February 23, 2010

Self-Defeating Awareness

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I’ve got beef with Filthy/Gorgeous.

For those of you not in the know, Filthy/Gorgeous is a party thrown every spring by the Cornell Gay-Straight Alliance and backed by a host of LGBTQQ groups and Ally communities. The proceeds of admission go to Sylvia’s Place, a homeless shelter in New York City that provides rehabilitative services for LGBT youth. The goals of this party are entirely admirable, as 35-40 percent of homeless youth in New York City identify as GLB or T, an estimated 7,000 youth in New York City alone.

My problem is with the party itself. This year, in the same vein as many years past, the guest stars include the emcee, gay porn director Chi Chi LaRue and two of her gay porn stars, Cameron Marshall and Eddie Diaz. Go-go dancers are coming in from Splash NYC, and there will be performances by Whore’s Mascara.

While the proceeds of this benefit go to a beneficial cause, is this event a beneficial cause?

Frankly, gays and lesbians are stereotyped by the general community as being promiscuous, polygamous, drug abusing, anorexic deviants.

And why wouldn’t they be? When the public face for the LGBT community is a party like Filthy/Gorgeous, can you blame someone for thinking we are slutty after hearing of the anonymous sex going on in Willard Straight bathrooms? Or thinking we are unhealthily obsessed with image when you can count the go-go dancer’s ribs?

Filthy/Gorgeous does not attempt to poke fun at these stereotypes, to break them by bringing them to light and dealing with them humorously. Instead, it reinforces these negative associations to the outside community that does not attend Filthy/Gorgeous, and it reaffirms these stereotypes as the accepted and standard norm of the gay community for those individuals who do attend. For those individuals who are marginalized by their community for their acceptance of gays and lesbians, or those who feel conflicted about their religious affiliation and their ally status, what does this party do but alienate them?

The gay community is a minority, plain and simple. If we were alone in our ventures to fight for equal rights, we would lose every single time; the values of the majority would always trump those of the minority. Instead, in our quest for acceptance and equal rights, we are obligated to reach out to others to educate.

Filthy/Gorgeous is meant to be fun, and it rightly should be, but let’s not forget our end goals. Fraternities don’t have to worry about whether having strippers at their parties gives a bad name to the Greek community or hampers their fight for equal rights. Yet in a heteronormative society, where gays and lesbians will always be viewed as “others,” any moral infraction we commit is cherry picked and used as fuel to keep us oppressed. We need to break the stereotypes that keep us oppressed. We need more than just fun — we need education.

Chi Chi LaRue is not only a drag queen porn director and DJ, but is also a publicly male advocate for sexual health, yet I don’t see GSA asking her to take off the makeup and give a talk or a workshop on HIV/AIDS prevention. Blake Riley (guest porn star last year) was a homeless youth in Dallas, Texas, yet no one at Cornell got to hear his experiences.

If only Filthy/Gorgeous weren’t so centered on being a crazy party. If only Filthy/Gorgeous had a parallel series of talks with the end goal of education and breaking these stereotypes that bind us. If only the Cornell community as a whole could hear from regular men and women who happen to be gay. If only those LGBTQQA individuals who actively fight for our equal rights wouldn’t have to fight their own community to reach their goals. If only.

Original Author: Christopher Hendrix