Warning: this post contains no pride. If it’s pride-porn you seek, there’s probably a new weepy coming-out video by some mid-life boyband offcut to enjoy. So, pop over to the It Gets Better YouTube channel and don’t let my dim view eclipse your love of the rainbow. You have your LGBTI “inspiration”; leave the rest of us to enjoy our gay shame.
Some of us are ashamed - and this is not to say that we are ashamed of the act. My point is, to paraphrase the splendid Gore Vidal, that there is no such thing as homosexual or heterosexual pride. But, there is such a thing as shameful bullshit.
God. I’m so ashamed of a movement that cheers every idiot who declares a queer itch. The rationale always goes “this is not for us, but for the kids in small towns” and to refrain from applause for this or that act of pride is seen as something just south of murder. Sure, when you’re young, feeling different can be risky. But, when you are older, and sometimes even when young, sameness itself is a scourge.
There are kids and there are adults who may find some relief in knowing They Are Not Alone. Then, there’s many of us who don’t find comfort in acceptance but are uncomfortable with the idea of acceptance itself.
This is not entirely down to a Groucho Marxist view of life which holds that you wouldn’t join any club that would have you as a member. It’s due more to discomfort with the idea that there is a right kind of sexuality to have, or a right kind of "Ghey" to be.
When Apple CEO Tim Cook came out of his aluminium case last year, this was almost universally held as an act of suicide prevention. Isn’t it marvellous, everyone said, and how very inspiring. Here was the CEO of one of history’s richest companies! Here was a groom who wed his true love at a tasteful ceremony in Vermont!
Now, upholding sexual orientation as a matter of pride is one troubling thing, but attaching this to a range of other proud facts is another. We are not just upholding the sexual life of a man, but his once-in-a-generation business success and stable, exclusive relationship. For those who can’t get or don’t want a monogamous love relationship, or a rather more promiscuous one with the supply chains and tax laws of the world, Cook might not be a role model.
A woman who told TIME that she was at pains to look pretty because, “if you look like a man in a dress, it makes people uncomfortable”, may well prevent heartache in some. But, she is bound to provoke it in others.
Caitlyn Jenner, too, is broadly endorsed as an “inspiration”. To be critical of the Republican Christian, who has no time for the public healthcare scheme many of those whom she is presumed to inspire might need, is barely tolerated in LGBTI discussion. A woman who told TIME that she was at pains to look pretty because, “if you look like a man in a dress, it makes people uncomfortable”, may well prevent heartache in some. But, she is bound to provoke it in others. Some women—my cis self included—just can’t look terribly femme in frocks. Some women have no wish to.
Cook and Jenner may be aspirational figures for some, but others, especially those of us who prefer realism over Californian fancy, will find their “role model” status deeply isolating. Which would be fine if we all lived in a wider world where aspiration was not held as a compulsory motion and an LGBTI world where signing a contract of celebration in Dan Savage’s empowered ink was not a condition of membership.
But, the terms of success endemic to the wider world are now those we are forced in the LGBTI world to embrace. We hold out hope that slight difference, shown in a nice dress or a bespoke wedding suit, will trickle down to everyone.
Cultural equality does not trickle down to the needy any more than income equality does. For every kid who feels inspired by Jenner’s photo-ready femininity or Cook’s monogamous capital, there’s another out in the cold.
Cultural equality does not trickle down to the needy any more than income equality does. For every kid who feels inspired by Jenner’s photo-ready femininity or Cook’s monogamous capital, there’s another out in the cold. There’s nothing here for butch girls or naughty boys who run Grindr for Android.
Adding “diversity” to the role model mix is no solution. We both know that mass culture feeds the appetite for images of the good and the successful and that the relative disaster of our own lives just doesn’t sell.
There is a great shame which has now come to underscore “pride”. We are so ashamed of the way we live, we crave a version of it prescribed by better people.
The problem with the “acceptance” the Jenners and the Cooks apparently promote is that it demands acceptability. Call me old-fashioned, but I continue to believe that conventions of acceptable behaviour is what produced our shame in the first place.