Friday, August 28, 2009

Mom genes?: Salon discussion on why "gay hags"

The first time somebody wanted to be my fag hag, it was the year 2000, I was 16 years old, and I was sitting in the back of a high school physics class. A fun South Asian girl to whom I'd recently admitted I was a "flaming homosexual" was chatting with me about her boy problems, and, at some point, the discussion veered onto familiar territory: "Will & Grace," the hit NBC show about a gay man living with his straight female friend. I don't remember much of the conversation. I do remember the following: She told me that she was going to be the "Grace" to my "Will," and then uttered the words that would haunt me for years to come, "I want to be your fag hag."

[. . .]

But the neutered gay characters on the show were about as sexual as a pastel-colored cardigan, and in the decade since the show first aired, the fag and his hag have become a tired trope everywhere from "Sex and the City" (Carrie and her queeny sidekick Sanford) to "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" (NeNe Leakes and her "gay boyfriend"). It's turned what was once a special relationship between two cultural outsiders -- gay men and the straight women who love them -- into an eye-rolling cliché. It also turned me and other young gay men into something unexpected: a must-have item.

[. . .]

I would mention my boyfriend to a girl in my biology lab, and she would inexplicably plop down next to me in class for the rest of the semester. Strange drunken girls at college keg parties would tell me that they're really "a gay man in a woman's body," and ask me to take them to the local gay bar. At a recent birthday party, a female friend of mine (who later described herself as a proud "fag hag") forced me into conversation with another gay friend of hers before telling us, "I thought my two fags should meet -- maybe you can date?" as we both stared at each other uncomfortably. (Thomas Rogers, “Ladies: I’m not your gay boyfriend,” Salon, 18 August 2009)

The attraction to guys comes later; first comes presumptive use by women

I'm one that believes becoming gay is not so much choice or destiny as it is a psychic defense mechanism: it develops out of being used presumptively (read: incestually) by your lonely, depressed mother, and means that you feel yourself largely armored against further shameful abuse by "women." Probably meant, though, that as a boy you understood your role was to please her, work against her depression, loneliness, and that meant becoming quite good at reading her moods and tending to her emotional needs. These characteristics don't go away; nor does that learned, near instinctive reaction to please "women" who come to you expecting attendance/support--your embrace. Women ("fag hags") intuit all this, and some take advantage of it; gays respond, willy-nilly, and end up feeling played on/preyed upon, once again. Result: angry, righteous responses--hateful slurs, even, however well "protected"--such as this article. More self-defense.

One of Ginsberg's poems--I believe it was the Howl--more-or-less dramatizes/argues all of this. Doesn't inform my intuition, but kinda confirmed it for me.

- - - -

Re: PMH

Sexual attraction for either gender, by either gender is not the result of dysfunctional parenting nor childhood trauma. It's hard wired into your system the way Apple or IBM compatible is hard-wired into the systemboard of a PC.

The need to distance yourself from it by explaining it away with theories that have, long since, been discounted and/or disproven likely is, however. As the old saying goes... "denial" is not just a river in Egypt. (gkrevvv, response to post, “Ladies: I’m not your gay boyfriend”)

Everything is DNA related these days. There was a huge turn away from childhood/psychoanalytic explanations for behavior, at the end of 70s/early 80s. Some of us think this is not owing to greater accuracy, but to collective aversion/cowardliness--distancing, if you will. Few anxieties are raised, reprisals invited, if one speaks of genes--doesn't say much for science as objective, but in my judgment, that is the why of it. If it was/is early incestual use by mothers, the slur (of women) as "fish" seems about what you'd expect.

Saying it's all about incestual handling--something most of us, to a less or greater extent, have experienced--puts me in denial, makes me gay--how's that again?

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Re: Patrick McEvoy-Halston and Faxmebeer

Patrick McEvoy-Halston: Spare us your bullshit pseudo-psychological theories about the origins of homoosexuality. Let me break it down simply for you - homosexuality is an inborn genetic trait. Period. It has nothing to do with "over-mothering" or "feminizing" of male children by mothers and female siblings. Study after study has proven this.

Faxmebeer: It's hilarious to me how every time Salon posts an article dealing with gays or lesbians, there is some insecure ignoramus who posts something that reads like it just came out of seventh grade gym class. Every time! Seriously! It's like clockwork. Now, hurry along Faxmebeer, or you might be late for your Birther meeting, or how UFO's are secretly controlling the stock market. (DQuintanaNY, Response to post, “Ladies: I’m not your gay boyfriend”)

Re: @ Patrick McEvoy-Halston

Is gayness innate or a reaction to deprivation/abuse? Has anyone studied the commonalities of gay backgrounds?

Is male fondness for lavender and snap-snark more innate than NASCAR mania?

Is Oscar Wild more healthy a paradigm than John Wayne?

Are not macho and fey locked in a mutual un-admiration society hug?

Alice Miller, writing about child abuse, mentions that Freud originally believed his patients WERE sexually abused. When Viennese society turned on him (due to guilt?), he recanted, saying parents didn't screw children, evil kids wanted to screw Mom and Dad.

So might gays deny parental abuse be fudging (!) things for the same reason?

Are 1 in 10 of us really gay...or is that a faux-fact used to make homosexuals feel "normal"?

Why is gayness any more "natural" than being a "cutter"?

I suspect politics and emotions inform both sides of the Great Het/Homo Divide. (MerelyMortalMale, Response to post, “Ladies: I’m not your gay boyfriend”)

Re: @patrick mcevoy-halston

It's a nice theory. The trouble is, your description perfectly fits my mother and her relentless neediness has had pretty much exactly the effect on me you describe - the need to please, to be understanding, the resentment - except it didn't turn me gay. I guess that could be because my dad was such an arse too, but I dunno. That would mean I was - what? - a repressed homosexual who was only homosexual because his painfully conflicted relationship with his mother had repressed his heterosexuality. Oy, the layers of the onion. In the end, I know what looks good to me and turns me on. That, at least, seems pretty straightforward. (digitbit, Response to post, “Ladies: I’m not your gay boyfriend”)

@digitbig; @MerelyMortalMale:

@digitbit:

I'm glad you're aware of the effect your mother's "relentless neediness" had on you. Being geered to respond to everyone else's needs, means not sufficiently attending to your own.

@MerelyMortalMale:

Is gayness innate or a reaction to deprivation/abuse? Has anyone studied the commonalities of gay backgrounds?

There surely must be studies, but this is one of those areas where certain results would be preferred; others, rather not so much. I don't think gayness is innate.

Is male fondness for lavender and snap-snark more innate than NASCAR mania?

I'm with those who say NASCAR prowess is born out of early-on feeling all too vulnerable and weak. There's a lot to be said for guys who like lavender. Many of whom get to like and know snap-snark, to fend off those who see in you the friendly lather.

Is Oscar Wild more healthy a paradigm than John Wayne?

As popularly understood/processed, neither is particularly good. Both are strong; both tend--however differently. But they're also both the lone man (note: escape from female/motherly enmeshment through loner status) with the capacity to take on and out a culture of "heathens"--which is great for revenge fantasies, but not so much for healing the world.

Are not macho and fey locked in a mutual un-admiration society hug?

All macho were once fey (machos primarily understand the fey as vulnerable, open to attack: weak, dressed-up dolls--girlie toys). Machos aim to annihilate feys in hopes that by doing so their own weakness, vulnerableness, is now more than denyed: it is destroyed. For all the talk these days of straights and gays going camping together, I think we're beginning to head that way now.

Alice Miller, writing about child abuse, mentions that Freud originally believed his patients WERE sexually abused. When Viennese society turned on him (due to guilt?), he recanted, saying parents didn't screw children, evil kids wanted to screw Mom and Dad.

Freud's original understanding was correct. Viennese society turned on him because most of us understood early-on, that blaming mom and dad means forever being absent their support and love--we ourselves put the superego in place, to school us away from ever going "there."

So might gays deny parental abuse be fudging (!) things for the same reason?

Yep.

Are 1 in 10 of us really gay...or is that a faux-fact used to make homosexuals feel "normal"?

If gayness is better/more accurately understood as wariness to female/maternal enmeshment, manipulation, then the majority is gay. Patriarchy means neglected mothers. Neglected mothers cannot help but squeeze the love out of their kids, in an attempt to satisfy their own unmet needs. This has consequences--like future aversion to too present/ pressing women. This last election, how many reporters seemed comfortable interviewing, being in near proximity to, Hillary Clinton? How comfortable did Obama seem?

Link: “Ladies: I’m not your gay boyfriend” (Salon)

Napolean-garbed hippies asking for the moon (20 August 2009)

nap

image from pulp cult scan fun

God bless Barney Frank. His outburst at a "town hell" protester who accused him and Obama of supporting "Nazi policy" spread virally around the Web early Wednesday and expressed a lot of liberals' head-splitting frustration. "On what planet do you spend most of your time?" he countered, to lots of applause. Frank called it "a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated," and closed by saying: "Ma'am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it.”

[. . .]

In related news: The dumbest statement of the day didn't come from Frank's town hall critic in Massachusetts; it came from the White House, where an unnamed "senior White House advisor" told the Washington Post that the administration just doesn't understand the passion for the public option among liberals. "I don't understand why the left of the left has decided that this is their Waterloo," said the clueless senior White House adviser. "We've gotten to this point where health care on the left is determined by the breadth of the public option. I don't understand how that has become the measure of whether what we achieve is health-care reform." (Joan Walsh, “When liberals fight back,” Salon, 20 Aug. 2009)

White House' patience seems to be wearing thin. Soon enough we'll be likened to Pink-Lady crazies, told to pluck the flowers out of our hair, and "get a life!"

Link: "When liberals fight back" (Salon)

Professional bloggers' kind request (19 August 2009)

re: “Blogger” confuses us today because we’ve conflated two different meanings of “blogging.” There is the formal definition: personal website, reverse chronological order, lots of links. Then there is what I would call the ideological definition: a bundle of associations many observers made with blogs in their formative years, having to do with DIY authenticity, amateur self-expression, defiant “disintermediation” (cutting out the media middleman), and so on.

Today professional journalism has embraced the blog form, since it is a versatile and effective Web-native format for posting news. But once you have dozens of bloggers at the New York Times, or entire media companies built around blogs, the ideological trappings of blogging are only going to cause confusion. (Scott Rosenberg, "Time to retire the term 'Blogger'," OpenSalon, 18 August 2009)

Maybe we could figure out a way so that every screen will read every professional writer/blogger's print as black or grey blue, and every amateur's self-expression as crayola pink or orange. A proper "home" must be prepared for adult, formed writers thinking more and more of making the net their place of business; the kids can find some place to play outside, or in the pen, where they won't bother anyone.

Link: "Time to retire the term "Blogger" (OS)

Salon CEO firing (the) duds (19 August 2009)

Richard Gingras--CEO of Salon--is laying off personel:

For several months we have been working on a redesign of our product, that we will launch this fall, and also a redesign of our underlying systems. We are moving away from a very traditional magazine production model and becoming more of a true Web publication, with a more direct publishing system. Moving forward, we are investing most in the writers and creative participants who can help us continue to attract the smart, discerning readers attracted to Salon. We think this direction makes us a stronger company, and puts us in a good position to not just weather the economic storm but emerge much stronger than ever. Economic times are difficult and that necessitates change. But change is also healthy and you'll be seeing many new developments from Salon over the coming months.

The financial changes emphasize what we do best — publish sharp, fast takes on the important events in the world, as well as the in-depth stories, reviews and blogs that readers come to us for — and will also allow us room to grow. Salon has always been about great writing from great writers. That will continue.

Let me also clarify the facts on reductions in edit staff. There were only six positions cut out of 29 in editorial: 3 editors, 1 writer, a photo editor and a multimedia producer. Let me also point out that all those effected last week are talented and hard-working folks and they'll be missed, personally and professionally. Source: Valleywag

I wonder how these "talented and hard-working folks [who'll] [. . . ] be missed, personally and professionally," think of his making their firing part of a larger plan to "invest most in the writers and creative participants who can help us continue to attract the smart, discerning readers attracted to Salon"? For all their hard work and talent, they're the ones who brought in the duds, it would seem . . .

Salon discussion on John Hughes (18 August 2009)

A country of human self-doubt birthing a nation of superhuman hubris -- it’s not the paradox it seems. After all, the popaular culture sustaining this oxymoronic reality revolves around exalting the impossibly gifted virtuoso, the against-all-odds champion, the Mount Rushmore-size megastar -- in short, the larger-than-life individuals from Michael Jordan to Lance Armstrong to Ronald Reagan whom we know we cannot be.

While such deification drums up national pride, it also evokes the ugly feelings associated with personal insecurity, which is why I think so many mourned last week’s passing of John Hughes. The 1980s filmmaker was one of the only contemporary artists who found success providing an uplifting antidote to those darker emotions -- an antidote that is more relevant today than ever. (David Sirota, “Champion of mere mortals,” Salon, 15 August 2009)

Sirota: flawed you are, but no mere, alas.

No, not true. What made him exceptional is that he understood what real greatness is. In "Breakfast Club" he had a group of teenagers you believed could, at the end, brave standing up for one another, standing up to peer and parent. If that had been the norm, Gen Xers would be asking for way more than what compromised Obama offers; if that had been the norm, the future is set in a way better way than people now fear. If it continued to be the norm, people wouldn't be making use of his demise to further marginalize/isolate/disparage him, which is what we've been seeing, not from you, but even here at non-dour Salon. He championed those who could see lies for lies; who could recover, even under huge psychological duress; who had it in them to fight for life as self-discovery, not as some variant of the fitting-in--even if this meant be ignored, shunned, misunderstood, attacked. He focused on special people who could mount the climb to the extra-ordinary--a space neglected by those who don't like what shine reveals about themselves.

You're more alone than you think, David. Brace yourself.

- - - -

As a fairly regular Salon reader, I would like to comment that the letters section makes me ashamed to be a progressive: we all come across so bitter, petulant and humorless. For godsakes, even a tribute to a dead director brings out the a-hole in most of you. People, not everything has to be serious and political. Do we all have to watch nothing but documentaries about the horrors of the world, or boring films directed by George Clooney, to be relevant?

John Hughes made good movies that rose above most teen comedies. He was a master of that very rare talent so lacking in modern life: plucking the heartstrings. No, he is not a Scorcese or Woody Allen or Jane Campion: he was perfectly suited to his limitations. His movies fill a role: teenage drama done right. I guess it is the Gen X'er in me, but of all the very fine films I've seen, few touch me like "Pretty in Pink"; it has a sweet ambience to it, an attention to detail, and perfect characterizations that are indelible. Has there ever been a better WASP'y high school creep then James Spader's? A sweeter, funnier high school weirdo than Duckie?

Sometimes it is not about being the most critically acclaimed artist; it is about capturing something in a way no one else can. Not to mention how well he fused great pop music with the right scene. Perhaps many of you have no use for your inner teenager anymore, but I still love mine, and John Highes helped me define him. (frannynzooey, response to post, David Sirota, “Champion of mere mortals”)

He plucked heartstrings?

RE: "He was a master of that very rare talent so lacking in modern life: plucking the heartstrings. No, he is not a Scorcese or Woody Allen or Jane Campion: he was perfectly suited to his limitations."

You see this as tribute, do you? It would seem the worst of slurs . . .

- - - -

Re: You see this as tribute, do you? It would seem the worst of slurs . . .

Nah. I just see it as a pathetic attempt to drum up some traffic for my lame blog - linked to at my sig every time I make an asshole post.

But that's just me. (K. Trout, response to post, “Champion of mere mortals”)

@k trout

Pointing out that identifying Hughes as a heartstring-plucker is not the best of ways to redeem/defend him, is hardly an asshole post, k trout. Sounds to me about the worst of diminishments, actually.

- - - -

So To some of you, I show I have no love inside by declaring: I never, ever thought John Hughes was speaking for me or anyone I knew, and at the time I resented, as I recall, what I'd call now the ubiquity of Hughes and Spielberg and their influence. (for the record, I didn't care for Michael Jackson either--more a Prince guy) And so did many of my friends. HEATHERS was more our speed and closer to the mark, but wasn't around till we graduated.

I don't get sentimental about his movies. I think they're smug, patronizing, and false, pure marketing profiting well from a post-boomer awareness of how every generation wants to feel like someone is its voice. That's leaving aside things like how every girl I knew, whether they liked his films or not, hated Molly Ringwald, or Ringworm as she was usually called. You wouldn't believe how many times I've heard the following sentences from these women: "Do you know that spoiled little b@#$ch made Hughes rewrite PRETTY IN PINK to make her not go with Ducky? And that he DID it! OOH I hate her!" They also had no idea why she'd want Jake in 16Can, who left his drunk girlfriend(Kate Vernon, I think, who also did another memorable drunk recently on some little sci-fi show...) to whatever fate with Anthony Michael-Hall, whose character spells drunken date-rape "This...is gonna be good." (dust1969, response to post, “Champion of mere mortals”)

@dust1969

I wonder if your girl friends at the time were approached by (the equivalent of a) Jake, if they'd have dropped their duckies for the buck, in an instant. Duckie only shows self-respect at the very end--a bit when he dresses so towardly, magnificently, for the prom, but mostly when he encourages Andie to go for Blane. This--what?--grace?, true goodwill?, makes it seem appropriate and even believable that some lovely (other) self-possessed Pinkie suddenly appears to take special note of him. Even with more of that from him, I still say Andie and Blane work best. Ringwald was right to push.

The sneering, the leveling, succeed in "Heathers." The world is so full of shit, so truly indecent, it makes looking to the nature of your own behavior seem a bit optional. You "see," and that kinda makes you way beyond good enough. Hughes--perhaps most evidently with/through Duckie, but also with Bender and others--saw this means, a strategy, to keep yourself from taking risks and growing, and asked for more out of people than just that.

- - - -

re: As an aside

John Hughes has been portrayed as a champion of the down-trodden but in most of his teen flicks the dorks, dweebs and losers get to do nothing but gaze fondly upon their betters, hoping for the odd pat on the head or an indulgent glance. Whilst everyone else is hooking up (and moving up a notch or two in social standing) the loser is either portrayed as a date rapist or a door mat. Check the end of "The Breakfast Club". The geeky guy not only gets the opportunity to write the essay, he is comforted by the fact that he is the only one that will be furiously maturbating tonight while the rest of the clubbers carry on with their selfish little liasons. I always hoped that he'd bring a real gun to school next time... (sawmonkey, response to post, “Champion of mere mortals”)

sawmonkey

The geek in Breakfast Club writes the essay, but what he manages there is a one-on-one fuck-you to the principal, something he wouldn't have dared do before the BC experience. Since it is what he wrote and his voice which "plays" as we see the various pairings go their way, there is a sense he stands a bit above and beyond at the end. He is removed; but more self-determined (more broadly-aware?), more author than geek. And he gets more than an indulgent glance at the end from Bender, who for the most part had previously just managed him about. When the conversation turned to trigonometry, the geek's knowledge base/abilities is made to seem somewhat akin in "potency" to Claire's social status and the jock's athleticism, and crowds out (the formidable, savy) Bender some. More than some.

About Sixteen Candles--it doesn't finish with the geek more enabling himself amongst his dweeb friends: it ends with him having a fairly mature conversation with the girl/woman he (very likely) slept with. Again and again through the film, the geek puts himself in potentially dangerous situations, and is shown with capacity for empathy and (even) bearing (his encounter with Samantha in the shop car is not played as a joke [on him], but with respect [for both of them]). Arguably, what develops with him seems more open that what lands with Samantha. Who knows where he'll be the following year? Not so much the geek, the film suggests.

Ferris Bueller: You're absolutely right.

- - - -

re: Patrick

I stand by my prior assertation. JH was all about the elite. Striving, laughing at and ultimately becoming part and parcel of the same. Maybe he had the finest joke in the end, after all, he who laughs last, laughs best. Did you go to one of those hilarious "state" schools or does your sense of humour only include the jokes of the Ivy variety... (sawmonkey, response to post, “Champion of mere mortals”)

sawmonkey

For me what stands out is his recognition of and tribute to, people with personality, with some considerable capacity for self-realization and the give-and-take. Blane/Jake see something in Samatha/Andie, and, in my judgment, it is to their considerable credit that they do. The pairing of Samantha and Blane works at the end because they've both got class--real class, of a type not exclusive to any one particular social class. The WASP/Ivy-Leagues, for me, amount in his films to the "catcher in the rye": "it" cushions people from the potentially crushing vissitudes of life--it's a giant pillow for those not entirely sure where they'll be sleeping the night after next. But there is no real action, no true life, to be found there--it's perimeter, not ground; weekend escape, not day-to-day dalliance, fight, and play.

@Patrick

Fair enough. You got yer druthers and I have mine. Cheers to you, Sir! (sawmonkey, response to post, “Champion of mere mortals”)

Ps.

Ferris really needed a beating! That is all... (sawmonkey, response to post, “Champion of mere mortals”)

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re: Also

I can't believe that everyone has forgotten the real message in BREAKFAST CLUB. As long as you conform you're OK.

What. you say? Well, I give you the Ally Sheedy psycho-girl character. Who later would have been a Goth. Once she gets a Molly makeover, all is fine, right?

Tell me you didn't find that disgusting. I liked her better than all the rest and in fact I liked her better before the makeover.

Life goes by pretty fast, If you're not an overprivileged white kid from the North Shore who wears the right clothes, you might miss it! (dust1969, response to post, “Champion of mere mortals”)

@1969

Ally Sheedy's character is testing, knowing, but hidden and inaccessible/unknowable (full of lies). For her, the change in dress is about moving out of comfort zones, allowing herself to be vulnerable, to show/reveal herself as undeniably interested in others' assessment of her. Claire does the same, and pairs up with the "stoner" Bender--note: without him donning a suit. The movement may be more about reciprocity, finding a middle ground, than it is about a move to normal. No?

Link: “Champion of mere mortals” (Salon)

AP photo (from Salon.com)