The Swish Inquisition
by James Killough
There comes a time in every gay writer-director-producer-bloggueur’s career when he must decide if he ever wants a knighthood, which he is eligible for thanks to his dual citizenship with Australia, or an award from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Just the fact I have been calling them “the Swish Inquisition” for a while now means that forswearing such a coveted prize is a foregone conclusion.
As for the knighthood, I have a Groucho Marx attitude toward all awards: I don’t want anything that would be handed out to someone like me. Rewards, on the other hand, I’m all for.
Before I get out my kebab skewers and spark up the barbie, let me state that GLAAD has served a good purpose over the years, and continues to do so, especially for our brothers and sisters—and brothers who look like sisters, and sisters who walk like brothers—out there in the hinterlands often fighting for their lives against troglodyte Str8s, who believe we have no place on God’s green earth.
For those of us in relatively safe urban areas, however, GLAAD’s relevance is increasingly meaningless and needs to change if they are to continue representing us in a productive way.
I direct your attention to an incident this week involving the classically gender-bending glamour-pop musician Adam Lambert and GQ. First, the magazine hauled Lambert up in its style pages for wearing makeup with facial hair: “If you wear make-up, do not grow a mustache.” It followed this up, presumably to incite Lambert into a Twitter war, by tweeting: “Rules of Street Style: If you have testosterone problems, a mustache doesn’t always help.”
At this juncture, GLAAD donned their robes and white pointy hats, and jumped in with their own twitted auto-da-fé: “Tell @GQfashion that being #gay is not a “testosterone problem”. Please retweet!”
GLAAD got GQ to apologize: “Re: our Lambert tweet, we were thoughtless and apologize. We shouldn’t make stupid jokes about people’s testosterone. As always, we learn.” At least they didn’t acknowledge being homophobic. I would have been sorely disappointed if they had, because they weren’t.
What happened is absolutely outrageous, an abuse of the power of guilt on the part of GLAAD, which is not a power that I personally want to represent me in this instance or others like it. Just because someone makes a comment about a Ghey’s lack of testosterone doesn’t make it a homophobic statement.
Lambert doesn’t wear makeup because he’s promoting the often grotesque (but sometimes sexy) American performativity of masculinity, a tyrannical standard of social interaction for most men regardless of our testosterone levels. On the contrary, he’s got the chutzpah to go against it in a very public way. While his music isn’t my cuppa, I do admire his talent, and I find him appealing as a person, which I might not necessarily do if I found him overly feminine.
In the same style pages of GQ, my former producing partner Alan Cumming was cited for appearing at the Emmys in September in a pair of tuxedo trousers that look like they were stitched out of cheap chinoiserie fabric from Orchard Street, but knowing Alan they were probably a product placement for a designer. The caption reads: “Turns out Benihana hostess uniforms are available for purchase by the general public.” Are we to assume that, by feminizing Alan’s trousers, GQ is also making a homophobic statement? Where exactly does this end?
Lambert himself has stood above the fray and hasn’t responded to the twitty tweets from GLAAD and GQ, but I know from experience that Alan takes these style slaps from the press to heart, so we can look forward to Lambert shaving the facial hair off at some point, or toning down the makeup so he looks more like this mustachioed icon of testosterone:
GQ and its parent company Condé Nast are many things—“evil empire” comes to mind—but one thing they are not is homophobic. It’s just insane to call them that, gratuitously inflammatory. When I was a teenager, I seriously believed that GQ stood for “Gay Quarterly,” until I went into publishing myself and learned it was really a magazine intended for black men.
The Grand Arbiters of Homo Rectitude really need to take a field trip down to the Condé Nast building to see whom they are accusing of heresy. During any given fifteen minutes in the lobby, they will witness some serious power voguing, a fearsome click-clack sashay-shante, in a style RuPaul might call “I’m Working Sixty-Hour Weeks and Pulling In Thirty-Two Grand A Year, But I’m Front Row at the Collections Every Season, Bitch” Realness. It would be like going to Mecca during the Haj and declaring the pilgrims anti-Islamic.
This Adam Lambert nonsense a non-incident that would have sailed completely below the radar, where it belongs, had it not been inflamed by the Swish Inquisition. But it would seem that GLAAD needs to make waves itself every now and then to keep itself relevant in a world that is increasingly accepting and less defamatory of us.
As we move into a post-gay realness, as we leave the protective walls of our ghettos in places like the Castro in San Francisco, West Hollywood in LA, Chelsea in New York, and live amongst “normal” people freely and without fear, the organization is left to defend the bullied in the flyover states, and where’s the glamour pop in that? Pathos doesn’t win you any Twitter wars, much less ignite them.
GLAAD has become akin to an over-protective, hysterical, mildly abusive parent, the shrillest voice at the PTA meeting, the most constant whistle at the school crossing. But we are growing up now, all of us, Gheys and Str8s alike. So, Mom, stop it. You’re embarrassing me.
At the risk of being hauled up by the Swish Inquisition for being part of a new phenomenon, the homophobic homosexual, let me turn around and smack my fellow bearded gay opinionator, Andrew Sullivan, who ran a nonsensical segment on DailyBeastTV on Tuesday about why he bashes the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) so much.
Despite the fact that it is way worse than GQ’s testosterone remark—which should only be accused of being unfunny and lame—Sullivan’s muddled diatribe, filled with more “ums” than one of my taped film reviews, flew way below GLAAD’s radar. Or maybe they’re just sick of taking Sullivan to task. Or maybe they gave him an award once.
I don’t know much about the HRC, other than they have been leaders in the fight for our marriage rights, and that our Mr. Tuttle once played in a charity gay polo match to raise money for them, where I ate too many tuna sandwiches. I don’t agree with Sullivan that their entire raison d’être has become fundraising, despite the fact they haven’t accomplished the task of getting us equal rights in the past twenty years of trying. That’s almost as ridiculous an accusation as Sullivan’s crusade to prove that Trig Palin was really Bristol’s son, not Sarah’s, with utter disregard of the fact that the majority of Down’s Syndrome babies are born to older mothers.
In yet another typical meshuga plum fairy move this week, Sullivan endorsed batty old Libertarian Ron Paul as the Republican candidate. If I were Tina Brown, Sullivan’s editor at Newsweek-The Daily Beast, I would be having private conversations with his physicians about changing out his meds.
I am personally endorsing Jon Huntsman, even though he doesn’t stand a fashion editor’s chance of a GLAAD award at cinching the Republican nomination. I make this decision based on what is manifest to me: the GOP is sinking into the ridiculous, but we still need worthy opposition and balanced political discourse if we’re going to get anywhere as a nation. In other words, we need them to stop clowning around.
However, knowing the GOP establishment as I do, I’m guessing nobody serious is stepping up in this economic climate to challenge an incumbent who is a shrewd, street-smart campaigner yet to show his teeth. It’s a farce, and for that they are trotting out this mummer’s parade.
To bolster my own un-endorsement of Ron Paul, I leave you with the his segment from my favorite YouTube spoof gang, the hilariously impressionistic Bad Lip-Reading: