10 April 2010

Carelessness

"No matter how cynical you get,
it's impossible to keep up"
- Lily Tomlin

Barely had I cleared away the streamers and confetti from my first Dumb Dora Awards celebration than new nominees started presenting themselves. "No!" I cried. "It's too soon! Shouldn't there be at least six months between awards ceremonies?" I resisted, but it soon became apparent to me that ignorance follows its own timetable.

Over and over again, I was astonished by routine displays of arrested intelligence among Gay activists. I saw idiocy on parade; buffooneries by the dozen; lunacy galore! There were clowns to the left of me and jokers to the right, each new one more embarrassing than the one that came before. Believe me, darlings, I was simply spoiled for choice!

Yet somehow, I did manage to choose, narrowing down ten winners from scores of finalists. Now here we are again, gathered together to honor the dishonorable; my eyes glisten with tears as I watch my presenters line up behind the Imbecile's Podium, cradling the dreaded tin jackass statuettes in their arms. These tokens of contempt will all be in the hands of deserving recipients when this evening is over. Conductor, cue the orchestra; stagehands, draw back the curtain! Let the Second Dumb Dora Awards begin!

The Dumb Dora Award for Carelessness Goes to
Wayne Besen

DUMB DORA

Wayne Besen is the founder of Truth Wins Out, an organization dedicated to debunking the “ex-Gay” movement. He routinely sends out press releases to announce his lectures. A few months ago, he appeared at an event sponsored by CRANE, a group based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. CRANE promotes itself as an advocate “for Charlotte’s Lesbian, Gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (sic) and intersex” citizens. Besen included this motto verbatim in his latest press release, ignoring the derogatory usage.

Such uncharacteristic carelessness puzzled me, so I emailed him with my concerns. He defended himself by saying he’d merely quoted CRANE’S mission statement. I cautioned Besen against letting sexual slurs slip out in his publicity materials. He was unrepentant, stating: “I don’t like the term (queer). It appears in nothing I write. However, other people have a different view of the word . . . I was not going to come into a town as an outsider and tell people what they can and cannot say. That is the kind of thing that causes unnecessary infighting . . . so, for today, ‘queer' shall survive.” I was appalled!

Later in our email exchange, he accused me of “creating battles (among Gay activists) where none need exist.” If anybody ought to know better, it’s Wayne Besen! Nobody’s more familiar with the tools “ex-Gay” ministries use to advance their ignorance. Their main vehicle is the concept of Gay people as “queer”. The idea that we are abnormal reinforces harmful myths, fuels internalized shame and sabotages our equality struggle. Does it matter whether our enemies or our allies are the ones embracing this false concept? No! The damage is just as great either way.

Wayne Besen has temporarily lost his grip on reality! Nothing could be more absurd than saying you’re against doing something, then doing it while still claiming to be against it! Nothing could be more wrong than ranking unity in the Gay Rights movement higher than the goals of the Gay Rights movement. Gay activists cannot indulge in the casual use of sexual slurs for any reason! What’s more, we must denounce their casual use whenever and wherever it occurs. Besen must do this if he wants his brand of activism to be 100% effective. Then he’s got to walk the damn talk! Until he’s ready to do that, there’ll be a Dumb Dora Award with his name on it.

Here's an excerpt from an email I sent to Wayne Besen, in response to his accusation that I'm divisive:

Future generations of LGBT folk are counting on us. We may not be able to leave them a legacy of full equality, but we can at least leave them a legacy of dignity. I did not grow up with that legacy, and my God, how I missed having it! I was bashed repeatedly as a child, both physically and verbally. I had to endure being called "queer", "f*ggot" and "p*ssy" before I was even ten years old! That's how I was perceived. People felt they had a right to slur me because society failed to promote respect for effeminate boys. I try to promote respect for LGBT folk with everything I write. I don't want to be responsible in any way, shape or form for another child having to endure those hurtful labels . . .

Trying to fight the oppressor while simultaneously inviting him to speak and think of your kind as "queers", "f*ggots" and "d*kes" is both tragically dumb and the biggest waste of time and resources there ever was. We’ve ceded over half the battle to our enemy . . . don't we want future generations of LGBT folk to experience lives that are better than what we live today? That won't happen if we pass down to them a concept of LGBT identity as "queer". We'll only have helped future generations of heterosexists to marginalize them. If it's not about making conditions better for those who succeed us on this planet, Wayne, then what's the f***ing point?

The labels we use are every bit as important as the lobbying we do and the funds we raise. Hell, they’re more important! We have no damn right calling ourselves Gay Rights crusaders unless we use and promote language that's uplifting. Uplifting language, not only in the judgment of an elite cadre of ghettoized activists, but in the judgment of mainstream society. The language of our oppressors will never meet that standard. Never!

My feelings haven't changed one iota since I sent him this message.

Next: The Dumb Dora Award for Irresponsibility