What I learned from being with John is that the society suddenly treated me as a woman, as a woman who belonged to a man who is one of the most powerful people in our generation. Some of his closest friends told me that probably I should stay in the background, I should shut up, I should give up my work and that way I’ll be happy. I was lucky. I was over thirty and it was too late for me to change. But still, still, this is one thing I want to say to the sisters, because I really wish that you know that you are not alone. Because the whole society started to attack me, that the whole society wished me dead that I started to accumulate a tremendous amount of guilt complex, and in result of that I started to stutter. I consider myself a very eloquent woman, and also an attractive woman, and suddenly because I was associated to John that I was considered an ugly woman– ugly Jap who took your monument or something away from you. That’s when I realized how hard it is for women. If I can start to stutter, being a strong woman and having lived thirty years by then. Learned to stutter in three years of being treated as such, it is a very hard road.
-Yoko Ono at the First International Feminist Conference, Cambridge, MA 1973
Last week I was interviewed by Bill Grady for his show You are the Guest. I was quite nervous about appearing on the show, knowing that politically we have very different leanings, and knowing that I don’t yet have the knowledge to hold up against someone who doesn’t already agree with me. I haven’t been able to listen to the show all the way through. I hear myself stuttering, stammering, and never really getting out there and saying what was in my heart.
While there are a number of things that bothered me about how I presented myself on the show, the thing that I find most troubling is the fact that I avoided saying that I am gay. Internalized homophobia? Gay shame? Not wanting to make “an issue” out of my sexuality? I don’t know.
These questions combined with Willing Warrior’s excellent interview with Joshua, and some brief behind the scenes conversation I had with Ragan Fox has me doing some serious thinking about my own homophobia.
From the beginning of my podcast, I have struggled with finding a balance between doing a gay show about my experiences and a show about my experiences as a man who is also gay. The more I struggle, the harder the line between the two is to discern. I make no bones about the fact that I do not want to be labled as a gay show, or as a “queercaster” because I want to produce content that is of interest to more than just a gay audience. To be perfeclty honest, I dread being lumped in with the plethera of gay podcasts that are limited to talk about casual sex, alcohol and drug use, bitchy humor, and celebrity gossip. Then I think, doesn’t this disdain for gay culture keep me divided from my own community? We are a community, even if we don’t always act like one.
So then I hear Joshua’s story and I remember what the cost is to real people when this cycle of intolerance is perpetuated. Do I contribute by keeping my mouth shut about my gayness when I have perfectly good reason to bring it up? Do I contribute when I don’t speak up about modern day minstrel shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Will and Grace? How about when I didn’t speak up about the fact that even though Richard apologized, I still believe that Adam Curry was dead wrong, and that his reaction to Madge’s accusations proved what a homophobe he really is. Then there is the waiter at breakfast this morning–I caught myself internally rolling my eyes and asking “why does he have to be so faggy?”
The heart of all of this is that it’s time for me to start asking myself if I am working against the gay community I would like to see, or doing something to contribute to it. How this relates to the content of my show remains to be seen. I guess I will always fear alienating listeners, but the cost of failing to speak my mind has become too clear to censor myself anymore.