It's true that we have more queer "things" than ever before -- from Will & Grace on network TV to Queer as Folk on Showtime; from the West Village to all-gay cruises to Gay Day at Disney World; from Queer Studies in colleges to our very own cigarette ads. The problem is, having all of these "things" hasn't changed the way the world sees queers. We are still relegated to subhuman status in the minds of so many middle Americans and high level politicians. Need evidence? Look at the virulently homophobic elected officials who are in office right now because they promised the public that they would protect the "Sanctity" of Marriage from Gays and Lesbians.
Having "things" has only given us a false sense of safety from the very real dangers of having no claims to civil rights inside or outside of all of those bars, clubs, Gay Days, or gender theory classes.
Although being a target market may appear to be a validation of our lives by powerful entities in the United States -- large companies -- we need only look at Microsoft's precarious support of that civil rights bill for LGBT people in Washington State to realize that these companies don't answer to us, that our lives and right to live are still a matter of opinion, that our civil rights are always subject to the whims of other consumers who hate us. The policies of these companies are dictated by money, not people, and the Christian right has massive mobilizing power and money to boot.
When we walk down the street clutching our shopping bags and gay magazines with Budweiser ads in them, we might be gay bashed and murdered as we make our way home from the malls. The true material reality of our lives is that in most of the United States we are not protected from these kinds of attacks by the Government, and a gay beer ad doesn't mean or do shit, it will not prevent this or protect us, will not help us pursue justice when we are victimized, and we ARE victimized all too often.
We will lay alone in our coffins, our lovers will stand alone outside of Microsoft or our hospital rooms which they are not permitted to enter. We can consume their products until we die and these companies will do nothing but withdraw their pseudo-support from our communities at the most bigoted demands of homophobes and our murderers in return for our patronage.
We can buy a rainbow coffin but we can't buy our way out of it because, when it comes down to it, being a target market will not protect you.
It never has. And it never will.
On February 19, 1999, Billy Jack Gaither, a thirty-nine-year-old gay man who worked at the Russell Athletics Apparel Company near Sylacauga, Alabama, was brutally beaten to death. His throat was cut, and his body was bludgeoned with an ax handle before being thrown on top of a pile of burning tires and set on fire.
In the weeks following the killing Ricky, one of Billy's 4 brothers, gave an interview about his brother. Richy spoke of his younger brother's early denials of his sexuality, his devotion to his parents, and his discretion about his romantic life. "Billy Jack didn't proposition people. They may come up and talk to Billy, because Billy wouldn't approach anybody that didn't approach him. He didn't push himself on people. He didn't push the gay life on people."
ACCORDING TO NATIONALLY PUBLISHED REPORTS:
"Anti-gay violence is up 7% from the previous year"
"10% of gays and lesbians aged 21 or younger have experienced anti-gay violence
"Lesbians and Gay men who experience violence and harassment reported lower self esteem and were twice as likely to report having thought seriously about suicide"
WANT MORE ?
"Gay-hate homicides appear to be particularly brutal, being more likely to involve savage beatings, repeated stabbing, mutilation or dismemberment. The majority involve physical assaults, with 38% of victims beaten to death and 13% strangled or suffocated."
"The victim of a gay-hate homicide is more likely to be killed by a stranger 45.5% of the time."
"The nature of gay-hate homicides is particularly brutal and alarming. The majority of cases, 54.4%, involve more than one offender and a single victim.
STILL THINK YOU'RE SAFE?
"Many gay-hate murderers were exceptionally brutal, surprisingly young, and killed to support a society they believed approved of their actions"
"Weapons used in 2003 gay biased murders included a claw hammer, a saw, a fire extinguisher, a spade, a car wheel brace, and a crossbow and arrow. Most victims died from being kicked and punched with great force."
ALARMED YET ?!? YOU SHOULD BE
So...you think that by being discrete, avoiding PDA's (public displays of affection) with your partner or maintaining your "straight acting and straight appearing" personae you will be magically shielded from the endless barrage of anti-gay hate and violence, the very glue that is currently holding together this great democracy of ours?
WELL THINK AGAIN !
From Capital Hill to Nob Hill hatred of gays and lesbians has become a popular American Value. We are kicked like footballs around the floor of Congress and used as effective organizing tools in get-out-the-vote efforts in mainstream churches and town halls all across the country. Gays and Lesbians are the great levelers; we are equal opportunity targets!
But despite this climate of extreme bigotry, media marketers have amped up depictions of our queer lives, spreading us across pages and screens for the entire world to gawk at and envy, providing the illusion of inclusion. Hey, I agree, what's not to like, we are prettier, smarter, have way better taste and know how to give awesome advice! But the thing to remember is it's all just marketing, not real life. Real life for us is about survival. You would think with this plethora of "gay-positive" programming and media saturation, that closet doors from coast to coast would be flung open forever. But contrary to this, many queers are deciding, whether they are in the slightly more tolerant big cities or small town USA, to keep things to themselves, to become more "discrete". This new discretion -- differing slightly from the "deep" closet of the last century -- is kind of a 21 century "Closet-lite". It directly reflects the cocktail of pop-culture media inclusion on one hand mixed with liberal amounts of extreme socio-plitical queer bashing on the other.
SHAKEN AND STIRRED UP
Unfortunately, this double edged sword of corrosive self-policing becomes so routine that over time it goes virtually unnoticed by those living with it, while destroying -- and not protecting -- the very people who established it. so, who is benefiting from this behavior prison? Does it really keep you safe from the aggressive society it is structured to appease? Does it really protect you?
THE CLOSET DOESN'T WORK
Sadly, the fortresses that closeted queers build, including Billy Jack Gaither, turn out in the long run to be nothing more than matchstick houses, easily stomped on and destroyed by the very society they are constructed to please. Moreover, no amount of corrected gestures, apparel regulations or lifestyle modifications will appease a majority intent on your destruction.
The closet doesn't make you safer, happier or a better candidate for that promotion. What it does do is dull your senses to what is really going on around you. Assimilation fantasies are just that, they are another way to distract ourselves from what the real issues are and should be; our queer community, our queer health and our queer happiness!
THE CLOSET NEVER PROTECTS YOU
OPEN THE DOOR .