Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Stereotypes for Yuks and Laffs

Sarah Bird has a supposedly-amusing piece up at Salon about how she's been coming to grips with the fact that her son's not gay:

I guess I've suspected the worst for a long time. Certainly the signs were there from a fairly young age: He invariably chose "Power Rangers" over joining me in marathon viewings of the work of Stephen Sondheim. He preferred to thickly carpet his bedroom floor with castoff clothing rather than use the color-coded, padded hangers I put in his closet. Worst of all, he evinced a disturbing interest in Grace's bare, bony chest rather than concentrating on absorbing Will's snappy -- yet ultimately supportive -- patter. If he didn't pay attention, who would I have to call me "girlfriend" in my old age? How would I keep tabs on Britney, Carrie Underwood and that creepy kid from "High School Musical" without my very own Rex Reed 2.0?
It goes on like that, for far too long.

In Bird's world, you see, gay men don't exist as men. Nor as independent beings, apparently. Rather, they're a Will-and-Grace stereotype (she says flat-out, that's the sort of gay man she wants her son to be): Someone who exists for the sole purpose of meeting the emotional needs of lonely middle-class women in a non-threatening way.
Before you write those ALL-CAP LETTERS WITH LOTS OF EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!! informing me that you are a proud, stereotype-defying homosexual stevedore, soccer hooligan, whatever, that you are unabashedly clueless about fashion, décor and hygiene, let me just say, if that is you: Don't apply to be my gay son. I already own that model. No, please, submit a résumé only if you are an old-school homosexual with all the traditional old-school homosexual values and interests. Particularly if those interests include knowing how to add fullness to thinning, middle-aged hair.
And in fact, when a friend of hers calls her on her shit, she laughs it off:
Rudy is a brilliant, handsome (and single, he would like me to add) theater director here in Austin, and he is also one of the leading candidates to be my gay son. "You get to have the closeness that you imagine you would have from having a gay son without any of the, you know, finding your son's gay porn that he downloaded from the Internet. The joke is that you can get all the fashion and musical theater and closeness without homosexuality, and that joke is on me and mine. We have to deal with a lot of 'Can't you just, you know, help me pick out my clothes without, you know, kissing in front of me or hitting on my brother?'"

Excellent point. This is exactly the kind of sensitive, informed, insightful comment I'd expect from my gay son. Thank you, Rudy, I will be moving your application to the top of the pile tout de suite. As for what goes on in my grown child's bedroom? Not my business. Unless, however, it's to confer with me about whether frosty blue and chocolate brown is a color combination for the ages. Or if that expensive duvet and sham set I'm contemplating will be dated faster than you can say "teal" and "mauve."
She doesn't want a gay son. She wants a girlfriend. And OF COURSE, gay men are eminently suited to be girlfriends, and should be FLATTERED that she feels that way about them!

As the earlier quote makes clear, she really doesn't get it. She can't see beyond her world of straight privilege; rather, she assumes that being her girlfriend is such a privilege that any gay man--well, not any gay man, but the right kind of gay man--would be happy to serve that role. And wouldn't kiss in front of her or any of that icky stuff--the only time they'd talk about boyfriends, apparently, would be over mimosas while commiserating about what pigs men are.

Gay man as fashion accessory.

The pathetic thing is that she thinks this is all amusing. That demeaning and infantilizing gay men is something that, well, some of them are going to get hissy and send irate emails with LOTS OF CAPITALS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS about. (Aren't they cute when they stomp their little feet?) But nothing there's any real reason to be upset about. Their anger, their frustration, their feeling insulted and put down--well it's certainly not legitimate. But you know how those queens are, someone's always getting pissy about something. And shouldn't they be grateful that they're being allowed to participate in her world at all? The price is only following a stereotyped role, or be kicked out.

I suppose by posting this, I've burned any bridge I may ever have had into being any part of her smug, self-satisfied world.

I've never enjoyed a bonfire more.

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