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How Not to Approach Gay Advocacy

16/12/2014 16:51 GMT | Updated 15/02/2015 10:59 GMT

At some point over the past week I was miraculously rescued from my post-ironic obsession with Christina Aguilera and placed instead among the ranks of fanboys agog for British singer-songwriter Sam Smith. I'll admit I was, upon watching his music video for Stay With Me, somewhat surprised by his not being black. I tend to associate prodigious choral performances with acts like John Legend, a subconscious nod to the gospel-singing ancestors of modern soul music, so when I found myself gazing upon a pale, jean-clad Londoner I became immediately curious of Smith's personal life.

I didn't need to look far in satisfying my interest, however, since the comments lurking below concerned that personal life almost exclusively. It turns out Smith is a homosexual--which was not something I would have inferred on my own, and not because of the strength, depth, or clarity of his music, but because sexuality shouldn't really be inferable from music unless it's made its centrepiece (which, in the case of Smith, it isn't). Of course it took all but a heartbeat for the raging homophobes to swan in making statements like "Not supporting gays but love this song" (credit to the renowned poet and political genius _NVU_), and only a heartbeat and a half for the gay community's 'advocates' to take up the cudgels and make things worse.

"If you take the time to get to know [these people] you would be surprised by how amazing and incredible they can be", says flashbox21. "It doesn't matter if someone is gay [...] you should love them anyways", agrees Hunter James; and Hannah Tran rounds things off with "Who cares if Sam Smith is gay, he still has a unique voice and great talent". At this point I'm deeply tempted to tell these people to go f**k themselves, but that's neither constructive nor responsible so I'll confine their chastisement to publishing their usernames.

We all have that friend who is, no matter how we look at things, simply a bad person. Maybe they're hopelessly spoilt, arrantly self-involved, or noxiously narcissistic. Maybe they're voting Conservative next year. Whatever their vice, you love them regardless because the two of you have history. They may earn twice your wage and still complain about paying half because 'They didn't have a side,' but you overlook that because they always call you when you break up with that loser you're dating. You love them despite their aberrations.

This is not the way we should approach gay advocacy. Gay people aren't criminals asking to be loved in spite of their crimes. They're not addicts wanting to be understood beyond their addiction. And they're certainly not sinners wishing to be spared of evil. There's something acutely grotesque in making statements of 'tolerance' that propound the intolerance at the heart of homophobia. It creates the impression of a great magnanimous hetero-society kindly accepting these poor unfortunate souls who aren't to blame for their own afflictions (as if gay men and women need to feel any more excluded from mainstream culture). The proponents of this sort of attitude appear to be those who have jumped on the 'new liberal' bandwagon without paying it an ounce of thought. 'We're all the same at the end of the day, babe,' they say. Shut up. Serious problems call for intelligent advocacy (see _NVU_'s latest book Proud to Have Half a Brain) and this 'love-the-sinner' complex is the pinnacle of idiocy.

We've got to understand what the goal of gay advocacy really is. When I was growing up I didn't want to be like everyone else. And I certainly didn't want my 'normality' to be a concession. I wanted everyone to know who I was, but I wanted to be the centre of attention on my own merits. I wanted to be clever, and talented, and funny. I didn't want to be 'the gay guy.' And yet that's how my school likely remembers me--and that's how we're remembering all gay men and women. Our sexuality is still the ever-present topic at hand. Take a look at Sam Smith: He's nominated for four Grammys next year and yet his every YouTube video is rendered a forum for sexuality politics. The real aim here is for us to escape sexuality, to be able to live as homosexuals without having to do so self-consciously. The aim is for 'Are you gay?' to sound more like 'Where is the bathroom?' than 'Do you have leprosy?'

Gay rights are better here than anywhere else, and better now than ever before, but what we're fighting for is freedom - to improve our lives - and there are some among our 'supporters' who would do well to remember that.