Worlds & Time

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Sense of Humor

As a group, getting angry over minor insults doesn't often help.

Look at Al Sharpton and The Rev. Jesse Jackson. Both are serious men on a serious mission, but after responding to every perceived incidence of racial bias in the country for the last 40 years, most people outside of their group consider them to be something of a joke. "Watch what you say, or Jesse Jackson will get you."

This is unfortunate, but it's also part of human nature. We get bored with repetition, so much so that there's this cute little folk tale called "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" that we tell to our children to provide them with moral guidance that also happens to illustrate our reaction to the novel and familiar stimuli.

The first controversial story gets lots of attention. The second one gets some attention. The third is often ignored and might as well be background noise.

Thus, all groups have to pick their battles where possible. If you react to every single bit of criticism that you come across, then when you get to the major events no one will be paying attention except for the people that are already on your mailing list.

Recently, gay people, as a group, have been taking up arms against what I consider to be fairly minor comments. Yeah, I'm sure they seemed sucky to the people that they were directed against, but they're not really important to the community.

In fact, the comments that the community should get upset about aren't the ones that address a single person or may or may not be misconstrued.

What Sally Kern, the Oklahoma State Congressman, said about homosexuality: that "the homosexual agenda is just destroying this nation" and is more of a threat to the U.S. than Islam is one of the comments that I think that the community should get upset over.

As a broad statement that attacks millions of U.S. citizens, presumably including some of the people in Mrs. Kern's own Oklahoma district (wherever it happens to be), and made by a politician, Mrs. Kern's statement was absolutely bad enough to provoke understandable negative reaction from the gay community.

However, I hope that we never get to the point where someone walking through the streets hears the words "That's gay," used pejoratively and feels the need to call the HRC or Lambda Legal.

Actually, I think that we need to cling to our sense of humor, because there's a lot of power inherent in being able to laugh at things that hurt you.

You know who some of the most powerful gay people are? The precursors to Ru Paul. The drag queens that attacked the police and won at the Stonewall bar in New York City.

To a macho guy, a gay guy wearing the suit who is telling you not to say the word "faggot" isn't going to be able to convince him that he's a moron. It's the drag queen in six inch heels and four inches of mascara that leans over, bats her eyelashes, and says, "You keep saying that and I'll think you're interested," before laughing at him.

And when there's a community behind them to point and laugh with them, it makes it even worse. Not only is it the drag queen standing in front of you, it's the bears and the twinks and the butch lesbians and even the people that you wouldn't necessarily think are gay, and we're all standing around giggling about what a total tool you are.

That kind of embarrassment isn't easy to shake off. Especially when even the weakest members of the group can laugh safely along with everyone else.

Is this safe for individuals? Probably not, unless you've got money or muscles, but the gay community as a whole has plenty of all.

Sometimes, I really would rather see the response of the gay community to point and laugh when someone says something stupid. We might just be making a more convincing point than trying to reason with them.

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