Sunday, July 19, 2009

Is Gay the new Black?

They call it insulting to equate the civil rights movement with the gay rights movement. Perhaps because there is so much racial discrimination still today, and perhaps because instead of saying discrimination should be eradicated for all, many in the black movement would rather talk about who has suffered most.

There's an essay out by LZ Granderson that epitomizes this attitude that the blacks beat out gays because they've suffered more; nigger is always more offensive than faggot, and therefore gay is definitely not the new black. Pam's House Blend analyzes this piece, saying that essentially what he's saying is that if you are black and gay and have two people coming at you with a baseball bat and one's screaming "nigger!" and the other "faggot!" you would be...less afraid of the one yelling "faggot!" and thus she concludes that we should look not at who has suffered more, but instead focus on where the equality movements intersect.

Last week, I was working on the set of another Jennifer Aniston film (the Bounty) and she's looking out her window. She sees a gay couple kissing goodnight on the stoop of a building. It was me who was doing the kissing. But when I get to set with the other guy, there was also a straight couple shooting the exact same kiss. They actually shot two versions! One gay, one straight. They'll use only one version (and we can guess which one it will be)...but it was a bold effort for Columbia Pictures, right?

Now consider how ABC recently went to about puting on same-sex episodes of Dancing with the Stars! They set it all up with out gay stars, filmed it, but then the reality of that reality show was just too much to bear. ABC couldn't handle the scandal of two men foxtrotting, so they re-filmed it all with opposite-sex partners.

You can see the gay version online at OUT. And you can presumably see the "regular" version on ABC. It's reminiscent of how back in the Hollywood heydey, they used to film the same film with all-whites, and then separately with all-blacks.

So separate but not equal is still separate but not equal. And while gay may not be the new black, we should really stop competing in the oppression olympics and start focusing on the similarities in our shared struggles, not forgetting that many are both black and gay. For those who are, why should they want--or have to--choose between the two? Who then is our next Bayard Rustin?

Also at June/July column is now up online. Grandma Must Die!


youyong28 said...

I suppose there are many reasons why blacks do not equate gay rights with their own struggle. One guess, though, is that blacks are more conservative than whites and see homosexuality as unnatural and against God's laws. This, of course, is delusion and very difficult to combat. We, as gay men, have to do our best to fight against this delusion and help those people, of all races and creeds, to come to a realization that whom you love and want to have sex with matters not at all in matters of morality. Of course the struggles are the same, but blacks have suffered since the beginning of our nation's history, so it is understandable that they feel tha way. Nevertheless, we have to change that attitude. It's true that a non-flambouyant gay man can walk down the street unnoticed, but the inner turmoil thrust upon us by deluded religious leaders and thoughtless laymen is probably more destructive to our egos and our well-being.

elisa said...

I would love to see on set in a movie with Jennifer Aniston, even if it was only for a kiss... I bet it would be a fantastic kiss and the most interesting part of the movie!

And I love the video with Chad Allen dancing, so much that I cross posted it (giving you credit of course): that would have been an interesting tv show.


Tony said...

Hey Jesse -

Quick reaction to your excellent post.
You're so right, the pissing contest ("oppression olympics") is so counterproductive.

There is one fundamental similarity between the struggles of blacks and gays that should over-ride all the jockeying for position: DOMA, DADT, and the myriad of state-level anti-gay statutes and constitutional provisions are just as unconstitutional as any of the old Jim Crow and "Separate But Equal" policies.

The US Supreme Court got part way there in Lawrence v. Texas. Justice O'Connor's concurring opinion in that case lays out the logic of how anti-gay laws and policies can be seen to violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. But neither she nor the Court took the final step of declaring them so.

Looks like it's gonna take the equivalent of "Brown v Board of Education" to get over the last hurdle for the gay community. I'd say that's an undeniable similarity between the two civil rights struggles.

Bob Frank said...

Blacks have been fighting discrimination so long that they may feel that no other group could possibly have suffered the way they have. Perhaps it's because many blacks identify closely with their churches, where they are taught that homosexuality is a sin. Of course, this is delusion. It's true that a non-flamboyant gay man can walk down the street anonymously without being perceived as gay. However, we have to deal psychologically with other people's delusions, which can also take a heavy toll on our lives. Of course the gay struggle can be equated with the black struggle, but we shouldn't be surprised if our argument is rejected. Better we should turn our energies to removing the delusion rampant in people's minds from equally deluded religious and political leaders.

Tony said...

Hey Jesse -

I sent my earlier comment about your civil rights post unaware that David Boies, one of the two bigshot establishment lawyers who recently filed a Federal law suit contesting the Prop 8 decision, had written an op-ed piece that appeared on Monday in the Wall Street Journal, of all places.

Here's an excerpt:

"...there is no legitimate state policy underlying Proposition 8. The occasional suggestion that marriages between people of different sexes may somehow be threatened by marriages of people of the same sex does not withstand discussion. It is difficult to the point of impossibility to envision two love-struck heterosexuals contemplating marriage to decide against it because gays and lesbians also have the right to marry; it is equally hard to envision a couple whose marriage is troubled basing the decision of whether to divorce on whether their gay neighbors are married or living in a domestic partnership. And even if depriving lesbians of the right to marry each other could force them into marrying someone they do not love but who happens to be of the opposite sex, it is impossible to see how that could be thought to be as likely to lead to a stable, loving relationship as a marriage to the person they do love.
Moreover, there is no longer any credible contention that depriving gays and lesbians of basic rights will cause them to change their sexual orientation. Even if there was, the attempt would be constitutionally defective. But, in fact, the sexual orientation of gays and lesbians is as much a God-given characteristic as the color of their skin or the sexual orientation of their straight brothers and sisters. It is also a condition that, like race, has historically been subject to abusive and often violent discrimination. It is precisely where a minority's basic human rights are abridged that our Constitution's promise of due process and equal protection is most vital."

The piece is significant not only because of its legal arguments, but because of where it appeared, the nation's major national (and editorially conservative) business journal.

Here's the WSJ link,:
It's also at Towleroad, which is where I found it.

The Blackout Blog said...

It's really easy to compare the gay and civil rights movements. It's also really easy to point out that gays never had slavery and Jim Crow laws to the extent that blacks did. That is what it is.

But when it turns into oppressed people fighting each other rather than working together to achieve equality, it's a real problem for everyone involved.