Monday, March 29, 2010

Fear and Self-Loathing (and bitchiness) in the LGBT Community

Pop singer and former soap opera actor Ricky Martin announced to the public today, via his website, that he is a "fortunate homosexual." Sadly, his announcement has been met with a mixture of "Duh, who didn't know?" and "Now he comes out - big deal!" Even sadder, most of the people I've noted making these comments are homosexuals. 

What you think you know means nothing

If you're a gay person who has come out to his or her family, think back to the day you came out. Do you really think everyone you came out to was shocked? If you're like most homosexuals, by the time you came out, at least one person who knew you had a feeling you might be queer. Did the fact that Aunt Bessie thought you were "funny" all along make disclosing any easier? Did the fact that Dad "always knew you'd end up being a faggot" ease the tension? Did Mom fearing you'd never make her a grandmother make your coming out a day of simple, stress-free pleasure? If you've answered yes to any of these questions, you're a liar. You just are. 

The fact is, when it comes to telling the world that one is a homosexual, other people's preconceived ideas mean nothing. So what if Uncle Jerry always thought you walked funny and had a limp wrist? You're still standing before your nearest and dearest and summoning up your strength to tell them, in your own words, that you're a homosexual. This isn't about Uncle Jerry's gaydar, it's about you publicly acknowledging who you are.

If other people's preconceptions made coming out easier, no one would jump through hoops to keep people from forming such ideas in the first place. If having Uncle Jerry and Aunt Bessie speculate about you felt good, the stereotypical high school jock who secretly likes to suck cock would not be sucking cock in secret and making a public show of his prowess on the football field. If Mom's worry about never becoming a grandmother felt good and paved the way for self-esteem, there wouldn't be middle-aged wives and mothers suddenly deciding to come out as lesbians. 

A True Story

In 1991, a few days after my grandfather died, my mother received a phone call from one of her brothers. He was about 55 at the time. He called to tell his sister the truth about himself: he was a homosexual. Now, my mother had known her brother was gay since the late 60s. We'd all known he was gay. By 1991, he'd lived and travelled with his "friend," Roy, for more than 15 years. They lived in a one-bedroom apartment and shared a king-sized bed. Everyone knew he was gay, but no one ever mentioned it. 

My uncle must have known that most people around him had figured out his badly-kept secret, yet he waited until his father was dead to actually speak the words, "I'm gay." What's more, he cried when he disclosed this to my mother, and begged, "Please don't hate me." 

I'm proud to say my mother did not respond with, "DUH - I've always known you were gay" or "Now you tell me? Big deal!" She said, instead, "How could I ever hate my own brother? I love you."

What you're really saying

When you say, "Duh" to Ricky Martin's coming out - or anyone else's - what you're saying is: This experience, of you stepping forward and embracing who you are - it has no value. It's lame and pointless because I already guessed your secret long ago. My knowing about you being gay is more important than your being okay about being gay. 

When you say, "Big deal - I've known for ages" what you're really saying is: This is all about ME. Since I already knew, I see no reason why you should let go of that little bit of yourself you keep holding back from the people you care about, why you should try to be free of shame, or why you're so hung up on being completely honest for what might be the first time in your life. Since my curiosity was satisfied ages ago, there's no point in satisfying your need for self-worth.

When you say, "Wow...Ricky Martin is gay...and water is wet!" (Yes, I saw this as someone's Facebook status today), what you're really saying is: I knew he was gay because he acts like such a faggot. Only a faggot would act, sing and dance like that. I quietly hate faggots. I may not even know that I hate faggots, but I do....and I can spot them a mile away.

If you're saying any of these things, and you're gay, yourself, what you're really saying is: I'm a self-loathing homosexual. I may say I'm out and proud, but I'm actually miserable and, if I'm miserable, I don't want any other queers to be happy or secure or teeming with self-esteem. I'm the Uncle Tom of faggots.

Big Deal! 

A few people I've talked to have used the phrase "Ricky Martin's coming out is too little too late." Excuse me, but...back the fuck up. I must have been out of town the day pop singers started owing us their souls. 

Ricky Martin didn't come out for me or for you. He came out for himself. Just like I didn't come out to my family for you any more than you came out for me. Again, if you claim you came out to your loved ones for a higher cause, you're a liar. You just are. Seriously, stop lying!

Ricky Martin may be a famous person. He's also a person with a family, and relationships, and with the same self-doubts every person has. Being famous does not exempt anyone from having feelings of insecurity, or shame, or sadness, or confusion. If anything, living in a fishbowl might make a person even more self-conscious than the rest of us are. Martin's coming out may not be a big deal to you, but I guarantee it's a big deal for him. It will have an impact on his relationships and on his career. More importantly, I'm 100% sure it is already having an impact on how he feels inside.

The bottom line is Ricky Martin doesn't owe any of us anything. He doesn't owe us any information about his sexuality, and he certainly didn't owe us this information at an earlier date than the date he chose to disclose. Why would he? This is not a man any of us was about to marry - we're talking about a pop star who is barely even on the American radar, anymore. 

What does "too little too late" mean? That you never would have downloaded She Bangs if you'd known a pansy was singing it? That Cup of Life wouldn't have been as fun at sporting events if you'd known there was a queer dude singing it?

I don't know Ricky Martin. He seems like a nice enough guy, though, and I like a few of his songs. I'm happy that he feels good enough about where he is in life that he's decided to come out. I feel that about anyone who finds themselves ready to come out as homosexual. I didn't officially do it, myself, until I was 30. Most of the people I came out to already had a pretty good idea I was gay. I'm really glad none of them were bitchy enough to dismiss how significant it was for me to take that huge step. 

Bien hecho, Ricky! Orgullo. 

© 2010 Lana M. Nieves

Limited Licensing: I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under the Creative Commons Attribution license, granting distribution of my copyrighted work without making changes, with mandatory attribution to Lana M. Nieves and for non-commercial purposes only. - Lana M. Nieves


Tammy said...

bloody excellent.

weltatem said...

Well done, Snapper. Well done.

Anonymous said...

Well said. I love it

kissmychakram said...

Excellent, Snapper, just bloody excellent. Thanks.

Travelightly said...

Snapper, I think your last line is significant in that I don't think Ricky Martin's coming out is as big a deal as you or some other's are making it. To me, he's just another celebrity coming out. Maybe it's my age, but I don't listen to his music and don't really know who he is. But I am not impressed by celebrity. They are always protected in ways the regular Joe's and Jane's are not. I always loved the pictures of Ellen and Anne holding hands and kissing in public thinking, yeah right, so many people in bum fuck Iowa would get shot for that! And even living in Southern California, that's not been my experience!

Coming out for anyone is important to one's self-esteem and yes, often when you do, people *do* say, "Yeah, I already knew," while your guts were turning around like whirlpool in your stomach. While it can be quite a let down after you've gone through what you did, it's not an uncommon reaction, so I am not sure why you think Martin should be treated differently than the rest of us?

Coming out anymore is becoming so common, I don't think we need a parade. Besides, the parades have become so boring, but that's a whole other story:) Point for me is, coming out is personal AND important, no matter the reaction and people are going to have all different kinds of reactions. But none of it matters. The only thing that does, is that you do, because it truly is for your own survival and the living of a complete life.


Snapper said...

TL: Celebrity is a double-edged sword. While celebs are protected, they're also held to ridiculous scrutiny. I've never had Barbabara Walters catch *me* off guard, during a nationally televised interview, asking if I was gay. I've never had people all over the world posting on internet chat boards, "OMG, she's such a dyke, and it's so obvious!" before I was ready to come out. I've never felt the need to hide my sexuality for professional reasons. I know lots of non-famous people do (my partner did, for many eyars), but those of us who aren't famous always have the option of moving on to a new situation if the fact that we're homosexual puts us at some sort of risk. Imagine you were famous, and getting outed ruined your job easy would it be to move on and find other work? I'm not saying discrimination is right, but that it DOES happen. People in the public eye may have a lot of protections and safety nets, but they don't get to enjoy the privacy that the rest of us do. I actually did have a relative out me to some people before I ever came out to anyone, and it was EXTREMELY hurtful. So much so that I never spoke other, again. I can't even imagine what that would have felt like if it had been on a larger scale - like having late night talk show hosts, entertainment journalists, and the pulic, at large, discussing my sexuality before I was ready to discuss it myself.

Ricky Martin's coming out shouldn't be any bigger a deal than anyone coming out. You're right. But, it's been made a big - partly by the fact that peple have been asking him ,for years, to disclose. When I came out, it wasn't on the morning news. The "news" that Ricky Martin is gay DID make it on to the morning news. So, like it or not, this is a big deal on some level.

Robert said...

You aimed this blog post at me, didn't you? LOL I admit, reading your thoughts have made me rethink my opinion that his coming out was "too little, too late" and how celebs seem to come out only after they've earned millions. I forgot that he's a human being going through his own issues and life, and not everyone reaches the coming out stage at the same age.

Snapper said...

I could have, Robert, but my sister already told you you were being bitchy, and you graciously agreed. You didn't make my blood boil, but the person who posted the "Water is wet - DUH..." FB status really made me sick. With a comment like that, is it any wonder why the bitchy queer is such a stereotype?

Snapper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ocean1blue said...

Wouldn't it be nice if the "duh" comment meant that it was no big deal? a non-issue? Like 'what does being gay have to do with anything?' One would hope that eventually the question of gayness would have all the importance of right or left handedness. So what? Someone being gay wouldn't be newsworthy at all, and everyone would be judged on their accomplishments or achievements, and not on something that is hardwired at birth.