Wednesday, 6 June 2012

GBLT isn't the Cool Kids' Club

This piece originally appeared at Womanist Musings where I write every Tuesday

After much deliberation, I have come to an important conclusion that I feel I must confront my fellow GBLT people over. I’m sorry, but the jig is up guys, it’s time to come clean. Which of you is hiding the good booze from me?

Don’t tell me you don’t have it –  because there must be some reason why all these straight, cis people are clamoring to be GBLT, so I figure we’ve actually got the best booze stashed somewhere. I can’t think of any other reason why these straight, cis people are desperate, desperate to elbow their way in under the GBLT umbrella.

I’ve had completely cis people declare they’re a gay man in a woman’s body – due to gender issues? No, they just loooove Liza Minnelli. Or that they like Judy Garland or Barbara Streisand. Because they can make a quiche or like finger skating. We’re not talking throwaway lines here, we’re talking people genuinely expressing they’re part of the community because they conform to some ridiculous and rather dated gay stereotypes. (For the record, while I make an awesome quiche, I don’t care for Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand or Liza Minnelli. And KI have no idea why anyone wants to skid around on ice with knives strapped to their feet. In fact, I don’t know why anyone would want to go anywhere where there’s ice at all – unless you’re Canadian and have no choice of course).

Not too long ago Beloved, some friends and I were at a gay pub relaxing in a gay space when we got a tourist group coming through (why why why do large groups of straight people feel the need to descend on gay spaces? It’s not like there aren’t a gazillion pubs in the city!) being loud and irritating. There was much grumbling and finally an acquaintance (actually, she thinks I’m her bestest friend ever. I think she’s only marginally more tolerable than being water boarded in battery acid while listening to George Michael, sadly I think she’s a vague cousin of an actual friend so locking her in a tiger pit is, alas, frowned upon) announced that she thought all straight people should be banned from gay bars. She, the straight woman. Now, I did resist the urge to say “the door’s that way” (I know, aren’t I saintly?) but I did boggle. Of course, straight people doesn’t include her! She has gay friends (not nearly as many as she thinks she does)

And that’s before we get to things like cis, straight kinky people claiming that they’re totally part of the community. And one almost hilarious diagram about a straight demisexual woman describing the nerve wracking experience of how she Came Out to her parents about being demisexual. She only wants to have sex with men she has close emotional bonds with. Because, really, parents really disapprove of their heterosexual daughters not having sex with men they’re not emotionally attached to. Really. (Of course, it had the extra bonus of pointing to how non-demisexual heterosexual women have sex with any guy – those dirty dirty hussies)

And I just don’t understand it –  why this desperate urge to claim being GBLT? Or for that matter, any marginalised identity (there was a horrible brouhaha about ‘racism’ against people with red hair)?

We don’t have hidden cookies. We don’t have secret stashes of booze (alas). This isn’t the cool kinds club. You don’t get a prize for being GBLT – and it isn’t necessary to support GBLT rights either.

And then we get the flip side. Just as you can be a GBLT ally without being GBLT yourself – so too can you be a GBLT ally and we won’t assume you’re GBLT. Which means whenever you say something vaguely positive it’s absolutely unnecessary to declare to the whole world how very very very straight you are. No, really. It’s actually possible to say “I support GBLT rights/gay marriage/better support for transitioning/anti-discrimination laws” without having to follow it up with a “And I’m totally totally straight!” You don’t have to “no homo” your support for our equality, really.

And, yes, I used that unpleasant analogy for a reason – because that’s the sense these protestations give me. The urgent need for straight people to assert their straightness points to a deep, abiding terror of *gasp* being considered gay! THE HORROR! THE HORROR!

People at GBLT orgs and events with t-shirts declaring their straightness. The gay ally who just has to mention how nasty lesbian sex is every time it comes up! Or the guy who can’t even talk about gay people without mentioning every woman he has ever slept with in graphic details. We see the same pattern over and over – a desperate need to assert their straightness if they’re going to associate with us GBLT folks.

It’s ugly to watch (even uglier than certain plastic shoes) and it’s not fooling anyone. If you can’t mention GBLT people without also mentioning how very very straight you are, I’m going to think that your “support” is as fake as Canadian bacon.

All in all – it’s neither cool and fun to try and be part of the club when you’re not, nor is it anything but distasteful for you to try and put so much distance between us that you can’t even say nice things about us unless you can deny us at the same time. It is neither super-special to be GBLT nor shameful – and both approaches suggest you may not be seeing us, but some strange construction in your heads.