Just Not My Type: The (Not So) Soft Bigotry of Exceptionalism

Hello kittens,

Some things there out in the world have brought me back to a recurring theme in my life and activism: the not-so-soft bigotry of exceptionalism.

[Trigger warning for victim blaming, racism, homophobia]

Let’s start with this little snippet from new de facto Republican nominee Mitt Romney:

Yo, even Madonna knows why you’re a homophobic douche.

Girls can wear jeans
And cut their hair short
Wear shirts and boots
‘Cause it’s OK to be a boy
But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading
‘Cause you think that being a girl is degrading
But secretly you’d love to know what it’s like
Wouldn’t you
What it feels like for a girl

“I just don’t like femmy guys, ya know? Like, why can’t you just be yourself!”

There’s this comment I saw on an article this week about a Mr. Gay Pageant:

Exceptionalism: being friends with (hiring, promoting, working with, working for, advancing or supporting) someone from a minority group because they don’t seem too much like (your idea of) that minority group (to you).

Exceptionalism dictates that there is a standard way people act – and though it is rarely spoken, this is standard is identical with the way straight cisgender white monied people between the ages of 25 & 50 act.

It’s rarely spoken of because it admits that privileged people think that even they all have to act and present themselves a certain way.

“I just don’t like femmy guys, ya know? Like, why can’t you just be yourself!”

Why can’t you just be yourself? This leaves no room for the notion that femmy guys are just being themselves.

And, moreover, asserts that, even if femmy gay men are acting in or presenting themselves in socially cued ways, there is a superior way to act or present yourself: namely, the way the straight person in question is acting.

But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading
‘Cause you think that being a girl is degrading

“I’m all for gay rights, but, ya know, tone it down, you guys. Normal people are being normal over here.”

All of this goes back to what I like to call “oh, come on” bigotry, and it’s this thing that old-timey traditional bigots and modern liberal kids have in common.

“Oh, come on, you’re not that oppressed. Oh, come on, we’re all the same, just stop shoving it in my face. Oh, come on, white/straight/rich people got it rough, too! Oh, come on, don’t you think you’re the one who really keeps bringing up racism/misogyny/homophobia?”

“Oh, come on, he was wearing a hoodie.”

This pressure to act/present yourself like straight cis white monied people between the ages of 25 & 50? It really fucks with our heads.

Geraldo Rivera, a Russian Jewish/Puerto Rican-Spanish man, blames the hoodie for Trayvon Martin’s murder. (Incidentally, here’s Geraldo wearing what definitely appears to be a hoodie.)

And he came at this argument from the angle that he was ‘just trying to keep Black and Latino kids safe.’

Have you ever heard of the Mattachine Society?

This is a picture of a very typical Mattachine Society picket:

The Mattachine Society and its sister group, The Daughters of Bilitis, had very strict dress codes. The idea was that dressing like monied white middle Americans would get monied white middle Americans to like gay people.

I’ll give you one guess how well that worked.

From our side, this exceptionalism holds equality in our court, but just out of our reach. As Melissa McEwan put it, the excuses people use to hate us are a “constantly moving target:”

Hoodie, saggy pants, cornrows, picks, bandanas, Air Jordans… I have heard each of these things in my lifetime (and many more) used to justify the “accidental” killing of a young black man by his neighbor, by a stranger, by a cop. It’s a constantly moving target by design. Because the whole point is for there to always, always, be something that the dead kid in the street should have done differently, something his parents should have warned him about, as if any of that shit matters to the George Zimmermans of the world.

A couple of years ago, a man said to me: “You’re a fucking faggot, and I’m going to kill you.”

You know what I said: “I am a fucking faggot.”

[And then I got away, and I didn’t even break a heel.]

I’m not backing down about anything about myself that anyone dislikes (ya know, except maybe genuine character flaws) because they’re never going to stop asking me to change myself.

But secretly you’d love to know what it’s like
Wouldn’t you
What it feels like for a girl

I’m sorry (but not really) if you’re pissed that some people are fine not living their lives by the standards of white straight cisgender monied people aged 25-50, but that doesn’t change shit.

Are you envious? Come out, come out, wherever you are! Are you a straight guy who really wants to wear a pink tie? Fuckin’ do it.

‘Cos you know what? You’re actually in a position to do something about the misogynistic batshittery that stops straight guys from wearing pink ties – or little boys from using pink bowling balls.

You just don’t like femmy guys? You just don’t like black people who wear hoodies? You just don’t like women who talk? Well fuck you.

Er, wait, come back. ‘Cos I meant that thing about fucking yourself, but there’s one more thing I want you to hear:

You don’t know jack shit about a femmy guy until you talk to him. Until you get over your misogynistic, gender essentialist bullshit and have a conversation. A consensual one – not the kind where you seek out a member of a minority for enlightenment or to absolve yourself of your bigoted fuckery. (Hint: the conversation shouldn’t start: “Yo, I hate femmy guys, but I want you to change my mind.”)

Challenge yourself to see people as people. It’ll rock your world. You might even find that you and your friends don’t have to spend all your fucking time checking each other for living up to behavior standards – except, ya know, being nice and shit.

~Big Mama Schlomo

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