Whiteness and Gayness and Americanness

This week I’ve thought about my country the way I’ve imagined people with abusive or deadbeat parents think about their abusive or deadbeat parents. (I mostly know such people from bad movies.) No matter who they are or what they do, the parent will continually let them down. The parent has too long a history of putting their own needs before the child’s. The parent has never really been there for the child. Eventually, the child gives up on the parent.

The question then is to what extent I give up on my country.

Then I remember that only 27 percent of eligible voters chose the president-elect last week. That’s 18 percent of the total population. When I say “America” or “Americans”?when I look around and wonder whom to feel betrayed by?I almost never know what I mean.

But this week, of all the things I am, I’m most ashamed of being an American.

Reading Nell Irvin Painter’s NY Times op-ed this morning made me turn to whiteness. “Who defines American whiteness right now?” Painter asks. “How will white people who didn?t support Mr. Trump in 2016 construe their identity as white people when Trumpists, including white nationalists, Nazis, Klansmen and [Breitbart News], have posted the markers?”

I’ll be damned if I’m going to let myself get lumped in with those fucks. But I don’t have an answer to Painter’s question of how to construe my identity, how to publicly and visibly be read as the sort of white man who would never want himself represented by the president-elect. Who would never see his race as something noble and pure, something he needed to protect.

I used to roll my eyes at the A in LGBTQIA. Unless you’ve been hated for who you want to fuck, don’t horn in on our acronym. But I’ve changed. One path I can see through the miasma of race and history I’m lead through when I consider my fearful brethren and white shame ends at being, and maybe identifying, as a capital-A Ally.

It’s not horning in on someone else’s struggle, it’s showing solidarity with that struggle. When you love people different from you and see them being hated, hurt, and killed, wouldn’t you want to do something? I want to do something. For me, the days of criticizing others acting out of love might be over. Thanks, Trump.

Ally thoughts have led me to queer rainbow thoughts. Specifically these:

  • I am, for the first time, worried about spending the holidays in South Dakota this year.
  • I no longer want to pass as straight.

The problem with the former is one Neal and I have talked about and will face together, surrounded there by his family which is full of people whom I know love us. The problem with the latter is that I don’t know what to do.

I never had the conscious goal to pass as straight (when it happens, that is; God knows I’m no Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor). It’s mostly a factor of straight folks’ naiv?te. Or how shabbily I dress. I was also maybe afraid to be different. Now what I feel most is the need for solidarity among the majority of us who did not want this man in charge, and I want this solidarity to be visible.

I want that 18 percent’s face slapped with my gayness. I want to wear pink T-shirts with all-caps messages on them. Or hold Neal’s hand more often in public. Or tattoo BUTTSLUT across my knuckles. Of course, I run into an immediate problem: What does “look more gay” even mean? Aren’t I engaged in the struggle to enlarge the common conception of what “a gay man” looks like?

As soon as I “look gay” to someone who doesn’t know me, I enforce something false at best (I dress the way I am) and homophobic at worst. Other than sucking dick in public, there might be nothing I can do. Is this a kind of victory?

Maggie Nelson read at USF last week, and she kindly signed my copy of The Argonauts. “I want to give you some seeds,” she said, slipping inside the front cover a packet with morning glories on the front. I thought it was a quirky gesture until I got home and read the printed message she’d taped to the front. Maybe you’ve seen it passed around online these days, but it was the first I’d heard it:

They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.

2 thoughts on “Whiteness and Gayness and Americanness”

  1. Thank you for reminding me about the 27%/18% stat. Also, thank you for this post. The only answer for fear I know is being braver than the people who have you afraid want you to be.

  2. Amen to all of this, particularly the distillation of the justification for the “A” in the acronym and the need for us all to hang together in the coming years. In that respect too, the 27%/17% stat is helpful perspective.

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