I've met Chris Ciompi and liked him, so I hope my respectful disagreement with him will not be interpreted as "maligning" him. In his new "From the Editor" letter in Genre's June 2007 issue—a gay pride issue with a featured article by James Withers calling for the end to the concept of the "LGBT" community—he notes bloggers had maligned him for speaking against rival Out's decision to put Jodie Foster and Anderson Cooper on its last cover to represent powerful gays and lesbians.
His editorial starts out with the insight that "The business of defining—of shifting grey areas back into the black-and-white—is a daily, multi-billion, cross-industry dollar-generating extravaganza." This is true. It's hard to sell to diversity; niches or, if they're huge, sectors are a lot easier to pitch.
More than just Out? Or so Out it's in?
But he goes on to say he thinks a world without definitions would be a better place. I have never accepted this belief, and by now it sounds to me really '90s and outmoded. Aren't we post-post-gay by now? He claims we're "boxing outselves off as separate from the mainstream," but this presumes that our status is of our choosing. Forgetting the don't-label-me-I'm-unique nonsense for a second, the reality is that if society didn't find homosexuality outside the norm, then we wouldn't be outside the norm; there would be no need for a rights struggle or for visibility or for loudly, clearly stating which team you play for, if you play for both or if you play for the "home" team despite wearing the "away" shirt.
We're not boxing ourselves off, we were boxed off at birth. The choice we have is either to decry this by being open about who we are, or to accept this—and even delude ourselves that we're not boxed off in the first place. Ciompi calls identifying gay people as gay people "over-definition." I think over-definition is something that occurs while attempting to be featured in Genre's Genre Man advertising section. It's not over-definition—it's just reality, and all the post-gayers out there have yet to explain to me why simply stating the truth about gay celebrities is worse than discussing the dating, mating, marrying, divorcing, child-bearing, parent-hating, drug-taking, car-crashing details of straight celebrities' lives. It's special treatment, this under-definition.
Imagine a label-free society? Fine. Imagine it. The world is not like that and will not be like that in our lifetimes. It can improve, but we are not going to make homosexuality a non-issue while we're alive. So in my opinion, it's not time to be calling for an end to "LGBT" as Genre does. Yes, maligning "LGBT" in the pride issue provocative. But to what end? To start a conversation? Maybe. To shake people up and generate sales? Definitely. Definitely. Kind of like Out's use of Jodie and Anderson, something Ciompi has criticized ever since it happened. (His publisher perhaps regrets Genre didn't do it first).
A male model from the new issue of the magazine Genre. Well, "male" is a label...and so is "model"...and so is "magazine." So, just...here.
Also upsetting to me is that Ciompi is continuing to say that Out's Jodie/Anderson cover was strictly for money, and that if it were, that would make it morally reprehensible.
"But, what I find completely unacceptable is the pushing of any agenda for the sake of financial gain at anyone's cost but your own."
Oh, please. Genre is itself a highly commercial-minded magazine, no? Well, provocatively publishing an anti-LGBT article during gay pride month is a way to catch readers' attention, infuriate and energize them and make sales. Sales at the expense not of one or two extremely powerful, wealthy and believe me unconfused closet cases (Out could almost be seen as an outing Robin Hood), but at the expense of our admittedly challenged sense of community. Marginalized citizens of LGBT will be the primary losers if Genre's rich white gay male readers abandon LGBT. Jodie and Anderson—those two rich white men will be fine.
Please don't tap on the glass ceiling—the homosexuals are in their "coming-out process"!
I can accept the central argument and insight that bandying the term "LGBT" does not erase our differences—race and gender and class are not going to be trumped by sexuality, especially when our sexualities are not even the same. But instead of calling for an end to the effort that is "LGBT," we should be acknowledging the differences and finding the common ground, not abandoning it. The women's movement had and has women of different races and sexualities and classes, and yet has made a lot of progress in the past 40 years. And you know what? They didn't get there with women denying their true gender for fear of a label.
Not too sexy for a label. Da!
The only way to acceptance is to hold ourselves—and each other—to high standards of honesty.
I will say I still like Genre (and Chris) and Out (don't know any of them) despite the times when they let me down or say things that don't represent me. Because I don't need my LGBT to be, as Rosie would call it, same same same. But I need my LGBT—and they need me.