Archives for posts with tag: Arab Spring

Painted Map

Written for Beige in the UK and published today.

My inaugural letter from America is sent at a time when American secrets and lies take center stage.

I’m staying in Petrolia, Northern California, eleven hours from my home in Los Angeles with Daisy Cockburn, the daughter of Emma Tennant and political journalist and contrarian Alexander Cockburn who sadly died last year.  I am writing at his desk overlooking his wild and beautiful garden.  Alexander Cockburn, like his friend Noam Chomsky, would have slammed the US government for the actions of the NSA recently revealed by Edward Snowden.

Whilst I am amused by the audacious lengths government will go to hold onto its own secrets while harvesting yours… he was not.  Like this present generation of internet babies… I have never valued secrets.  I am an open book. I have always believed that everything I am is yours.

Do you remember the biggest secret you had to keep?  You know, the queer secret?

When I realized I was different, that my sexual/social narrative did not correspond with those around me, I was baffled as to how I should make the difference known.  I was just a child.  I did not ‘come out of the closet’. I didn’t understand why I should make a big emotional announcement. I decided that I wouldn’t tell anyone. My actions would speak louder than words.  It was up to them, those around me, to frame the reveal. Not me.

It was obvious that being queer, telling people that I was queer during the 1970’s… was like letting off a bomb. It was an act of terrorism.  For some, it still is.  Holding my lover’s hand in the street… a rebellion.

So, instead of having a difficult conversation with my secular loved ones about my sexuality, I spoke openly about my same-sex desires, my plans and my heroes.  They looked askance but they got used to it… or else.  I was a teenage whistleblower.

There is nothing more honorable than being a whistleblower.

This month, two extraordinary whistleblowers are top of the news.  Queer hero Bradley Manning and straight hero Edward Snowden.  Manning is currently on trial in a semi-secret military kangaroo court and unlikely ever to be released. The other brave whistleblower, Edward Snowden, a fugitive in Hong Kong, unlikely to see his country of origin ever again.

My gay brothers and sisters in the USA have, on the most part, turned their back on Bradley Manning citing his law breaking as treasonous. Maligning his motives, distancing themselves from his gay story.  Manning’s narrative is bound up with the recently abandoned DADT, a messy ‘coming out’, Manning’s extreme family poverty and the witnessing of cruel and illegal horrors that no man should ever see.

Manning has unwittingly created a schism in the LGBTQ community, cleaving the queers from the gays.  The queers have on the most part embraced Manning, his activism and conscientious objection. The gays have not.  The Queers had Manning elected as a San Francisco gay pride parade grand marshal in late April, but the LGBTQ board quickly rescinded the ‘honor’ after a white male gay outcry.

Queer supporters of Manning held demonstrations, crowded a Pride board meeting and packed a community forum all with the hopes of seeing Manning reinstated as a grand marshal. The Pride board has not budged.

Why are the majority of USA gays so repulsed by Manning?

Perhaps if Manning had been a muscular, army guy of the gay-for-pay porn star variety so popular amongst the gays, they may have ‘evolved’ a different point of view.  Manning is not that guy. He is small and slight and wan.  He joined the army to get an education and ironically ended up educating the whole world.

He is lauded by Michael Moore, Vietnam Vets, heterosexual politicians/presidents and liberal intellectuals all over the world.  His actions are widely credited with hastening an American withdrawal from Iraq and the Arab Spring.

To many across the world Bradley Manning is a hero.

Yet, the gay establishment ignore Bradley. He is routinely ignored by the HRC and GLAAD. He is viciously bullied on anonymous gay, online discussion boards.  GLAAD would rather honor a homophobic, straight film director rather than one of our brave own.

Many of the USA gays who publicly hate Manning are upper middle-class, affluent white men.  They seem embarrassed and angry by his openness, his honesty, his despair.   They call him impertinent, arrogant and narcissistic.  Yet, had Bradley Manning been a bone fide journalist with a fancy ivy league degree he might have become a hero… or like Edward Snowden who currently enjoys the support of over 100, 000 people on the White House petition page demanding a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs.

There is no such petition for Bradley Manning.  Bradley was not well-educated… he’s a white trash gay kid with ideas above his rank.

His detractors, formerly closeted gay men, have their own relationship with the truth.  By necessity, after years of experience, they have become slick liars, natural spies, covert experts. In their every day life they create the illusion of perfection: socially, physically and sexually. A tribe of American gay men who have an overwhelming urge to be over-achievers.  They are clean-cut and conservative in appearance, they throw themselves into their jobs with the same fervency they got through school.

They champion marriage and the military rather than the end of LGBTQ jobs discrimination.  They have no interest in helping others in the coalition of oppressed minorities cobbled together by President Obama because they do not consider themselves an oppressed minority.

Why should they?  They are white, affluent and male.  What’s not to be proud of?

Since I arrived in the USA I have (rather proudly) been subject to not one… but two gagging orders imposed on me by white gay men.

Both ex-intimates, both terrified of having their secret gay lives revealed.  Professional white men, a 32-year-old and a 45-year-old.   The younger man works for a famous publishing house and is perhaps the most interesting because he supposedly respects the first amendment.   The other, a rich businessman caught lying and cheating.

The former was well ensconced in his comfy closet when I first met him, about to be married to a women, living a double life. When I found out about his deception I told him,  “Either you tell the woman you are deceiving… or I will.”

When I tell white gay men this story they are outraged.  They blame the deceived woman for being dumb.  Their thinly veiled misogyny revealed.

“How stupid of her to not realize he was gay.”  they scold.

One Saturday morning two years ago he told her he was living a double life.  After he came out of the closet he had a great deal of sex with many men then settled down with the man he intends to marry.  Free from her sociopathic ex she is now in love with an honest heterosexual.  Of course… he demonizes me.  She probably does too.  No good deed goes unpunished.

Like a lot of over-achieving well-closeted gay men, the publisher operated under the “Best Little Boy in the World” syndrome, a term from Andrew Tobias’ seminal coming-out autobiography of the same name, published in 1973, describing a certain type of middle-to-upper-class gay man.

Gay men are still terrified of the truth: personal or public. Their worst fear when growing up was having their gay truth revealed.  We all want to control the message.  Nobody wants to be told that they are queer ahead of their own declaration.

Many gay men still behave like small boys grappling with who and what it means to be gay.  Scarred by shame, they loathe any queer person who draws negative attention to him/herself in case it tarnishes them or the gay corporation.

They loathe Bradley Manning for outing the nation.

When gay men are ready to tell the truth about being gay they demand recognition and plaudits for doing so.  A heroes welcome for coming out of the closet.  Yet, after this initial flush of candor, their honesty only extends so far.

Beyond the great revelation there is a darker side to being gay that the gay white elite doesn’t want you to know.

They have gone to extraordinary lengths to make you think we are JUST LIKE YOU.  They are still placating their heterosexual parents, school mates and the straight friends who don’t mind them being gay… as long as you don’t do anything gay around me.

The gays don’t want you to know about the meningitis epidemic, the continuing HIV epidemic, they don’t want you to know about their loneliness, their propensity for STDs, the unreasonably high gay adult male suicide rate, the sexual unmanageability, drug taking, racism, sexism, classism, narcissism and ageism that blights the gay ‘community’.  They don’t mention how they routinely commodify women’s bodies/reproductive labor so they can have children. They don’t want you to know just how hard it is to be straight acting, to be ‘masc’ or to find themselves remotely attractive when they look in the mirror.

They don’t want you to know that for many LGBTQ… it doesn’t get better.

Manning broke the first rule of the white gay American elite:  Don’t rock the boat.

The gay businessman’s gagging order expires early next year and he will, inevitably seek to extend it.  The publisher will do the same.  The problem is:  as they know all too well… the truth is eventually revealed.

I met a man.  A medical doctor.  He was well put together, handsome, the president of a large gay organization that supposedly represents the interests of the gay community.  Our trusted servant. He couldn’t stop crying.  Under his well cut trousers he had a permanent needle in his leg for jacking meth. He begged me not to write about him.

I couldn’t make that promise.  He is the perfect white gay American metaphor.

In modern America secrets both public and personal are simultaneously considered defending and deflowering at the expense of the constitution. At both micro and macro levels this secretive bipolarity has come to define my stay in the USA.

 

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Vivienne Westwood wears Bradley Manning

So, I’ve been spending time on Christian Mingle.

Looking for God’s match for me. Well, I’m sorry but… it’s shit.

God (not my usual God) made it quite clear to me whilst I was scrolling obsessively through acres of men who look like pedophiliac geography teachers… he made it perfectly clear that a life of abstinent solitude was probably on the cards or (if I was really lucky) being violently murdered by a crazy sex therapist or… luckier… a hit man sent by some crazier ex.

Which brings me illogically to:

Bradley Manning. My hero. What can I say? This courageous young man has revealed not only international truths triggering the Arab Spring and a hasty retreat from Iraq by the USA… but the truth about American, white gay men.

Fuck me. What a bunch of crazy, right-wing cock suckers.

I mean… these gay white guys are voting Democrat, so they get their miserable marriage equality then… as soon as they do… they’ll jump ship and vote Republican… if they aren’t already.

Gay White Men won’t feel like they are part of any minority once they achieve parity with their straight white male colleagues.

Powerful white men famously loathe sharing the stage with immigrants, brown people, poor people, ugly people, fat people, trans… and women. Fuck them. Especially women. Their natural enemy.

‘They don’t mesh with MY lifestyle.’ he said.  Yes, he really said that.

It fills me full of dread to imagine a world run by gay white men. But apparently, according to Elton John. It already is.

So Bradley, I had to draw a line in the sand.

It’s Anderson Cooper, Elton John, David Geffen, the HRC and any guests at a typical Hollywood pool party over there… and it’s me you and the brown people over here.

Bradley, in the USA the gays want to ignore you, demonize you, forget you.

The rest of the world thinks about you every day, rotting in that jail. They agree with me. They think you’re the bees knees.

Bradley, you won’t believe this but, yesterday Vivienne Westwood wore a laminated photograph of you pinned to her lilac, silk gown at the Metropolitan Fashion Ball.

Perhaps the gays might take you more seriously now?

I doubt it.

I’m really sorry that our community has let you down.

Apparently what you did… isn’t gay enough.

“What does Bradley Manning and his treason have to do with being gay?” That’s what they say Bradley.

You just ain’t the right flavor. And, of course, they (elite gay snobs) know you only joined the military in the first place to get a free education.

You ended up educating the whole world.

“You should have known better. You shouldn’t have broken the rules.”

That’s what the rich, white, gay men say.

Just Like You

Bradley, they were going to include you in the 2013 San Francisco Pride event. Did you hear about that? They were going to honour you.

But they lost their nerve after the rich, white gays persuaded the poor, black lesbian who runs the event that you were just a common thief.

There are well researched articles about you and what happened at San Francisco Pride. Bradley’s inclusion and outrageous exclusion.

After it happened I had to defriend over 250 affluent gay white men on Facebook. Yes, I did.

I felt like a Jew waking up out of a blackout at the Nazi Christmas party. Or a Muslim at the NRA National Convention. Or a Christian in the back room of a gay bar.

I had to make a big decision. I had to weigh up: the differences versus the similarities and… the similarities between me and the gays were negligible.

I had to redefine myself.

Bradley, for you… I am not gay.

I will have nothing more to do with them. Because of you.

Thanks for that Bradley. I owe you a club soda some time.

But, that’s only half the story.  I’ve been feeling very uncomfortable in my gay skin for a very long time.

It all began with that smile he gave me in the family court waiting area 3 years ago. He was with his dad.

That arrogant grin. You see… he thought he’d won the war.

Americans always think they have to win.

It was shocking because, until that moment, I’d only ever seen his ersatz humility. I did not recognize him any more.

But, I knew the smile. I’d seen it before… on the entitled faces of rich, white gay men.

Oh God. I thought. That’s who you are. That’s what you’ve been hiding.

The pain I felt around the gays. The revulsion I felt at the gay charity events, gay AA, gay white men, gays en masse.

The smell of them began to make me nauseous.

Perhaps, I thought, it might just be self hate? Internalized homophobia?

Just like I thought my gall stones were indigestion… it was the wrong self-diagnosis.

I am surrounded by millions of gay zombies.  In the perpetual search for fresh meat.

Zombies forcing other gays, gays with unnatural ideas to think like them.

Bradley, President Obama is on the TV right now… warming up his audience with a few self-deprecating quips.

The gays love him. They don’t care if they’re being used to shield what’s really going on.

Hey America! Look at this dancing gay who wants to get married… look… over here! Look over here whilst we torture these Muslims and spray the world with bee killing Round-Up.

If you ever get out of that prison… you’ll find a very different gay America. Oh yes.

But don’t expect a heroes welcome from the gays. It ain’t happening.

Don’t expect a GLAAD award.

Their ‘heroes’ are prescribed by good looking GLAAD president Herndon Graddick and his ilk. Heroes? A GLAAD ‘hero’ is anyone who comes out of the closet or a celebrity who says publicly that they like gay people.

Herndon Graddick?  Consider the source.

You know what, Bradley? The last time I saw Herndon (fascist star-fucker) he was sobbing in a gay AA meeting because he can’t stop doing meth.

The time before that I saw Herndon he was at gay traitor Ken Mehlman’s drinks party with his forked tongue shoved so far up Ken’s ass what he pulled out was scarcely chewed.

Bradley, you were very brave.

Most of the gays I know in LA and NYC are the kind of men who stayed close to the teacher at school because they lived in fear.

Fear has shaped their lives.

They are scared of you.  They used to be scared of radical homosexual Peter Tatchell.  Before Elton brought him in from the cold.

Bradley, you didn’t come from an affluent family, you’re not a great looker. You might not even be a man… that’s what they say.

But who ever you are, you are my hero. You made me rethink, reshape my life. Redefine myself as queer rather than gay… and I thank you for that… again. Because without you… things might have remained confusing for me.

But now… they’re not.

The story of S.F. Pride versus Bradley Manning and S.F. Pride versus the activist community of San Francisco is an ugly one that illumines the maggoty underside of assimilationist politics and policies. In the quest for straight acceptance that has propelled the LGBT community headlong into the arms of two of the most historically repressive institutions, marriage and the military, dissent has become anathema. The values of ads that used to pepper the personals in queer newspapers and magazines “seeking straight-looking, straight-acting, no fats, no fems” have become internalized within the community. The controversy over Manning highlights what has happened in the juggernaut move toward equality — there’s no room for outliers. Either you are a Lisa Williams-style straight-acting, straight-looking martinet with no temper for dissent or you are like the people who signed the complaint — activists all — who recognize that our queer story is not going to be told simply through marriage equality and being able to enlist openly in the military. Marriage and military equality are important, but they aren’t our only issues. Manning took the actions he did because of his outrage over DADT, which was still in effect throughout his deployment. But he also acted like so many patriots have over our nation’s history — out of loyalty to American democracy. Manning thought the government was lying to the people. So he told them the truth.

VICTORIA A. BROWNWORTH is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist who has won the NLGJA and Society of Professional Journalists Awards for her series on LGBT issues. She is the author and editor of more than 30 books, including the award-winning Too Queer: Essays From a Radical Life. She lives in Philadelphia. Find her on Twitter at @VABOX.