Dark Side of the Highway
Well Hello There!
This week on The Politics of Singing, we're talking about LGBT rights (gay rights for pronunciation's sake). Music for this week's show will include plenty of queercore bands, some punk, rap, and electro-pop, and some lesbionic folk music from the 1970s.
The issues I'll discuss on the show will focus primarily on homophobia, from which various trajectories will arise that may take us to the realms of civil rights issues.
Some of the civil rights that are currently being withheld from queer people in the U.S. include: the males among us can't donate blood, we can't adopt kids in most states, we can't pass on social security benefits to our partners like married heteros can (though some states allow 'gay marriage' or 'civil unions' or 'domestic partnerships,' the federal government does not recognize these legal contracts), we are not allowed to serve openly in the military (interesting fact: the Israeli military allows gays and lesbians to openly serve, and their military is doing Just Fine, ain't it).
These are rather privileged issues (I say privileged because they tend to pertain to people who are mostly white and middle class) and are not the most important gay rights issues by a long shot. These are the mainstream issues that generate media attention, and I almost feel shamed that I'll be giving them more attention... however, as a white person who worked her way up from the working class to join the lower ranks of the middle class, these issues are just as pertinent to me as are the other, more important issues. What are these issues that are more important than gay marriage? Well, gay kids are four times more likely than straight kids to attempt suicide, 28% of LGBT kids drop out of high school due to the verbal and physical abuse they face from their peers, 26% of LGBT youth are kicked out of their homes by homophobic parents, and while 5-10% of the U.S. population identifies as a member of the LGBT community, 20-40% of the U.S. homeless population identifies as a member of the LGBT community. (stats from here and here) In addition, the media tends to completely ignore violence against LGBT people of color, and focuses on the nice little white boys from the midwest who are killed for being gay. You can read more about the murders of LGBT women of color that were ignored by the mainstream media here.
The United States has one of the most homophobic blood donation policies in the world. While countries like Australia ban gay men from giving blood for one year after their last sexual encounter (which I also disagree with), the U.S. has a lifetime ban on gay men. So if you identify as gay, or have ever had sex with a gay man, you are never going to be allowed to donate blood - even if you always have Safe Sex! Countries like Spain and Italy understand the stupidity of this policy, and use more logical rules that have nothing to do with sexuality and everything to do with safe sex practices. People who engage in "high-risk" behavior should not be allowed to donate blood, I agree, but a straight woman who has unprotected sex with a straight man is engaged in behavior Far Riskier than that of a gay man having protected sex with another gay man. The FDA needs to bring its policies out of the 80s and into the realm of logic and fairness.
Also on my mind: one of my favorite TV shows, 30 Rock, had a severely disappointing 4th season. Why was it disappointing? Because each of the last three episodes of the season featured the use of the word "gay" as an insult. As a result, I felt insulted. And sad. The writers of 30 Rock would probably say that "it's gay to feel sad."
FYI: "gay" does not mean "stupid," nor does it mean "lame" or "emotional" or "sensitive" or "ugly" or "effeminate" or WHATEVER other words you delete from your sentences and replace with GAY! It is Insulting and Homophobic to use the word "gay" to denote inanimate objects, and it is even worse to say horrid things like "I don't want to sound gay" when what you really mean is probably something like "I don't want to feel awkward."
While I'm on the subject, a heterosexual person who uses the word "faggot" is just as Homophobic as a white person who uses the "n-word" in its unedited form is Racist. When I've called people out for using the words "gay" or "fag" as an insult, they always say ignorant things like "oh, I didn't mean it like That" or "I thought only men could be fags, why are You mad about it?" My response tends to be something like: "What did you 'mean it like' then? Would you use the n-word as an insult in front of your black friends? What would you expect their response to be if you told them you 'didn't mean it like That'?" As a queer person, I am offended by homophobia always, whether it is directed at gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people or any other kind of queer out there. I'd like to think that if I were straight, I'd be just as offended. I have straight friends who Are just as offended. Any straight person who claims to Not be homophobic needs to prove it by calling people out when they use homophobic language. It's called integrity.
And now, some Fun Links for your reading pleasure: