I want to thank you for taking time out of what is almost certainly a very busy schedule to respond to my criticism of your earlier piece in Vice. I also feel that I owe you two apologies. The first for taking so long to respond. I know a week is an unforgivably long time on the Internets, but a recent move and the onset of the holidays have kept my hands full. The second is for somehow leaving you with the impression that i don't think gay culture is worthy of criticism. Gay culture has some serious problems. The decline of gay bars, the rise of Grindr, and enemies. No, not the kids from Glee. Real enemies.
And while we are on the subject, I know you aren't my enemy. I've always been a fan of your art, and while I suspect that you and I don't share a definition of "satire," I have nothing but respect for you. Furthermore, while I might have trouble "getting (my)self dressed in the morning," it didn't escape my attention that you were "merely launching a provocation." But since only teenagers provoke for the fun of it, I naturally assumed trying to start a dialogue. I've risen to the bait, color me provoked.
I agree that our political class has become, with a few exceptions, a lamentable cadre of passionless assimilationists, begging for scraps at the Democratic table. But the Human Rights Campaign isn't gay culture, and neither was Act Up! before it. In every city in America (and, I suspect, the Western world) there are drag queens, DJs, artists, and performers busting their asses every day to make gay culture happen. And for you to airily decree gay culture to be dead is a kick in the face. You've basically told the generation of queer artists and activists who have come up behind you to give up and go home. (And since you stopped using "queer" in the '90s, I'm sure you won't mind if we wear it for a while.)
You deigned to "spell out" your position, so I will do what I can to clarify mine. When I suggested that your time, talent, and influence could be put to better use drawing attention to places around the world where gay lives and rights are in peril, I didn't mean the East Village (zing!); I meant places like Russia, where sweeping anti-gay legislation could make it illegal to say nice things about gay people in front of children; I meant places like Uganda, where man-on-man love may soon be a capital offense; and I meant places like parts of the United States, where if I spit on someone, it can be considered assault with a deadly weapon, because I'm HIV-positive. And when I imply that you might be better served touting gay artists and historical figures, I didn't mean Lady Gaga and Hitler (double zing!); I was speaking of brilliant performers such as Justin Bond and Penny Arcade, writers like Gregory Maguire and Christopher Rice, filmmakers such as Travis Matthews and David Weissman, and an endless parade of of first-class photographers, dancers, comedians, poets, musicians, DJs, and promoters.
And finally, when I say gay men and women should be fighting for the" freedom to be ourselves," I mean just that. We have spent the last 30 years pursuing an agenda of Equality, and we've made admirable, even near-miraculous strides. Now we need to pivot to Freedom. Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Association, and the Right to Peaceably Assemble. SOPA should be just as important to the gay rights movment as DOMA. Ending the War on Drugs and the Criminalization of HIV should be priorities as high as the Right to Marry and ending DADT. In short, if there is a gay agenda, let it be Liberty.
Follow Bren Shucart on Twitter: www.twitter.com/brenshu