Last weekend was my favorite holiday: Gay Pride in New York City. We’re celebrating 41 years since a bunch of pissed off queers—led by homeless kids and transgender women—helped launch a movement for sexual freedom in the city. So ColorLines rounded up three of the Web’s most dynamic queer bloggers to talk about the community’s future, Obama’s politics, hypocrite pastors, rent boys, Tyler Perry and more.
Here’s who’s on the virtual panel:
Rod McCullom blogs on pop culture, politics and LGBT news at the popular Rod 2.0, one of the leading gay blogs and the largest for black gay men. He is in Chicago.
Pam Spaulding is the editor and publisher of Pam’s House Blend, honored as Best LGBT Blog in the 2005 and 2006 Weblog Awards. A Durham, N.C. native, Pam lives in the Bull City with her wife Kate; they legally married in Canada in 2004.
KAI: One of my first, best jobs was working as a reporter for the Washington Blade, D.C.’s gay newspaper. I love queer media, but there’s not much left in print. Are blogs the new gay press? I think so. Are we better or worse for it?
MIRIAM: I’d say we’re better when it comes to diversity of content. While I read the gay print magazines and newspapers before I was really involved in reading/writing blogs, they didn’t exactly have a lot of content about the things I’m interested in. Let’s be real, most of them are directed toward the target advertising audience: gay folks with money.
ROD: That’s good and bad, but there are some differences: Most bloggers aren’t full-time and don’t have the resources to fully report issues. But—and this is a major but—the gay and progressive blogosphere is often the tail wagging the dog. The LGBT blogs took the lead in calling attention to the proposed draconian anti-LGBT legislation in Uganda. And many of us were delivering continuous fresh content on stories such as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and Proposition 8.
And speaking of Prop 8, a number of online people of color bloggers and activists (myself included) were among the first to question CNN’s much-hyped exit polls that declared blacks overwhelmingly supported Prop 8 and the presence of Obama on the ticket helped the anti-gay referendum. That was later proven completely inaccurate.
What storyline has drawn the strongest response from your readers?
PAM: By far it has been the saga of Proposition 8, from the involvement of the Mormon Church and other anti-gay organizations, to the debacle of its passage, and now to the federal Prop 8 trial, as we await a ruling. It’s a political and social drama of epic proportions, something greater than the battle over marriage equality itself. It has exposed fault lines of race, class, religion and the ability of our own forces to organize.
On a lighter note, on the blog I find the most popular posts have to do with the unending list of conservative sexual hypocrites like George “I need my luggage lifted” Rekers, who are not only virulently anti-gay, but provide the professional homophobes with junk science that they spout with authority in the mainstream media. To see a man like this squirming to explain why he had a male traveling companion giving him erotic massages is just a motherlode of blogging material.
ROD: The topics that guarantee the strongest response are often on anti-gay churches and pastors, hypocritical anti-gay churches and pastors, and the closet, especially celebrities. Oh and Tyler Perry, too. Go figure.
On many of the black LGBT weblogs, there’s an incredible digital dynamic and virtual discussion on coming out and sexual identity among black gay/bisexual men. One example: The recent episode of “The Boondocks” that eviscerated Tyler Perry—read the comments. Many black gay/bi men felt the satire was an “attack” or “bashing” of black gay men in general, the black church or Perry. Others thought the satire was limited to the hypocrisy and double standard in the black church—gangbangers, babies’ daddies and criminals are okay, and open and out gays are not.
And what are you really interested in talking about these days?
MIRIAM: While in the feminist community we’ve made a lot of strides around acceptance of different sexualities, the gender stuff is where the battle is. I spend a lot of time trying to talk about a more nuanced understanding of gender to our readers. The women’s movement is still really wedded to a binary gender system, one which is pretty static and linked to biology. I think that’s hurting everyone. Gender is often at the root of homophobia—we’re not sleeping with the right person but we’re also not following gender norms the way we’re supposed to.
ROD: The issue that has taken much of my attention this last week are DL Hughley and Sherri Shepherd’s outrageous comments on “The View”. Both claimed that gay and “down low” men are responsible for HIV rates in the black community. That’s been repeatedly disproven by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes for Health. But that’s what happens when we allow others to frame LGBT issues and discussions. Shepherd also famously once said the world is probably flat, too. #ImJustSayin.
It’s still conventional wisdom both inside and out of LGBT circles that Black and Latino neighborhoods and families are exceptionally homophobic. How do you answer that when you hear it?
PAM: I give an honest answer: yes and no. In black and Latino communities, the matter is not completely about race, per se, it’s about whether you’re talking churched or unchurched. Religion is by far more important than race when it comes to fomenting homophobia, however, the black and Latino communities at large have not held publicly accountable the pastors stoking anti-gay sentiment. That’s going to take time to change.
MIRIAM: What gets me most about this blame game around homophobia is the role that white communities—primarily through the history of colonization—have had in the homophobia that exists in the communities of color. You can see this even more clearly internationally, but in immigrant communities here as well. In many (if not most) communities of color, there is a vibrant history of sexual and gender diversity. Think of two spirit folks in Native American communities, hijras in India, etc. It was often the colonial powers that came in (with strong religious agendas) and stamped out much of that culture of diversity and acceptance. Now white folks are coming back around to sexual diversity and they’re finger pointing at communities of color? Oh hell no.
ROD: The largely white evangelicals and Mormons have surely taken homophobia to new levels. And black folks ain’t voting Republican, you know? They might not call you a “fag” in the suburbs, but your neighbors will often vote against your rights in a heartbeat.
There’s been lots of talk about Obama and whether he’s delivered for queer (or is it just gay?) people. He doled out some new rights this month, through executive power. So what do you think? Is Obama making things happen?
PAM: Honestly, his administration has delivered more significant boosts for the transgender community than has been recognized (but we’ve covered on the Blend). It has appointed the first publicly-out-at-the-time-of-appointment transgender appointees — Amanda Simpson and Dylan Orr. The Obama administration has also changed the rules on passports for gender change, allowing trans people to change the gender marker on a federal identification document without genital reconstruction surgery.
MIRIAM: He’s made some significant small and symbolic strides. Like the recent Family Medical Leave Act decision. While the media is touting it as an expansion of gay rights, it’s actually just a clarification of an existing 1993 law which already included people parenting non-biological children. It didn’t specify gays and lesbians but we were never excluded. I’m glad he clarified it so folks aren’t getting discriminated against, but let’s not pretend this is a huge victory for LGBT rights. The changes for passports and transgender folks was a big win—which actually came from Secretary Clinton and the State Department.
PAM: What we have seen is that expectations were raised by this president that he refused to use the bully pulpit to lobby for. All of the administrative gains and policies are not permanent, they require any future president to agree with them to remain in place. That doesn’t mean that additional benefits from FMLA aren’t important, but that this administration wasn’t willing to urge Congress to move because he didn’t want to expend the political capital.
We’re always talking politics when LGBT people come up. What about culture?
MIRIAM: Ha! It’s possible to talk queer culture and not make it political? One thing I find exciting is the abundance of queer young adult fiction. As someone who devoured young adult fiction as a kid, it’s so awesome to see my life and other queer and trans kids’ lives depicted for a teenage audience. Also so many more queer media figures. (Hello Rachel Maddow!)
ROD: Social media networks remain extremely exciting. It’s wonderful to see so many young LGBTs on YouTube or Facebook. Even more so with black and Latino LGBTs. There are several very good YouTube-based scripted series targeting LGBTs and there are many talk shows. I’m also very bullish on books, too, there are some brilliant new voices out there.
So what’s the future for queer folks? Is it just a matter of time before we’re a post-sexuality nation with a post-sexuality president?
PAM: The future is bright, but it’s going to be no more a post-sexual orientation country than it is a post-racial country. Legal gains and equality will not end bigotry, or even discrimination — it will merely make it illegal. I think that as a person of color who is also a lesbian, it’s quite clear that the LGBT community has to accept that the changes will not stop people from using Bible-based bigotry to justify their resistance to adhere to the law.
MIRIAM: I can’t pretend to know what the future will hold, but I can tell you what I’d like it to look like. I’d like the benefits that should be part of our basic human right to be divorced from your romantic partnerships. Health insurance, hospital visitation, family leave. It shouldn’t matter who you date, or whether you’re in a state-sanctioned partnership. Folks should have access to these things regardless, and if your job gives you benefits for an extra person, you should get to decide who that person is. Maybe it’s your best friend, or some guy you met last week. It’s your business.