We Can’t Afford to Compromise Some Rights in Pursuit of Others

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 § 1

Gay men come in all shapes and sizes, both literally and figuratively. Some gay men may express more masculinity in their lives, while other’s might express more femininity (with loads somewhere in-between), and there’s nothing wrong with either. One of original tenets of the gay (now LGBTQ) right’s movement was the freedom of self-expression.

Which is why it bugs me so much when some members of the LGBTQ community express their desire for other members to “tone down” their self-expression. They think that some gay men are flaunting their sexuality, whether it’s by dressing in drag in a pride parade, talking with a “gay lisp”, or breaking gender norms.

A common argument is that by acting in a way that is not heteronormative, gay men are hurting the “community’s” case for rights like being able to serve in the military (DADT repeal) and the right to marry.

This attitude is pretty much exemplified in the following video, where youtube user tifroc expresses his viewpoint that other more “effeminate” men are a “detriment” to the gay “community” and shouldn’t be themselves because it might offend some moderates, and affect “his” potential right to marry. Essentially, he just wants gay men to act more “normal” (heteronormative) around the general populace.

I don’t know why he’s not wearing a shirt, but I do know that I wholeheartedly disagree with him. Maybe his idea of being gay doesn’t involve high heeled boots or purses, but to others, it might.

He makes the argument that “his” right, marriage, is more important “their” right, self-expression. Frankly, he’s being selfish.

People do have different priorities, I get that. But it’s one thing to choose which goals to push for the strongest, and another to try and suppress other’s freedom of self-expression, something many simultaneously exercise and fight for everyday.

In my English class right now, we’re reading Reading Lolita in Tehran, which is about an English professor’s (Azar Nafisi’s) experience during the Iranian revolution.

In her memoir, Nafisi describes how various revolutionary political entities press (and later force) her and other Iranian women to wear headscarves for, essentially, the good of the revolution. They lose the right to choose how to express themselves. In the revolutionaries minds, the headscarf was simply inconsequential compared to the “fight against the satanic influence of Western imperialists” (pg. 165, for those following along at home).

I hope that the connection is clear. The headscarf is analogous to stiletto heels, painted toenails, or any other sort of expression an individual would like to engage in. No one should be forced to wear or not wear a head-scarf, just as no one should be forced (or kept) from donning a dress and marching in a parade.

Self-expression should be a basic liberty for all, and should not be sacrificed, no matter how grand or noble the cause that’s being pursued is.

The LGBTQ community has so few rights, that to let go of one’s that’s been achieved, (at least to some extent) is simply foolish. I completely support the fight for gay marriage, DADT repeal, and the passage of ENDA. What I don’t, is compromising the rights of self-expression to do so.

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§ 1 Response to “We Can’t Afford to Compromise Some Rights in Pursuit of Others”

  • emilygw says:

    Great post! You have a great point. Although some people may feel dressing differently will hurt the gay rights campaign, the whole campaign is about people being themselves, and if you take away their right to reflect themselves through their style, you are just hurting the campaign further. Great job Kyle!

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