A debate can go one of two ways: wonderfully impactful or a painful waste of everyone’s time. Whenever the former happens, it’s usually due to the fact that people on both sides can respect the other person’s stance and where it stems from. It can get even better when those with opposing views can be bothered to dip his or her pinky toes outside of their respective bubbles. I feel like this should go without saying, but again, folks on Al Gore’s Internet remind me every single day that even the most simplest idea needs constant repeating.
So while I appreciate the passion behind Bradley Stern’s piece “Same Love: On Madonna, the Gay Community and Why That Macklemore Performance Mattered,” I want to spray it with Raid max Bug Barrier all the same. Stern’s essential grip is that he feels as if some gay people on social media were being too snarky if not too petty to see the bigger picture of Macklemore’s Grammy performance of “Same Love.” Perhaps Stern’s time is limited as he appears too busy to try and figure out why some folks refuse to shut up and think like him.
Stern writes: “I would encourage writers, YouTubers and Twitter personalities to step outside their reactionary bubble and recognize the greater good: Stop tearing down the people who are waging the same battle, whatever you suppose their true intentions actually are. Madonna? Macklemore? Please. These aren’t our real enemies.”
He goes on to say: “The real enemies are the homophobic politicians and world leaders committed to outlawing LGBT ‘propaganda.’ There are real, horrifying events happening every single day in the world — and if you truly believe the biggest problem is that a straight White man ‘using us’ for record sales by publicly supporting LGBT equality on a nationally televised awards show in front of a tearstained audience, then you’re not genuinely fighting the same fight."
This essay is so White, I imagine he had to slather it with sunscreen before letting the ideas out his brain.
I will say that the most entertaining part of Stern’s Father Knows Best-themed musing is when he gets to the part in which he decides to offer a “history lesson” that is drenched in vanilla and devoid of a circular view.
Yes, Madonna was a pro-gay rights advocate promoted HIV/AIDS awareness long before it happened, but by that same token, this is also the culture vulture who got “inspiration” from Black and Latino gay men on the ball scene and went on to make millions while many of those very people died penniless and still largely marginalized. Oh, and keeping up with the “history lesson,” while HIV/AIDS awareness has done wonders with respect to saving so many gay men from certain death, there are very recent reports that prove how much of those efforts weren’t directly aimed at gay men of color.
Bottom line, though, is that Stern is operating from the space that suggests allies are above reproach because us gays just ought to be happy some heterosexuals are profiting off of the hurdles homosexuals face in our lives.
It reminded me of a tweet that was sent to Saeed Jones, the LGBT editor over at Buzzfeed over the weekend.
Right after a few gay people booed and hissed, a friend asked me what the problem was. As I explained to her, while one can be thankful that some people are choosing to do the right thing – i.e. not be a bigot – they are not owed any special treatment over it. Can we not have standards, too?
Macklemore and other pop singers like him (Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga) hopped on an obvious shift in culture. That is pretty much what most pop acts do anyway: they ride the cultural waves. It can indeed often be a bit self-serving, “well intentioned” or not.
Was it completely a sure thing for Macklemore to release “Same Love?” No, but nothing ever is and Macklemore can thank any Black pop acts who have actually loved and made love to someone of the same sex for making it easier for him to teach us something we were already teaching ourselves.
It should also be said that these acts are not necessarily waging the “same battles” as gay people are. It’s more like they tagged themselves into an already existing fight. That’s fine. After all, the point of advocacy is to reach people outside of the group in order to forge alliances and enact needed change. Even so, let’s be clear: This is an LGBT party and while they are honored, or in some cases, uninvited guests, we’re still left with clean up duty. Moreover, gay people don’t owe any of them a damn thing.
By the way, to the Bradley Sterns of the world: If you’re so passionate about folks fighting the same fight genuinely, why aren’t you joining folks like me in making sure that gays of color are being recognized for their contributions? Too busy shimmying to “Thrift Shop” and “We Can’t Stop?” I thought so. I appreciate the idea of not always being so reactionary, but we should also respect a different perspective. Gay ain’t just one way---no matter how many White men I see on TV.
Straight allies are not above criticism, and based on what I’m reading out here, neither are other gay people.