Passed Passing

Do people get called “faggot” anymore? I wonder this, living in the hippie city of progressivism that is Los Angeles. No one questions my gaiety nor denies me my ability to express my sexual rights. That’s great. Yet, I went out of my way to get here, to work around the stigmas attached to being gay in Washington, D.C. or Atlanta, Georgia. I needed a salvation.

Since gay marriage is now here to stay and we’ve all effectively been normalized, I wonder if we are still “us.” A big part of my life was getting made fun of. The response was to dig my toes into the ground and tighten my fists until they turned white: you had to literally stand up for yourself. That does not happen any more. Perhaps it is just being an adult with adults around us but that constant confrontation, the double-consciousness of being gay has disappeared. Have we move passed the need to pass?

Yes and no. A big part of the fight for gay rights is based in passing: you can marry and we can’t so, in order to fully pass, to fully assimilate, we need to get married too. So are we passed passing? Yes and no: as terrible Ryan Murphy shows have said, we are “the new normal”—but we still put on our non-gay affects.

Getting married is just one hurdle to jump across in the landscape of normalizing us. There are other work arounds for things like having a kid or engendering a same sex relationship: that’s a true selling out of your identity. I’ve always maintained the philosophy that I can only do what I am capable of. Can I physically make a child with my male partner? No. That is an impossibility that I must honor. I am more than happy to be an uncle or godfather—a real father? That is literally not me. Moreover, being “just a guy” or an “effeminate male” is something so cringeworthy: I would never like to be a little object in an American dream. I love you, Ms. USA, but I must stand outside of your norm because I am not like you.

Do kids see that today? When a young, gay YouTuber uses the platform to speak about their lifestyle and spreading their news, mentally habituating leagues of kids to our ways, where are we now? So many friends have raved and wondered while gazing into the future: the future holds a world where gay marriage is just marriage, where sexual (and hopefully gender and racial) identity have been muted. It’s a science fiction fantasy with a lot of truth behind it. No kids will get made fun of in the future for being sexually different. That shit will be taught in school. There won’t be any otherness to it. Perhaps we need the bigots to make us who we are? Maybe we people denying us our rights in order to be reminded that we are different.

“Gay is not enough anymore,” John Waters recently told a graduating class at RISD. Was it ever enough? You always had to be gay and something. It goes with passing: if you weren’t not-gay enough, everything in your world imploded. That doesn’t change today. Don’t be normal. Stay on the outside and, yes, move passed passing in your own way—and know that you still have to pass. It’s never over.


Well, that was all a very long and roundabout way to give a shoutout to a recent story on the bittersweet marriage victory. This really is how I feel, even though I’ve always worked in isolation and without any queer coven to converge with:

For too many artists and writers to count, being gay infused their work with an outsider sensibility, even when they were not explicitly addressing those themes. Their private lives and identity gave them “a cunning and sophisticated way of looking at the world and questioning its normative notions,” said Todd Haynes, the director of “Far From Heaven” and the coming film “Carol,” based on the lesbian romance novel “The Price of Salt,” by Patricia Highsmith.

The story mentions how critics have found artwork by LGBT persons to be missing this quality. So what unites us? That realization that we are different, that seeing yourself against the backdrop of normalcy. This is a critical moment: we can choose to join them or stay outside the norm. To stay in is to assimilate—to stay in is to challenge the day-to-day. Thus, we land in this wonderful place…

Beth Malone, who plays the adult Alison [in Fun Home], said in an interview that young women sometimes waited for her at the stage door and whispered their plans for coming out, even with an unknowing parent standing a few feet away. This is why gay culture is unlikely to disappear: because there will always be young people discovering they are different from their families, several historians and sociologists said.

They also said that gay culture had a natural successor to which it is bequeathing its boundary-breaking qualities: queer culture, which questions rigid categories like male and female and gay and straight. Over the years, the relationship between the more established gay world and those who consider themselves transgender or queer has been strained at times. Some lesbians accuse transgender men of abandoning feminism, and some people who identify themselves as transgender or queer see gay men and women as too conformist.

Ah, yes: this is where we are now. This is us. It does highlight the casual fear that the idea of LGBT will erode at our own hands. It hasn’t happened yet, though. I’d actually like to see it all dissolve into the more ominous, solitary Q, a statement of us versus them. It’s more complicated and more difficult to grasp because there is no ins or outs. There are no questions. You just be you.

I like that. That is truly passed passing: being here and queer.

(To give you an idea of how radical this is on a very baseline level, I’ve had two things I’ve written with the word “queer” in it as an express of community—a line like my “fellow queers,” etc.—edited out as a politically correct move to sidestep potentially confrontational conversation. There is nothing wrong with that word: it is not taboo—it is us. It’s time to throw that word out in a bigger and stronger way. Be nebulous and beyond boundaries by just saying you are queer. Let people wonder. It is your right to make people wonder.)

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