I follow an awful lot of LGBT news on the internet, and they take up more than half of my news feed on Facebook and my Twitter feed. Most of the stuff I see don’t always turn out to be newsworthy or educational or activist-ic though, sadly enough. They even make for an empathy fatigue from time to time – and I’d like to talk about that in some post later on. Since the 2012 London Olympics started (and even a little before the opening), there have been an explosion of news-ish writings about queer athletes. “These gay/lesbian athletes will be participating in the Games, these will not.“ “This gay torch-bearer shared a kiss with partner in public.” “These gay/lesbian athletes have won these medals, these haven’t.”
It’s all good. It’s actually great that we don’t have to hide ourselves anymore. We can go out and do things in public like “normal” people – like play sports, show PDA, be in the news and on TV. They’re visible. And although I have stressed the importance of visibility of the LGBT community so often, all theses news make me wonder: Are we overemphasizing the “gay” label on these athletes?
The answer is a maybe. On the “yes, we’re overdoing it” side: We have these media personnels writing random stuff about these queer athletes which is totally irrelevant to their sports performance. Sure they have their coming out stories and struggles and such inspirational stuff, but the tone I get from the media is, “They’re gay, so are you, so pay more attention to them than other athletes.” Sometimes, it doesn’t even seem to be important what sports they play. And these athletes aren’t even talking about their personal lives at this point. They deserve as much attention as every other athlete.
On the “no, it’s cool” side: (I have no idea about LGBT openness in the previous Olympic Games.) Due to the recent advancements in LGBT rights movements, there is a record breaking number of out athletes in the games. The gay and lesbian stereotypes are effeminate men and butch women respectively, and it is hard for queer sports players to come out – since traditional sports value masculinity for males and femininity for females. This currently highlighted outness only goes to show the fading away of that masculinity-femininity barrier for queer players in the sports world. Also, queer athletes, either consciously or unconsciously, also represent the whole of the queer community besides their home countries. They themselves may be out and in the spotlight, but the community as a whole still remains largely underrepresented, misrepresented, discriminated and oppressed. It’s not their winning medals that matters to us – but it’s all good if they do. What’s important for the LGBT community is that they can be out in public doing great things. After all I’m seeing Americans saying stuff like, “This [insert some ethnic minority in the US] won this medal in this sports.” In the Olympics, you may not only officially represent a country as a sports person, but you also unofficially represent other communities which make up your identity.
It’s just like when Anderson Cooper came out. We don’t need to be told he’s gay. We kinda knew already. But the fact that he was an accomplished top-notch journalist added to the empowerment of the LGBT community. With these athletes, it is empowering that they are able to represent countries and humankind as queer people. But what the news media should be doing more though is: highlight those queer athletes’ coming out stories and how they’d struggled throughout their careers concerning their sexuality, and put down inspirational and educational stories for both queer and non-queer audiences.
Taking a step back, I’d say I was overreacting about the press putting the “gay” label on queer athletes. They’re LGBT news media. Of course, they’d do that. I recently came to know also that, other general media don’t pay much attention, if at all, to the LGBT aspect of the queer athletes at all. We should ask ourselves this: Is it being left out because it doesn’t matter if an athlete is gay or straight, or because the mention of one’s sexuality is still taboo?
Personally, I’d take the “gay” label anytime – well, anytime that’s relevant. Being gay touches a lot of areas of my life. It affects how I express myself and how I express myself is more than half of my life. You can relate my fashion sense, writing style, artistic creations, music choice, pastime activities, etc. “gay“, but call what I cook or the food I eat “gay” I’ll punch you in the face – no, I’ll kick you in the crotch … although there are foods you shouldn’t eat because they’d mess up you and your partner when you’re bottoming.
This brings us to another question: Is it ok to call queer artists’ works “gay”?
The answer here is also maybe. As the “gay” label is important on athletes because sexuality can be a hinderer in their training – probably also with their teammates – the label is also important on artists because personal preferences affect artistic sensitivity. Like I just said, being gay affects how I express myself and thus most everything in my life. Just the other day, an African American friend was differentiating the oppressions that black Americans have faced from those the LGBT people face by stating that race is a status while sexual orientation is a behaviour. Another friend problematizes his statement by pointing out that she is straight whether or not she is having sex, that she doesn’t just stay asexual and become heterosexual once she’s about to have sex. Interesting conversation there, and I would agree with the girl. After all, we’ve been hailing, “Born this way!” Haven’t we? Being gay is both a status and a way of life for me – a status as in the sexual/romantic attraction I feel toward other men is natural and innate, and what I do about it, like my dating life or my sex life, is behavioural.
Artistic expression is behavioural and the context of the an artist’s work derives from how he perceives the things that surround his life. As an example, what would surround the life of a novelist who happens to be gay? Obviously, they’d feel more comfortable and more reasonable imagining a dramatic same-sex romance and writing about it. Not so long ago, I discovered the Scissor Sisters. (Yeah, I know. What have I been doing all this time I’ve been out without listening to the Scissor Sisters?) All the men in the band are gay or something. And their old (straight) drummer had to tell his mom he’s not joining a gay band – suggesting it was just gonna be musical, not gay. Guess what? They became like the gayest group ever, and you can legitimately call them that! They do dance/disco music. And read the lyrics, ’nuff said! I also feel like talking about Pytor Tchaikovsky, but this post’s too long already. Next time, maybe …