Existence in America in 2018 is one of constant screaming in existential terror. I personally would have preferred flying cars and moon bases but you play the cards you’re dealt. I kind of had a lousy hand dealt to me in life as well and, like many, I learned ways to cope. Many turn to faith, some to activism, other substance abuse, but I chose humor. Specifically, a jaded, cynical and dark sense of humor that our society calls "black humor" or "gallows humor." It’s found quite often in oppressed minorities when dealing with life, as it has elements of defiance in mocking the power of their oppressors. However, one of the hallmarks of black humor is that it’s always self-depreciating or satirical, yet never cruel. In fact, that tends to be something I have found a problem when I do comedy; I just don’t want to be cruel, mean-spirited, or hateful.
Being a trans woman means that I’ve long suffered as the butt of cheap, cruel humor at my expense from everyone from average people to the most famous comedians, and it’s just something I don’t ever want to pass on to people, even if they are often considered my “oppressors.” I guess this is why for some reason I can’t get on board with any sort of mocking of straight or cisgender people beyond the stupid crap they do to me.
Recently, a Border Patrol agent pled guilty to accidentally starting a wildfire that destroyed over 47,000 acres, cost $8 million to fight, and required 800 firefighters to extinguish. The cause of the fire? A "gender reveal party," where a decoration filled with colored powder (containing either pink for a girl, blue for a boy) exploded. I don’t think the agent's intent was to cause an inferno. I mean, who really wants to cause a massive disaster? Yeah, this would be the time for a joke, but I’m not feeling it. So what does that have to do with dark comedy and being mean-spirited? Well, if you’re far more online than is emotionally healthy like I am, you have noticed that there’s a lot of mockery of cis-straight “culture” from gay and trans people. Now, I’m not going to say we LGBTQ people should stop that at all. God no, mock away, folks. I love good, on point, brilliant, and cutting social satire and mockery, especially if it makes a brilliant point about human nature. That’s why one of my favorite fables is “The Emperor's New Clothes.” However, one thing I’ve never enjoyed is mean-spiritedness.
Yes, I myself have taken digs at people’s intelligence, their values, their looks, their beliefs, but I would like to think it’s always come as a reaction to their awfulness, not an unprovoked attack.
One of those things LGBTQ people mock is this latest trend of aforementioned gender reveal parties. Now, I have no doubt a lot of folks would make the point there’s a lot to unpack about hetero and gender-normative performance and pressure from society to erase LGBTQ existence, and my reaction to them is, “Jesus Christ, Sigmund, sometimes a cigar is just a damn cigar.” Yeah, you could go there, but let’s be real for a moment. A lot of these folks having gender reveal parties are the most basic bitches of basic bitchiness. They’re the types that think saying “put ahnotha shrimp on the bahbe” every time they walk into an Outback is peak cleverness and that a Blooming Onion is the greatest appetizer ever invented (they’re wrong because it’s stuffed mushrooms). Back to the point though — mocking straight and cisgender culture is fine, it really is and I do it too, but there’s an element that seems to be part of an online brand some have built; one that monetizes cruelty.
We have got a ton of stuff to be angry about as LGBTQ people. Jesus, that’s like 90 percent of what I write about, and God do straight and cis people give us a lot to be furious over. However, I am reminded of the words of Yoda: “Anger leads to hate.” If there is one thing we should know is that hate is not a good thing at all. There’s a streak I’ve noticed where it goes beyond satire to a cruel, disdainful mockery of people. It’s not just of straight and cis people, but even within our own community for folks who don’t fit into certain expectations, and not even of political ideologies, but of just personal styles and tastes (don't you dare hate A Star Is Born or Taylor Swift's political awakening). I’ve been around the community long enough that I’m not blind to the almost institutionalized nature of queer “cattiness” to the point it’s a source of pride and celebration, but I tend to like it more when it’s a check on someone’s ego and bad attitude, not someone simply being a bit extra.
So what does this have to do with some Border Patrol guy burning down Arizona as part of a gender reveal hoedown? You can mock the absurd lengths and even tackiness of gender reveal parties, but they’re mostly just dumb fun for people. You can criticize them in a queer cultural analysis way, but I highly doubt anyone doing these things are familiar with the idea of “assigned male/female at birth.” You know damn well that someone out there made this tragedy into some cruel indictment of cis and straight people instead of one dumbass who started a fire. Sometimes, we need to remember that we can be pretty shitty ourselves.