Too many times, we try to turn "community" into "mutiny." Rather than embrace all the colors of the rainbow and j'adore every type of person that's included in our patchwork, we turn on each other by acting superior to our brothers and sisters, treating the other LGBTs as somehow less deserving of rights and respect than our own particular niche group is. We can be our own worst enemy!
After all, there are still gay men who don't exactly rejoice at being in a room with lesbians; as they so eloquently put it, they'd rather not be around "fish," thank you! Conversely, there are some lesbians who complain about how gay men are frivolous and sex crazed, which cements these lesbians' drive to stay in an insular world that's way more female than male.
Some trans people resent drag queens for having male privilege and for donning the garb of the opposite sex as a performance piece, one they put on and off at will. And shockingly, there was a petition last year to remove the T from LGBT, the reasons behind it including everything from the alleged appropriation of Stonewall history to the marked difference between sexual orientation and gender identity, which supposedly should keep gays and transsexuals separate.
And that's not all! Bi people often get the short end of the stick in the community, and the world. While gay men and women, drag queens, and trans people have all been proclaimed the "hot thing" at one point or another, the media hasn't picked up on bi visibility and given it the mass-appeal glow that could help its acceptance. What's worse, bisexuals are routinely discounted by gays and lesbians, some of whom clearly feel that the "B" in "LGBT" is strictly out of charity.
This petty mess reminds me of the environment I grew up in as an Italian-American, hearing some of the neighbors constantly demonize Jews, blacks, and other religious, ethnic, and racial groups in order to elevate themselves. It was as if anyone fighting for a piece of the American pie somehow felt they had to slime the other sectors in order to demand their portion. In this case, the loathing is tinged with self-loathing, because we happen to be smearing members of our own community. Perhaps having grown up with shame about being LGBT, we exercise that feeling by lobbing prejudice against our own kind. Sometimes it's a means of deflecting our own oppression by ganging up on our comrades. And there's even animus within each of the LGBT letters! After all, I know muscle queens who can't stand twinks who detest bears who resent leather queens. "Straight acting" dudes look down on effeminate ones, I guess because they can't be bothered to "act" like anything but themselves. Let's also not forget that older gays commonly trash younger ones ("They don't know anything!") and the younger ones return the favor ("They're tired!") And then you have your gay Republicans who'll unquestioningly back a candidate who's against same sex rights--because they'll be good for the economy!
With misty eyes, I can remember a time in the '80s and '90s when AIDS was a horrifying death sentence and the growing epidemic was not getting any serious response from the powers that be, so the community frantically mobilized to protect itself. And I mean the community! I've spoken before about how, walking into my first meeting of ACT UP--the AIDS activist group--I was astounded to see all kinds of people there, including a healthy number of lesbians, fighting for our right to live. This was the ultimate mixed guest list. A gay writer wrote an editorial at the time, wondering why on earth lesbians had joined the fight against AIDS when, according to him, they weren't very much at risk. That was a no brainer. It was because they'd heeded the call to arms and wanted to kick ass to protect their community. And here's the real shock--that was one of the last times I saw gays and lesbians together in a large room (except for the Out 100 event, of course)!
Today's in-fighting only hurts us as we try to keep moving forward in society. As gays dis lesbians and so on, the haters stand on the sidelines, laughing and applauding at the self-sabotaging going on, especially when we hypocritically ask the world for equality and compassion. The divisiveness not only makes our lives more uneasy, it also tends to seriously damage our cause and our credibility. I find it absurd that we pick each other apart and try to diminish the community, when we should actually be looking to expand and strengthen it. After all, there are enough people out there who are against us. Let's target them, not each other. OK, my fellow queers?
WILLKOMMEN TO JOEL GREY
Joel Grey is officially part of the community! In his new memoir, Master of Ceremonies, the Cabaret Tony and Oscar-winner talks about the complicated step he made by coming out late in life. Writes Grey, who came out publicly in People magazine just last year, "I had powerfully pushed the idea down for so long that when I eventually tried to live in that [gay] world, I wasn't very good at it. I could never seem to let go of that feeling of shame or stop looking over my shoulder, even if I know no one was coming to get me. That is simply the result of the time I came up in." But Grey admits that, despite the complicated feelings flowing through him, he felt an overpowering need to be honest--to himself and to others. "If you don't tell the whole truth about yourself," says Joel, "life is a ridiculous exercise." No one puts baby's daddy in a corner.
Photo by Ryan Pfluger
Speaking of memoirs, actress/singer Ann Magnuson is going to have a hell of one whenever she's ready to write it. But for now, I wanted to know how she felt about the late, great David Bowie, whom she shared a sexy scene with in the 1983 flick The Hunger, about sleek bisexual vampires. (Ann played "Young Disco Woman".) She replied, "All I can say is that he was one of, if not the most, charismatic people I ever met and it was a thrill to make out with my teen idol. The whole experience felt like a dream and, with his passing, even more so. Any further elaboration must be saved for the memoir."
SISTERS ARE DOIN' IT FOR THEMSELVES
Here's one thing that can unite all LGBTs: The original stars of Side Show--the 1997 musical about the personal problems of conjoined twins--came together, as it were, for Alice & Emily: Unattached!, their studiously devised act at Feinstein's/54 Below. The talented ladies--Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner--emerged in identical black dresses and stood side by side to belt Side Show's power duet, "I Will Never Leave You" before amusingly deciding they were standing in the wrong order, upon which Skinner moved to Ripley's right and re-stuck herself. The whole show was an alternately funny and poignant ode to the women's sisterly connection, coming, as Skinner remarked, after "a lot of shows between us, a lot of therapy bills, and two ex husbands." They lilted during musical twosomes like "Together" and "Bosom Buddies," interspersing them with more sobering material by Harry Nilsson and Carly Simon. At one point, Skinner explained that "Alice is always cast as women who become a bit unhinged, and I always get cast as wry, bitter, somewhat angry women." That paved the way for some solo turns--and a costume change--with Skinner scoring on a Michael John La Chiusa song and Ripley (who won a Tony for 2009's Next To Normal) soaring on "As If We Never Said Goodbye" from Sunset Boulevard. Ripley played the ingenue in the original production on Broadway, and indeed she's ripened into a socko potential Norma, if producers want to bother listening. But maybe it should be Ripley and Skinner together in the role!