The Solution to Gay Panic


THOUGH JAN BREWER vetoed SB 1062, the bill which would have amended Arizona’s existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act, nothing has changed for the better in that state. LGBT people are still an unprotected class. As Anderson Cooper pointed it out in his interview with AZ State Senator Al Melvin, “…it is legal already to discriminate against somebody who’s gay in Arizona. You can fire somebody because they’re gay.” Melvin attempted to side-step the question, blathering on about the “sanctity of marriage” and “traditional values,” those codes words for “we’re better than you” which mask a general panic about gay people. The same panic that led to SB1062 and its previous incarnation, SB1178, is part of a larger, worldwide hysteria about “the other.”

Jan Brewer vetoes SB1062

Jan Brewer vetoes AZ’s SB1062

Right now in America, where recent victories for marriage equality have encouraged activists, the gay panic is reaching a shrill pitch with arguments like this. (I use the word “arguments” loosely because this is really just a collection of regurgitated words.)

[sic] Actually it Does Affect Us. It Changes everyonS View Of Right And Wrong, It Changes curriculum That elementary Schools Teach Our Children…. I Don’t Want My Kids Being Forced To Hear That You Can Like Boys If You’re A Boy And Vice Versa. It Changes The Value And dignity Of MARRIAGE And procreation. It Is UNNATURAL and If The Church And State Must Be separated, Than So Should Sexuality and The StateAnd. Just BC I’m pro-Straight Does Not Mean Every Gay Can Shove Their Ideals Down My Throat And call Us Bigots. Everyone Is Entitled To THEIR Opinion, INCLUDING STRAIGHT PEOPLE

That grammar-less debacle was an entry in one of those vast discussion threads where people lose their minds over a picture of Ernie and Bert holding hands. People actually think like this. I look at a picture and I see fan art; someone else sees the end of the world.

Ernie & Bert's depiction in this illustration cause some "gay panic."

Ernie & Bert’s depiction in this illustration cause some “gay panic.”

Religious conservatives maintain that their worries are not cowardice but concern – taking us down that road of quoting whatever religious text they’re using for their justifications. Meanwhile in Uganda there is genocide and in Russia gay people are being lured from their homes and beaten bloody. It’s gay panic. Under different circumstances, in my neighborhood, gay panic is what I see every day at the gym; guys twisting themselves and their towels into knots in order to keep their piddle sticks out of sight. But alone, at night, on an unlit alley… or in a Ugandan street in broad daylight…

The question is: how do we solve it?

Education doesn’t seem to be enough. There’s a deep hatred of “the other” that exists in all cultures at all times in history. RuPaul, in an interview with Arsenio Hall last week, summed it up: “It has to do with the ego needing to strengthen itself through putting someone else down.”

Before football player Michael Sam came out two weeks ago, linebacker Jonathan Vilma wondered, in an interview with Andrea Mitchell, “…if he’s the guy next to me and, you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me. How am I supposed to respond?” (To be fair, Vilma’s remarks in context were an attempt to illustrate straight, locker room culture and not necessarily a peek into his own misgivings. Even though I share Anaïs Nin’s philosophy, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are,” I’m giving Vilma the benefit of the doubt after his Feb 10 interview on CNN.) Vilma’s question is almost too silly to answer. And it would be easy to make fun of if it weren’t also easy to trace hetero fears directly to treatment of gays in Uganda and Russia.

Asking opponents to identify exactly what is wrong with gay people usually gets an answer like “because the Bible.” Which means the argument ends right there and history is doomed to repeat itself. I was raised Catholic and I was taught that God is the only judge. This has led to my belief that God doesn’t need anyone’s help. God needs you to shut up, worship, and love your neighbor as yourself.

RuPaul put it more kindly, and his excellent summation on Arsenio’s show is remarkably similar to the the words of a certain famous religious leader: “It’s not rocket science. Love is the answer.”

Enough with the gay panic already! I’m ready to worship at the church of RuPaul.

RuPaul dishes dish and good advice.

RuPaul dishes dish and good advice.


About Tom Gualtieri

Tom Gualtieri (@TomGGualtieri)is a theatre artist with his hand in many disciplines: lyricist, playwright, performer, director, knitter. He maintains an ongoing collaboration with composer David Sisco. His solo play, That Play: A Solo Macbeth, was nominated for a 2013 Drama Desk Award.
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2 Responses to The Solution to Gay Panic

  1. Paul B. says:

    Jewel said: ‘Do you hate her because she’s pieces of you?”. ‘Nuff said.

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