Your Oppression > Mine

 

 

 

img_0438.jpg

This guy is so fucking hot.

I think I’ve been flirting with him online for ten years. Not obsessively – just, once in a while, when he pops up in my area, or has new photos or something. Despite his perpetual angry-face-because-it’s-Grindr, he’s lovely. He also has a career as a stylist and as a porn actor.

IMG_0475

Recently, I ‘tapped’ him on Grindr. It’s a new thing you can do. Rather than say hello, you can just push the fire icon to tell someone you like their new photos, think they’re cute, like their profile text. I was seeing a foster client on the East Side and I hadn’t seen this guy on Grindr/Adam4Adam/DudesNude in a while.

 

 

img_0433.jpg

I’m glad he shared this on his social media, actually – though I’m positive he and his circle had a fun time deconstructing my privilege and explaining to one another why I’m an irrelevant fool. At least it’s provoking conversation. I am aware the joke is provocative and charged, and I make no apologies. A friend of mine did point out – I could just change ‘POC’ to ‘straight POC’ and avoid the confusion.

But, do I want to avoid the confusion?

 

 

IMG_0434

Here’s an interactive map of LGBT rights in America. You can see for yourself that, even in my liberal enclave of Los Angeles, I can legally be denied credit, car loans, house loans,  just for being gay – it’s perfectly legal! Tab around the map. The news isn’t good.

 

 

img_0443.jpg

I’m not saying the LGBT struggle is more important than the struggle of POC or women. I’m not saying I don’t benefit from all sorts of privilege. I live in the richest state in the richest country in North America. I am white. I am a man. I am able. I can run, and sing songs, and do comedy without fear.

However, there is no arguing which minority group comes in last place. Which group has to beg and cajole when it comes time to talk about basic human rights? I’m not sure why empirical fact stirs up so much anger. Maybe, because the world is so incredibly heteronormative, that even LGBT folks are taught to teach themselves that their struggle will be important and recognized later: once women’s issues aren’t under attack, once POC feel like some semblance of equality has been reached?

When does the LGBT community stop savaging one another, and start demanding equal rights under the federal law? When do we start reaching out to one another with love and support, instead of trying to vilify each other in the kangaroo court of InstaTwitBook Land? When do we start insisting on a place at the table in intersectional dialogues? Something that is more than a pat on the head, a tertiary mention, in service to a more popular, more attended to American dialogue which always focuses first and foremost on the original sin of slavery? In the narrative of our society racism is the biggest evil. Then sexism. Then poverty, then healthcare issues, then twenty other things. Then, homophobia.

That’s not good enough.

Large swaths of straight people polled about a year and a half ago think gay people have full legal equality. How about not even half? Look at the map.  Straight people routinely poll as thinking gay suicide is not a problem. In actual fact, gay people have four times the likelihood of dying by their own hand, and this information is doesn’t factor in closeted homosexuals. 25% of Transgender polled have reported attempted suicide. We underreport and under prosecute rape, murder, hate crimes against LGBT. It’s true the police don’t shoot us, but they also don’t go out of their way to protect us. The judiciary system doesn’t either.

Other gay people have attempted sexual assault on me at least three times. Twice by drugging me and once by out and out violence. This type of information is so common in an LGBT narrative that it’s usually met with exhausted shrugs. Sometimes people mutter something supportive, but it’s nearly always followed up with, at least you’re not transgender, at least you’re white, at least you’re a man. Are you kidding me?

When did this become a good enough argument to use on one another? Why can’t a gay person instead say, hey, I hear and see you – what you’re saying is painful and I’m glad you’re talking about it. Why can’t I say what is obvious to me – that gay issues take a back seat? Because I’m white, and white is reviled in the current racial dialogue?

Because I have a penis and it’s pink? That’s why you think I shouldn’t be allowed to say I’m a second class citizen?

That reasoning seems incredibly flimsy, simple minded, reductive. It caters to the uglier side of human nature. It’s not good enough for me, and it shouldn’t be good enough for you either.

IMG_0523

This person’s argument (he wouldn’t really communicate with me significantly) seems to be that I’m triggering people’s feelings about racial and gender oppression? But, why is he triggered? Because I’m white that magically erases decades of gay oppression? That’s how you want the narrative to go? What a generous outlook you have, radical liberal coward who will blast my photo on social media, but not engage with me in a dialogue.

Perhaps, it might be time to unpack some internalized homophobia and capitulation to hetero supremacy. Maybe then a fellow gay person mentioning his own oppression in a supposed gay safe space won’t be some huge controversial trigger we need soothed by our echo chamber. He’s certainly reaching for straws. The joke lived on Twitter, Facebook and Grindr for weeks without mention.

The implication that race issues or women’s issues deserve more sensitivity than LGBT issues creates a heirarchy in which, yet again, LGBT come last. How can someone pointing out something unassailably obvious provoke knee-jerk scorn and outrage? To say gay people are second class citizens isn’t even controversial. If anything, it’s just a boring fact.

At the very least, this much is true: we can all be more nuanced, more intelligent, and more kind with our dialogues. Caterwauling our outrage at one another does nothing to combat oppression. It’s the psychic equivalent of pissing in the wind.

You deserve better, stranger from the internet.

We all do.

 

img_0520.jpg

Darren Kinoshita – you look great in those underwear.

-2

Privilege Mountain


Him: Look at you. You look different.

Me: I am different. Thanks for coming hiking.

Him: What’s different about you?

Me: This is the first time you’ve ever seen me in the daytime.

Him: No.

Me: Yes.

Him: Hm… Yes. I guess that’s true.

(We start hiking. He takes his shirt off.)

Me: You look like a Greek statue. Prettiest boy in Culver City.

Him: You look good too. Did you move to this area?

Me: Yes. I’m now a proud resident of Privilege Mountain.

Him: Why is it called that?

Me: It’s not. I call it that. It’s just this area of Mulholland drive near Laurel Canyon. So much privilege in these hills.

Him: All the houses look like castles. What did you did you do all morning?

Me: I did some writing and then I crowed on Facebook and Twitter about Chechnya. What do you think about Chechnya?

Him: The country?

Me: Yes.

Him: It’s in Eastern Europe.

Me: Stop. You know. They’re rounding up gays and torturing-slash-killing them.

Him: I thought that was fake news.

Me: It was not. At no time was it fake. Though, to be fair, it was barely news. People were mad about United the week it broke and then I caterwauled about it online for ten days straight. Then, someone sent me a link on Twitter to a blurb about how Biden had gotten involved. “Happy now??” I think they said.

Him: Did that make you happy?

Me: That some stranger from the internet implied that I should sit down and stop crying?? Hardly! I mean, people are talking about it now… Why don’t you find this alarming?

(He shrugs.)

Him: I’m from China. Every country handles its gay people differently.

Me: That’s a disgusting truth. Frequently dismissed, too.

(A pause.)

Him: Do you have a dog? You should get a dog. Guys with scruff and dogs are the two best things in the world.

Me: I still can’t believe this doesn’t bother you.

Him: There are plenty of gay people in China, but it isn’t generally discussed one way or another. There isn’t persecution, but you wouldn’t say you’re gay out of respect for the older generation…

Me: But, you realize that there’s always an older generation, and if everyone follows that principle gay people will always, always be invisible..

Him: That statement sounds so dramatic to the Chinese point of view. I don’t think of gay people as a group anyway. They’re from everywhere. They’re not the same. They have no solidarity.

Me: And that doesn’t seem to bother you either…

(He shrugs.)

Him: It’s better to be gay here than in China.

Me: It’s worse in Chechnya, or indeed – throughout most of the second and third world countries…

Him: Yeah, well… I’m here on Privilege Mountain, hiking with a scruffy guy.

Me: Right. I’m hiking with the prettiest boy in Culver City.

Him: So corny.

Me: Okay, I’ll get a dog.

Him: Really?!

Me: Fuck no! I’ll get a plant though. Are plants and scruff sexy?

Him: I’d better put my shirt on.

(He gestures to an approaching family.)

Me: Why?

Him: I just want to be respectful. They have children.

Me: You’re a man, hiking, in the middle of the day. In California.

Him: On Privilege Mountain, no less. But a gay man with his shirt off sends a certain message to families. It’s better not to offend them.

Me: At the planetarium the other day I kissed a guy on the cheek and this woman freaked out about her kids having to see it. I told her to move along and stop trying to control other people or she’d see a lot more.

Him: Couldn’t you just wait? Be respectful?

Me: Respectful is how you frame it to process what’s really going on.

Him: Oh jeez – and what’s that?

Me: You’re capitulating to heteronormativity. You are literally covering. A straight man wouldn’t think to put his shirt on if he was hiking shirtless. A straight woman wouldn’t think to hector straight people for kissing on the cheek.  Straight people practically make out in front of kids.

Him: Yes, but we’re gay. It’s different.

Me: How is it different?

Him: Because parents don’t want to have to explain that to children.

Me: But they’re fine with Disney explaining heterosexuality to children in the form of fairy tales.

Him: 95% of people are straight. They will always have the numbers.

Me: And we don’t have kids to pass our legacy of oppression down to.

Him: I don’t know what a legacy of oppression is.

Me: Are you KIDDING me? You’re from China. It really doesn’t bother you, being pressured to cover your gayness? Always being semi-invisible?

Him: It really doesn’t bother me.

(Pause.)

Me: It bothers me.

(Pause.)

Him: Yeah. I know. But hey – you get to live on Privilege Mountain.

Me: Yeah. “Privilege Mountain… It’s Better than Being Gay in China.”

Him: It is.

Me: I know. I know it is…


IMG_3164

the visit

piefolk_tkha36

the visit

 

i take a tarnished, greasy butter knife

wrap it taught and coarse in

the cheapest paper towels they had

for purchase at the dollar store

 

i scrape the corners and nooks of this place

unearthing frights of schmutz and gunk

that i would otherwise leave unmolested

if you weren’t coming to visit

 

empty plastic pints, glass fifths, rotgut vodka

stuffed away into bloated oversized black

garbage bags, screeching a terrible clank,

an indictment, when i set them on the curb

 

the vacuum is not working well, so i shake

the rugs, i spray bleach on the mildew colony

in the shower, between tiles, sweep up the

hair on the floor where i trimmed my beard

 

i am ashamed

 

i am not ashamed of how i live, so what, a

sock in the corner, balled up and old q-tips

hanging out by the toilet and the dishes stacked

for days in the sink, egg flakes soaking in brine

 

i am not ashamed, but it would pain me for

you to see this, and it was you, after all, who

taught me that life is about smoothing out the

smudges on the mirror in case the neighbors see

 

on my knees scrubbing i think back to the lake

house warm childhood summer barbecues

fish frys, water skis, whiffle balls, comic books

the hypnotic sound of waves lapping the shore

 

back in those sepia good old days, days before

 
that short time when we were all together

piefolk_tkha50

-3