I continue to feel a niggling discomfort with the “It Gets Better Campaign” and the current public activism around queer youth and suicides. I see this initially radical campaign continuing to morph into an ever more contained cultural tool for mainstream queers reclaiming dignity from the past and for populist politicians to speak without acting where speaking is beneficial rather than costly.
Yes, this public campaign continues to create new levels of queer visibility within the mainstream media that will hopefully expand the constricted societal norms of what it means to be gay. But I continue to read a not so hidden subtext within this prolonged moment as the gay media darling: we’re just like you, you must love us because we are nearly carbon versions of you straight upright citizens with a tiny twist, we ARE those sneaky gays who know how to blend.
And I have to ask myself how much of this is really an expansion of possibilities? How much is assimilation?
All the while I don’t wish to deny that it is true that there are those in the queer community (myself included) who have nothing close to an “alternative lifestyle.” Just as it is true that for some who identify as heterosexual, their lifestyle is nothing like the mainstream depiction of heterosexuality. Some queer people are born with access to, find comfort in, and identify with the dominant gender, sexuality, and familial practices. Some straight people are not and do not.
And so in some cases we gays are just like you straights. But this is true only when my assumptions about YOU are as a cisgendered person doing the middle class, patriarchal, white, Christian culture, boy = a precise masculinity/girl = a specific femininity, long-term monogamous economic sort of romantic relationship thing with the potential for procreation considered or actualized.
In those cases then yes, some of us are some of you.
And here the argument builds as it has in the past… we are human too… we deserve more than safety from violence. In fact we deserve democratic rights, equality and human dignity.
But, and I know you can see where I am going here, I would like to consider an important flaw within this tact when seeking to liberate human dignity from dominant paradigms.
Because, in fact, I do not believe that those of us who are just like you are the primary targets of systemic marginalization, suffering, or violence during the years of compulsory education within the k-12 school system.
I would argue that it is those of our school children who were not born with access to the dominant gender, sexuality, AND social class, race, temporarily able, Christian culture identity markers that suffer the most dehumanizing harm BECAUSE of all of our idolatry and celebration of these social norms.
Queer youth are most often attacked and marginalized in schools because they are not just like you. Queer youth come to harm in our schools because their difference is on some level visible or because they assert and enact this difference as a presumed civil right.
Yet many of us in the adult queer community continue to build on the human dignity argument with the claim that we deserve rights because we are just like you. With this argument for dignity we silently suggest that the gay community is somehow mimicking and thereby attaining the heterosexual communities access to humanity. This argument within the queer community has been honed on over a decade of gay marriage activism that is also riddled with compromise and implicit marginalization in the name of pragmatic politics and personal liberty.
But that’s another blog, another day…
My point here is to remember the queer youth we are advocating for are, generally speaking, not just like you.
They are Queer.
And I’m not suggesting that the mainstream queer visibility in this falls youth advocacy is a bad thing, nor that those engaged in this project are doing a bad thing for queer youth. I am simply suggesting that it feels more and more like this activism is becoming subsumed by the agendas of the adult “gay rights” world seeking a cosy gay home in the mainstream…
And this tactic could easily leave queer youth in the dust with the somewhat troubling message that one day they will fit in.
And yes, I give continued credit to Dan Savage as he takes up the mantle of special commentator in America’s War on Gays. Props too to Ellen and Anderson Cooper among others who have taken on a similar role in the msm. Queer youth have been systemically marginalized by educators even as they were being tortured and dying in our schools for decades in silence. I am ever grateful for the queer adults in positions of power who have given voice to this social violence. I hope the spotlight burns bright from here forward.
I simply want to see more dignity offered and proclaimed for human variation in gender and sexuality than for the imitation of the dominant culture among queer youth advocates. I want child advocates to shout that it is gender queer youth AND adults who suffer the most from America’s War on Gays. That “coming out” isn’t necessarily part of the journey to a gay marriage and stardom. That in fact “coming out” isn’t necessarily an active choice for those not born with access or desire to enact societies idolized norms of gender and sexuality.
I want to see queer cultural products for youth that state unequivocally…
I exist as I am.
And while these ideas have been simmering with me for some time, I wasn’t that clear on where my thoughts were heading until I came across this new queer youth project yesterday…
“I want my life to be awesome now.”
This short video and the project behind this work suggest something new to me.
Something I want to imitate.
Something I’d like to see proliferate.