The Daily Agenda for Thursday, September 5
September 5th, 2013
Other Events This Weekend: Pride Night at Kings Island, Cincinnati, OH (Friday Night Only); Womenfest, Key West, FL; Run to the Beat, London, UK; London to Brighton Cycle for Clarence Higgins Trust, London/Brighton, UK; Newfest Film Festival, New York, NY; Queenstown Gay Ski Week, Queenstown, NZ; Bears on Ice, Reykjavic, Iceland; North Louisiana Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Shreveport, LA; International Bears Week, Sitges, Spain.
THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
The Many Names for Gay: 1998. To demonstrate the persistence of “derogatory language” used to describe gay people in publications that “have the potential to influence popular prejudices, Lisa Bennet analyzed the 356 articles about gays and lesbians that appeared in Time and Newsweek from 1947 to 1997 and published the list of terms she found in her study, “The Perpetuation of Prejudice in Reporting on Gays and Lesbians.” They are:
1947-1959 (23 articles): aberrant, abnormal, abominable, abomination, corrupt, criminal, degenerate, degraded, depraved, deviant, dirty pansy, disgusting, evil, extreme medical disorder, fairy, filthy, horrible, indecent, infamous crime against nature, invert, misdeed, neuropsychiatric case, pervert, psychopath, queer, sex criminal, sex deviant, sex offender, sodomite, undesirable, unmentionable subject, unnatural, unspeakable crime, vice, victim, vile, wicked.
1960s (25 articles): aberrant, abomination, butch, crime against nature, crime of deviation, dandified sissy, detestable, deviant, deviate, effeminate, emotionally immature, fag, gay, hair fairies, homme-femme, homophile, invert, le vice anglais, lesbian, moral malady, pederast, pervert, psychic masochist, psychopath, queen, queer, sodomite, swish, third sex, transvestite, tweedy lesbian, unnatural.
1970s (62 articles): aberrant, abomination, admitted homosexual, avowed homosexual, committed homosexual, confessed homosexual, deviant, drag queen, fag, fairy, flaming fag, fruit, homophile, human garbage, human rot, mental aberration, militant homosexual, queer.
1980s (95 articles): avowed gay, consensual grossness, deviant, deviate, dyke, faggot, faggot bitch, fairy, fruit, homophile, militant gay, militant homosexual, oddwad, pervert, prissy sissy, professed homosexual, queer.
1990-1997 (151 articles): abnormal, acknowledged gay, acknowledged homosexual, avowed gay, avowed homosexual, biker dyke, butch, butt pirate, degenerate, diesel dyke, dyke, fag, faggot, fascist pervert from hell, femme, go-go boys, lipstick lesbian, the love that dare not speak its name, pervert, poofter, professed homosexual, queer, queer dyke bitch, sexual nonconformist, sinner, sodomite, unnatural, vanilla lesbian, wicked, a willful choice of godless evil.
[Source: Lisa Bennett. The Perpetuation of Prejudice in Reporting on Gays and Lesbians: Time and Newsweek: The First Fifty Years. (Cambridge, MA: The Joan Shirenstein Center of the Press, Polics and Public Policy, September 1998). Available online here (PDF: 257KB/24 pages).]
Freddie Mercury: 1946. When I was a freshman in high school, my classmates and I were just minding our own business in our quiet Appalachian town when all of the sudden “Bohemian Rhapsody” came screaming out of our radios like an alien from outer space. Nobody was quite sure what to make of it — Bismilla! Beelzebub! Will you do the fandango? — it was hard at first to be too enthusiastic about this very flamboyant song. But we always turned it up whenever it came on the radio. And it didn’t take long at all before we were hooked.
Queen had already been very popular in the U.K. for several years, but for most Americans “Bohemian Rhapsody” was our introduction. And we had almost nothing to prepare us for — well, I’ll say it again — the openly flamboyant lead singer. Even the band’s name was provocative. One of my friends bought a Queen teeshirt at a concert in Dayton, but his mother prohibited him from wearing it. It was “too homosexual.” And so was Freddie — maybe. Except he had a girlfriend, as the press went, so maybe he wasn’t. Maybe it was all an act, we told each other (and ourselves). You know, a character like David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust or Alice Cooper or any of the members of Kiss. Whatever he was, he flaunted it, as it went in our vernacular, but as long as it was a character he was flaunting, maybe it was okay. It helped that Queen’s follow-on hits — “You’re My Best Friend,” “Someone To Love” — were sufficiently “normal” while unmistakeably Queen to calm things down a bit. By the time News of the World came out and the testosterone-laden “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions” became my high school’s unofficial anthem the same year that we won the state AA basketball championship, everyone had chilled. Those of us in that town and school who were easily freaked out over the very possibility of homosexuality — including us homosexuals — were well served by our sometimes willful naiveté. Without it, it would have been socially impossible to enjoy the music.
Freddie hoodwinked those of us who wanted to be hoodwinked, just enough so we could enjoy the music and the spectacle. The hits kept coming: “Fat Bottomed Girls,” Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “Another One Bites The Dust,” “Under Pressure” (with David Bowie, of course). By the time it dawned on me that he really was gay, I had long since left home and it no longer mattered socially whether I was a fan or not. And by the time it was announced that he had AIDS and would die very shortly, nobody was surprised but everyone was saddened. It seems that there are some people who are too outsized in our world to remain in it for very long, and Freddie was one of them. On November 25, 1991, the day after he died, Britain’s tabloid The Sun carried a very simple headline: “Freddie Is Dead.” It’s hard to believe, but if he had survived he would have turned sixty-five last year.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?