28 December 2008

Unabashed BFFs: Melissa E. + Rick W. 4EVA!

Celebrities are getting their chance to mouth-off in Huffington Post blogs more and more these days: Jamie Lee Curtis (a diatribe about Paris Hilton's mother's lack of parenting), Alec Baldwin (an angry rant on fathers' rights and direct hit at his ex-wife). The HuffPo perpetuates the idea that celebrities have something important to say solely due to their celebrity status.

In her very own Huffington Post blog, blah-ly entitled "The Choice is Ours Now," Melissa Etheridge, as our gay high priestess, begs us to make the right choice: convince straight people that we are nice and socially acceptable. In a series of clich├ęs, Etheridge talks about that "mountain" us gays have been climbing to freedom of identity. Speaking solely for myself, I have been busy spelunking in a cave of societal shame, not climbing any mountains. As gay spokeswoman, Melissa pens so eloquently the hurt we felt after the high of Obama's win when Prop 8 was passed. "Still sore and angry we felt another slap in the face as the man we helped get elected seemingly invited a gay-hater to address the world at his inauguration." Seemingly? Not seemingly. He did invite a known gay-hater, Melissa, it's a fact. Think of it this way--you are seemingly a spokeswoman for gay people.

"As I was winding down the promotion for my Christmas album (apparently still winding down that promo conveniently mentioning it in this piece posted just three days before Christmas)," she describes her planned performance for the Muslim Public Affairs Council. The MPAC, Etheridge says, "tries to raise awareness in this country, and the world, about the majority of good, loving, Muslims." And here she is trying to raise awareness about the majority of good, loving, gays. [As an aside be sure to run out to your local gay sex club and pick up my Christmas album which includes the hit, O Cum All Ye of Little Faith.] It turned out that the keynote speaker of the MPAC performance was to be none other than Pastor (T)rick Warren, gay-hater. Melissa reports that she first considered canceling her appearance (you should always go with your gut) but instead she instructed her manager to "reach out to Pastor Warren and say, 'In the spirit of unity I [Etheridge] would like to talk to him.'"

This is my favorite part from Melissa's piece: They gave him my phone number. On the day of the conference I received a call from Pastor Rick, and before I could say anything, he told me what a fan he was. He had most of my albums from the very first one. What? This didn't sound like a gay hater, much less a preacher. He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone. He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection. He struggled with proposition 8 because he didn't want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman. He said he regretted his choice of words in his video message to his congregation about proposition 8 when he mentioned pedophiles and those who commit incest. He said that in no way, is that how he thought about gays. He invited me to his church, I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids. He told me of his wife's struggle with breast cancer just a year before mine.

Melissa apparently succumbs to flattery easily. If Fred Phelps was overheard humming Come to My Window does that make him less of a gay-hater? She should have asked Slick Rick to name one of her albums or even just one song if he's the fervent fan he claims to be. The saddest part, perhaps, is that like most politicians, Warren told Melissa everything she wanted to hear and she fell for it head over boots. She's just not savvy. The mention of his wife's breast cancer was so over-the-top and manipulative. I can just hear one of his advisors now, "Be sure to get that breast cancer thing in there, she's really into that." Slick Rick was clearly pulling out all the stops. Now go back to your people, Melissa, and tell them I am an open-minded, gay-loving preacher.

Melissa seems to have taken a page from her new BFF, Rick. "Brothers and sisters, the choice is ours now," she says, sounding more and more like a sermon. "We have the world's attention. We have the capability to create change, awesome change in this world, but before we change minds we must change hearts. Sure, there are plenty of hateful people who will always hold on to their bigotry like a child to a blanket." Like a child to a blanket? "But there are also good people out there, Christian and otherwise that are beginning to listen. They don't hate us, they fear change." I disagree. They do hate us, but, yes, that hate is fueled by fear. I would point Melissa and everyone else to Michael Bronski's genius book, The Pleasure Principle: Sex, Backlash, and the Struggle for Gay Freedom. "Gay hating," Bronski explains, "derives less from a feeling about particular people than from a profound attachment to maintaining the existing social order. This helps explain why vocal antigay politicians are sometimes capable of maintaining cordial relationships with gay friends or family members." Melissa, you got duped.

Melissa suggests that instead of "marches and boycotts, perhaps we can consider stretching out our hands. Maybe instead of marching on his church, we can show up en mass and volunteer for one of the many organizations affiliated with his church that work for HIV/AIDS causes all around the world. Maybe if they get to know us, they won't fear us." Now she sounds like a child holding onto her idealism "like a blanket." It is not that gay-haters are incapable of having friendly relationships with gays but, as Michael Bronski says, "it is the idea--the concept of homosexuality--that is, sexual pleasure without justification or consequences--that terrifies the gay hater." It doesn't matter how many gay people gay-haters personally get to know and like, the concept of our sexuality will always terrify them.

"I know, call me a dreamer," Etheridge says, so self-aware. Okay. Dreamer. I don't want Melissa Etheridge acting as spokeswoman for the queer cause. This is the problem: we don't have a leader for our movement. We turn to gay celebrities to speak for us. I don't want Ellen, Lance Bass, Doogie Howser, or Clay Aiken speaking for me. My vote, as usual, goes to Sandra Bernhard.

For more, read this NY Times Op-Ed piece.


Sarah T. said...

Yes. Sandra Bernhard, not Melissa Etheridge, please.
Great piece.

andalusian said...

I'm not putting out my hand to wolves in sheep's clothing.

"we don't say everything that we could so that we can say later 'oh you misunderstood.'"