The Camp Vamp: Katrina Fox

Commentary on GLBTIQ issues, social justice and some of life's quirks.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Assimilation

We're a right bunch, arent we? By we I mean GLBTI folk or queer folk, although the latter term is proving controversial, judging by the letters pages of the gay press here in Sydney lately. In last week's Sydney Star Observer, a Gregory Franks from Sans Souci (could there be a camper name for a place?) slammed young GLBTI people for using the term queer. These cheeky so-and-sos affiliate themselves with radical political groups like socialists and atheists and then claim to speak for every gay and lesbian around, Franks says. Similar sentiments were expressed in last week's SX by Kendall-Atzlan Horrocks (could there be a camper name for a person?), who called for a total repudiation of the tactics taken by the 'fortress Queer' lobbies and lambasted anyone who considers themselves to be outside mainstream Australian life and culture as 'extremely juvenile'.

To assimilate or not to assimilate? That's the question. Sitting on the margins of society has its advantages: repression often fosters creativity and a sense of specialness; being part of something other can feel rebellious and exciting. But there's a price to pay: no equal rights, being treated as a second-class citizen, bashed. On the other hand, assimilating into the mainstream, becoming 'like everyone else' might offer a slew of equal rights. But there's a price to pay: blandness, and the further marginalisation of anyone who doesn't join you in towing the conservative party line in which individuality is sacrificed for the Holy Grail of normality.

Is it progress when the gossip magazines include stories on the civil unions of our gay icons such as Elton John, or as NW did this week, run a piece about Ellen Degeneres apparent 'fury' at girlfriend Portia de Rossi for spending 'flirty nights on the town' with...wait for it...a man! Our Ellen, who's embraced mediocrity big time with that awful talk show of hers, is sandwiched between bimbo supermodel Kate Moss and her arse of a boyfriend Pete Doherty, and a seven-page spread entitled 'What Stars Really Weigh', complete with pics of female celebrities sporting anything from a pot belly to stick insect frames. All rounded off, of course, with the staple quotes required for trash rags from sources close to the comedian, who say she's 'petrified' of Portia doing an Anne Heche (Ellen's former girlfriend who returned somewhat spectacularly to heterosexuality in 2000, having been found wandering the streets declaring she'd seen aliens).

What with this, and the token gays on reality TV shows, should we be pleased or horrified that we're becoming part of this mainstream? I'm a tad torn on the subject -after all, I'm just as happy curled up on the sofa with my girlfriend and cat watching Chita Rivera play a lesbian on Will & Grace as I am shimmying under a disco ball in a fabulous frock or mooning Her Majesty outside Buckingham Palace. But, given a choice of companion Ellen or transgender punk rock icon Jayne County (see separate blog on Jayne), it's Ms County every single time.

Interview with trans punk rock pioneer Jayne County

Recently Jayne County posted on her Myspace site that Gene Simmons of rock band KISS was trying to co-opt the name of her band (The Electric Chairs), which she's had since the 70s. He announced on his reality TV show that his son's band would be called Nick Simmons and The Electric Chairs. Jayne put out a call to action and Gene initially backed off. Jayne kindly agreed to let me interview her for SX, the weekly GLBTI magazine in Sydney that I write for. You can read the article online by going to:

http://www.evolutionpublishing.com.au/sxnews/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=784&Itemid=40

Since then, Jayne has found out that Gene is still using her band's name in re-runs of his show and on a DVD. Jayne (formerly Wayne County & The Electric Chairs) was the first trans punk rock artist - Kiss, Bowie etc just played dress-ups and it sucks that a right-wing rock star like Simmons can't think up an original name for his own son's band. Jayne is a fabulous person and if you're someone who dislikes right-wing bigots with lots of money trampling on people who retain personal integrity and individuality at all costs, never selling out, please visit her Myspace page at www.myspace.com/jayneisblonde to find out how you can help her.
Enjoy the interview!

The M Word (same-sex marriage)

Around 500 or so people attended a rally on Sunday in Sydney in support of same-sex marriage (it was part of a national day of action, with protests taking place across Australia). Considering the numbers that rock up to Mardi Gras or other party events, 500 was a pretty meagre figure, but I guess it's a reflection of how the M word has GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) communities across the world divided.

Equal rights for all means the right to marry if you choose to, says the pro-gay marriage lobby. Buying into a heterosexist institution whose roots are steeped in oppression flies in the face of what the early gay liberationists (drag queens and trannies at Stonewall) fought for - the right to live an unconventional life, say those on the other side of the debate. So pissed off are the latter in the US, that over 250 activists, academics and writers, including feminist poster woman Gloria Steinem, Sarah Schulman and Armistead Maupin, have signed a manifesto called Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families and Relationships.

The manifesto calls for the legal rights and privileges of marriage to be extended to a myriad of relationships which traverse the lines of sex, gender, sexuality and even include close friends in long-term care-giving relationships. Schulman fears that the push by gay activists for the right to marry is harking back to the repressive values of the 1950s. She told The New York Times recently that, as a teacher, she sees a lot of younger gay people, especially women, adopting the heterosexual fantasy that even Barbie has distanced herself from - that someday they will meet the right person and they will get married and they would have children. She fears that lesbian mothers are embracing a poverty model and denying themselves the chance to be the next Emma Goldman.

I supported the rally on Sunday but not because I am a big fan of marriage; on the contrary, actually. I was annoyed that in 1997, the only way for my male-to-female transsexual girlfriend and I to protect our property and inheritance rights in England was to get legally heterosexually married under British law (we did it partly to get those protections and to expose the ridiculous legal loopholes). The irony, of course, is that last year, when I applied for permanent residency as her spouse (wife no less), Australian Prime Minister John Howards government refused to recognise our legal, British heterosexual union here in Australia and forced us to embrace the L word.

I supported the rally because I believe same-sex relationships to be as valid as heterosexual ones (and because I enjoy a good demo although I'd prefer it to be on a busy Saturday all through the city causing maximum disruption to traffic and business and ideally to the tune of '60s protest songs). I can see where Schulman's coming from though (lesbian mothers totally scare me!) and if there's a rally planned which calls for the promotion of sex and gender variant, polyamorous affiliations as a valid alternative to marriage to the young people of today I'll be there too.