The Gay Meme

Lately, there has been a big push to re-visit the issue of the vernacular use of the word “gay”.

Source: Merriam-Webster

This has come up in public service announcements, news reports, and even several high-profile “outings”. In just a matter of days and weeks, the gay meme has cropped up all across news stories and interviews, yielding the rare convergence of popular culture, sports, and even politics together in a singular forum.

Allow us to briefly summarize the latest uses and abuses of the gay meme:

  • Gay House Speaker in Rhode Island legislature votes against gay marriage, sparking outrage
  •  Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler talks about his gay sex experience in his auto-biography
  • “Anti-Gay” Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich showered by glitter by a gay activist
  • The San Francisco Giants prepare to release their anti-gay bullying video
  • Rick Welts, CEO of the NBA team Phoenix Suns, comes out as gay live on CNN
  • Attack on two gay individuals in Ohio labeled as “hate crime
  • CNN anchor Don Lemon comes out as gay in his auto-biography and speaks about it on TV
  • NBA player Charles Barkley claims he “didn’t care” that he played with gay teammates
  • College basketball star Will Sheridan reveals he is gay to ESPN
  • Gay former NBA star John Amaechi calls out “homophobes” in NBA
  • International pressure mounts for Uganda to drop anti-gay legislative bill
  • 2,000 gay activists stage gay-pride parade in Scotland
  • Southeast Asian group stages gay/sexuality summit in Indonesia
  • A new study says vowel sounds can help distinguish gay individuals
  • Study concludes that homosexuality, celibacy were not to blame for sexual abuse in Catholic church
  • Authorities in Moscow ban gay parade
  • Michael Bloomberg advocates for gay marriage across the state of New York
  • Republicans set to receive much donation money from Pro-gay groups
  • President Barack Obama is attempting to court the gay vote for 2012
  • Minnesota Senate approves gay marriage ban referendum
  • NBA star Grant Hill talks anti-gay language on CNN
  • NBA comes out with their “Think b4 You Speak” campaign to change view on word “gay”

All of these stories have emerged in only the past few days, bringing many parts of society together at a crossroads of discussion.

Here’s the latest public advertisement from the NBA:

An issue of  personal significance, the use of gay has now eclipsed the age-old scientific standard “homosexual” when in use in public discourse. This has prompted more heated reactions from those enforcing combative social norms and those defending the rights of gay couples, clearly the two most dominant rhetorical camps on this issue. Therefore it stands as the anti-gay religious crowd vs. pro-gay socially liberal crowd.

To those who hold no passionate opinion on the matter, they are simply left to absorb arguments from both sides and frame it into their perspective. Politically speaking, this certainly explains the varied responses to gay-marriage referenda over previous election cycles, which have all produced varied results in California, Wisconsin, Maine, Texas, South Dakota, and twenty six other states, where most voters tend to reject gay-marriage and call for a state constitutional amendment to ban gay-marriage outright. The latest example is the bluest of blue states, California, in which 52.4% of citizens voted in favor of Proposition 8, which banned gay-marriage in the state constitution.

Though it is now an issue left to legal institutions, it is without question that the debate was centered on the use of words, something that would George Orwell would have been quite adamant about. By using so prophetically the word “gay”, the debate was framed away from an individual’s right to marry the person of their choice, and more toward an inherent dislike of the unknown or the socially-unacceptable. This framed all discourse to the efforts of defending an idea instead of defending actual freedom, something the proponents and detractors never took into account. Had the discourse surrounded the connection of individuals, love, and free choice, it is no mystery that Prop 8 would most likely have been voted down. Instead, because such attention was paid to the word “gay”, it was certain that the immobilized anti-gay forces were to succeed.

The lessons of Prop 8 are still very relevant for political activists concerned with gay-marriage and gay rights in general. According to poll data released after the referendum, it was revealed that 70% of African-Americans voted for Prop 8, sparking much outrage across media circles, such as the Washington Post. This thrust forward a temporary discussion about gay rights as the new civil rights in the African-American context, which many commentators played down or actually advocated. The general consensus, however, was that religious voters banned together to impose their view of sexuality and sin on all other citizens of the state, the purest example of direct democracy and its effects.

In discussing the gay meme, it is most interesting to note the underlaying suppositions and assumptions which both militant sides seem to make. While the anti-gay crowd clings to their professed orthodoxy of “man+woman” , their greatest strength has always been in promoting the “strength” of the family and the supposed “push” of homosexuality by the pro-gay community. This has had a profound effect on apathetic or unimpassioned masses, who have always reacted to “attacks” on their own lifestyles instead of protection for the lifestyles of others. While this “pro-family” argument is supported in general apathetic circles, what seems to permeate most deeply amongst the anti-gay crowd is the “God hates Fags” tagline, which pins gays and pro-gay supporters in direct competition with supposed Christian values (which seem ironically absent in times of war and government-sponsored murder abroad). The pro-gay crowd, meanwhile, seeks to promote and make acceptable the gay lifestyle, all while easily dishing out libelous labels (ex. homophobes, bigots) for those who may not necessarily be ardent supporters of their view. Be that as it may, the continued popularity of gay-friendly TV shows, such as Glee, True Blood, Will & Grace, Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family, Brothers & Sisters, and more, does prove that the paradigm of the gay meme is shifting. Perhaps, in due time, all sides will catch up with each other.

As an “unimpassioned” individual, it should be stated that my personal views do not denigrate any group which seeks unconditional recognition and support. As long as there is no force imposed by one group upon another, I can do nothing but unequivocally encourage my fellow human being in their quest for love and knowledge, be it male, female, or any other. The essential point is that the nature of the liberal foundations of our society should relish in free and individual choice, beyond coercion or force. The protection of the liberty to live one’s own life and follow one’s own path should, in all cases, be respected and championed, as long as it rests within the boundary of voluntary cooperation. In order to be assured of one’s own liberty, the dogma must persist that the liberty of others be so equally assured, as a means of achieving the most virtuous end.

In retrospect, the entire relevance of the gay meme will only persist as long as there is momentum to continuously juxtapose it. Just as inter-racial and inter-class relations were so easily shunned and denigrated in the past, it is no mystery that the evolution of attitudes will ultimately prove favorable to the pro-gay community, though it will prove to be a struggle. For a true transformation to take place, there must be a new understanding of the words, attitudes, and impositions  that have so dominated the gay meme in its evolution.

The gay meme, though pharmakonic in nature, will transition society away from a majority vs. minority mindset. It will provoke a call to arms to all basic philosophic assumptions and orders. It will provide relevance and equality to those who have been so reluctant to live their lives as they see fit. It will, as the Merriam-Webster definition states, remove the clout surrounding being “homosexual”, and the return to the “high spirit” that gay once represented. Let that day be now.


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