Category Archives: sexuality

Censureship, Myself & Ender’s Game

Pieces of this post have been sitting on my computer since the summer so with the movie coming out I decided to fix it up and post it in the hopes of getting  my blogging back on track

So the film “Ender’s Game” based on the book of the same name by Orson Scott Card is coming out soon. I’m not here to talk about the many issues with Orson Scott Card, his political views are well-known and written by his own hand in most cases.  What I wanted to talk about is my own relationship with Ender’s Game and this new trend I’ve been seeing where people who choose to blacklist a film/show are accused of censorship.

I have a long and complex relationship with “Ender’s Game” both the book and the film, so my feeling on it are more complicated and gray than my feelings for OSC. I read EG at the right age, the perfect age, the age where I felt like no one understood me, adults were ineffectual against my harassers and I had a lot of anger inside that I wanted to get out somehow. I identified with Ender, his struggles and isolation but it was the character of his sister Valentine Wiggins that I left the book loving. The character of Valentine showed me the difference between pacifism and weakness. Ender changes the world through violence and ignorance but Valentine changes it through her words, through arguments meant to sway public opinion. Valentine was the first capitol-A  Academic I read about, the one I’ve probably spent a lot of my life trying to be. When you feel that close to a character you want to see them brought to life, want to see more of them. Also the fact that Valentine is being played by Abigail Breslin, on of my favorite young actresses leaves me hopeful for a great portrayal.

And the casting is another reason I want to see it. Viola Davis is in it. I love Viola Davis and have been truly disappointed in the work she’s been offered post-Help (the less said of her magical negro servant who sacrifices everything for her young white charge in “Beautiful Creatures” the better, looks it’s The Help with magic!). Nowhere has the racism of Hollywood been more blatant lately than the post-Oscars careers of Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis and the roles they’ve been offered.. Generally an Academy Award nomination (let alone a win) results in an avalanche of offers for the actors. Spencer has talked about how this definitely wasn’t the case for her though she’s taken an excellent view of it, acknowledging the disparity of Hollywood while planning ahead:

Well, it must have started ringing at some point, because you have some pretty great projects coming up, like Diablo Cody’s movie and Snow Piercer.
Well, the funny is thing is that I got the Diablo Cody movie and I got Snow Piercer before I got any nominations, so I knew I had both of those projects in November. I don’t want to sound as if [I’m complaining]. The reality is that there are so few roles out there for women and for women of color, and I’m a character actor, this I know. And I’m getting to see more of the roles that are out there, but there aren’t many. And zilch have been studio movies. Zilch. So my challenge and my opportunity now is to take the opportunity to create my own work. I’m fine with that.

In addition to these reasons people will argue that you have to give Science Fiction films your money so that Hollywood knows that SF/F sells and therefore makes more movies. I understand this argument, it was the one I made for the super-insanely disappointing movie “Sucker Punch”. It looked campy and great in the trailer and was the first women-headed film that production company had done in seven years so I wanted it to make money. Despite the ineptness and horrible stereotypes of it’s script I wanted it to succeed just so Hollywood Execs would not be able to say, “See movies with female leads don’t make any money let’s not do it again.”

And I want Hollywood to make more science fiction films. I want them to make more diverse science fiction films (which speaking of Octavia Spencer I am so hyped for her sf/f outing Snowpiercer!). I don’t, however, want them to give OSC my money. I don’t want them to think that OSC films are the way to go. The very last thing we need is a “Prentice Allen” TV series or a “Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus” movie or his homophobic masterpiece “The Songmaster” – the miniseries.

Ultimately the fact is that no one can predict how Hollywood will view the success or failure of something. Executives are not a conglomerate, they are individual people with their own minds, they have their own prejudices and assumptions and that effects how they perceive something. If they took every success as proof of the American public’s wants/needs ‘Alien’ would have been followed by a slew of tough, amazing protagonists in SF/F films who just happen to be women (we got a few, I’m looking at you Linda Hamilton but far from a slew). The success of Grey’s Anatomy would have lead to a slew of TV shows that had a diverse cast and a writing room that was mostly women. How many shows last 10 years?

The fact is that Hollywood takes the success of things that they champion as proof that the people want it, while things they are unsure of/don’t want to think about/deal with/make more of are called flukes whenever they succeed.

So what really cemented my decision not to pay to see this film?

The response  coming from OSC and his rabid supporters. First there’s his horribly demeaning and condescending letter:

“Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984. With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.” — Orson Scott Card.

Ok let’s break the outrage down to it’s component parts, shall we?

Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.

First of all, to act like there weren’t already LGBT folks advocating for rights back then is disingenuous at best, ignorant at worse. His homophobic masterpiece “The Songmaster” was written in 1980 so his views were already well established then and he was authoring his homophobic columns by 1990. So at least personally he was fully aware such issues exists during the length of the 80s. But the most horrible thing about this line to me, is that it shows OSC lack of imagination. Yes, it was written in 1984 and as a sf/f author you should be able to imagine the future of our world that reacts to real life issues. The fact that your future includes no GLBT folks says a lot about you and nothing about the time it was written. Especially since you have authors at the same damn time coming out with groundbreaking pieces that explored gender, race, class, sexuality, ability and a whole slew of other identities in wholly new ways.

With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.

Again I call bullshit. Legal protections have never ended a debate or discrimination in this country, yes they allow for more rights under the law but marginalized people have always known that the laws are applied unevenly. We know that just because a law says were equal doesn’t mean we won’t be hurt/killed/denied our rights. Also we know for a fact that just because something is law doesn’t mean people will follow or acknowledge it. For a recent example look at the ACA and the recent gov’t shutdown.

And the last bit of ridiculousness:

Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.

This is the most offensive bit of the whole thing. First of all it recast GLBT folks as intolerant of those with different opinions. Leaving aside the straw man argument that OSC sets up here, explain to me why I have to show tolerance towards someone who never showed it to folks like me? See I’m not intolerant of your opinion in general but when your opinions are on MY RIGHTS which have shit all to do with your life then you’re damn right I’m gonna hold it against you. So basically you spent all this money to deny me rights, wrote columns on how I and people like me are the downfall of society and used to sit on the board of an organization explicitly set up to deny me rights (National Organization for Marriage, he resigned in mid-2013 right when controversy for his film and opinions were heating up, fancy that) and keep me a second class citizen but I’m the one who needs to show tolerance for you OSC? By giving you my hard earned money?

Which leads us to the fans who somehow champion the idea that by not going to see his movie and encouraging others to do the same I am somehow silencing him and his voice. I’ve seen this entitlement in fans a lot, for some reason they will argue that choosing how you want to spend your money and sharing that with others is censorship.

Let me be clear I have NO power in Hollywood. I cannot stop a film from being made. I cannot change the story to suit my ideals. I can’t whiten a character or change their gender. I have no power over the media, what I do have power over is what I choose to give money to. Choosing not to give OSC my money is not silencing him in any way, I am not telling him that he cannot hold his opinions, write his book, write his homophobic columns; what I am saying is that I refuse to give him any more money or social cache by contributing to your movie being a success. That is the only power I have in light of the Hollywood machine.

That is not silencing people, silencing people with money and power is what NOM  did with the money and cache OSC  provided for them. Also even if he’s no longer on the board I don’t trust he still won’t give them his time, money and attention. Am I punishing him for his opinion? No. I’m choosing not to participate in a system that would end up with putting money in his pocket.

I still want to see Abigail Breslin & Viola Davis though. Maybe I’ll stick with my initial plan of paying for a film, something featuring GLBT folks and women of color, something I think should get more money/press/billing and then sneak into “Ender’s Game”.

It’s still voting with your wallet but in a cheating, sneaky way – it’s like rigging the election with your wallet. It’s the capitalist American way.

Is He or Isn’t He? Take 5,890,763,111 – The Zachary Quinto Edition

Politically I’m quite a bit to the left (quelle suprise, I know) so it’s fairly often that more mainstream media pisses me off. Mainstream GLBT media especially which tends to be very white, male and “normative”, ignoring a lot of other parts of the queer community and thus pissing me off. So I tend to stay away from sites like Afterelton.com, the exception to this is the Glee Recaps which I enjoy and head over to read every week. This particular week I clicked on a link in the sidebar to a weekly column entitled, “Best Gay Week Ever!” and was scrolling through when I came across this charming little tidbit.

There was a lot of discussion this week about Zachary Quinto’s declining to address his sexual orientation when asked by the New York Times. That is certainly Quinto’s right and we here at AfterElton.com firmly don’t believe in outing in any way, so that’s pretty much all of what I have to say about Quinto.

But I just as firmly believe that every GLBT person who is able to live a life today that is more free and open than ever before has an obligation to do their part to make things better for those who come after us.

That’s why I’ll always champion out actors like [Chad] Allen and Cheyenne Jackson and Jonathan Groff, and won’t spend much time thinking about those who benefit from the sacrifices made by others yet live in glass closets.

Okay. *Deep Breath* Let’s ignore the hypocrisy of “[we] don’t believe in outing” and ending the rant with “others yet live in glass closets” and the fact that after saying that’s all that will be said about Quinto that the following two paragraphs are pretty much a passive-aggressive statement all about Quinto despite the fact that his name doesn’t appear. This isn’t even really about the person who wrote this column as much as it’s about  this pervasive idea in mainstream GLBT media that being out is the only way to live your life and that it’s worth anything and everything and on and on. It’s happened with rumors about Elijah Wood and Queen Latifah and Ne-Yo and a hundred other entertainers, along with the continual refrain of “Why won’t you just come out?” and frankly I’m sick of it.

First of all, let’s talk about the fact that the only reason that Quinto has had his sexuality questioned is his support of GLBT causes and issues. Take a moment to contemplate the sad fact that any straight man cannot support GLBT causes without it become a question of his sexuality and inevitably his manhood as well. That’s a whole research thesis in and of itself.

Now, let’s also look at the fact that Quinto [and Wood, Latifah, etc…]  could very well be straight, that his denial to reveal his sexuality could actually be a strong and interesting position of basically saying, “Despite my heterosexuality I don’t feel the need to confirm or deny my sexuality and make that the issue here rather than the GLBT issues we’re talking about”.  I don’t subscribe to the idea that a ‘No comment’ is the same as admitting to something. There are simply too many variables that we don’t know, that we can’t know, to make it that simplistic.

And let’s say they are queer in some fashion (or even straight!), maybe they just feel it’s none of  our damn business and that’s okay. It’s okay for someone who lives their life in the spotlight and has everything scrutinized to want to keep their private life private. Now I’m not one to jump on the “woe are the celebrities/rich” whiny bandwagon by any means and I admit to an unhealthy love of celebrity gossip and reality TV but should someone be judged and held up for (albeit mild) contempt because they didn’t answer a question the way you wanted them to? I don’t think so.

There is a contract between entertainer and audience, it says: you will entertain me and I will pay you. That’s it. That’s all she wrote.  Somehow it’s shifted to this entitlement that we as the audience have the right to know everything about an entertainer and put them on some pedestal as a leader, a hero and it’s an insidiously pervasive idea our society. Bottom line is that none of these people that (the generic) you believes to be in the closet ever promised to be your: leader/lover/healer/hero/figurehead/and the list goes on. To put that expectation on them and then be angry when they refuse to live up to it exhibits a level of arrogance that really bothers me.

And finally, and this hearkens back to what I said about not knowing all the factors, the idea that just coming out is the solution is too simple and too one-pronged a position to take for such a complex issue. (This at the base is the same issue I have with the It Gets Better campaign, even though I get the motivation and impulse, because it doesn’t always get better for some folks and others can’t wait that long). The thing is that you can’t know what is best for someone else. It’s impossible. You don’t know their family dynamics like they do, their religious affiliation and level of belief, their ethnic culture, their racial identity, their connection to community and that community’s value system, their political identity, their age and how they’ve identified so far, their class background and a hundred other things of both large and small effect that determine whether it’s better for someone to come out of the closet.

Basically by taking the position of out being the only way, the GLBT mainstream not only makes an amazing display of privilege in urging everyone that one way is the right way, they are also saying that coming out is worth everything you might change. And that’s probably the case for some and some of have less to lose but for others maybe they don’t want to deal with familial fall-out, maybe they don’t want to change the way people look at them, maybe they want to keep their career on a huge uptick [anyone remember how quickly Rupert Everett’s rocket ride to leading man came to an abrupt halt, Hollywood is always more comfortable with gay actors when they play gay/desexualized characters] and maybe they just don’ t think it’s any of your business. And maybe just maybe they’re fine with that decision, maybe it actually makes them happy. Maybe things are more complex than ‘in the closet’ = sad panda and out = healthy vibrant queer.

Because I’m not talking about staying in the closet miserable and afraid by any means, I think every who wants to come out should be able to in a safe and loving environment. I also think someone should give me a billion dollars. Not only does not everyone exist in a scenario where they are able to come out but some people don’t feel the need to, some just don’t care about making an announcement to anyone. I’m saying that this is a much more complex and minefield laden issue than a simple “Hey, come on out, the water is fine.” and that whatever decision someone may make on the spectrum of ‘out’ to ‘in’ their choice is a valid one and one that should be respected.

Really it all amounts to the fact that we should be praising Quinto and others for supporting GLBT issues however they identify. This focus on “Well are they or aren’t they?!? And if they are they should be out!” makes it seem as if the only reason they could ever be invested in the politics is if they had a personal stake in it which is surely not the impression that should be given out.  And I think that with his activism and voice Quinto is (as the columnist above stated of GLBT out actors) doing his “part to make things better for those who come after us” whatever his sexual orientation may be.

Talking Amongst Ourselves

Now something I’m sure most folks who are knowledgeable about anti-oppression politics and discuss them in their everyday life have seen is the attitude that you only hold those beliefs to be politically correct or to be argumentative about “the way things are”. I know when I’ve told people that “No, I talk about these things all the time because they effect my life everyday.” I’ve gotten disbelieving looks or right out accusation that I don’t discuss race when I’m with other People of Color, etc. Now anyone who knows me, has talked to me at a convention or has hung out with me for more than a few hours can tell you that’s bullshit but the attitude is always there, that thought that you only talk this way or feel this way because of the company you’re in or whatever other outside factors. First of all it’s straight out insulting to insinuate that I can’t form my own opinions or that my opinions are so ludicrous that there must be some outside force exerting pressure on me. Secondly it’s just untrue. 

Now the documentary U People which I’ve been desperate to see for months and is now up for free in it’s totality on Logo Online explores the conversation people have within their community. Hanifah Walidah a poet, rapper, actress and black lesbian was filming the video for her song Make A Move where she recreated a house party. Now black GLBT folks have a long history of house parties that stretches back for decades. It arose out of a number of factors but a major one was the racism they tended to encounter when they tried to enter GLBT watering holes and forming a vibrant community outside of that hostile environment. Since they couldn’t go to the limited number of GLBT bars/clubs at the time they made their own parties and clubs in each others houses. Some of the parties were exclusively for men or women and some were mixed. And this is not a tradition that has died out, it’s still alive and strong – moreso on the west coast than anywhere else but the legacy is all over.

Anyway, while Hanifah was filming this music video she heard the conversations that were happening all around her and decided that those were just as important as what was going to end up in the music video. She calls it an accidental documentary for just this reason but go and read about it in her own words at the website linked above.

But there it is: a group of 30 People of Color, mostly lesbian women and a couple of transfolk (I also believe there are two or three straight women who talk about being straight in a majority lesbian environment) talking amongst themselves. Talking about gender and the “definition” of woman, talking about coming out, talking about the intersection of race and gender, and all of it to each other, with each other, about each other. It shows not only the complexity and differences among the supposed monolithic horde of “you people” but is also a chronicle of community and the way we form it around ourselves.

Go check out U People even if you don’t think you’ll learn anything from it because it is a touching, smart and funny documentary that shows a segment of society so exceedingly overlooked by the mainstream.

Even leaving aside the personal connection I feel to this documentary despite not being a lesbian – because in so many ways these are the women I grew up around and connect with very well – it’s an amazing film. Now if only I could see black./womyn.:conversations sometime soon.