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Gay Magical Elves (and the most annoying 'pro-gay' meme in the universe!)

Straight allies of the world, we love you! But we need to get a few things stra-- um... clear.

I kind of dread that if you've made your way to the little slice of web that is this blog, I'm preaching to the converted, but I must preach, nonetheless. I, like many others, am sick and tired of the - yes, well-intentioned - condescension of some people in their efforts to be 'suppotive' of LGBT rights. The problem? That they have a very specific, pre-packaged idea of what gay people are, or should be.

An idea that's ridiculous, infantilising and makes my skin crawl.

Specifically, it's the gay man in the role of reliable side-kick (usually of either the 'sassy' or 'cute' variety), thereby relegating them to the status of a must-have accessory. No, we're not talking genuine friendships that form between gay and straight people here. Those are wonderful. We're talking about the gay friend as fashion statement, whose purpose is to not only show how enlightened and liberal the accessory-holder apparently is, but also serve as a curious and disconcerting form of domestic help, typically a fashion consultant, personal shopper, dance partner, all-round helpful guy with no 'guy' hangups...

Oh hell, this meme, which has been doing the rounds of self-proclaimed progressive Facebook groups for a while now, sums up the problem in one neat, super-obnoxious image...
 
The gentleman represented in this meme (let's entertain for a moment the statistically unlikely possibility that the model is actually gay) could be said to embody what author Bret Easton Ellis called The Gay Man as Magical Elf, and whether you like Ellis or not, (or found some of his Tweets in the past year - referenced in the opinion piece - offensive or not) he raises a valid point about an insidious form of anti-gay thinking that doesn't even acknowledge its own destructiveness. Why's that? Because on a superficial level, it looks like support. Hell, it's intended to be support, and that's exactly what its perpetrators have convinced themselves they're offering.

But first, let's shoot down this meme, one panel at a time.

1) No, straight guys. I like men because that's how I was wired. I'm glad this works out for you too, but it really wasn't designed for your benefit.
2) No. I dance with my female (and male) friends because they're my friends.
3) No. I'll give my opinion if asked, but the fact is, my fashion sense is no better than any of my straight guy friends (and in many cases worse!) so if anything, I offer you cluelessness in solidarity. And that's okay.
4) No. Expecting to be treated as an equal does not mean wanting to follow every mainstream institution. It means having the freedom to do so if I choose.
This is not a hard distinction to make. To be honest, I don't much like kids. I like cats. And puppies. Can we have puppies? I like puppies!
5) No. I'd take a guy. And if my school didn't allow that, I'd want a damn good reason why not. If none of my heterosexual classmates are bringing same-sex dates, why would I isolate myself by being the gay guy 'taking one for the team?' Oh yeah, about that. If idiots in the mainstream didn't make the unpopular girl feel so 'ugly' in the first place, this wouldn't be an issue. And finally, if I do take her, it's because I think she's cool and I want to go to the prom with her, not because I feel the need to infantilise her with some lie.
6) I like pretty colours and sugar highs. And I don't need to explain that to anyone, but it's not linked to my sexuality.


Yes, the meme is a joke. It's not meant to be taken seriously. But when magazines like Cosmo start running articles on why a 'gay bestie' is the must-have for this Summer or whatever, it's not funny anymore.

I am truly sorry if shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and RuPaul's Drag U have created this unrealistic idea that gay people are somehow the go-to experts on all things style, able to pick up the pieces of someone's shattered self-esteem and rock them out with a new sense of self-worth in a few hours. Hey, if a gay person wants to embody some or even all of these stereotypes... why not? But the key phrase there is if a gay person wants...

As I said, I'm probably speaking to the already converted on this page. But just in case... please. If you suspect there may even be a hint of expectation, lurking somewhere in your brain that the above image is at all representative of what a gay man is, or how you should relate to him. Please. Please, please, PLEASE toss it, and stamp out its miserable existence without mercy.

If you want to support gay equality - be it for your family, friends, or just because it's the right thing to do, that's great. But do make sure you're relating to us as real people while you're doing it, and not as wingmen, must-have besties or Mr Easton Ellis' Magical Elves. That'd be lovely. Thanks!

Comments

  1. I am looking forward to meeting you at GRL - but you intimidate the heck out of me. I think you have a higher appreciation and understanding of Literature than I do. I'm a computer geek reading for fun and I think its great when authors write into their work ideas that make you think, pause, and then back to the enjoyment of the book. And not to worry the intimidation factor will not stop me from having a good time and getting to know you and everyone else.

    Your post is always something I think about. I've been volunteering at the local HRC committees and events - and I always think someone is going to tell me to go home - because it's not my fight. That hasn't happened - just I always think it will - but it's also the right thing to do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Apparently some HIV-negative volunteers and workers at AIDS organisations went through that. They were scorned for not 'understanding' what their colleagues were going through, and they probably didn't. But it didn't make their help any less valuable. There's a huge difference between that and embracing someone as a fashion accessory under the guise of 'support'.

      Good writing, I think, whether it's non-fiction, a novel, or a simple blog post, should challenge preconceived ideas and give culture a proverbial poke in the ribs whenever it starts to get comfortable. And when it's comfortable for the mainstream culture to see gay men (or any group) as all fitting a certain profile, it's definitely time to shake it out of that chair and remind it that diversity really is the whole point of this game.

      Delete
  2. Hey Christian,

    I'm glad you wrote on this. I admit, I'm the converted, but I still appreciate how you articulated your point. Regardless of the intentions behind these memes, they perpetuate stereotypes that prevent people from seeing (or recognizing) the diversity of personalities that exist within the gay community. Each meme only reminds viewers of the mainstream stereotypes of gay men and then explain why those are actually good things. What would people think if a Jewish-ally campaign created memes with a guy in a kippah with phrases like “does taxes for you,” “can always help find a sale,” “Santa can give you more presents,” and “more food for you when he fasts”?

    As your post points out, this “magical elf” role doesn't make gay men equal to straight men. Instead, it presents the advantages that they offer to straight people (as an accessory). I would just love to see a similar meme with a straight man, pointing out all the great qualities that he offers his gay peers. It's absurd. Piggybacking off the Ellis remark, it's interesting to note, regardless of the model's sexuality, the memes present the most heteronormative “gay” man in the world. He's white, muscular, shirtless, smiling, hairless (look at those armpits!). Surely, all gay people have six packs and are white, tan, and well-groomed. On some level, I think this plays in to making him appear “harmless,” because he's projecting his socially appropriate role (at least, as presented by mainstream media). Perhaps I'm over-thinking this, as I tend to do. However, if a Mammy archetype was put on pro-African-American rights memes saying, “She'll make you friend chicken,” I can't imagine people would be okay with that.

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