness. I tried to die. (All this is a long story, and I mean to tell it soon.) If you think because I won’t compromise politically that I’ve had an easy ride of it, you know fuck all about me. Likewise, if you doubt my views are heavily informed by activists of older generations – the Gay Liberation Front, Gay Shame, ACT UP, Queer Nation, Harry Hay, Carl Wittman, Michael Warner, Butler, Sontag, Sedgwick through Lisa Duggan, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Kate Bornstein, Yasmin Nair and Against Equality – you don’t know a thing about the way I think.
When I’m criticising contemporary LGBT and liberal media and you’re defending it, I’m not Larry Kramer’s tragic depoliticised gay-of-today. You are. The very reason I’m doing that at all – the reason I identify with a much older politics – is that the narrow range of queer expression neoliberalism accepts doesn’t represent me. Representation is a privilege. Being acceptable enough to have earned it – rather than being too angry, too sexual, too politics, too trans, too bi, too poly – is a privilege. Your generation sold mine out when it made sure of that. If you’re willing to respect the cage of acceptability in return for becoming mainstream, I’m not a traitor to our history. You are – and you’ve no right to finger-wag at me proffering generous life lessons.
I’m sorry (I’m not) if reading that hurts, but that’s the only apology from me you’re going to get.