Main | Friday, September 14, 2007

In Defense Of Sissies

Kenneth Hill over at AOL's QueerSighted has penned a fantastic piece on the issue of how the gay community treats its effeminate men, touching on YouTube personalities William Sledd and Chris Crocker and various insulting comments about them made on some gay blogs. Longtime JMG readers know that this issue is very important to me, one that I comment on several times a year. I've been meaning to write another long, angry piece about it for about a couple of days now, but Kenneth Hill has done it for me.

Here's a short excerpt: "Sissies and other gay freaks and misfits are the real warriors [emphasis JMG] of the gay movement. They are the brave ones. They have to fight much harder than the straight-acting gay man we're so desperate to have portray us in the media. While society mocks them in stupid marketing gimmicks or turns them into good Internet fodder, sissies go out into the world everyday just being themselves. No excuses, and no apologies. That's what I'm fighting for."

Now go read the rest.

UPDATE: Robbie at The Malcontent has written an elaboration of his distaste for sissies and what he characterizes as "pink-face minstrelsy" depictions in the media. My pal Michael, who blogs at Aatombomb, responded:
As usual, Robbie, you give great rant. I still feel like the Crocker kid is a terrible example to use in this type of debate though. I don’t think he’s very representative of much of anything, except shameless and disturbing self-promotion. I agree with you about pink-face, there’s too much of it in the media, and it works the same way it did in the post-slavery era with blacks. We become neutered, safe, cartoonish.

BUT. The types of things I’ve been reading and hearing about the Britney boy have disturbing undertones, and speak to a mentality that goes beyond just this one sad YouTube phenomenon. Pink (or black) face isn’t the only image problem that minorities face, one of the other common tendencies is to lash out from within at those who are TOO black, or TOO gay. It is well-documented in the black community that skin tone plays a very powerful role in subtle social class distinctions. I believe the same is true in the gay community with gender. Just ask a room full of queers how many bottoms are in the audience sometime. 90% of them will lie. We still ridiculously associate sexual positions with power roles, and even I chuckled a bit when I read that Chris Crocker considers himself a top.

The rule is: as long as I’m not as gay (or black) as HER, everything’s all right. In the 60’s and 70’s, you would be described as having “pearls fall from your mouth” if you camped it up a bit too much. I hear Stonewall-era gay men refer to each other as “Pearl” even today. It’s done in jest, with our sublime sense of camp, naturally. But the joke is clear: you’re a fag, Mary.

And let’s deal with this distinction you are making between mannerism and behavior. I’ll grant you that many catty queens exhibit some fairly atrocious behavior, but so do so mane other types of people. I think there’s a Venn diagram between fey mannerisms and stupid behavior here that is not kind to your argument. My concern is that focusing our ire on the ’sissy’ or ‘fag’ aspects of that behavior, true as it may be, distracts the average person from the real source of your consternation and focuses it on the mannerisms instead. And yes, many of these mannerisms are learned, just as 80% of the butch mannerisms that you find so attractive are. I’m not sure what that says about us, but I’m fairly sure it means we’re pretty much like everyone else.

I’ve never quite understood this idea that we should “be ourselves”, because we only tend to say it when we disapprove of people doing exactly that. Being yourself involves a lot of complicated behavior, but when you strip down past everything that is learned and picked up and affected, you don’t really have much left. We are creatures of habit, repetition and assimilation. Even when we think we are being contrarian, we are usually just parroting the mannerisms, linguistics and ideas of a group of people that we wish to be identified with, and being contrarian to some other group. And I’m not sure there’s anything wrong, or that can be done, about that. Some times, in order to truly “be yourself”, you have to eschew the groupthink of one subclass of people and embrace the groupthink of another one. We are all individuals, and have minds of our own to some extent, obviously, but the only truly radical individuals end up on CNN after burying a bunch of bodies in their yard. It strikes me as interesting that you would continuously champion the idea of assimilating into the larger body of mainstream society, and then claim to not understand the impulse that some have to do the same thing within the smaller gay community. I’m not sure it’s our place to dictate which mannerisms others choose to embrace. And I’ve said so often before, as long as they don’t try to stand in my way while I try to win the right to belong to the larger mainstream group, they can wrap themselves in rainbow flags and shoot glitter out of their asses for all I care. That’s the essence of libertarianism, in my mind.

If someone is being as asshole, just call him an asshole. I think tagging that type of behavior to any form of mannerism just leads to confusion. Because I also know a lot of big sissies and fags (and yes, context is everything when using these terms, there’s an affectionate way and a not-so-affectionate way), and most of them are not assholes. They are quite fabulous and loyal friends, in fact. And while you may not mean to cast aspersions on their character by glibly tossing about gender sneers when talking about assholish behavior, I can’t imagine that it feels that way to them.

And for the record, I’m most definitely not butch enough for you. And I happen to be attracted to slightly effeminate boys. So our love was doomed from the very start, I’m afraid. Le sigh.

Just brilliant, Michael. Well done.

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