This article was published on August 19th, 2015
Gay men have such an abundance of privilege that they must now be grouped together with white, heterosexual society. They are now lawyers and doctors with an abundance of wealth and political power. Furthermore, their struggle for social justice is now nearly complete since same sex marriage became legalized in the United States. This is all quite evident now. Just turn on the television to see well off, white, middle class gay characters. Look at a Human Rights Campaign fundraiser and rich white gay guys are rubbing shoulders with politicians.
Are you all smoking crack or something?
Let’s get something straight. Television is not reality. A handful of people from a minority group with money and power doesn’t equate to privilege, especially when that handful of people are doing nothing to advance social justice for the rest of the group besides themselves. Having a successful doctor of colour on television in the ’80s or a neurosurgeon run for the Republican nomination isn’t representative of a wider group.
Look at the facts rather than relying on Hollywood to paint an accurate picture. The poverty rate of gay men in the U.S. is 20.5%, a third higher than the rate of 15.3% for straight men. Gay men actually more closely match straight women and lesbians which have rates of 21.1% and 22.7% respectively. This is unsurprising considering gay men are close to 40% less likely to get a call back for an interview when compared to straight men. These are hardly statistics that scream wealth and power. Poverty is alive and well in the gay community. Even when they live in nice areas such as Soho or Chelsea, they’re often crammed together in tenuous, unstable rental situations in order to cluster as a community.
Violence against gay men continues at an alarming rate. In fact, the more gay men are open, the more abuse they face. Recent experiments around the world have shown the abuse gay men face if they show affection in public. Yes, it’s not shocking they face this in Moscow or Jerusalem. But the experiments have shown it continues in shocking amounts in places as such supposedly liberal hotbeds as London and New York. So it is no wonder that one study in the UK found that 3% of gay men had attempted suicide, compared to 0.4% of men in general. In addition, the study found 50% of gay men have experienced domestic abuse, compared to 17% of men in general.
Finally, and despite the fact that gay men represent over 50% of new HIV infections and rising, science is only beginning to understand why this particular virus spreads so fast between men, few were actually studying gay men and how our biology represents a perfect storm. This represents tens of thousands of gay men being infected each year in the U.S. alone.
But how can this be when gay men have now achieved equality? That, after all, is what the right to same-sex marriage was all about; however, now that two men can get married, gays are equal to straights. Since when was that the struggle for gay rights? It is a piece, a small piece, to be treated as equal under one aspect of the law. But equality and social justice has never been reached because a single law was passed. In fact, it’s a law that has barely affected gay men or lesbians.
In 2011, 6 years after same-sex marriage became the law of the land across all of Canada, there was a whopping 21,015 same-sex married couples. That’s right. Out of the estimated one million gays and lesbians in the country, 42,030, or 4%, are married. While equality in this area is a necessity, it signifies very little in the wider quest for justice or the right to live as gay men. If anything, this merely rewards the minority of gay men and women that are living up to a heteronormative ideal, though there is nothing wrong with that choice. Gay rights was fighting for the right to live freely as gay men, not merely to take up the institutions that will never be able to include the vast majority of gay men.
This breaks the myth of the privileged gay male. But why does this matter? Because the traditional allies of gay men are now pointing fingers saying we’re no longer part of the club, that we’ve crossed over to the other side. We’re being ostracized from queer events, being told we are not queer enough, even in drag. They claim we’ve achieved equality before everyone else, marriage, which extends to all queer groups, is not equality. Our counter cultural allies have somehow been taken in by some Hollywood version of the world.
Having fewer people hate us, does not give us a world where no oppression occurs. Lack of overt hatred does not equal no oppression. Certain gay men are rewarded when they manage to imitate majority culture, the same way many minorities are rewarded when they do this. But the very fact that gay men are rewarded for behaving a particular way shows just where power really lies. Those who reward others in fact hold that power and they can take away those rewards when they so choose. Those who follow traditional gay forms of relationships and familial bonds, those that continue to be a part of gay culture, those that continue to follow gay lifestyles continue to need to either conceal those facts from wider society or divorce themselves from the mainstream in large measures.
No, gay privilege does not exist. It likely never will. And all minority groups must continue to stick together as a block to face the true faces of power and stop excluding based on a faulty vision of the world.