15 May 2013

Brett Easton Ellis Dislikes the Artfully-Managed Positive Gay Image Campaign

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Men who chose a transgressive and perverse lifestyle are not all onboard with the professionally-managed public relations campaign aimed at domesticizing and taking homosexuality mainstream. The novelist Brett Easton Ellis finds all this whitewashing and all the appeals to sentimentality “infantilizing and condescending.”

Was I the only gay man of a certain demo who experienced a flicker of annoyance in the way the media treated Jason Collins as some kind of baby panda who needed to be honored and praised and consoled and—yes—infantilized by his coming out on the cover of Sports Illustrated? Within the tyrannical homophobia of the sports world, that any man would come out as gay (let alone a black man) is not only an LGBT triumph but also a triumph for pranksters everywhere who thrilled to the idea that what should be considered just another neutral fact that is nobody’s business was instead a shock heard around the world, one that added another jolt of transparency to an increasingly transparent planet. It was an undeniable moment and also extremely cool. Jason Collins is the future. But the subsequent fawning over Collins simply stating he is gay still seemed to me, as another gay man, like a new kind of victimization. (George Stephanopoulos interviewed him so tenderly, it was as if he was talking to a six-year-old boy.) In another five years hopefully this won’t matter, but for now we’re trapped in the times we live in. The reign of The Gay Man as Magical Elf, who whenever he comes out appears before us as some kind of saintly E.T. whose sole purpose is to be put in the position of reminding us only about Tolerance and Our Own Prejudices and To Feel Good About Ourselves and to be a symbol instead of just being a gay dude, is—lamentably—still in media play.

The Gay Man as Magical Elf has been such a tricky part of gay self-patronization in the media that you would by now expect the chill members of the LGBT community to respond with cool indifference. The Sweet and Sexually Unthreatening and Super-Successful Gay is supposed to be destined to transform The Hets into noble gay-loving protectors—as long as the gay in question isn’t messy or sexual or difficult. The straight and gay sanctimoniousness that says everyone gay needs to be canonized when coming out still makes some of us who are already out feel like we’re on the sidelines. I’m all for coming out on one’s own terms, but heralding it as the most important news story of the week feels to me, as a gay man, well, kind of alienating. We are apart because of what we supposedly represent because of… our… boring… sexuality—oh man, do we have to go through this again? And it’s all about the upbeat press release, the kind of smiling mask assuring us everything is awesome. God help the gay man who comes out and doesn’t want to represent, who doesn’t want to teach, who doesn’t feel like part of the homogenized gay culture and rejects it. Where’s the gay dude who makes crude jokes about other gays in the media (as straight dudes do of each other constantly) or express their hopelessness in seeing Modern Family being rewarded for its depiction of gays, a show where a heterosexual plays the most simpering ka-ween on TV and Wins. Emmys. For. It? Why isn’t the gay dude I have always known and the gay dude I have always wanted to be not front and center in the media culture now? But being “real” and “human” (i.e. flawed) is not necessarily what The Gay Gatekeepers want straight culture to see.

Hat tip to James Coulter Harberson.

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