A Queerbot by Any Other Name ...
Use your words carefully
By Frank J. Rivera,
10:47PM, Wed. Feb. 17, 2010
A CBS News/New York Times poll released this past week finds that while 50+% of Americans are in favor of "gays and lesbian women" serving openly in the military, less than half want "homosexuals" in our armed forces. Yes, you read that correctly.
14% or the difference between a plurality and a majority. The straights are less threatened by gays and lesbians than homosexuals? I dunno, maybe homosexuals sounds too clinical.
Naming has been a problem for the GLBT community for awhile now, right? We've been arguing gay marriage vs. civil unions for years.
Another important poll – this time University of Texas at Austin & Texas Tribune sponsored – finds that nearly two-thirds of Texans favor either "civil union" or "gay marriage" protection for homosexual couples.
(P.S.: How awesome is the Tribune? I could just read their Medina coverage all day.)
Back on point: 63% of Texans think gays and lesbians should be afforded the same legal rights that heterosexual couples enjoy, even if the larger chunk don't want the name of their institution sullied by our ilk. I kid. Sort of.
Does this mean that, if gays and lesbians could rally behind civil unions, the legislation would pass?
Hrrrrmmmmmm I'll hazard a guess: F**k no! For a few reasons.
First, now while I'm not sure about this – having no statistical evidence to back it up – but I would guess that the 30% of Texans who don't want gay lads and lesbian mamas to have the same legal rights as boring-ole-straights probably skew Republican. They also probably vote in primaries.
So, if you're a Republican running for a nomination to statewide office in a heavily right-leaning district, this might be the type of wedge issue that could be brought up to "question your conservative credentials."
Lemme check real quick. Yup, Texas is still as red as an elephant's spanked bottom. Or a Log Cabin Republican's.
So, I don't think the Lege is much of an option, at the moment.
Second, the UT/Tribune poll fails to ask the all important question: "Do you care more about gay rights or getting a state-sponsored-coupon for Dairy Queen soft serve?"
Sure, for queers, civil rights-minded heteros and our many allies, this is something we march and hold parades and shit for.
But – and this is a terrible stereotype, I'm sorry – the Plano suburbanite who loves her hair dresser and considers him one of the "gay friends" that makes her so gosh-darn-cultured doesn't really register this as a core concern.
Third, there's the possibility of a gay Bradley Effect; or the "[to her girlfriends] Oh Ma Gawd, I love the gays, [to her husband] but they're buying up all the property in the cutest neighborhoods" effect. Man, that Plano chick is a beeeotch.
However, civil unions – at least, from this poll – do seem like less of an uphill battle than marriages. There are responses: Is it a sacrifice we are willing to make? Is this an example of marriage apartheid? How can we be equal in the eyes of the law if we aren't equal in the words of the law? Is this true parity? So many rebuttals and – I think – just concerns.
But names do matter.
Last night, a local stand-up comedian friend of mine was appalled that I hadn't seen Chris Rock's 2008 Kill the Messenger, and so I put it on.
Good stuff, for the most part. But a chunk of it pissed me off. I don't think it makes me overly sensitive to say that it is not cool for Chris Rock to use the word faggot the way he did. Sure, the "Hollaback Girl" dance is hilarious, but hold up, Mr. Sister.
The only time I've been happy someone got punched in the face was when Perez Hilton got wtfpwned by the Black Eyed Peas' manager for calling will.i.am a faggot. Hell, it's the only time I've been happy with the Black Eyed Peas.
Faggot isn't the new N-word, but restrictions do apply. Use it as a derogatory slur and you suck in my book. Well, for a bit. I love Chris Rock. And I'll probably go to Hilton's SXSW show (He'll have a good lineup, don't judge.)
Despite these issues of classification and naming, I believe that over the next few years the GLBT community will see change. I believe this. I suppose I have to.
It's like MLK, Jr. said, "Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals."
Through time and effort, we'll move the wheels inexorably towards our goals, but there are discussions that need to be had; there are debates that need to be resolved. And right now, what to call ourselves and our hopes is causing a divide. We have to define ourselves before we can fight for ourselves, right?
These two polls reinforce at least two things: Gay nomenclature has an influence on the greater civic debate and a lot of people are having this debate.
Personally, I also think UT/Tribune poll supports the idea that even in oh-so-red Texas, gay rights may not be an inevitability, but they are getting increasingly likely. But I dunno. I sometimes read into things too much.
*If you're on Twitter, consider following @atxhipsters & @Extempaholic. They helped a brotha out.