Diva (UK) - - Contents -

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

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