Monday, September 27, 2010

Free Christiane Amanpour!

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

After being told three times this week how much better things are for queers than in the bad old days, I decided to spend the weekend taking stock. Hell, maybe I'm just a cranky old dyke unwilling to let go of her complaints, and her crap-colored glasses.

After two days with unusually open eyes, I have to announce that the verdict is mixed. There's no denying the legal progress. Even if Congress didn't dump Don't Ask, Don't Tell this month, we can screw in all fifty states without facing arrest for sodomy. Not that I even knew it was illegal coming up, but still. Culturally speaking, there's an actual Hollywood movie about lesbian moms, (though one still falls for a guy), and there's the homo kid on Glee that gets his head flushed in toilets (but his cool, butch father makes earnest anti-bashing statements).

And of course, there's the internet with its extraordinary potential for LGBT visibility and activism. But does it really make kids feel less alone in the world? Depending on where you live, a happy queer teen may seem like an alien from another planet. Cheerful chat rooms are parties you see from outside in the snow, with your starving face pressed against the glass.

Because the world most of us actually live in seems entirely populated by the aggressively heterosexual, with gender even more strictly enforced than a couple of decades ago. You can spend hours surfing TV and not see one woman under sixty that has short hair unless you run across a rerun of Demi Moore in Ghosts.

Guys all have hair that runs from short to ultra short, except for pro wrestlers and Samoan football players. Of the fifty black and Latino guys gathered for handball across the street, only three had long hair, dreds pulled back in ponytails. In front of Prune, the East Village restaurant, the men could all be straight from the army barber and the women from Vogue.

At Whole Foods on Houston, the only follicle deviants were girls with buzzed scalps that accentuated blade sharp cheekbones and dangly earrings. No androgyny there. Even the dykes that used to work security seemed to be gone.

While this is not exactly a Pew study, it stinks of anti-homo panic. Like seeing Christiane Amanpour with boofed up hair, enormous earbobs, and enough make-up to paint the side of a house. What happened to the international correspondent that wore khaki shirts, a bit of gloss, and the authority of untamed hair? What did you do with her? Free Christiane Amanpour!

I even watched WNYE2, but after twenty minutes and three different intersections didn't see any short-haired women, or willowy David Bowie figures. And upstate last month, there was only one girl with short hair working at McDonald's, the only muffdiver (except me) visible for miles, and she never made eye contact.

Every message on the street is no dykes, no fags, no flamboyant trannies allowed. And that's in New York. I can't imagine what it's like for queer kids in places where football players and cheerleaders still rule supreme. Along with Bible Study. God knows what preachers shout at them from the pulpits.

Even for me, so-called progress often seems like a dream. Who are you people that have accepting parents and go home willingly for Thanksgiving? Where are you queers that live in unstintingly accepting communities? Did you go undercover thinking to make it easier for the twins in the strollers? What about those few of us that can't pass, or won't? Should we cheer when we see the same Christine Quinn all dolled up in power suits and pearls that used to turn up at AVP meetings in sweats with rumpled hair. Oh, baby, let's sing the stone butch blues.

I suppose if I want dykes, even pseudo ones I'll have to buy the Millennium movie and watch Lisbeth stalk onto the screen, or get that Alien film with Sigourney Weaver's shaved head and jump shot, or Linda Hamilton in Terminator Two who could still be a dyke icon with those phenomenal arms, no matter who she finally screws.

My final report card for the state of queer nation is a C-. Legal progress creates a little space, but gender pressure does what it can to shrink social openings to such a pea-like size any acceptance requires you to pass for ultra-straight.

And me, I'm back where I usually am, declaring things have changed, but not nearly enough. And if we don't pay attention, what little we have can be stripped away. It's happening to straight women with legal rights as abortion gets more restricted every year. And if you don't realize how quickly tolerance can cede to hate after years of seeming progress, you just have to google "Obama," and pick your way through the filth.

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