I bailed on the Academy Awards halfway through that terrible, overwrought opening song, "Moving Pictures". "That's a Tony number, not an Oscar number," I scoffed, and went off to shampoo the cat while singing "Hooray For Hollywood". But, when you go on TV and radio, people tend to ask you about these things, so on the off-chance it comes up with Hugh Hewitt on Thursday afternoon I thought I ought to bring myself up to speed on all the big controversies.
Which is how I came to be reading this column by June Thomas. It was about Graham Moore, who won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game. That's the one about the tragic gay, which would probably have been a shoo-in for an Oscar sweep if the tragic gay in question hadn't been a Brit. Mr Moore appears to have led a charmed life - his mom was chief of staff to Michelle Obama, and the book launch for his first novel was held at the Vice-President's residence. But in his Oscar speech he revealed that things had not always been so rosy:
Moore went on to share with the millions of telecast viewers that at the age of 16, he tried to kill himself "because I felt weird, and I felt different, and I felt that I did not belong. And now I'm standing here, and I would like this moment to be for that kid out there who feels she's weird or she's different or she doesn't fit in anywhere. Yes, you do."
As editor of "Outward", Slate's LGBTQ section, June Thomas didn't care for the cut of Graham's jib:
I wish that Moore had drawn a clearer line between his comments about Turingâ€”a man who was persecuted and prosecuted for his homosexualityâ€”and his "it gets better" message to teens who are merely weird and different... Being gay simply isn't the same as being a "geek." Moore may see them as comparable (and, though he has identified himself as straight, his affect may have opened him up to homophobic bullying), but the truth of the matter is that the social force behind anti-gay prejudice is far stronger and more pernicious than the animus against social outcasts.
Ms Thomas regretted that Mr Moore had "conflated these identities". As a man who "identifies as straight" but has a gay "affect" picking up an Oscar for a gay movie - Moore shouldn't have muddied the gay waters by indulging in his own non-gay suicide-flaunting.
As evidence of how controversial Moore's remarks were, J Bryan Lowder, another editor of the LGBTQ section at Slate, then filed his own column on why this self-identified straight shouldn't be trivializing gay oppression with his bungled attempt to off himself:
Being a straight weirdo is, on balance, just not as totalizing or stressful a situation as being a gay person... New York-based writer Kevin JoffrĂ© put it elegantly on Twitter Monday morning: "Being gay means more than 'being weird.' It means living as if you owe people an explanation for your feelings and your life... You can be actively otherized every day of your life. That's what being gay means."
This distinction is an important one to reiterate, because as being "against bullying" becomes a toothless clichĂ© for celebrities to wear like borrowed jewelry, there's a danger of erroneously leveling out all forms of bully-able difference. But homophobiaâ€”like racism and other forms of deeply ingrained prejudiceâ€”has a specific history and genealogy (tied largely to gender expectations) that requires us to deal with it in specific ways that demand more than a tepid embrace of "weirdness..." We need a social justice strategy focused on correcting deep-seated structural inequality rather than one that merely encourages a "tolerance" of diversity.
Like James Baker re the Balkans, I don't have a dog in this fight, although I'm mildly impressed that anyone in contemporary Hollywood with a gay "affect" bothers to "identify as straight". But, slogging through this "controversy", I had a strange premonition that this will be what the last five members of western civilization are arguing over when the guy yelling "Allahu Akbar!" bursts through the door.
~Speaking of conflation inflation, I'm surprised Slate only has an LGBTQ section when most of us have long advanced to the full LGBTQWERTY. As I wrote six years ago:
I was reading, as one does of a Saturday morning, the official Toronto Pride Week website:
'As part of Toronto's 29th Annual Pride Week celebration, the LGBTTIQQ2S communities, families and friends will unveil this year's Pride Parade on Sunday June 28th at 2 pmâ€¦
'Join our International Grand Marshal, Victor Juliet Mukasa, Parade Grand Marshal, El-Farouk Khaki and Honoured Group, AIDS Committee of Toronto, as they guide the LGBTTIQQ2S communities through our amazing stories of equality, human rights, respect, diversity, honour, love and acceptanceâ€¦
'Join our parade facebook group to cultivate a collaborative effort between a wide range of diverse LGBTTIQQ2S communitiesâ€¦'
Okay, I'll bite. LGBTTIQQ2S? Well, apparently:
'LGBTTIQQ2S means "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgendered, Intersexual, Queer, Questioning, 2-Spiritedâ€¦"'
"2-Spirited" is, I believe, a bisexual Native-American, rather than "too spirited" as in Anne of Green Gables.
I found myself thinking of George M Cohan's old foighting Oirish song â€” "H-A-double R-I-G-A-N spells Harrigan": "L-G-B-double T-I-double Q-two-S spells . . . Luhgibettyqueuetooess?"
It's like paying extra to get a vanity license plate, and then the DMV gives you the one they would have issued anyway.
Anyway, via Steven Hayward at Powerline, I learn that LGBTTIQQ2S is no longer operative, at least at Wesleyan University. Is a Wesleyan like a Lesbian? No, it's something to do with the founder of Methodism, but that was all a long time ago:
154 Church Street
Open House is a safe space for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderf**k, Polyamourous, Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism (LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM) communities and for people of sexually or gender dissident communities.
So LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM. Dunno what happened to the 2S crowd. Maybe they went all Flexual. And what's with the spelling of "polyamourous"? Is that multiple French partners? And why are Non-Binary Pansexuals excluded? Or is that only a Canadian thing?
With all this orientation creep, straights are at something of a disadvantage. "Straight" isn't even an acronym: How lame is that? Maybe they could add a few variations, and make it Straight, Uptight, Repressed, Missionary Position Only, Alternate Saturdays Mostly, Keeping Your Socks On, and hold a parade for members of the SURMPOASMKYSO community.
~Speaking of "gender dissident communities", a poll of British Muslims finds that 27 per cent "have some sympathy for the motives behind Charlie Hebdo attacks". That's over three-quarters of a million people - without adding in the two per cent who refused to answer and another eight per cent who "don't know". But don't worry, the good news is that 68 per cent of British Muslims agree that acts of violence against those who publish images of Mohammed can "never be justified".
The other 32 per cent amount to a million people, all living in the United Kingdom.
Eleven per cent of Muslims thought that magazines who publish pictures of the Prophet Mohammed "deserve to be attacked". Now that's what I call "otherized"!
But relax, that's only about 310,000 British residents. And, if you're round the back of the Giant's Causeway in County Antrim or the remoter parts of the Shetlands, it may be a while before they get to you.
Still, in the civilizational clash between "safe spaces" and "no-go zones", I'd bet on the latter, alas.
~By the way I apologize for not writing "the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)" above, but I was worried that students at Wesleyan University might think that that nice Yemeni boy in the back of the class had signed up for the Pangender, Bisexual, Undecided and Hung steering committee.
See you Thursday on the radio with Hugh, live coast to coast at 6pm Eastern/3pm Pacific.