My roommate keeps a list of THINGS THAT ANNOY HELEN ON THE INTERNET (because boy, the internet can be really dumb sometimes) and this week we found something that possibly topped that list. Karla heard me hiss in the way that she knows can only be provoked by yet another Harlem Shake video or pretty much anything that Ann Coulter says ever. “WHAT. IS. THIS.”
This is what it was:
Ryan Murphy (creator of “gay-friendly” shows like Glee and The New Normal) tweeted this picture of a girl holding a sign that read, “FAN GIRL FOR EQUALITY: LET MY GAYS MARRY!” It features gay couples from both of Murphy’s shows (the other being American Horror Story which, ironically, had one of the most compelling gay storylines this season).
Look, we all love our shows. Especially at Emerson. This school is in love with TV. And film. And theater. It warms my heart to think that Kurt and Blaine are getting as much love as Monica and Chandler. Really, it does. Gay culture is becoming mainstream and it’s giving those who have never known a gay couple in real life depictions of couples who are very much in love and relatable. Hey – I’m all for Kurt Hummel being a beacon of hope for a kid out there who is closeted and scared and alone. I think it is wonderful.
But you know what isn’t wonderful and makes me squirm and itch and feel all sorts of uncomfy feels? Fetishization.
The “gay best friend” is a term that makes me feel very uncomfortable. I have a lot of gay (for the purpose of this article gay = homosexual male, lesbian = homosexual female) friends that I’ve met over the years – some from doing theater, some from volunteering for LGBTQ+ causes, some from just that fact that there are a lot of gay people in this world and some of them happen to be my friends. But I always feel awkward when someone learns that and says, “ohh. I see. That’s your gay friend.” Would someone say "oh, that’s your black friend?"" That’s your disabled friend?" "That’s your Muslim friend?" I’d hope not – they’d need some manners. So why is it okay to fetishize gay men?
I’m a straight, white, cis-gendered female from a financially stable family (we’re not going to look at misogyny in this article because – believe me – that’s a whole BOOK). I’m going to go out on a limb and say most of the online community that has created signs like this are in my same, privileged position. We’re visible in the media for the most part (again: trying to avoid talking about misogyny). We’re well-represented. We know that one day we can choose who we want to marry. We can go out in public with whoever we love and not worry about enduring abuse, whether it's physical or emotional. And yet, people like me make these signs and have these assumptions. Wanna know what’s messed up about that?
YOU SHOULDN’T OBJECTIFY MINORITIES AND ADOPT THEM LIKE POUND PUPPIES JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE IN A POSITION OF POWER. YOU AREN’T HELPING.
It isn’t the job of allies to be “saviors” or to treat those who are marginalized as pets or objects. Being an ally means a whole hell of a lot more than having the Klaine kiss on DVR.
Specifically, what makes me upset is that the people I’ve met who’ve felt this ownership over gay people are the last ones to stand up for real injustice. I watched as girls in my high school’s GSA came to meetings only to fawn over the president, who happened to be a gay male. I watched as one of these same girls rolled her eyes as a less-popular, less “fun” gay male walked by. “Faggot,” she muttered, her Day of Silence button with the rainbow sticker bouncing on her backpack as she headed off to class.
Try to think of it this way: take any minority that you identify yourself as. Hispanic. Black. Female. Lower-class. Disabled. What if one day we all decided that it was “cool” to be friends with you, but it didn’t stop us from calling you the n-word. Or slut-shaming you. People only liked you when you were reinforcing those cute stereotypes about your minority. Otherwise, wow, you’re a huge drag. You’re not the fun Hispanic/black/female/lower-class/disabled friend! You’re a bummer, dude! Peace!
I’m not saying that shipping characters is bad. I'm not saying that liking gay characters is bad. I’m not saying that straight girls can’t be fans of shows with gay characters. I love Enjorlas/Grantaire as much as anyone who saw Les Miserables five times over winter break. But we have to make sure that when we look at these characters, we’re treating them the same way that we treat straight couples. Are we placing ourselves above them? Then it’s time to take a step back and adjust our perception.
We can’t treat minorities like they are ours. Because they aren’t. Gay men aren’t objects, they are people. They have aspirations and problems and dreams and good days and bad days and different interests and hobbies and friends and enemies. They are just as complex as you or me or anyone else on earth.
So next time you say you’re an ally, realize that being an ally is not about shipping a couple or reblogging a picture or having an equality sticker on your laptop. These are all good things. But being an ally – being a supporter of gay rights, being a supporter of gay marriage, being an advocate for equality – means standing up for what is right. It means being the one who says “this isn’t right, this needs to change.” It’s about doing what is right not because two gay men might make a cute couple. It’s doing what’s right because two gay men are two human beings and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.