WE MAY LOVE LOOKING AT THE STARS, BUT LGBT PEOPLE ARE STILL IN THE GUTTER, SAYS CAMPBELL X
Be your own role model, says Campbell X
One of the most difficult things about growing up LGBT, for most of us, is that our childhood is devoid of people in our immediate family or social circles who reflect our burgeoning identity and orientation in positive, healthy ways.
In fact, our most intimate interactions are with people who are at worst openly, or at least tacitly transphobic, biphobic or homophobic. The gender binary is enforced in families, religion, the state and educational system.
In addition, even though there might seem to be more societal acceptance of lesbian or bisexual orientation, it is often conditional. “Good gays” are supposed to be in monogamous (married) relationships, and toe the line which dictates that girls will be “girls” and boys will be “boys”. Gendernonconforming individuals, especially transgender people, are still denied full acceptance. Our society holds up a mirror to LGBT people, but those of us who are unpalatable to dominant culture, become vampires, unable to see ourselves reflected in the mainstream mirror.
With such a dearth of images and representations of ourselves we look for symbols and signs from people who are in the public eye. These gay icons or dykons somehow speak to our desires and aspirations. But there is something inherently problematic about seeking affirmation through celebrities by treating them as role models.
Twenty-first century celebrities overwhelmingly come from the sports and entertainment worlds. The ones whose images scream out to us from magazines and all our screens are not people but products selling erotic appeal and largely unattainable dreams. They are manufactured by an entertainment industry skillfully manipulated by corporations to seduce us into parting with our cash. Their “opinions” are carefully filtered and blanched to appeal to the largest share of the mass market. To look to them, as LGBT people, in order to have a healthy image of ourselves, is to look into a void, a black hole that will never be filled.
In addition, global celebrity culture has overwhelmingly become led by Anglo/american cultural output which is dominated by hetero-normative and homo-normative “stars”, who reinforce gender binaries and Eurocentrism. As they strike a pose for the paparazzi, or snog another woman at an award ceremony, we LGBT consumers become hungry for more. Celebrities, like sugary pop, just make us thirstier.
How is it that even though almost every celebrity now openly supports LGBT people and causes, trans women are still being murdered with impunity, and the British government estimates there are 39,000 homophobic crimes every year? It seems like while we are looking up to the stars, we LGBT people are still in the gutter. Street harassment is off the scale, even though LGBT people are the latest edgy BFF.
As LGBT people, we have become taken in by a compelling celebrity role-model sales pitch. But there is an ancient saying which advises “caveat emptor” – buyer beware!
While it is important that people who are in the public eye continue to speak out vigorously against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, LGBT people cannot rely on others to make real lasting changes in our daily lives. The onus is on each and every one of us to challenge micro-aggressions in our peer groups, families, intimate relationships because our greatest role models are OURSELVES.
If we want to see true change, we should heed the words of Ghandi: “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” Or, as old school feminists would say: “The personal is political.”
Homo-normative “stars” reinforce gender binaries and Eurocentrism