Keeping it gay

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Should queer culture continue to buy into itself, or shake it up?

Can't Think Straight
Jonathan Petrychyn
A&C Editor

Roger DeBris, the flamboyantly gay director in the 2005 film The Producers, sings a song about “keep[ing] it gay” in times of “murder, mayhem, or rage.”

And on the tail of the first civil unions in Hawaii in the New Year, and with the increasing controversy surrounding of queer politics in the Republican primaries, it’s easy to suggest that 2012 could be the year that we should “keep it gay” and that we need to, to borrow someone else’s words, “stay the course” within queer culture. But as shows like Glee and Modern Family continue to cement their status as shows with supposedly “gay positive” representations of their queer characters, and as queer characters become more ubiquitous within heteronormative mainstream American culture, should we continue to “stay the course,” or do we need to reconsider what it means to be gay in contemporary society?    

As we enter the new year, this is the question queers all across North America need to be asking themselves.

If your goal is acceptance, then you aren’t going to get anywhere assimilating yourself within the culture. Nor are you going to get anywhere alienating heterosexual culture with extreme gender play and queer activity, especially if your goal is to establish queerness as a viable alternative to the heteronormative culture that we live in. But, even then, finding a middle ground is problematic, as entering the centre almost certainly means buying into that culture you’re trying to change.

But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you want to change the world, you have to do it on the world’s terms. But that doesn’t mean that you should refer to your same-sex partner as your “husband” or “wife.” When you start using gendered terms like that to denote the masculine half and the feminine half of a same-sex couple, you’re kind of defeating your own subversion by buying into the culture that you find so oppressive.

But then to go to the other extreme; if you become wholly gender and sexuality non-conforming, presenting a body and a culture that is alienating to the rest of the society, it’s questionable how much good you are doing.

In the face of such problems, how does one find the centre? Moreover, is the centre a space we want to occupy?

If the “queer community” – if such a community can even exist in the face of such dispersal and division – is to continue pushing for rights, acceptance, and intolerance, then it needs to take a hard look at how it’s going to do it. Indeed, each individual queer person needs to take a hard look at their approach to queer and ask themselves, “Is this truly the best way to present my culture and my self to the culture around me?”

Are representations of queer like heteronormative-based couples on Glee and Modern Family, where love is considered optimum and any attempts at true queerness are quickly shot down truly the way the community needs to go, or does it need to take a more radical approach, and present shows even queerer than a drag show? If you want a queer New Year’s resolution, resolve to reconsider what queer means to you, and to take a hard look at what you think queer should be. If queer looks like what looks like on Glee, just remember Kurt’s words from Season 2: “Bisexual is a term that gay guys in high school use when they wanna hold hands with girls and feel like a normal person for a change.”

If 2012’s queer culture looks like that – if 2012’s queer culture is a culture that celebrates gay men and women but ignores bisexuals, transgender folk, and other sexual minorities – count me out of it.

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