Just be a queen
The editors of Out Magazine asked me to pen an essay in defense of Lady Gaga, as many within our community are vocally criticizing her new anthem “Born This Way.” That can be read here. But I also thought I’d share it with the SUNfiltered community too. See below.
Don’t believe the hype. No, really, don’t. It’s just the religion of the insecure. Sadly, many still practice it.
I am, of course, talking about all the negative hype concerning Lady Gaga’s latest single “Born This Way.” I like Lady Gaga. How could any self-respecting gay person not? She’s the most vocal and most prominent gay rights advocate on the planet. She’s created a career and a cult from one simple message: Be yourself, baby. And she practices what she preaches.
Gaga’s artistic merits, of course, are debatable. She borrows heavily from Madge and Leigh Bowery and David Bowie and Grace Jones. Hell, she’s borrowed heavily from every major gay icon and performance artist from the last 50 years. But Elvis did the same. So did Warhol. And Madonna.
Gaga’s in good company.
Lady Gaga also makes pop music. In order to dissect her every move one must first acknowledge this simple, rather important fact. She’s a pop singer. She’s a performer. She’s not a politician. She sings and dances and makes kids smile. She’ll never be everyone’s cup of tea. That’s the beauty of the arts. They speak to some and not to others. We find the artists, the authors, the actors, the musicians we love and they entertain us and inspire us. But it is impossible to love everything! It is simply not human. But it is human to be kind, I think, and I often feel this has been forgotten lately. Being kind, showing respect — where have these basic gestures gone?
I have been blogging for over 10 years. I have been a designer and an artist. I was the first voice of the blog Queerty and I am cofounder of Fab.com. I’ve been around gay people and I love gay people. I’ve made a career of being gay. And I understand the age-old traditions of “reading” and the need for self-depracating humor, snark, and “cuntiness.” They do serve a purpose.
But there’s a fine line between being a smart-ass and being a jackass. We’ve lost sense of that. In a pop culture world that celebrates violence and superficial, we’ve allowed ourselves to get mean. To attack. It is evident on reality TV shows that no longer celebrate the human spirit, but rather belittle it. It is evident in the political discourse of this country’s leaders. It is evident on my Facebook wall, where one by one many friends of mine have ripped apart Lady Gaga’s new anthem.
I am cool with people not liking it. I am bothered by the need to tear down something so uplifting. The lyrics to “Born This Way” are nothing new. They’re uplifting, feel-good, empowering. Similar words have been spoken by Martin Luther King, Jr., Harvey Milk, Oprah Winfrey. What’s she’s saying is not new. But the generation she’s speaking them to, singing them to, is new. Let’s not forget that.
In the last 12 months we’ve seen numerous gay kids across the country kill themselves. We’ve witnessed some major civil rights setbacks and we’ve also won a few battles (like DADT repeal). We as gay people are far from full equality, but we can also see it in sight. Gay youth see the struggle and the hope more clearly then when I was in high school. I returned to my alma mater this year to speak to the school’s gay/straight alliance. It was an emotional trip and as a result I’ve become friends with most of those kids. I have seen their worlds. I have heard their stories. And, unsurprisingly, they’re all Lady Gaga fans. She’s singing to them. She’s telling them that they’re born this way.
Go ahead and say she copied from Madonna. Say it’s a generic dance record. Say she’s over. Go ahead, tear her apart. Rip her down. But think about it: Think of the good she’s doing, think of the kids she’s empowering — the ones she’s giving hope to, the ones who dream of a better life. Think of them when you criticize. When you dismiss.
It’s easy to be mean. It’s also a trap and a cycle. I find it to be wasted energy and wasted emotion. Rather than using that acidic tongue on someone on our side, why not turn it on those fighting against our rights, not for them. Someone on the other team. Someone deserving of criticism.
Lady Gaga wears wigs and ridiculous costumes and belts dance floor stompers that millions of kids sing and dance to. She brings happiness into this world. We need more angels like her. We need more wigs. More dancing. And more positive influences on our youth, whether gay or straight.
The next time you belittle her, attack her music or her artistry remember you’re also attacking an ally and a voice of a younger generation. Your words, whether quoted on a blog or a simple Facebook status update, have power. We’re all born superstars after all.
Don’t be a drag. Just be a queen. Nobility is our birthright. Let’s start acting that way.