Monday, December 7, 2009

Sin Tax Error


As I said last week in an article about a gay pageant in South Africa and the lack of mainstream (straight) media coverage for the event, "gay + controversy = mainstream media coverage". Now it seems somebody else has gone one better to publicly redefine the nature gay people. But then, it is an old accusation, one which has been made many times, and this certainly will not be the last. Just a pity it comes from "one of our own".

I postulated that it seems gay people being portrayed in the media as promiscuous stereotypes and parodies as a rule is just fine, but telling the truth about them or showing them in a good light is just not controversial or interesting enough. Now it seems there is some confusion about what is the truth about gay people, and right now, yes - I'm talking stereotypes. What makes a stereotype even worse is to fly in the face of everything we have been saying and doing to disprove that stereotype - and then inexplicably, just go and prove them right.

If you think newspapers really are in the business of truth, then you are more naive than I am - because truth doesn't always sell. Newspapers are businesses - and businesses are in the business of making money - and what sells better than truth or even blatant lies, is controversy. (This too is rather controversial, but anyhow, that's another story for another day.)

After receiving virtually no straight media coverage in the time leading up to its launch, or coverage of the semi-final events around the country - or the dazzling finale' - now the event is suddenly getting exactly the wrong kind of attention I was talking about before.

"The man crowned Mr Gay SA last weekend is a porn star."

"Mr Gay SA is Chad the stripper. An explicit video of Charl van den Berg, the 27- year-old manager of Cape Town's Cafe Manhattan, is available online on a ..."

If this doesn't prove my point?

My gripe here is about the lack of favorable media exposure of the event. Now the media, true to form has picked out a weakness or a bad point and has started hammering on it. What would've been helpful is if the selection process of the pageant had acted appropriately before the time. I can't think of any straight pageant winners who were porn stars, at least not openly so. That being said, it's not as if hetero pageants don't have their own sordid little secrets - look at that bigot (Carrie Prejean) who was thrown out of the Miss California pageant for speaking out against gay marriage because of her "Christian principles" - a very "moral" thing to say on live TV - however, she was subsequently exposed in a sex tapes scandal - very sound "Christian principles" there. Fortunately, the religious right, who had been using her as a poster-girl against marriage equality immediately dropped her like a hot potato. 

The point is, regardless of their "morality" - or the lack of it - the contestants in straight heterosexist pageants usually receive all the media coverage they ask for, and more. The issue of porn is not my gripe in this matter, but rather something said by Chad as he tried to put things into perspective:

In a post-event statement, Mr Gay SA tried to clarify his position by saying that he believes "porn is an integral part of the gay lifestyle".

Well, now... Just three things bother me here...

One - What other people do in their spare time and in their own space to get their rocks off, is their business. I certainly am not going to start hollering about the "morality" of the porn industry. While I think everyone is or should be entitled to porn (and I oppose efforts to criminalize it) I certainly don't like it myself, nor do I think it is "integral" to anything except poor taste and a waste of resources. I don't like it, so I don't watch it. Nobody said I have to, so I don't know what it is they are bitching about. Whatever this guy does, he is obviously good at it, and it may be that some are just jealous of his dashing good looks and physique. However -

The statement on his part that porn is "an integral part of the gay lifestyle" simply goes to affirm the view that porn and sex are all that being gay is about, and I simply have to disagree on that note. Is that all YOU think about as a gay man or woman? Is that what drives you to a relationship? Sex? Lust? I don't think so, it was never what propelled me into a relationship - but then I'm pretty much indifferent to sex in general and could probably live out the rest of my life without it. Regardless of the gender of my partner, I have always been motivated by a love attraction, and of course as you will note, those attacking us will never, ever admit to or give acknowledgment to that aspect of a gay person's existence. Being gay is about sex and that is all there is to it.

"Love is for straight people" they will claim, "just like marriage" - in the same breath, they will also assert that gay people are sexual perverts and deviants and "all they think about is sex". I hope Chad can also see now what kind of damage his statement does to the efforts of activists who are trying so hard to dispel that sort of image. He has played straight) proclaiming the "immorality" and "obsession with sex" inherent to homosexuality.

I don't know how you feel about this, but as an activist - a transgender woman fighting for GLBTI rights, I certainly am not fighting for sex, lust and porn. I am in this for love, freedom and equality. What is the difference, you may wonder? When I read statements like Chad's, so do I - and I'm sure, so do others. And believe me, that is not a good thing.

Two - I admit I tend to dislike the use of the word "lifestyle" because it panders to the propaganda of the right wing, suggesting that GLBT people "choose to be gay" and because it reinforces the misnomer that being gay or trans or intersex is somehow a lifestyle - and not a state of being, like having blond hair or blue eyes. It makes me cringe every time some misguided GLBTI person slips it in somewhere and thinks they are being very clever, when they are actually just shooting us all in the foot.

Three - I admire the organizers of the pageant greatly - their hearts are in the right place, and the effort, expense and lengths to which they went in order to bring us such a high quality event in such a short time were extraordinary - but I think the next time they should - as other mainstream pageants do - screen the contestants for anything which may detract from the positive image of an "ideal" gay man as Mr. Gay South Africa.

I think this screening process should filter out everything which detracts from the positive image which they are trying to portray. And yes, I think this should include porn stars.


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