Letters to the Editor

Don't give up gay pride to get gay equality; why is Cintra bitter about Clapton auction?

By Letters to the Editor
July 8, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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We're here, we're queer, I'm sick of it
BY CHRISTOPHER OTT

(07/01/99)

Reasons abound as to why the lesbian & gay rights movement has had a
number of embarrassing setbacks recently (the military's "don't ask,
don't tell" policy, the Defense of Marriage Act, not to mention an
increase in hate crimes aimed at gays and lesbians). But the use of
"gay pride" as a slogan or rallying cry, however, is not one of them.

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Matthew Shepard was not killed because of an overindulgence in "gay
pride" -- no matter what the occasion. He was killed because he chose to
live his life as honestly and openly as he possibly could.

Prejudice, as Leon Wieseltier of the New Republic put it, "is precisely
a feeling that is not based upon, and so cannot be revised by,
evidence." He was decrying anti-Semitism but could just as easily have
been discussing racism or homophobia:

The Pat Robertsons or Gary Bauers of the world don't care whether
lesbians and gays suddenly change from "gay pride" to "gay equality" as
the principle maxim of their call to equal rights under the law. And it
is the Robertsons and the Bauers of this world that we need to worry
about. The backlash against gays and lesbians Christopher Ott speaks
about isn't being led by "people like Will" -- ordinary fence-sitting
straight folk, slightly put off but nonetheless curious about all this
talk of "gay pride" -- but by a very small, determined, and highly
organized, minority of religious zealots. And they don't need
convenient evidence to hate us.

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Being gay is a public declaration of a pride of ownership, as it were,
in one's sexuality, in the free expression of one's emotional and
psychological make-up. It is also a refusal to tie one's fate to evasion,
equivocation, distortion and deceit. The struggle to gain equality under the law for gays and lesbians and an equal measure of public space within which to fully live our lives will
not be won by excising "gay pride" from our political vocabulary. But
pride -- being "governed in one's words or actions by self-respect" (per Webster's
Dictionary) -- must surely be a step in the right direction.

-- Dana Gorbea-Leon

Los Angeles

There are many paths to liberation from oppression: political activism, volunteer work, assimilation, or just developing a gym body and dancing with a head full of party drugs. I think all are valid.

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Ott's and my perceptions are both colored by an important fact, though --
we live in places where the local battle for gay rights has been pretty
much won. The fact that I am gay has no effect on my day-to-day life in
Seattle. Same with his, I suspect, in Madison. Of course we find "pride" a
bit staid. An Alabama resident marching in the Birmingham pride parade
would have a significantly different view.

I don't think we should create "poster child" perceptions of
ourselves for the public, or argue among ourselves about the "right" way
to be gay or to organize or to fight oppression. Rather, we should all
commit to the very thing Chris did in that airport: just being honest. His few minutes of one-on-one interaction did more to touch a heart and head than $1 million worth of marketing and image manipulation could ever have done.

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-- Randy Earwood

It is about time for gay men and women to move past the Methadone-like transitional drug of pride. I'm about as proud of being gay as I am of having brown hair; equality certainly deserves more air time. I would, however, add that the idea of a gay community/culture seems an equally transitional notion to me. I'm not convinced that there is anything that binds me to other gay people outside of who I sleep with and the experience of isolation and oppression that many of us share. This is enough for a support group surely, but is it enough to define a culture?

While I'm all for sexual expression and advocate promiscuity, fetishism and anything else by consenting adults, I don't think that trumpeting any of these things is helpful to the problems that many gay people still face getting equal job, housing and legal opportunities because of their sexual orientation. While more nudity, leather and drugs may be worth fighting for, gay people surely don't have a patent on them, and may be better served harnessing their political power more effectively and their bodies less publicly.

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-- Laurence Schwartz

New York

The biggest problem in gay politics lies not in whether or not
we party for pride; what we need to address is the very inequality
found in our own community. There is no national gay or lesbian
organization that actually seeks input from the national community.
Throughout the country, small groups meet to discuss local and national
issues, but there are no links between those organizations, no pipeline
to the elite who determine which issues to fight for. Queer Nation and Act-Up were two of the few that ever made a determined effort to link with one another on a national level and
those organizations were alternately exploited and then brutalized by the
national-level mainstream organizations.

If and when the leaders of the gay movement finally allow the people
they supposedly represent to have a voice in their own struggle for
equality, will we begin to see a truly empowered gay movement -- a group of voting,
knowledgeable and aware queer citizens taking on the religious right in a
fight that is truly winnable.

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-- Hamp Simmons

Venice, Calif.


The emperor's new guitars

BY CINTRA WILSON

(06/30/99)

Wilson's article was the most erudite and fashionably weary piece I have read to date in Salon, but just reading her literary rendition of the event made me feel a slight nausea. The part where she describes the lucky, undeserving, over-privileged few wiping away the "magical fingertips" with their "rich mitts" was devastatingly rendered. Money can't buy the sort of creative, bluesy, near self-destructive energy that wore out those frets to begin with.

-- John E. Hooper

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Why persecute someone who has made major
mistakes and learned from them, and is using the money he made from those
mistakes to help others to recognize and overcome their mistakes? What is
the deal? You really just sound jealous of those who were able to
successfully bid.

-- Cecelia Buie

Bainbridge, Ga.

Going right through you
BY SHARON LERNER

(06/30/99)

The article contained the unstated assumptions that extend
throughout society regarding the behavior of fat people: that all
people are fat because they overeat; and that if fat people would just cut back on the sundaes and fried chicken, they would lose their excess weight
and be thin. Studies show that this is simply not the case. For a great
many fat people, weight loss is difficult, if not impossible, at anything
approaching healthy quantities of food, even the low-fat, low-calorie
type.

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Studies also show that the health risks often associated with fat are
related more to the inactivity that frequently accompanies being fat. Fat
people who are active and eat healthily are not subject to the same
incidence of illness as those who are inactive.

While these seem minor distinctions, such inaccurate assumptions go a long
way toward continuing the social ostracism (and worse) of people who don't
meet the social "ideal" of body size.

-- Nancy Crosby

It is infuriating to read the author's
underlying sentiment, "Why don't they just stop eating?" in every
judgment-laden statement.

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Obesity is not a character disorder. It is a medical condition. On
fen/phen, I lost 70 pounds in five months. No dieting, no
exercise; it was a miracle. While on the medication, I simply did not
feel the never-ending desire to eat. When I realized I was hungry, I ate
healthy food. My medicine was removed from the market in what I consider a hysterical
reaction to a minuscule number of adverse reactions. I regained the
weight within a year.

Last week I started taking Meridia. I have lost six pounds. I have
also lost the constant drive to eat as I breathe. When
my body functions normally, I can choose healthy food as easily as a
non-obese person.

While I personally am not interested in taking Xenical (orlistat), I
would never presume to ridicule someone who chose that treatment as
their best treatment. I only know that with medication, I am
normal; without it, I am a slave.

-- Linda Rigel

Roseville, Calif.

Do what you want and the identity crisis will follow
BY CHRISTINE KENNEALLY
(06/30/99)

Stop giving failed academics and wannabe novelists a forum to wax self-loathingly about how this unjust world of ours has so cruelly denied them the recognition they "deserve."

Kenneally went to Cambridge and chose to write her thesis
on a topic that, in retrospect, even she considers "mindfuckingly boring."
She claims her lifelong dream was to write fiction, yet compares immersing
herself in the creative process to being "the freakin' Buddha," and, though
she's been at it two whole years, she has yet to receive even the slightest
bit of acknowledgement.

It seems obvious to me that Kenneally applies her view of success being
"dependent on the actions, ideas and feelings of others" not only to her
writing career, but to her estimation of herself as a person.

And she wonders why she's so miserable?

-- Marc Taurisano

New York

Kenneally's piece affected me deeply and personally. The story she
articulated bears a striking similarity to my own, and her writing
encapsulates many of my own feelings of disillusionment. I frequently
call my own miasma the "luxury of discontent" because I am aware that
when I am not being overly introspective and engaging in too much self-analysis, I have a pretty good life. It's just that my academic career didn't materialize, and I haven't gotten anything published, and I do wonder when and if I will feel that sense of fulfillment. I've often
thought about writing about it, but I thought that there would be as
many people interested in my "labyrinth of self-indulgence" (to borrow
her phrase) as there were in my thesis on "Gender Archetypes in English
Renaissance Drama." Trust me, no real big following there.
I thank Kenneally for taking the risk to write about something very
personal.

-- Beth Zemble


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