This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness. Many of you are familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.
I am a gay man.
Now, I have already commented or plan to comment on every part of that sentence. On the gay part, on the man part even on the ‘am’ part (because it’s ‘am’ not ‘do’, but that’s another topic). About the only thing I haven’t and don’t plan to comment on is the ‘a’ because there’s not a whole lot that can be said about ‘a’ even for someone as long winded as I.
Which is what I am talking about now – ‘I’.
I am a gay man. I am not all gay men. All gay men are not me. And yes, I don’t mind stating the bleeding obvious at times.
This means I am not responsible for the foolish actions or words of any gay man but myself (and possibly Beloved if I can find something sufficiently aerodynamic to throw).
It seems like an obvious concept – but it’s surprising how often people do not get it – and I think it applies to all marginalised people to a degree.
The number of times I’ve been asked (or even had it demanded) that I denounce, criticize or speak about some item of epic fail a gay man has pulled boggles me. I’ve actually been criticized for not denouncing a gay man’s actions and I’ve had to google the man because I’ve had no clue who he was or that he even existed, let alone what he had done. I’ve read posts criticizing or commenting on the gay community referencing a man I’ve never even heard of – yet this man apparently speaks for me, says something about me, indicates something about me or otherwise involves me because we are both gay men.
And when I see everything from foolish, ridiculous things said by some gay celebrity to vile crimes committed by a gay criminal – I always know because their sexuality is ALWAYS mentioned. No-one feels the need to identify a clueless columnist who let his mouth run ahead of his brain as straight, but you can guarantee that if he’s gay it will be mentioned somewhere in the report. When we have reports of a straight paedophile the media doesn’t fall over themselves to make their sexuality clear. But a gay paedophile? Oh that’s lapped up and repeated ad nauseum. And the usual suspects come out of the woodwork to make their oh-so-typical sweeping statements about us all (I was going to link to the Daily mail article – but it makes such a direct link between paedophilia and the campaign to allow gay adoption that I refuse to contribute one hit to that vile, bigoted site). When a young straight man dies young, we don’t make insidious, nauseating implications about all straight people and their relationships – but let it be a gay man and it can’t be natural, right? And it must speak volumes about all gay men, right?
One of the pervasive elements of prejudice is removing the personhood of marginalised people. On some level, they are no longer a person, they are a living breathing embodiment of their marginalisation. Every bad deed they do somehow reflects on their group as a whole – just as everything their group does reflects on them. Every one of us becomes just a part of a whole – to be blamed for whatever any other part does. We’re assumed to speak and think and act as one homogenous body – if one of us think something, we all think it. if one of us does something, the rest of us support it. If one of us says something, they’re speaking for all of us.
I literally cringe every time some of the fools in our community speak because I KNOW I will be judged on it. I am afraid when I read of gay criminals or abusers (and you know if they are gay it will certainly be made clear) because I KNOW I will be found partially guilty of their crimes. I know someone is going to make a statement about all gay men based upon it. I know that, even though I’ve never met the men, don’t know the men, maybe even live in another country from them or even have never heard of them – that I am going to be judged by what they have said or done.
I have said before, it annoys me that I feel the need to display nothing but impeccable behaviour at all times because if I mess up I will be “letting the side down.” Because if I snap tomorrow and go on a mad axe murdering spree of my clients you can just bet at least one of the hate groups is going to present my sexuality as the reason – and that’s assuming the major media itself doesn’t buy into it, or at least emphasise my sexuality unduly in the rampage.
No-one speaks for me but me. I control no-one’s actions but my own (most of the time). I will not be blamed for the actions of other gay men, you do not know me because you know other gay men, you do not know what I think, support or say based on what other gay men have thought, supported or said. My being gay does not reduce me to an avatar of gayness.
I am tired of being expected to be ashamed for the bad actions of every gay man on the planet, to have them reported as if they’re all of our faults. And, worse, I do not like feeling like I have to police my fellows. I do not like feeling that I need to make sure I control my fellow gay men – and all GBLTs – to ensure they conform to a standard straight society feels is acceptable. I do not like feeling like I must suppress my fellows to protect myself.