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Stereotypes and Love

I was cleaning out some old email and came across an email I had never sent. My correspondent had sent me something saying that he was involved with someone who was anti-gay, while in contrast, he "loved" all gays and lesbians. He was saying it really bothered him that she was that way. I didn't quite know what to say to him, because I saw problems with both attitudes.

What I started to say to him was that the anti-gay attitude is a toughie. Leave someone with their ‎opinions? Try to convert them to what you think is the only right way to ‎think about an issue? Have an open dialog about it to find out what the ‎reasons are behind it?‎

But there is something more to what he said that caught my eye, and that was that he loved all gays and lesbians.

A friend of my daughter's is gay and has been open about it for some years. He is a wonderful person and I consider him much like the son I never had. In fact, he shares a lot of thing with me that my daughter does not (cooking, clothing, movies, the like). He and I once talked about gay and other stereotypes (the limp wrist, the swish, that type of thing) and of whether that sort of thing is all bad or something that can be acceptable in some contexts. We both agreed that stereotyping can be a useful cultural shortcut and can provide for some humor (whatever the subject) but it can also be quite harmful.

In light of that conversation, it seems to me that it is just as much a stereotype to say that one loves all of one sort of person as it is to say that one hates all of that sort.

I've had a few gay/lesbian friends, have at least one lesbian family member, and have known a much larger quantity of gay/lesbian co-workers and other acquaintances over the years. I couldn't say that "I love them" universally, any more than I could say that I "love" all children or all women or men or whatever, even though I have loved some of them individually. In fact, I am ‎automatically suspicious, I have to admit, when I hear someone saying that they love (or hate) "all" of something--all children, all women, whatever. That places that group on an unreasonable pedestal or in an unreasonable dungeon. I also wonder what it is about the person making such a statement that makes them feel they have to be so black-and-white about it. I just don't see how it is possible to "love" an entire class of any sort of human being. Some children, women, men, gays, and lesbians are wonderful people; some are not. And in most cases, with those I have known, who they were, whether someone I liked or not, had nothing to do with their sexual preferences/age/gender/species. In a few cases, their gayness or lesbianess or age etc.) was bound up tightly with who they were. But in no case was their gayness or lesbianess or other identification an automatic pass into the "love" or "hate" category.

What stopped me from ever sending my response to this person who said he loved all gays and lesbians was that I wasn't sure whether it was too challenging a thing for me to say. Some people run on the theory that those in our lives who challenge us are reflecting something back at us that we could work with. I think there is some truth to that, though I have seen that taken too far. One person I know keeps telling me it is her responsibility to fix everyone in her life who torches her off because, according to her, they aren't real and have no objective existence outside herself; they are only reflections of herself, and so it is her obligation to fix them; in fixing them she is fixing herself. That is, in my mind, taking an idea way too far. But I do think it is important to speak up when I see the need.

In retrospect, I should probably have sent my reply. To make up for it, I am posting my thoughts here where potentially thousands of people can have a chance to read it.


Marina, hello again! I sent a litter donation once and you sent back a sweet teapot thank-you note.
Please contact me so we can arrange a session.


Correction : af059@hwcn.org

um...I think this comment needs to be placed in a pragmatic relation. The person who made the statement that he "loved" all gays and lesbians was straight (I assume this because you use the word "involved" and I assume you mean more than just socially). Just as we live in a racist society, so too we live in a homophobic society. We're used to hearing people say, for example, "some of my best friends are . . . " Or, "I don't have a problem with X (racism, homophobia, sexism, whatever), I love X people." Moreover, as a gay man, I can say for certain that someone who says that they love all gay people probably doesn't know very many (and I don't say that out of internalized homophobia). But, really, it sounds to me like it's a case of political correctness. I mean, if this person really loved all gay people, then they never would have attracted, or even gotten so involved with, someone who was prejudiced. It would have been an insurmountable problem. I mean, prejudice is not a simple and easily tolerated thing, so something is/was obviously "off base" here.

As for the issue of stereotypes: there are more ways of thinking about this than the ways we "normally" consider. Stereotypes are images, images are inessential. Race, gender, and sex are nothing more than images (they're inessential constructions that have been socially and culturally produced). The pleasure that we take in, for example, things that are obviously fake (e.g. cartoons), and why we relate to them so intimately and strongly (i.e. why we identify with them) has to do with the power of the inessential: with productive creation and invention. We love cartoons because it brings us closer to the human as a constructed (created, produced) being (and it puts us in touch with that power of creation). This power is, also, one of difference. I say this because what is happening now, especially with the gay marriage movement, is an erasing of difference within gay culture (i.e. assimilation). I love flaming queens. I love fags who flaunt the fact that their different. I'd rather hang out with someone who is in touch with that fabulous side of themselves then someone who represses it. The very possibility of being queer is, to me, bound up with this capacity for being different (and creating a community of differences, of beings who have nothing in common, other than the fact that they are different--and this is even more powerful when you have to do it in a climate of hate, intolerence, and fear). This is an increadibly powerful thing. And more and more in gay culture (as in the larger culture) this power (potential) is being gradually diminished and repressed. So, I say, bring on the queens! I'm more offended by queers who want to re-present gay people (with flags and such), and normalize them, then I am by the endless parade of human cartoons that is (sometimes) gay culture (yay!).

Of course, this is not at all to agree with repressive, idiotic, and harmful stereotypes (the purpose of which is to harm people), but this doesn't seem to be what is happening right now (in terms of how homophobia is working). Right now, in response to gay marriage, we are seeing a bizarre kind of collective desire among straight people to have sex with their pets (in the form of a *projection* that gay marriage will lead to bestiality and people marrying their dogs--see Richard Goldstein's excellent article in the Voice "The Great American Man-Dog Marriage Panic"


It seems that these people are obsessed with sex with pets, to the point that they have to oppress gay peope in order to contain that (overwhelming) desire. I mean, talk about queer!

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