Sunday, November 21, 2010

On All That Gay Stuff: A Statement

I, of all people, have the least interest in getting typecast as "that guy who always complains about gay stuff in video games." However, the combined weight of Rock Paper Shotgun and Jim Sterling's vast and powerful Twitterverse have motivated this statement... (plus, I'm getting bored of arguing about this)

0) To everyone who can't fathom how I could so horribly misconstrue Jim Sterling's words: have you forgotten the 3rd image he posted in his article? You don't remember? Well, here, let me link you to the image of a man getting fingered, with an effeminate anime-style gay male character photoshopped on top.

That is the face of your beautiful, tolerant, post-sexuality paradise: it's riding on a steady undercurrent of homophobia and revulsion of what gay sex represents. Wait, no, you're right: Jim Sterling included that image because he wants you to like it and be tolerant! Of course.

... or is his point that gay sex is funny / gross, so video games should avoid it -- because only normal people should have normal sex, right? However, let's assume that image is completely innocuous and Jim Sterling means completely well, as so many people have assumed for some reason. Okay:

* * *

1) "Jim Sterling's arguing for a post-gay world!" Well, we don't live in a post-gay world, so all you gender theory people can keep praying for the coming revolution. (Maybe in 50 years? But certainly not right now, and certainly not in the United States.)

Instead, we live in a world where being gay matters, where being a woman matters, where being black matters, etc. A lot of these people don't want to blend in or to be assimilated; society is not a melting pot or a Borg cube. Many gay men are happy with being flamboyant or feminine or however you want to label them.

* * *

2) When I compared Jim Sterling's statement to the mindset of Matthew Shepard's murderers, I wasn't aiming to crucify Sterling. (I don't care about Jim Sterling's public image -- all I knew about him before this was that he wrote a funny review of something on Destructoid.)

Instead, I wished to show how similar the arguments are, despite how different the intent and consequences were: they are both arguments for invisibility of LGBT people.

Jim Sterling's "we should all just be people and look past differences" vs. a complacent homophobe's "we should all just be people and no one act different" have the same chilling effect of erasure.

I wish video games could exist in some magical vacuum-sealed chamber where we didn't have to think about them in context to the real world, but unfortunately we have to.

Because remember all that stuff about games being art and important and stuff? Well, this is the flipside of that cultural legitimacy: it's going to bring up ugly questions you don't want to think about.

* * *

3) Denying the "flamboyant" gay male any representation in media, merely because you find them too camp or stereotypical, is still denying them existence. It doesn't matter what your intent is.

"But most gay men don't act flamboyant, so it's okay to dislike this one subset of the population that's 'ruining' it for everyone else." Well, sorry, you don't just get to single out one facet of the gay community to dislike; worse, you're singling out the subset that's been emblematic of the gay community for the last 40 years. This attitude is, at the very least, a bit homophobic.

* * *

4) "But a bunch of gay people disagree with you! They said so in the comments!"

Yes, I'm fully aware that it's unpopular to defend the rights of feminine gay men to exist.

* * *

5) "You should be grateful that he's willing to be an ally! Don't you know how tolerant he is? Shame on you!"

He's not an ally to gay men if he's willing to dismiss a huge chunk of the population as merely "walking stereotypes" that would supposedly do better to conform to his idea of a gay male -- and again, his idea of a gay male is one that does not appear "gay" nor acknowledge the act of gay sex -- and I'll repeat that sex is pretty important and meaningful to the vast majority of adults on this planet.

* * *

6) "You were out of line for comparing him to Matthew Shepard's murderers / you're an idiot."

Perhaps all you know about him is that he died on a fence; and if so, then you should know more. The easiest and most powerful way to fix that is to attend a performance of "The Laramie Project" -- or just read it at a library or something.

In it, Moises Kaufman and his group interviewed the people of Laramie and assembled their testimonies into a piece of chamber theater. You sympathize with these people and the scar that's been inflicted on the whole community -- but you also recognize their complicity in perpetuating homophobia and the act of murder itself.

This isn't the facile, easily identified homophobia of teen soap operas. This is a systematic, institutional homophobia that's barely distinguishable from the "rugged individualism" supposedly ingrained in the Midwest: "just mind your own business and don't bother others."

By and large, most people left Matthew Shepard alone.

... until he started "acting all gay," performing the very stereotype that Jim Sterling singles out and criticizes.

Does it occur to anyone that some people enjoy living this way? That to call them "stereotypes" is marginalizing this segment of the gay community, and so, is an act of homophobia?

So yes, the people of Laramie left Matthew Shepard alone; the "don't broadcast it" mentality had isolated Shepard from the town and given power to his murderers. And so, because he refused to be erased, refused to stop "broadcasting" it -- Matthew Shepard was killed.

Again, I'm fully aware that it is unpopular to defend the rights of feminine gay men to exist.

"Men should be men," is a common refrain throughout the gay community; it disappoints me.

But then again, a lot of things disappoint me.

* * *

7) "Jim's just arguing for de-coupling the concepts of being feminine and being gay. There's nothing wrong with that."

I agree, but look at how he frames his argument: he marginalizes those who DO couple femininity and being a gay male. They're "stereotypes." They're not real people... except I'm arguing that they are, and to dismiss them as "stereotypes" is homophobic because it targets a segment of the gay male population.

* * *

8) "Jim's just arguing that non-obvious gays should be valid characters too."

Again, I agree -- but again, I want you to look at how he frames his argument: he's not just saying non-obvious gays are valid characters, he's saying that they're BETTER characters. That the best way to be gay is to not "act gay" at all, that Arcade Gannon is the best.

* * *

9) "Jim mentions other LGBT characters in New Vegas too..."

Yes, he uses them as points of comparison so that you'll find Arcade Gannon particular brand of "secret gayness" to be superior.

* * *

10) "... Okay, but you didn't have to be such a jerk about it."

As Tina Fey said: "Bitches get things done." Controversy is when you know something's important enough to fight for. I still think Jim Sterling's position promotes homophobia -- and it's the most dangerous kind of homophobia because it's subtle and unintentional, and it's difficult even for LGBT people to recognize it.

But you're right, maybe I shouldn't broadcast it. Shame on me for creating a fuss.

(And for the first time in my life, I'm not desperately seeking validation! Hurray for me! Comments are disabled.)