Originally published on Advocate.com January 27 2014 5:19 PM ET
“Same Love” is catchy as hell, beautiful even. And I have some problems with it. I just don’t dig that the song chosen this year to celebrate the national movement toward equality begins with a description of what it feels like to be straight but fear you might be gay. The song puts thinking you are gay in as part of a list of things to be sad about — to cry about, even — and as a gay person, this upsets me. It’s tough to be defended by someone who would be bummed to be you.
Which brings me to the lyrics referencing choice. I know Mary Lambert is a lesbian. I know “She Keeps Me Warm” is a love song, and in that song, her refrain makes more sense to me. In “Same Love,” when she says she “can’t change, even if I wanted to” it troubles me a little. I know there are still folks who need to hear that gay people are gonna stay gay people no matter what is done to them. I also think there are folks — gay kids, for instance, but also, like, Republican senators — who need to know that gay people are doing OK. That we don’t all spend our lives wondering about changing our sexualities. That you can be gay and be unable to imagine changing because it’s a bigger part of your person than can be mentally subtracted.
Last night I was especially bummed to see the word “faggot” make it through to CBS broadcast. I am not pro-censorship; I just want that word to carry the gravitas of any other slur. That is still a word that is yelled at gay folks while they are beaten, intimidated, or shamed. In my mind, it isn’t a CBS word.
Watching the 2013 Golden Globes, I screamed with a bunch of lesbians as we watched Jodie Foster creep oh, so close to openly identifying the part of her life we most relate to. This year I didn’t watch as Michael Douglas got an award for his stellar performance as Liberace and Jared Leto waxed philosophic on his role in Dallas Buyers Club and the challenges trans people face. Though a year apart, those two award shows make sense to me as companions — it is still so difficult to be openly queer that straight folks are telling queer stories.
In part this is great. Queer folks need straight allies. Social change is pushed along when a minority group is backed by those outside that minority group. But we need our own voices as well. We need gay folks singing about being mistaken for straight when they were children (which happens, and I’m going to guess here, WAY MORE OFTEN THAN ANY STRAIGHT PERSON IS MISTAKEN FOR GAY). We need queer actors playing queer roles and winning awards based on performance, not just the bravery of acting queer.
Queen Latifah stood onstage last night and half-referenced/half-navigated around her own interest in “Same Love.” Then a straight man sang about being mistaken for gay. Then a gay woman asserted that she can’t change, even if she wanted to. Then Madonna wore a suit. Then a bunch of folks got married. There is a lot to love in that. There’s a lot of movement to feel proud of. There is also a long way to go.