The Adam Lambert Effect

When I was in high school, I was confused about my sexuality — and that’s an understatement. I knew that I was attracted to girls, but I also knew that I was attracted to other guys. Since then I’ve reached the conclusion that I’m bisexual, which is to say that I’m attracted to people of both sexes and I’m open to eventually falling in love with someone of either sex. Because I was uncertain at the time, I chose to keep my confusion largely to myself. In the parlance of gay culture, I was in the closet.

That didn’t stop my peers at my Catholic high school from picking up on my sexual ambiguity. Maybe it was because I was quieter than most of the other guys. Maybe it was because I was as awkward around the quarterback of the football team as I was around the head cheerleader. Maybe it was because I didn’t play any sports and I was more likely to be a girl’s best friend than her boyfriend.

Whatever tipped them off, the kids I went to school with thought I was gay, and they — especially the other guys — let me know it. They bullied and humiliated me. They made fun of me behind my back and right in front of me, using the colorful pejoratives that most are familiar with. For most of my freshman year I hid in the second floor boys’ restroom instead of going to the cafeteria for lunch. When I thought about signing up for the wrestling team during my sophomore year, one of the wrestlers caught wind of it and advised one of my friends that I wasn’t cut out to wrestle and implied that I was only thinking about joining the team to check out the other guys in the locker room and maybe cop a feel on the mat. I never signed up for the wrestling team.

This isn’t meant to be some personal sob story. Things eventually improved for me in high school, as things in high school often do. By my junior year the upperclassmen who had bullied me had graduated and the neanderthals in my own class had moved on to bullying underclassmen. At the end of my junior year some strange reversal occurred and I was elected student council vice president for the following year. As a senior, in addition to serving on student council, I was the editor of the school newspaper.

I know I was one of the lucky ones. I have mostly fond memories of my last two years in high school and the bullying I endured the first two years never got physical. Unlike a lot of other gay boys in high school, I never had to suffer the humiliation of black eyes and bloody noses, or worse. I only had to fear the next slur; I didn’t have to fear for my safety.

This is the context in which I see Adam Lambert’s raunchy and controversial performance at the American Music Awards. I’m not one for censorship and I acknowledge his point that it’s the parent’s responsibility to monitor what his or her child sees on television, not the performer’s. I also acknowledge the counterpoint others have made, that the awards were broadcast live during primetime and nobody anticipated that his performance would be so outrageous.

I would also point out to Mr. Lambert that if he wants to claim the freedom to sexualize his performances as much as he wants, he also needs to acknowledge a network’s freedom to cancel his appearances as Good Morning America subsequently did. He might also want to think about the freedom of consumers to take a pass on spending their money to support an egotistical performer who is mediocre at best and the cultural trash that he produces and calls art.

But really, when I think about Adam Lambert, when I see him chosen as one of Barbara Walters’ most fascinating people — I don’t think about the philosophical or political implications of his performance or the controversy that followed it. I think about the boy somewhere in America who is spending his lunch period hiding in a restroom. I think about the boy somewhere in America who is waiting to hear the next slur tossed in his direction, and I think even more about the boy somewhere in America who is watching out to see where the next shove or punch in the face might come from. I really think about the boy somewhere in America who might have to endure much worse.

I’m worried about something I’m calling the Adam Lambert Effect. It’s based on the premise that cultural images have an impact, that television, movies, music, etc., make a real cultural difference. In other words, I’m worried that the image of Adam Lambert groping, kissing, and simulating oral sex with his male dancers reinforces negative stereotypes about gay men. It might reinforce, for example, the stereotype that gay men are hypersexualized. This stereotype may be the most significant contributing factor in homophobia. Straight men who dislike and fear gay men often do so because they believe that gay men are looking at them as sex objects, fantasizing about having sex with them, and may hit on them.

What impact does seeing a gay man on stage during primetime in a hypersexualized performance have on straight men who are already operating under the influence of gay stereotypes? And let’s not forget that this is not just any gay man. This is young Adam Lambert, who to straight young men in high school probably looks a lot like the gay young men in their gym classes, at their lunch tables, and on their school buses.

During his interview with Barbara Walters last night, Mr. Lambert restated that he has no regrets about his American Music Awards performance. Of course he doesn’t. At the most, he might sell a few less albums and a few of his television performances might be cancelled until everyone moves on and forgets. He doesn’t have to live with the real consequences of the cultural image he chose to display or the stereotype that image reinforces.

I’ll leave it to others to decide whether or not Mr. Lambert owes the American public an apology for the unexpected lewdness of a primetime performance that children may have seen. For my part, I would much rather see Mr. Lambert apologize to the gay young men of America. His reckless performance and his arrogant refusal to apologize for its impropriety will make their lives even more difficult than they already are.

The gay young men in our schools are the ones who are going to have to live with the real cultural consequences of Adam Lambert’s actions, and he owes them an apology for subjecting their lives to the fallout of the Adam Lambert Effect.

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Comments

  • Molly  On December 10, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    If we prize straight-acting queers above those who can’t pass—butch dykes, twinks and flamers, and especially transpeople and genderqueer people—we aren’t going to ever move forward.

    I pass really well for straight. Maybe you do as well, now you’re out of that high school. But that just means people get to pretend we’re just like them. That’s not acceptance and it’s not tolerance, and it’s now what will let any queer kid get through the day.

    Gay pop icons being, you know, GAY, and still being pop icons and in demand and on the freaking View? That has a shot at it.

    Prizing straight-acting queers and wishing everyone else would hide is just another form of closeting, and I’m sick of it. I don’t choose to be “accepted” by anyone who wouldn’t accept my butch and trans sisters because they can’t pass.

    And neither do I choose to be “accepted” by someone who would use Adam Lambert’s (one!) gay performance as an excuse to persecute my flaming and trans brothers.

  • Marcus  On December 10, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    So, in other words, it’s acceptable to be gay as long as you pass for straight and nobody has to see you as a sexual person. Thanks for the memo, I hadn’t gotten the message from all the castrated gay characters on network TV.

    I’m probably the most “butch,” “straight-acting” gay guy in the country and I think it’s a load of sh*t.

    PS: I met my flaming queen of a boyfriend in high school, and I can tell you that homophobia existed long before anyone was being flamboyantly sexual in public.

  • Ash  On December 10, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    I appreciate the way you carry the whole article, trying to sound objective and on the line but I have to disagree with you, especially the last sentence. The Adam Lambert effect? The cultural consequences? Let’s face it. A homophobe will make the living hell out of a gay person’s life whether Adam Lambert sings a sex song on stage or not. I doubt there would be more hate crimes because of Adam. If that is the case, what about the cultural consequence of young people accepting that rape is something to be bragged about according to Eminem’s song? Oh, and why isn’t there any hate crimes towards lesbians when Madonna, Britney and Christina made out on stage??

    The straight people (mostly women) has been doing all sorts of sexual performance in the music industry and no one had ever think “oh, straight women are dirty and gross, doing all those things” (there could be some sort of double standard here which is another case) and if people think gay are perverts because of Adam’s performance, the root of the problems is the narrow-mindedness and conservatism of the people, not Adam’s performance.

    I don’t really get why people from the gay community (or bisexual w/e) are seeing Adam Lambert as some sort of devil trying to make things worse for the gays. He is the only singer who announces his sexuality at the very start of his career and was surprisingly welcomed by the mainstream industry and audience. If anything, the gay community should think him as a progressive step for the gay entertainers in the industry.

  • Kyuu  On December 10, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Freedom of self-expression is great! So long as it’s within the cultural norm.

  • Jill  On December 10, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    I totally disagree more with your premises, and therefore, of course, your conclusions.

    1. I know nothing about a stereotype of gay men as over sexualized. The stereotype most prevalent, imo, is the Jack character on Will & Grace; overtly feminine, safe. So to say Adam reinforces stereotypes is not accurate.

    2. Adam’s mom, who reads his fan mail, talks of countless letters from both young gays who thank him for helping them establish their own confidence in who they are. Parents of gays have thanked Adam for helping them start the conversations they need to have with their gay children. He IS a role model, and a good one.

    3. As for pointing out to Adam that he needs to recognize the networks’ rights to cancel him – duh – have you not been paying attention? From the get-go Adam has publicly acknowledged that.

    4. I haven’t suffered the discrimination you suffered because I am not gay. But I did suffer the same verbal abuse as you did because I was overweight. The humiliation is the same. So I CAN empathize. I can’t understand how you think Adam is making it worse.

    5. You wrote: ” Straight men who dislike and fear gay men often do so because they believe that gay men are looking at them as sex objects, fantasizing about having sex with them, and may hit on them.”

    Poor boys, worried about being looked at as sex objects. As a woman I can tell you this is laughable, because you men have been doing this to women since forever. Guess we have to insist that men stop doing the same, right?

    Yes, the gay young men in our schools are the ones who are going to have to live with the real cultural consequences of Adam Lambert’s actions – but he doesn’t owe any apologies. Instead we should be thanking Adam for forcing people to think about the irrational fears we have of gay men.

  • AL  On December 10, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    This is so sad to me because you don’t blame the bullies for being hateful homophobes. Instead: maybe if all gay gays make nice and cower in a corner and don’t let on that they can be aggressively sexual, bullies won’t hurt them?

    Maybe hiding in the closet/bathroom is practical, but as advice it’s such a mentally damaging way to live your life… and a depressiong vision for the future. The victims have to change their behavior to not piss off the bullies? I’d rather that gay boys should be able to act however comes naturally and that schools/other classmates/society should come down hard on the hateful bullies behavior.

    Also, men objectify women all the time, so boo hoo when it gets turned around and some straight guy’s delicate nerves are all a-flutter that a guy is imagining him naked for once. Maybe he should re-examine his own attitude towards women if male desire is so dangerous in his opinion. “Scratch a homophobe and you’ll find a misogynist.”

  • Nate Nelson  On December 10, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Wow. Hello all.

    Molly – I’m really not sure where you’re getting this “straight-acting” vs. everyone else dichotomy in my post. I’m not talking about “straight-acting” gay people versus those who are not “straight-acting.” I’m talking very specifically about Lambert’s outrageous and inappropriate performance at the American Music Awards, and the consequences I believe it will have for gay young men (“straight-acting” and otherwise).

    Marcus – See above comment to Molly, for starters. It’s not “straight-acting” to refrain from simulating oral sex on live primetime television. I’m well aware that homophobia existed before this, but do you really think this helps matters?

    Ash – I’m not saying that Lambert’s performance somehow created homophobia. What I’m saying is that it may have made homophobia worse. And yes, I agree with you that hip-hop and rap music also carry serious cultural consequences. You’re not going to get an argument from me there. As to why some in the gay community are upset with Lambert, I think it’s because he is now a public face of the gay community and he’s using his publicity to simulate oral sex during a live primetime broadcast that children might be watching. He is making the gay community look bad.

    Kyuu – I already acknowledged in my post that Lambert has the freedom to express himself. I also have the freedom to criticize his public act of self-expression. Personally, I disagree with his decision to “express himself” by simulating oral sex during a live primetime broadcast. Call me crazy!

    Jill – The stereotype of hypersexualized gay men does in fact exist, even if you’re not aware of it. I believe that Lambert’s actions could make homophobic abuse worse because it reinforces that stereotype. And as for those “poor boys,” I happen to agree with you. It’s not my intention to justify their actions. Their actions are unjustifiable. That doesn’t mean their actions won’t persist, and I don’t think Lambert or anyone else who is a public representative of the gay community should aggravate the irrational fears that contribute to homophobic abuse. I believe Lambert did that when he — I’ll say it again — simulated oral sex on a live primetime broadcast.

    Al – See my above comment to Jill, and check your attitude and distortions of my words at the door if you want me to bother to respond to anything you say in the future. I did not excuse anti-gay abuse, nor did I recommend that gays should remain in the closet. Recommending that an egotistical young man who has an inflated sense of his own celebrity should perhaps think about not simulating oral sex during a live primetime broadcast is a far cry from recommending that gays and lesbians should stay in the closet. Are you asserting that gays must do outrageous things like simulate oral sex through dance to be sufficiently out of the closet?

    Thank you all for your comments. For the most part, I look forward to continuing these discussions.

  • Molly  On December 10, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    “I’m really not sure where you’re getting this “straight-acting” vs. everyone else dichotomy in my post.”

    Where I’m getting it is that you’re saying if Lambert wasn’t overtly sexual (and that’s all the performance was—sexual), gay kids would be safer.

    Well, that’s both BS and pure privilege talking, because kids (and adults) who can pass are the only ones who have ever been anything close to safe from that. And passing means acting straight.

    People who don’t choose to pass (like Lambert) and people who can’t pass (like our flaming, butch, and especially trans friends), have ALWAYS been first in line to be insulted, abused, beaten, and killed.

    Saying “if only this guy were faux-asexual like every other gay dude on TV”—that is, if he hid his gayness behind a veneer of bigot-pleasing faux-asexuality—“people wouldn’t be so hateful towards us” is enforcing straight-acting and closeting. And it ONLY works for people who have passing privilege. Everyone who can’t pass is, apparently, hurting the cause by not being bigot-pleasing Will from W&G.

    “I’m talking very specifically about Lambert’s outrageous and inappropriate performance at the American Music Awards, and the consequences I believe it will have for gay young men (“straight-acting” and otherwise).”

    Outrageous? Did you watch a single other performance that night? Almost all of them were heavily and overtly sexual. What you’re saying is exactly what the homophobes say: “it’s all right for them, but the faggot better not do anything sexy.”

    In other words, don’t do anything gay, so we can pretend we don’t know.

    That’s closeting, it’s enforcing straight-acting behaviour, and it’s wrong. It’s not just wrong, it’s dangerous, because if, as you say, you’re worried about kids: again, not everyone can pass. Not everyone can appease the bigots by faking asexuality and straightness.

    There’s a reason the murder rate for transpeople is sky-high, and it’s not that some people are too gay: it’s that we have, again and again, thrown them and theirs under the bus so that straight people will be nice to US, the passing, straight-acting, cisgendered, monogamous, vanilla, marriage-loving “perfect” queers.

    I’m not going to EVER tell one of my brothers to hide his light—and, yeah, his sexuality—under a bushel so that maybe some bigot will “tolerate” me for passing.

    NONE OF US ARE SAFE UNTIL WE ALL ARE. Every last open, outrageous, Pride-attending, boa-wearing, man-kissing one of us. And as long as we tell them to shut up and sit down, we’re only helping the bigots target us—and our visible, vulnerable cousins.

  • Nate Nelson  On December 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Molly – You folks can try to spin this however you’d like. The fact remains that Adam Lambert simulated oral sex with one of his dancers, going far beyond the pale of anything else that occurred in any of the other performances that night. Kissing is one thing and had that been all that occurred during his performance, this post wouldn’t even exist. That was not all that occurred. He simulated oral sex, and I wouldn’t be okay with that if it had been a straight man or straight woman doing it either.

    But in addition to the simple impropriety of his performance, I believe it could also have made life more difficult for gay young men.

    What I am certainly not saying, no matter how many times you folks insist I am, is that gays and lesbians should stay in the closet. Clearly I am not in the closet. The point of this post is that Lambert’s unnecessarily inappropriate performance has made life more difficult for gay young men who are out of the closet or those who, as you mention, can’t pass for straight. Those are precisely the people I’m concerned about.

  • Molly  On December 10, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    So, basically, you believe that it’s up to us queers to prevent homophobia by being non-sexual in public.

    • Nate Nelson  On December 10, 2009 at 4:28 pm

      I believe that it’s inappropriate for anyone — gay, straight, or otherwise — to simulate oral sex during a live prime time broadcast.

      I believe that such outrageously inappropriate behavior on Adam Lambert’s part can potentially reinforce negative stereotypes that lead to homophobia.

      I do not believe that gays, lesbians, et al. should refrain from appropriate public displays of affection. I think hugging, hand-holding, kissing, etc. are completely appropriate given that those things are also appropriate for straight couples.

      Now, since we’re in the business of making inaccurate generalizations and distorting what others are saying —

      So, Molly, basically you believe that it’s okay for Adam Lambert to simulate oral sex during a live prime time broadcast that children might be watching. And you don’t think that will have any consequences, like reinforcing negative stereotypes about gay men. Yes? No?

      • Molly  On December 10, 2009 at 4:39 pm

        “Think of the children” is always the last bastion of bigots; are you sure you want to use it? This was an awards show, not an episode of Blue’s Clues. It was rated TV-14, and ABC spent all night hyping Lambert’s performance as racy and something we’d all be talking about.

        Janet Jackson groped someone at around 8pm; Eminem bragged about rape; pretty much every performance was adult. Lambert didn’t come on until 10:55 (9:55 central). Why were kids watching a TV-14 awards show that time of night on a Sunday?

        The fact that we as a society are so prudish that a fully-dressed dude pulling a guy’s face into his stomach (it’s not his crotch, if you look at the photos) is worth two weeks of news and obsession is a problem. It’s a big problem. And I will not get behind an effort to OK that problem from our side.

        Let me ask: do you think Mappelthorpe’s works endanger queer youth?

        Here’s what I think endangers queer youth: fear of sexuality, fear of difference, and fear of change. Adam Lambert may play into those fears, but the effect he could possibly have on them is a drop of water in the ocean.

  • Molly  On December 10, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Just to be super-clear: you’re saying that Lambert’s performance makes bigots uncomfortable and more likely to oppress others.

    I’m saying that the very presence of non-passing queers, and especially of transpeople, makes bigots uncomfortable and more likely to oppress others (see, for instance, the unbelievable murder rate of our trans brothers and sisters).

    By thinking that we can appease bigots by toning ourselves down, we ignore the people who can’t, and we further endanger them by leaving them without our support. THAT endangers queer kids: them getting the idea that we’ll only support them against bigots if they don’t “do” anything that straights don’t like to see.

    • Nate Nelson  On December 10, 2009 at 4:32 pm

      I’m not suggesting “that we can appease bigots by toning ourselves down.” I’m suggesting that we shouldn’t further aggravate bigots by doing outrageous things like simulating oral sex on television.

      I’m not saying that GLBT people are responsible for anti-GLBT abuse because of their behavior. The only people responsible for such abuse are the people who perpetrate it. What I’m saying is that outrageous behavior such as the behavior that Lambert displayed can only aggravate the situation and should be avoided.

      • Molly  On December 10, 2009 at 4:44 pm

        Haters are gonna hate. Ain’t nothing we can do to stop that except stop hiding who we are as though there’s something wrong with it. There isn’t, and shame kills us faster than bigots do. You know the gay-teen suicide rate is four times higher than that of straight teens? Closets kill. Telling kids that bigots should get to determine who they are and how they act kills.

        It’s one performance. One. You want to worry about gay kids, start raising money for GSAs. Start handing out condoms. Start manning a crisis hotline. But don’t take your HS issues out on a guy who’s trailblazing for open gay sexuality just because you’re a prude.

  • Nate Nelson  On December 10, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Please don’t lecture me about the gay teen suicide rate. You people act like I’m an outsider because I disagree with you, but believe me when I say that I’m intimately familiar with the problems that lead gay teenagers to contemplate suicide.

    Adam Lambert isn’t “trailblazing for open gay sexuality.” He’s working for his bank account and his ego (I’m not sure which is bigger). But you’re right, it’s just one performance — one that has been covered throughout the media for weeks, and one that landed him on Barbara Walters’ list of media attention whores. I guess I’ll just have to hope his fifteen minutes expire soon so we can go back to having dignified celebrity representatives like Melissa Etheridge and Ellen Degeneres. Not to mention celebrity representatives with actual talent instead of just shock value.

    • Molly  On December 10, 2009 at 5:11 pm

      I get it now. You’re the kind of person who makes snap judgments. No wonder you think everyone else does, too. One performance=the entirety of a human being, just like all I am is what I had for breakfast (frozen peas, I know you’re desperately curious). He could save orphans for the next 20 years, and you’d register that just as much as you have his totally kid-friendly appearances on, yes, all those news shows, which is to say not at all except when they fit into the box you’ve already selected for him.

      Kind of like how bigots operate: if you’re queer, that’s all you are. You’re not a sister, a son, a friend, a parent. You’re not an employer or a neighbor. You’re not a cat owner or a knitter or a guitar-player or fencer or a football player. You’re just a fag, and nothing else matters.

      You’ve clearly picked a box for me, too (“you folks”). I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that it doesn’t represent the real me in the slightest, but what do you care, right? I’m just some uppity liberal dyke, so nothing I say could possibly matter.

      • Nate Nelson  On December 10, 2009 at 5:27 pm

        “You’re the kind of person who makes snap judgments.” You then go on to put me in the box you’ve already selected for me, which has been very evident since your first comment and has only become more apparent every time you’ve commented since.

        The box I belong in is the box of the bigots, because I don’t agree with you and because I don’t like Adam Lambert. You’ve made that insinuation the entire time and in your most recent comment you just came right out and said it.

        Since you think that I think you’re “just some uppity liberal dyke” (I don’t), and since I think you think I’m just some ignorant redneck fag-in-the-closet, I don’t see much point in continuing. Feel free to comment as much as you want — I don’t censor — but I’m done responding to you. You think Adam Lambert is God’s gift to the gays and I think he’s an egotistical and opportunistic little twit who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about anybody else — you, me, or that gay kid in the cafeteria. I don’t see us reaching common ground from there and I don’t see either of us abandoning our opinions.

  • Katie  On December 10, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    You were bullied in school long before Adam Lambert performed on the AMAs. Homophobes will find any excuse to put down and bully queer peers. The question is if you are going to let that make it so queer kids must not act too sexual or flamboyant. Or are you one of those who thinks that if a gay couple kisses by the lockers they had the beating coming? I highly doubt you think that, but you seem to think that Adam Lambert giving a sexually aggressive performance is reason enough for homophobic bullies to up the ante.

    There is no reason for any ot instead to the kid doing the hitting. There is never any excuse. The people to blame when a queer kid gets hit aren’t the entertainers who don’t conform to the box society would like to keep them in, but to the parents who obviously failed at teaching them that everyone deserves respect, no matter how different they may be.

    Adam is navigating uncharted waters here. He’s the first pop artist to be out from the start of their career. He’s going to make mistakes and he’ll learn from them. He’s said so much himself. He’s not going to please everyone. But why should he? So you didn’t like his performance, that’s fine, whatever. But try to justify your hate for Adam by claiming that he’s doing damage to a queer kids hiding in bathrooms across America. What’s doing the damage is the society that makes them think they have to hide in the first place.

    So why do you want Adam to hide?

    • Katie  On December 10, 2009 at 5:49 pm

      “instead” should be “except”

      “try” should be “trying” and add “that’s not fine” to the end of the third to last sentence. My brain got ahead of my fingers.

    • Nate Nelson  On December 11, 2009 at 9:03 pm

      From my other comments:

      “I do not believe that gays, lesbians, et al. should refrain from appropriate public displays of affection. I think hugging, hand-holding, kissing, etc. are completely appropriate given that those things are also appropriate for straight couples.”

      “And as for those ‘poor boys,’ I happen to agree with you. It’s not my intention to justify their actions. Their actions are unjustifiable. That doesn’t mean their actions won’t persist, and I don’t think Lambert or anyone else who is a public representative of the gay community should aggravate the irrational fears that contribute to homophobic abuse. I believe Lambert did that when he — I’ll say it again — simulated oral sex on a live primetime broadcast.”

      “I already acknowledged in my post that Lambert has the freedom to express himself. I also have the freedom to criticize his public act of self-expression. Personally, I disagree with his decision to ‘express himself’ by simulating oral sex during a live primetime broadcast. Call me crazy!”

  • AL  On December 10, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Hi, sorry if I came off badly in tone, I was mostly sad/upset so that might have led to some hyperbole.

    I can totally appreciate that many people will think Adam Lambert’s performance was tacky/gross/tasteless etc etc. And I don’t even disagree that it “reinforces negative stereotypes about gay men” as you say.

    But I think the “blame/outrage” etc etc should not be on one guy’s performance (whatever you think of it or him), but on the fact that bigoted people have these stereotypes in the first place. To go even further into that logic… even if this hypersexual stereotype were truth, it’s still not a good reason to beat up/discriminate against someone (ie are straight sluts denied rights?)

    “Are you asserting that gays must do outrageous things like simulate oral sex through dance to be sufficiently out of the closet?”

    No. But I do think that if a guy does want to be tacky and outrageous he should be able to, even if he’s gay. Anyone who uses one guy (and one performance) as a reason to hate, they were on the hate train already and appeasement was never going to work, imho. My opinion on this is based my experiences and interactions (especially with more “religious” relatives/co-workers) though, so maybe you’ve had different experiences?

    “This stereotype may be the most significant contributing factor in homophobia. Straight men who dislike and fear gay men often do so because they believe that gay men are looking at them as sex objects, fantasizing about having sex with them, and may hit on them.”

    This again might just be a fundamental difference of opinion. I don’t think homophobia will ever be beaten by convincing straight dudes gay guys aren’t sexual or lusting after them. It might make a bigot less scared if they don’t have to think about it (so it is practical), but that’s not the same as equality. As soon as push comes to shove, it’ll become apparent that they won’t vote/contribute time/$ or even speak up to support. Real freedom is when people can be as skanky or as demure as they personally want to be and no one uses it as an excuse to hate on an entire group.

    I think history has some good evidence that people rarely got their rights by lulling the powerful/majority into liking them. It’s almost always something that has to be fought for.

    Anyway, I hope I don’t come across as accusing you of anything personally or arguing in bad faith. I think you had some interesting points, even if I disagree w/ some and the implications of them were disheartening to me.

    • Nate Nelson  On December 11, 2009 at 9:16 pm

      AL – No problem. We all get a little bit fired up now and then.

      I want to be clear about what I am saying and what I’m not saying. I’m not trying to excuse anti-gay abuse and I’m not trying to blame the victim. I am in 100% agreement with you and others who have said that the only people to blame for anti-gay abuse are those who perpetrate it. Their prejudices are no one else’s fault and are the result of their own fears and ignorance. I’m with you there.

      What I am acknowledging is simple reality. Whether we like it or not, ignorance and fear is not going to disappear overnight and neither is anti-gay abuse. I believe in outreach and education to work toward overcoming these obstacles to the equality and safety of GLBT people, not shock tactics. Aside from my belief that it was morally inappropriate (as I firmly believe it would have been in a heterosexual context), Adam Lambert’s performance was way too much, way too soon. I strongly believe it will only reinforce negative stereotypes while doing nothing to assuage the ignorance and fear that lead to anti-gay abuse.

      I’m not saying we can lull bigots into liking us. I’m saying that people aren’t born bigots. Ignorance and fear lead to bigotry. Education and outreach lead to its eradication.

  • Julianne  On February 5, 2010 at 8:21 am

    I tend to agree that the fear straight men have of gay men is that they are imagining them naked or might eventually hit on them. But I also think that Adam’s performance was ground-breaking in the pop entertainment industry. Yes, bigots will use it to justify their actions. But I don’t think that WE should.

    The LGBT community needs to stand behind those of us who make it into the public eye. Now, I’m not saying that no matter what Adam does in future performances we should be all for it. But we shouldn’t shy away from it either just b/c some homophobe might use it against a gay person.

    Sorry if this is a corny example but when African American people started standing up for themselves things didn’t automatically become easy for them. It got worse before it got better. So maybe things will get worse for us before we find some peace and safety. But in the end, if we get to live in a world where we are accepted, isn’t this time that we are enduring worth it? If the evil looks and comments and tormenting results in people accepting our gay grandchildren then I’m not so against Adam stirring up bad feelings so that eventually those feelings will dissipate.

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