Saturday, December 10, 2011

Societal discourse can be interesting. As Foucault describes in History of Sexuality, medical discourses about the body, gender, and sexuality led to a notion of homosexuality as a perversion, and "the homosexual" as an outsider in society. As work that goes beyond discourse analysis has shown, however, (and this is one of the major contributions of the field of history), this discourse does not adequately represent the experiences of people in same-sex relationships during this period. Which is reassuring, to know that people do not blindly accept any discourse that flows their way, if it does not confirm to their actual experience regarding something. But it can also be disappointing. For instance, we live in a time when acceptance of gays is all the rage. Storylines on shows like Glee claim that anyone who bullies a gay person is probably homophobic because they are actually gay themselves. It also represents the narrative that if you come out, everyone will be wonderful and accepting. And I'd just like to say that, as a gay person, unfortunately this discourse is as false as the one before it. Being gay is not like being straight, and even some of the most liberal of people will have a problem with it, although they may not acknowledge it, and to many people the way that you are different will not, in fact, be "no big deal." I would guess that perhaps, this experience has always been the same. There are people to whom this sort of thing is not important, and there are people who feel weird about it. I think that discourse may mediate these feelings, but it does not determine them. Certainly, I'd rather live in this latter time period, as it means that the vast majority of people that you interact with will at least have to pay lip service to the idea that you do not make them uncomfortable. And I do love the idea that hating gay people arises out of a fear that you yourself are gay, although I would guess that it is true only a portion of the time. But fundamentally, no, I do not think that these discourses can alter the people with whom a gay person can have a close relationship with, and those with whom we cannot.


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