|On Heteronormativity, Stagegay, and Nuzzling
||[06 Sep 2007|01:43pm]
Hi, I've been nervous about joining in on this discussion, partly because I haven't even posted anything in this journal yet about my HUGE and entirely sincere love for bandom and bandslash, and now here I am jumping into the stagegay fray. But it turns out I have some things to say.
First, a primer on the Stagegay Debate: phaballa posted her opinions about the appropriateness of bands acting gay onstage without actually being gay themselves. There have been a wide range of reactions to her post, including kalpurna's thoughtful post detailing the histories of Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance in particular, and ficbyzee's understandable anger at some of the more racist, classist, and heteronormative assumptions that came through in the post and some of the comments to it. I take exception to a lot of what phaballa said, but her post got me thinking and trying to sort out some stuff that's been in my head for a while.
I should say right away that I love the stagegay. LOVE it. I love the campiness, I love the kissing and the licking and Gerard telling the boys to take off their shirts. I love that these boys (I'm talking FOB and MCR, since I don't know the Panic! boys as well) are affectionate and loving and goofy and sweet with each other, both onstage and off, and I frankly don't care whether or not any of them really and truly dig fucking other boys. I would hope that if any of them were gay, that they'd feel comfortable being open about it, but I don't pretend to know anything about their private lives and thus can't comment on whether or not any of them are being disingenuous about their own desires.
But regardless of their own personal sexual preferences, what they are doing is pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable masculine behavior. Wearing eyeliner, prancing around onstage in pure camp fashion, nuzzling each other onstage, being unafraid to talk about how much they love each other -- they're saying that it's okay for guys to do this. Even straight guys, or mostly-straight guys. And you know, I think that is actually pretty subversive and awesome. It's unexpected, and it shocks some people, and it makes it harder to figure out exactly where they fall on the sexuality spectrum, and just maybe it's helping some people to expand their own definitions of gender and sexuality.
Now for the part where I talk about how that relates to me and my own experiences. I'm female, basically straight, and really, really queer-identified. I pretty much assumed when I was growing up (and reading lots of Jeanette Winterson, and listening to lots of Ani DiFranco) that I'd be gay. Queer issues are hugely important to me; many of my family members, friends, and members of my chosen community are queer; I feel most comfortable in queer spaces. Also, I like kissing girls, but I don't really have any desire to sleep with them, and I've never felt I could fall in love with a woman. In terms of sexual chemistry and romantic love, in my life thus far, I have been pretty much wired for men. So I identify as straight (while also still allowing for the possibility that I might meet the right woman someday).
Still, I get cranky when people assume that I'm straight; I get cranky when people assume that anyone is straight without any real evidence to back that up, because that assumption is part of a heteronormative mindset that I have argued against all my life. And yet, I realize that I'm *not* really queer (at least, not in a sexual sense) and so I don't feel comfortable applying that label to myself. I recognize that to do so would be to appropriate something -- a culture, a community, a set of shared experiences -- to which I cannot lay claim. And I don't want to be seen as the girl who makes out with other girls because it's trendy. *shudders* So it's easier to just say that I'm straight, but it also feels a bit like a lie, like a denial of an essential part of me. I think the truth is that sexuality is a lot more fluid than we've been taught, and tends to resist easy definition. However, another reason for my uneasiness is the fact that people do still tend to assume "straight until proven otherwise," and so part of my wanting to claim something other than 100% heterosexuality is a reaction to that assumption. I want to make people think about that assumption and realize that it doesn't always fit, and that you can't always tell when it's not going to fit.
So when Pete Wentz says he likes making out with other boys, but isn't interested in touching their dicks, well, I totally understand, and my inclination is to read that statement as honest and forthright, rather than an attempt to distance himself from "accusations" of being gay. And when the MCR boys refuse to answer direct questions about their sexuality, I don't think they're being needlessly coy; I think they're saying that the answer isn't as simple as gay, bisexual, or straight, and that makes me want to applaud. They're helping to mainstream not just acceptance of gay people, but acceptance of different flavors of sexuality and gender expression. And when I can have a conversation with a conservative Christian teenage girl at my library about how much she loves MCR and how she thinks they're awesome and they look really good in eyeliner, well -- I think they are doing something right.