Gay Politics Politics

On giving gay people guns…

There are benefits and there are horrors to staying on people’s floors. Benefits include not having to pay rent, seeing more of your good friends and getting to know local geography. Horrors include continual exhaustion, sometimes uncomfortable bedding and making sure that you don’t upset anyone by being under their feet 24 hours a day. Tomorrow morning I am wandering up to Kentish Town to look at a flat before work. I’m not convinced that it is the place for me, but I’ll give it a go. I just wish I wasn’t so tired all the time.

One of my oldest friends, Gideon, told me about an article in Salon the other day, and asked my opinion about it. It suggests that gay people should arm themselves with handguns in order to protect themselves from anti-gay attacks. Gideon’s exact words on this one were: “an intriguing proposal by a journalist i know… any ideas? I can’t decide if he’s right or crazy”.

I read through the article carefully. As I read through the first page my immediate reaction was one of mild horror – what was this man advocating? Did he really want to start some form of gang warfare on the streets of American cities – to put a whole new meaning to the phrase “gay mafia”? But then, on the second page I came up against this:

“The abiding fact is this: Homosexuals have been too vulnerable for too long. We have tried to make a political virtue of our vulnerability, but the gay-bashers aren’t listening. Playing the victim card has won us sympathy, but at the cost of respect. So let’s make gay-bashing dangerous. We should do that for our own protection. But we should also do it because we will win a full measure of esteem from the public, and from ourselves, only when we make clear our determination to look after ourselves”

On rereading the article it seemed clear to me that the article wasn’t actually about arming gay people at all, but an appeal for an escape from the current politics of gay identity – a politics that defines gay people by their vulnerability – continually subject to name-calling, workplace discrimination, harrassment or attack. It wasn’t so much calling for violence to counter violence, but instead desperately scrambling for something to replace “Gay Man/Woman: Perpetual Victim”.

Queer as Folk 2, which recently aired in the UK, included some pretty startling scenes – a man taking on board all of the insults thrown against him in order to savagely expose the blackmailing attempts of his ten-year-old nephew, the same man blowing up the car of a woman who disinherits her estranged gay son (she called him to his father’s death-bed to ask him to sign the papers) and a full-on confrontation between a name-calling hick and a poof with a gun. Each one of these scenes inspired something proactive inside all the people who saw them – the desire not to have to “run to daddy” when something horrible happened. It’s the same feeling – the same discomfort with the idea of gay people as being weak and needing outside help to get them through their daily lives.

So what do I think? Do I think gay people should carry handguns? I don’t know. But I know one thing for certain – we should be doing something.