In 2008 I read a paper on sexuality and children’s literature at a conference in Chicago alongside people with the PhD’s.
DAMN, right? A twenty year old undergrad speaking at a conference about children’s literature.
Full disclosure: it was a Harry Potter conference.
Those are the minor details. I think of this paper every once in a while because I still occasionally receive comments on Deviant Art where I posted it back in 2008 (for anyone who is interested, you can read the paper I read here). And I’ve been thinking about it more recently since the National Organization for Marriage recently denounced two gay superheroes getting married in the latest issue of X-Men. (Also, my boyfriend and I had the inevitable conversation this week about what a Harry Potter fanatic I am. Don’t worry. He’s cool with it.)
In the past four years a lot has changed in the world of queer politics. And a lot of that change has been positive. And not just generally positive; it’s been overwhelmingly so.
We have, for the moment, a president who is remarkably pro-LGB. I thought at the beginning of his term, he would be for the queer community what JFK was to African-Americans: an unwilling combatant, someone who dragged his feet towards progress. And although some people will argue that he has just done that leading up to his statements in an interview recently saying that he is comfortable with the idea of marriage equality, I believe that Rachel Maddow over at MSNBC is right-on, asserting that he has done more than anyone else before him in the Oval Office to promote the welfare of the LGB community. Saying that personally he is comfortable with marriage equality is just one more step, one more plank in an incredibly pro-gay presidency.
Does he have a perfect record? No. But he’s gone above and beyond what we’ve been able to expect from the nation’s highest office leading up to now.
Marriage equality and civil unions are becoming less and less of an abnormality. Back in 2008 when I gave my reading, we were at California, Iowa and Massachusetts (if I remember correctly). We’re a long way from full equality, but according to marriageequality.org 42% of Americans live in states that recognize some form of union between same-sex couples.
In the media, LGBT people are gaining more exposure and acceptance from Adam Lambert’s run in American Idol in 2009 to the popularity of shows like Modern Family and Ugly Betty with prominent queer characters to the success of post-Brokeback Mountain films centered on gay characters like A Single Man. And how could one fail to mention GLEE? What about Queen of the Gays Lady Gaga?
Gay is becoming cool and this terrifies the Religious Right. They realize that they are losing their grip on the culture – that gay no longer automatically equates with “freak” or “abomination” or “perverted” the way that it used to.
So change is happening – change is here. Even though I’m only 24 years old, I can’t believe how different of a world we live in already. It’s been such a fast change, it’s tempting to use words like “revolution”.
Homophobia isn’t dead, though. And, yes I know, RR. You’re not homophobic. You “hate the sin, love the sinner” – which in practical terms means making queer people feel so ashamed and revolted with themselves that they are forced to the margins, that they must resort to discreet one-night stands, they must deign to transient relationships, fake heterosexual relationships, “correct” their same-sex attraction, have celibacy forced on them by well-meaning straight people who will never know what it would feel like to believe that they will never have the opportunity to fulfill their desire for a healthy, loving relationship.
I could take the route of ignoring you and discrediting you the way most LGBT people my generation do. I refuse to do so. You are on the wrong side of history. You don’t have to be, though.
But you know what? I still bother with you because unlike lots of other queers, I really do believe that you are well-intentioned most of the time. Maybe not all of the time, but most of it. If you really do believe that I’m going to hell because I’m gay, then by all means, please try and stop me from being gay. Try to stop the sun from rising. At least it shows that you care.
I’ll tell you what you can’t do, though.
You can’t argue that same-sex couples getting married in a kids’ comic book is forcing a same-sex marriage worldview (as called by the NOM) without acknowledging yourselves that exclusion would be forcing your own anti-SSM worldview.
Even though I am only 24, I grew up in a different era. An era that was extremely heterosexist – especially when it came to media targeting young adults. I lived in the Bible Belt of the Midwest and didn’t know any gay people as a kid or as a teenager, at least no one who was out. Gay characters in TV shows and movies were few and far between if they existed at all, and when they were present they were generally there for comic relief and not sympathetically portrayed.
Guess what, NOM/RR? Even living in an environment rife with anti-gay, homophobic sentiment, I still turned out to be a faggot. And before you go there, I had a great, Christian family, an awesome dad who loves me (and ergo hasn’t tried to beat the gay out of me) and they are all shining examples of what it means to be followers of Christ.
The kicker is that it wasn’t Sponge Bob Square Pants or Teletubbies that “turned me” – but one of your propaganda videos in my 12th grade Bible class. The video showed that all gay relationships are predatory, that all gay men have HIV/AIDS, that we all live in nightclubs and bars looking for one-night stands.
I was the only gay person I knew. I came out to my best friend a day or two later because I couldn’t take the lies that you spread any more.
NOM, you can call out X-Men for “forcing their worldview” but you’ve been doing a damn good job of doing just the same. I would do – and I will do – anything I could for a generation of kids to grow up not feeling like no one could love them, like no one could understand what they’re going through, like maybe their best option is to kill themselves because of religious organizations like you who tell them, directly or indirectly, that they’re “freaks”, “mistakes”, “abominations” or worse.
A homosexual offender who still loves Jesus. And Harry Potter.