Tuesday, August 31, 2010

No Labels for Figure Skater Johnny Weir

Though the LGBT community has claimed the skater, his sexuality is something he refuses to declare to the public.  Perhaps he is saving it all for his tell all book. Between taking pokes at Evan  Lysacek, who he calls a "slore" - half  slut, half whore, Johnny very specifically pushed back against the idea that he has to subscribe to a specific label in his in-depth interview with New York Magazine
"I'm not saying I'm gay, bisexual, multisexual, transsexual. I'm just me. And tomorrow if I want to marry a man, I'll marry a man. If I want to marry a woman, I'll marry a woman. It's not categorizing. It's not a box. But the reason I haven't told the nitty-gritty and the dirty past and what I chose to be involved with sexually is because, first of all, it's trashy. It's not cute."
I think many times labels exists to make other people comfortable.  Anyone that sits outside of things or ideas that we can easily define is usually attacked.  Perhaps, the idea that we have to subscribe to a certain way of being is actually the issue.  Johnny seems to march to his own drum -- and it seems to me, most of the attacks against him are based solidly in the idea that be a man, one must perform in a very specific manner.  There are elements of sexism, transphobia and homophobia in the backlash that he has faced.

We have no room for ambiguity in our society, because it symbolizes a failure to properly conform.  Even when we say that someone is outside the supposed norm i.e het, straight, able bodied, cis gender, there are still levels of conformity expected in the so-called out-groups. Nothing in our society truly encourages critical thinking or agency, and this is clear because the first lessons taught in school are to wait and  follow routine. This is what we consider order, even as it crushes those who seek to live outside of the automaton routine that we have normalized.

On some level we are always performing gender.  It feels normalized to us because we have been trained to do so from birth. It feels comfortable and it feels correct, but this safety net often bars us from exploring various facets of our personality.  When we reject people like Weir, we are also rejecting the part of ourselves that seeks to colour outside the lines; the part of us that craves self-expression and free will.  We may not all experience gender or sexuality in the way that Weir does, but it is most certain that it is not the simple binary that we have been trained to believe it is.  In small ways each day we cross the gender binary and perhaps what we should be focusing on is how this transgression emboldens our true selves.  What do we really have to fear, when we let down our reserves and exist rather than perform? If we can allow ourselves this freedom, we can extend it to others.