putingayandproud

Thoughts on #PutinGayAndProud

Hey all, 

Messenger Bag here. If you were unaware of my tumblr presence, here I am! I reblog gifs of things too. 

So last night was a lot of fun, so so much fun. Being on The Chris Gethard Show is always a fucking blast and very rewarding, I’m super grateful to be able to do it. 

During last night’s show, Connor Ratliff unveiled a brand new campaign of his; #PutinGayAndProud. The attempt of the campaign is to portray President of Russia Vladimir Putin as a proud gay icon; so heavily that, many years from now, all that will be remembered about Putin is that he was a proud gay man.

This bit made me laugh really hard, and I immediately gave it my full support. I’ve been really disgusted with some of the news coming out of Russia recently, and have had to stop myself from posting unfair status updates along the lines of “fuck Russia” and or “Russia is fucking disgusting” lately. Seeing someone take on the issue in a light-hearted and funny way was refreshing. People have taken to the campaign in a spirited way. The TCGS community, a whirlwind of sweethearts and creatives, seems to have a limitless willingness to contribute and create and promote and celebrate this thing they love, it’s super fucking beautiful and awesome and I struggle to think of other communities as supportive.

But I’m left feeling a little conflicted about #PutinGayAndProud. I was scrolling through the gayandproudputin tumblr this morning (took a single day to be created, insanity) and found myself wondering “is this reinforcing archaic gay stereotypes?” The go-to way to portray someone as gay seems to be draping them in rainbows, leather, or emasculating them in any conceivable way. Is an image of Vladimir Putin wearing unicorn sunglasses to a backdrop of rainbow kittens and bubbles funny? Fuck yeah it is. Is it kind of weird and fucked up that thats our attempt at portraying him as gay? Probably! 

For those who don’t know, I am bisexual. I just started telling people last year, and it took me years to come to terms with. A HUGE obstacle for me was coming to terms with how many aspects of my personality and history would maybe fall in line with some stereotypical attributes we associate with men who aren’t straight. I have a strained relationship with my biological father (never met him), I grew up around a number of strong female role-models. I am wildly emotional. I am skinny, “twinkish,” and kind of effeminate. As a child, I watched Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance at my grandmother’s house while eating spoonfuls of whipped cream. I used to play a game in which I hid in a closet, dressed myself in whatever was available, and then ran out exclaiming “I’m coming out of the closet!” All of that is 100% true. 

Are any of those things concrete evidence towards what my sexual preference should be? No. But for years I was very insecure that they could be interpreted that way. That to some asshole, I was clearly a fucking faggot and was always meant to be a fucking faggot; just looks at all the signs! I was afraid I had no say in the matter, that my sexual and romantic desires didn’t matter. They were overridden by these societal portrayals of what straight is supposed to be, and I didn’t pass the test. 

And while I love the idea of mocking and ridiculing someone like Vladimir Putin, someone who promotes the kind of intolerance and disgusting hatred that kept me in the closet for years, I have to wonder if these portrayals are kind of problematic? Might punishing someone by portraying them as gay be reinforcing the kind of fear that keeps people in the closet? I’m not 100% sure.

Speaking on the phone this afternoon with a very dear and queer friend of mine, I was surprised to hear that they loved the episode last night but were left with a bad taste in their mouths from Connor’s bit. From their perspective, calling Putin gay as punishment for his bigotry was backwards and offensive. In their own words, to want Putin “to go down in history as an out and proud gay man, when out and proud queers who did revolutionary things to make this world better are going to be misrepresented or not remembered at all? Just kind of a slap in the face." 

I was forced to reevaluate the bit in my mind, and felt guilty that I immediately endorsed it without thinking.  To be honest, it didn’t even hit me that there could be anything off about the bit until discussing it with someone of an opposing viewpoint. I posted the hashtag to twitter, and got 1 fav, 1 retweet, and 7 likes on facebook (I always fucking count). I love contributing and interacting with this community, and was doing my part. But maybe doing so meant I was carelessly marginalizing someone else, or belittling their struggle, or diminishing their value? 

I have an incredible amount of fear posting this. I’m really glad to have been so well-received by this community, and am very fearful of rocking the boat. I also feel like the biggest shithead for essentially shitting all over Connor’s bit. Connor is such a nice dude, has such a sweet presence, has been nothing but nice to me, and deserves nothing but a barrel of fucking laughs from all of us. I really hope this isn’t perceived as an attack on him. It is not not not at all. Connor is a wonderful man, and a fabulous kisser. 

In this case, however, I’m unclear about the implications or repercussions of supporting this campaign and am choosing to abstain until I come to more a solid conclusion about it. The subject of what is or isn’t ok to joke about is constantly rehashed and heavily debated. I have ZERO desire to claim Connor did anything wrong, or broke any rules, at all. Same goes for anyone contributing or enjoying the #PutinGayAndProud campaign. I tend to always side with the right of comedians to say and do whatever the fuck they want. Do what you think is right, and what you think is funny. I would however encourage everyone to consider where is the humor coming from? (The irony of one of the world’s leading bigots being remembered as gay forever) Is the bi-product maybe fucking over someone unintended? (Gay men are shirtless sparkle enthusiasts)

I really appreciate this community’s encouragement of honesty; in the words of Dru Johnston "You aint got shit if you aren’t honest.” So here’s my attempt to express some honest thoughts in the face of a possible backlash. There are so so so so many people in the LGBT community who have everything to lose from speaking their mind, and it’s only fair that maybe I should share in that discomfort. 

Sorry for being such a shithead buzzkill. Nothing but love for literally all of you. 

-RMB