If you ask most people what the most pressing issue for queers is in America today, they will say “marriage.” Inherent in this is the assumption that everything else is great for gay people, and only marriage remains. Yet there is no national anti discrimination law, and marginalization in publicly-funded institutions like schools and the New York City Saint Patrick’s Day parade is firmly in place. There is no integration of lesbians of all races or gay men of color’s perspectives into mainstream arts or entertainment. Familial homophobia is the status quo. We are not integrated into education curriculum or services. Being out is professionally detrimental in most fields. Most heterosexuals still think of themselves as superior and most gay people submit to this out of necessity or lack of awareness. Basically, in relation to where we should be—we are nowhere….
…The AIDS crisis made gay people visible. For the first time we were on prime-time news programs, in newspapers, while dying and death made the closet more difficult to maintain. I’ve gone into this process in depth in my book Stagestruck: Theatre, AIDS and the Marketing of Gay America, but in short, the visibility created by AIDS forced the dominant group to change their stance. They could no longer insist that homosexuality did not exist. What they could do is find representative homosexuals with whom they were comfortable, and integrate them into some realm of public conversation. If they didn’t, the gay voice in America would be people with AIDS disrupting mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. It was crucial to the containment crisis that acceptable gay personalities be identified and positioned as “leaders,” even if they had no grassroots base. It’s kind of like the CIA setting up a puppet government.
This is a classic gentrification event. Authentic gay community leaders, who have been out and negotiating/fighting/uniting/dividing with others for years, the people who have built the formations and institutions of survival, become overlooked by the powers that be. They are too unruly, too angry, too radical in their critique of heterosexism, too faggy, too sexual. The dominant culture would have to change in order to accommodate them. And most importantly they are telling the truth about heterosexual cruelty. The dominant culture needed gay people who would pathologies their own. Supremacy ideology could not tolerate the confrontation with the heterosexual self that is at the core of gay liberation. So instead of the representative radicals, there was an unconscious but effective search for palatable individuals with no credibility in the community, no accountability to anyone, with no history of bravery or negotiation with other queers, who were then appointed in their stead. This replacement process, facilitated by the straight media, really became visible in the late nineties. It was the first time that i noticed a crew of guys being interviewed on television as emblematic gay men whom I had never seen in a community capacity. It was the moment when the corporate media was creating its own gay personalities, who were entirely different from the people featured in the gay-owned press. And eventually, the grassroots voices were drowned out completely, as gentrification co-opted the gay media, and tehg ay liberation movement, dialogically, was demobilized.
Sarah Schulman - The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination
As another bullied gay teen took their life two weeks back in Utah and as two young men called one of my students a faggot during their presentation today as he came out during their speech, a different and important perspective to listen to.