After reading your stunningly bratty "as told to" New York Magazine tirade (isn't "bratty" a dumb word? And yet, somehow, in an attempt to neatly sum up your piece, it feels most apt) where you threatened to leave behind public life because you've been so maligned by the queer community, and seeing as I'm part of the "Gay Department of Justice" that spoke out about your alleged use of "cocksucking faggot" a few months ago, there are a few things I want you to know.
1. I want to make it clear that I don't -- and never did -- think you're a homophobic bigot. I think you're a narcissistic, easily provoked hothead who explodes into an unpredictable fireball of anger and disgust whenever you're pushed or prodded (and this New York Magazine piece only further confirms that perception). I also think how you've handled a handful of situations is unfortunate, and the words you've reached for when you needed to vent your frustrations are unacceptable.
You claim you never said "faggot," and you know what? I'm going to give you that. Fine. You never said "faggot." But you still said "cocksucker," and that's still a problem. And I can't fathom why, if you didn't say "faggot," you would react to that accusation in the bizarre way you did. Why not just tell us what you did say, and what's more, why not acknowledge the concerns that queer people have about that kind of language (which, whether or not you used it in November, you have used in the past)? I get it: It sucks to be attacked, and it sucks to have to be the bigger person, but sometimes that's exactly what you have to do.
2. Furthermore, it's hard for me to take you seriously and believe that you really do want to make progress when it comes to the language you choose (and, ultimately, the way you approach and understand queers) when, in the very piece you're using to claim you aren't a homophobe, you so casually drop the transphobic slur "tranny." Really? Really? Again, maybe you don't know that that word is incredibly offensive and hurtful to many people, but at this point, if you're really the LGBT ally you claim you are, you should.
3. Why do we get so heated about words? Because words matter. Because the things that we say (especially when it's someone with great visibility like you) have an influence on our culture. When HuffPost Gay Voices runs a story about a celebrity making a homophobic comment, of course it scores us traffic, but it is also about holding people accountable for the things they do and say. And we always do it with an eye on what that kind of language does to our society. I wish we were living in a world where it didn't matter, but we aren't. And as I'm sadly stuck saying over and over again, we aren't living in a post-queer world. We haven't won the war. We aren't even close. And even the tiniest of offhand comments counts. And you know what counts even more? How you respond to being called out for making those comments.
4. Why not pick a phrase to use when you're on a rampage that won't land you in such hot water? I have a suggestion: Let's you and me make "butthead" a thing again. I truly think if we started calling everyone "butthead" whenever our tempers flared, we'd all have a lot fewer problems -- at least as far as the queer community is concerned.
5. I think you really need to hang out with some queers. And not just your hairdresser. And not just the ones handpicked and presented to you by mainstream LGBT advocacy groups. You need a big, sloppy smorgasbord dripping with all kinds of savory and unsavory queers. The only way to really get to know us and what we're thinking about and worried about and what we have to put up with on a day-to-day basis -- and trust me, it's different for all of us, but we do have some very basic common concerns -- is to talk to us.
One thing you should know about us right off the bat is that we queers are a severely cranky bunch. When you've been eating the steaming-hot shit sandwiches that we've been served all these years, how could we not be? Our default position is to be on the defensive, and we're preprogrammed to lash out when we feel attacked. We're also an incredibly diverse group with a lot of varied interests and problems, and we don't all feel the same way about the same things. But that just means you have to open yourself up to the idea that there are no hard and fast rules, and when you're not part of a community (and even when you are), things you say and do might piss people off. Seeing as you're in a position of power and privilege (meaning you don't have to deal with the shit that we do), I would hope that you could tread a little lighter when walking amongst the landmines of language littered throughout the queer community, and that you'd always be on the lookout for nuance and be ready to say "I don't get it" and "How does this work?" and maybe even "Oh no! What did I do wrong?"
You should also know that we aren't out to get you. At least I'm not. And I haven't gotten any memos from the queer mafia trying to organize a concentrated effort to run you out of town or make your life hell. I didn't want your show to be canceled. I don't want you to lose your contracts. I just want you to work on your issues. That's it.
6. And as far as nuance goes, this is a good time to remind you (and everyone else) that there's a difference between being a homophobe and being homophobic (and the same for transphobes and being transphobic). When you make a dumb comment or have a silly thought about queer people (like calling someone a "faggot" in the heat of an argument, or thinking little boys shouldn't play with Astronaut Barbie), chances are you're not a homophobe; you simply got caught up in some homophobia. And why wouldn't you? Or any of us? Even I have moments when I struggle with my own internalized homophobia. We've all existed in a society that is patently homphobic and transphobic for as long as any of us can remember (and even longer), so it makes sense that we'd still be struggling with this junk. But when we realize that we're feeling or thinking that way, we have the opportunity to confront and unpack those feelings and thoughts, and that's a chance for change and growth. And the more queer people (and the more people) you hang out with, the harder it is to hate them or believe the hollow stereotypes associated with them.
It sounds a little nauseatingly new-agey, doesn't it? But it's true. It's real. Trust me: It works.
7. I'm willing to admit that I do think the queer community needs to take a breath and pause before instantly reaching for our torches and pitchforks. While I'm constantly wishing there was more outrage in our movement, it needs to be appropriate to and justified by the situation. Just last week, after Stephen Colbert featured trans writer Janet Mock on his program, Twitter users found tweets he'd written using the term "tranny" and went on a rampage. I don't know if Colbert was using the term as part of his satirical right-wing persona or if he was using it in earnest and simply didn't know how offensive the term is -- like so many other people who are non-queer (or even queer) -- but to immediately call for his head on a platter seemed ridiculous and ill-advised. I refuse to make excuses for anyone or give them a free pass, but we have to give our allies a little slack, and we have to be willing to reach out and tell them how they could be doing better without knee-jerk shaming and vilifying. So often I think it's a case of just not knowing better, and you know what happens when you know better? You do better.
And for all you queers who say that we shouldn't have to do the heavy lifting, I hate to tell you this, but we do. It's another part of our burden. We should always be open to answering questions and telling stories about our lives and our experiences. It's not always fun or fair, but we're all grownups here, right? And we all have to do things that aren't always fun and fair. So buck up and pitch in, and let's starting making things happen.
In the end, Alec, I don't want you to go away. I think you're doing good work, and I'd love to call you an ally. I just want you to acknowledge your privilege, admit when you fuck up and stop being such a gigantic, red-faced baby about all of this. You're a celebrity with a horrible temper, so you're stuck being sized up and condemned when you have one of your meltdowns, and that's just the way it goes.
But now it's up to you to decide how you move forward. You can continue these petty rants, and I can continue to respond to them, but I think we both have more important things we could be spending a few thousand words on, don't you?
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