Every year around pride, companies who engage in pinkwashing proudly display the flags of minorities whose identities they endanger, funding right wing pundits. Since BLM, people of colour have had to defend their right to exist in advertising. And every time a new LGBT+ character appears in a show, LGBT+ people have to defend ourselves. We don’t not want representation, we all want reparation, and we want our own peoples to be brought into discussion of how we’re represented. Heterosexual white cis people have had the forum for thousands of years. It’s past time you shared it.
“Woke gay boy”
I got that three times yesterday on social media because I was laughing at the latest target of homophobes across the world.
Firstly let’s not forget the irony that people see woke- slang for “aware of racial injustice” as an insult, because frankly I wear it as a badge of honour. But secondly, let’s examine why people feel the need to be angry at my laughter, when it comes to their hysterical flailing. You see, the advert that’s got all the anti gay people frothing at the mouth again is a Christmas advert from Norway, with a gay Santa Claus kissing his husband. The advert was funded by the post office to celebrate 3o years of an inclusive law brought in to protect the rights of the LGBT+ citizens living there.
Some of the, and I’m using this word with every ounce of festive generosity I can summon here, “arguments” around this advert which came up were thus:
1 “Why are they sexualising Santa!”
2 “I don’t want to have to explain to my kids what Santa does with his penis”
3 “I don’t mind people being gay, just don’t know why it has to be forced in our faces all the time”
4 “I’m sick of seeing these companies doing this, advertising with stuff like that”
Lets take these one at a time- briefly, simply, for the people whose histrionics may overwhelm a longer, more finessed answer.
1 They aren’t sexualising Santa because he kissed a man- you are. You saw two men kiss and your mind, homophobia ingrained, immediately jumped to gay sex- because you have homophobia in your head and need to deal with that.
2 “Hey kids, sometimes men like men, and sometimes women like women, and sometimes they like both, or neither”. All done, time for an earl grey.
3 How do you think it feels as gay people to be constantly surrounded by gyrating heterosexual couples kissing and touching on champagne adverts, and posters and tv shows and movies, in magazines, in public, in clubs and pubs, bars, restaurants? Heterosexuality is the majority, which is fine. But seeing something that isn’t heterosexual… one advert a day, one poster, one character… it’s not exactly going to give you renal failure. If you’re so delicate that the simple reminder that gay people exist- that we have lives and loves, health problems and more- bothers you so, you have no right to ever complain that we’re the sensitive generation.
4 So am I, really. Do you think I enjoy seeing endless heterosexually invoked pastiches of gay men and women, from companies who don’t donate to or do anything for the LGBT+ community? What happens when people create these adverts and flaunt minorities- this is much broader than the rainbow community but I can’t speak on behalf of POC- is this.
An advert is created featuring gay people, or a show is made with a bisexual, or trans, or gender neutral character. The IMMEDIATE reaction from right wing reactionaries is to be OFFENDED! How DARE this company flaunt this disgusting behaviour in our faces as if it’s NORMAL- as if the act of kissing another man, or heck, even just showing affection towards someone of the same sex is an unforgivable transgression. And of course, this rantery spills over onto a community just existing. We have to, as always, legitimise ourselves, our existence and enter discourse about how our mere presence on TV is so offensive, so graphic and sexual, that gay men having a smooch on tv somehow morphs into a 3 hour long video of two men clad only in sweat, rolling around in various positions. Our existence isn’t innately sexual, it just IS, much like heterosexual people. And yet we must defend ourselves against allegations of trying to make the world bi or gay simply because a company tokenised us.
And what happens from this? Discourse about the company abounds. They get word of mouth advertising, for free, from a community of people just trying to exist in their own skins. Is that fair? To force confrontation between people who think we’re literally disgusting and us, the people who just want to be alive in peace. Are we rewarded for this labour? Absolutely not. As always, we come away from another confrontation brought about by the machinations of someone else, pushed on us by people so weak they can’t cope with our mere existence and the fact that we sometimes have sex in a different way than them. It’s tiring. I am tired.
The same can be said for POC in the UK. Since BLM, POC have been platformed in more adverts- rightly so. I don’t care if the lady on the lemsip advert is black or white, if I need lemsip, I need lemsip and the skin colour of the actress doesn’t matter- to me. To a POC in the UK, much like me with the adverts I’m talking about above, I’m sure it comes as a double edged sword- “excellent, representation!” along with a weary certainty that somewhere out there, Sharon, 45, from Barnsley is angrily tweeting that WHITE PEOPLE ARE THE MAJORITY as if that has any bearing on anything at all other than Sharon’s blood pressure- We literally had this recently with a bunch of racist folk tweeting their rage that a black family were Christmas shopping on the Sainsburies advert. I’d love to ask why these, frankly weird, people can’t relate to what is essentially a loving family shopping for Christmas- is skin colour so important to these oddballs? But the answer there is – yes. But why? It’s not a mindset you can understand if you’re not in it and frankly I feel you have to lack a certain level of intellect to be that sensitive to inclusion.
We saw the same issue with the John Lewis advert- a young boy in a dress causing destruction in the house while he had fun… Sarah Ditum, a prominent transphobe took it as writ that this little boy was a representation of trans people and even referred to him with swearwords on twitter. The boy isn’t trans, just a boy in a dress acting daft as children are wont to do. But the trans community of course had to leap to the defence of a literal child who wasn’t even in their group, in the face of knee jerk bigotry from people who claim to “just have concerns about their rights”.
I’m sure this post will come across as the whiny diatribe of another SJW asking people to do inclusion the RIGHT way- but I don’t care. I’m tired, because I know now that Christmas songs are being played on the radio it’s only a matter of time until we have the row we have every single year about A Fairytale of New York. Straight people, intentionally homophobic or not will express annoyance, dismay, confusion about discourse around censoring, or not censoring, the F slur. And again, LGBT+ people are drawn into a row caused by straight people thinking that it’s censorship to ask them not to repeat the slur I’ve been called every time a straight person has used violence against me on account of my sexuality.
To you it’s just a word. To me it’s a word that strips me utterly of my equal standing in society, and a reminder that to some people I’m a sexual deviant who would have been beaten, arrested- killed, mere decades ago.
Must be nice not to understand what it’s like to have a word out there floating around waiting to be used with venom against people like me, to denigrate and insult and upset us. Some nice privilege not to know that feeling.
And all of these things, these feelings, these issues and rows are foisted on us when we just want to exist in the same space, with the same right to dignity as everyone else.
The so much for tolerance crowd have absolutely no idea what it’s like to spend your life having to face daily slights against your own right to existence and frankly it’s a shame that people are so incapable of putting themselves in the shoes of LGBT+ people, into the lives of POC who face daily microaggressions just for existing, imagine what it’s like to be women and listen to constant comments about how “sensitive” you are, and insinuations that you’re less than societally because of your gender.
And I’d love to sit with those who read this which is both a vent and a request for empathy and ask them why they think their right to exist in peace is not equal to mine, or anyone else- it exceeds it.