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Gay shame is a
drag

Gay shame is a
drag

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On a recent date with a gentleman I met over the Internet--making small talk over udon--we land on the topic of "straight-acting." "I consider myself far from S-T-R-8 acting," I say. "I'm more S-T-R-3-or-4 acting. You know, sort of like the Kinsey scale."

It's my attempt to lighten the mood, but he takes it seriously. Defending me, he says, "Oh, no, you're definitely straight-acting."

I want to laugh but instead straighten my spine and drop my voice. "Really? You think so?"

"It's a compliment," he blurts out.

"Thanks," I say. And it feels like a compliment. Somewhere deep inside I'm flattered. But my brain is scolding me: What the hell is wrong with gay? The idea is to avoid "acting" altogether and just be yourself.

That's when it registers how entrenched the homophobia is. I'm flattered that this guy thinks I'm straight-acting.

He adds, "I don't like it when a guy opens his mouth and a purse falls out."

"I actually find a bit of purse rather sexy." I want to tell him that the spring in his step is actually one of the traits I like about him, but I know it'll sound like an insult.

He continues: Swishy men, drag queens, and flamboyant events like gay pride parades are doing us more harm than good among the straight population, he argues. In fact, the very notion of gay pride is obsolete.

Some of his arguments are quite convincing, albeit depressing. I love my swishy men, drag queens, and pride parades. Are they really destroying straight relations?

The date ends cordially and platonically, and we promise to post comments on each other's MySpace pages.

Later, on a weekend trip to Boston, I'm treated to an in-flight screening of Big Momma's House 2. Both ways. As I watch Martin Lawrence, through my Dramamine haze, running along the beach in a fat suit, braids, and bikini, I wonder, Why couldn't he make this funny? Even the most tragic drag queen in the most tragic gay bar in the Valley could get a laugh with this bit.

Then I think, Hey, why isn't this a drag queen movie? Then I remember years of people complaining that too many gay movies are about drag queens and they make us look bad. So films about gay drag queens stopped coming. Now drag movies are about straight people: White Chicks, She's the Man, Juwanna Mann, The Hot Chick--the list of horrors goes on.

As I sit wishing Big Momma were a bit gayer, I realize that negative feelings toward "gay-acting" drag queens led us to stop making wonderful films that made us laugh: Priscilla, Hedwig, Torch Song Trilogy, everything with Divine. We made gay drag queen movies for ourselves, but gay shame is making them disappear. We need pride more than ever--not for straight people, but for us.

We can't get too caught up in how we look to straight people or worry about educating them. Not if we haven't educated ourselves. We need to learn that "gayacting" is no more an insult than "straight-acting" is a compliment. That's what gay pride is for. It's not obsolete. They may know we're here and queer, but we still need to get used to ourselves.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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