Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Spark of Wisdom: Exploiting Our Pain

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky. 

I am, in general, a fan of the whole "It Gets Better" and related projects. Not because I think they will magically fix the problems out there - far from it - but because it is such a huge problem and the forces against us trying to offer any help or support are so huge that I often despair.

But mainly, beyond any kind of logic or thought, I like them because I think back the to 10, 14, 16... gods any age before 18-year old me and know how much this would have meant to me. Just how incredibly wonderful and treasured just one of those videos would have been and what it would have meant for little messed up me.

Of course, those same issues have kept me around the fringes, being unable to make a video or tell my own story or to watch many of those that have been posted without going into a big storm of Do-Not-Wantness. But still I've been following from the fringes and seeing some of what was posted.

And most I did love, so much... but then I saw a few posts by some celebrities and I thought "hmmm, is this the first time you ever noticed us?" And then I saw a couple more who seemed to be making a flying leap for "gay icon" status and loved the... marketing opportunity this provided. Especially when Katy Perry released a music video which was supposed to be all part of it - yeah, after the fetishistic "I kissed a Girl" which followed the frankly homophobic "Ur so Gay" it's going to take a damn site more than a firecracker down her bra before she's any kind of icon to me.

And then I saw the politicians and I definitely felt a lot of teetering. Sure, hope from authority figures was a good thing - but some of these guys had sketchy records at best when it came to actually doing something about our rights - and it is extremely dehumanizing to have the national government officially declare you are unworthy of respect and equality - to say nothing of extremely reinforcing for the bullies and their mindset. All in all, I was much less comfortable with people saying "it gets better" who had the power to MAKE it better now and were both not doing so - and had not done so. And it was only made worse by some of these videos sounding so much like campaigning it made me ill - I expected them to be followed by "this message is brought to you by the X party."

So Do-Not-Wantness was warring with growing pissed-offness when I came across 2 new videos for the UK version of It Gets Better videos by David Cameron, our new Prime Minister and Theresa May, our new Equalities Minister.
Beloved can probably tell you the moment I found these videos by my inarticulate scream of rage.

To understand my anger you probably need to know about Section 28. If you're not GBLTQ and British you may not know what "section 28" means. If you are both those things I can almost guarantee you do and that you may have just started swearing vituperatively at the screen.

Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 was a Tory law that FORBADE Local Authorities AND schools from saying positive things about homosexuality.  You couldn't even say it was acceptable and certainly not that it was a familial relationship. It was illegal to mention homosexuality in a positive light when I was in school. If I had gone to my teachers about the crap I was going through they would have been in an extremely difficult situation if they wanted to help me. Gay straight alliances weren't even considered - there was a law after all! And it covered all Local Authority provided services - not just schools. It was unimaginably wide reaching


It was repealed in 2003. After numerous attempts - NUMEROUS attempts - to push it through by the Labour government that the Tories fought tooth and nail against.

In 2000 David Cameron himself said that Labour had a ""fringe agenda... including deeply unpopular moves like repealing Section 28 and allowing the promotion of homosexuality in schools". 

In 2003 David Cameron tried to protect the law, joining the vast majority of his party in doing so.

He's also gathered several truly vile homophobes and section 28 supporters to his cabinet and high positions - Ian Duncan Smith, William Hague, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and, of course, Theresa May who has also released a video.

Theresa May has one of the worst anti-gay voting records of any MP, having voted not only to keep Section 28, but also voted against equalizing the age of consent, against gay adoption (twice), against fertility treatment for lesbians (wants the law to require a 'father'). And she's the Equalities Minister! Yes, it's almost funny isn't it?

She repeatedly linked section 28 to "protecting children" (that's protecting straight children from the nasty gayness, by the way, not protecting our children from persecution)

"What we're looking for fundamentally is protection of children and certainly obviously we're reviewing all our policies and we will look at the issue of section 28. And what we'll be looking to ensure is that if repeal were proposed what would be put in its place because what we want to ensure at all times is protection of children" (source)

And now, these 2 have made "It Gets Better" videos. Videos that virtually sound like election campaigning at that. 2 people who have done so much to keep it as worse as possible have released It Gets Better videos.

No... I actually have no words for how... obscene this is. To use this project for both promotion and Rainbow-washing makes me literally choke with rage

And I wish it were the only example, though it was by far the most extreme. Over the past few weeks I've also seen a group of m/m authors using the tragedies as a launching pad to talk about their books which similarly didn't sit well with me even remotely. It felt like a marketing opportunity. I'm not going to say that was the authors' intent but it did send me running to the high wilderness.

Whether a pop star, a politician, an author or anything else - please, for the love of all that is holy - do not use events and issues like these as marketing tools. It's tasteless, it's depressing, it's painful and it's dehumanizing. Show a little respect or at least try to fake it