I don't know if you've heard, but New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner has been making waves by wearing what some fashion bloggers are dubbing "gay pants" on the campaign trail and to anti-DOMA rallies. Though Weiner hasn't made a comment on his motivations one way or the other, he is in fierce competition with Christine Quinn, who is openly gay and recently endorsed by Edie Windsor, so maybe his wardrobe changes are some bizarre bid to get people to confuse him with Neil Patrick Harris.
To that, all I have to say is "Ugh."
I mean, not against Weiner. I'm not registered to vote in New York and am not super up on his political history, aside from the whole Twitter thing. Based on voting record alone, he seems like a pretty chill dude. And while I'm obviously in favor of the idea of a gay woman holding New York City's mayoral seat, it's not as if Weiner's personal style choices are going to affect my life (or nightmares) either way.
I am annoyed, however, at this idea pushed by the media that a pair of brightly colored trousers is enough to swing the "gay vote." It's not as if we're all magpies or something, like we'll completely ignore a candidate's political record in favor of some suuuuper cute Dockers (or even his support of marriage equality).
And this isn't the first time this has happened; remember how Obama won the election thanks to his supposed careful cultivation of all us queermos?
It's kind of weird for me to even think like this, because four or five years ago, a political candidate or corporation offering support, even tacitly, for the LGBTQ movement would have been enough for me to climb on the bandwagon. Whether it was pandering or not, I was so starved for any kind of recognition by those in power that even just sticking a rainbow triangle on a website was enough to get me to buy a product (or contribute my vote).
And again, part of me is still thrilled that queer voters and consumers are even a powerful enough lobby these days to get pandered to as opposed to being ignored altogether. Honestly, there's no real harm in being charmed, as long as everyone involves recognizes the conscious decision-making that goes into the charming. The danger now, though, is that many of these companies and politicians seem to think that their LGBTQ voters are only interested in LGBTQ rights, and that's where I start to get shirty.
I was reminded of the corporate side of this when I went to the San Francisco Pride Parade this past weekend. Though I could kind of sense my transformation into a queermudgeon over the last few months, what with the whole bromance thing and the marriage thing, I didn't really register it until I was standing in the crowd at the SF Pride Parade, feet hurting and desperately wishing for caffeine, and pretty much outright sneering as most of the floats went by.
I mean, I cheered for all the multicultural groups, obviously, and for Kris Perry as she went by (and led the crowd in a rendition of "All You Need is Love," so my life is officially complete). But the people marching in those groups were far outnumbered by the scads representing corporations -- Wells Fargo, Facebook, Google, you name it. And I just couldn't cheer for them.
On the one hand, I have queer friends who work at a lot of the corporations I saw marching on Sunday, and they say most of them are great. Wells Fargo, one of the floats I frowned at the hardest, has some of the best LGBTQ policies in the country, and having attended many a Gaygler happy hour, I can say with confidence that Google treats at least some of its queer employees pretty damn well. So I'm excited for the marchers as individuals, both that they got to represent their workplace at Pride and that they work at a place where they don't have to conceal their identities to preserve their employment. In a time when a hell of a lot of people are still in danger of being fired for their sexuality or gender presentation, that's huge.
At the same time, though, it's hard for me to get fully onboard with Wells Fargo when I've read so many news stories about their predatory lending to people of color and arguably unjust evictions of disabled and terminally ill people from their homes. Even here in San Francisco, they've allegedly sold people's homes out from under them in the city's poorest neighborhoods.
Ditto for Bank of America, Google, ClearChannel, and a hell of a lot of other corporate sponsors of Pride: Despite their presence at the parade implying their support for equality, they've all behaved in ways that negate that on some level or another.
Yes, they have stellar LGBTQ employment policies, which like I said, I'm not discounting as being incredibly important. And it was nice of some of them to shell out to sponsor Pride, which requires a metric fuckton of security and city organizing.
But I've grown out of the idea that just slapping a proverbial rainbow flag on your company handbook and marching in the country's largest pride celebration is enough to give you a pass on all fronts. Economic inequality is still inequality; racial discrimination is still discrimination. A history of expanding the income gap in my city and others isn't going to be erased by 10 minutes of blasting "Respect" and marching down Market Street.
I'm a firm believer in "If you like something, hold it up to stricter critique," and this is a prime example: If companies or politicians have great records on LGBTQ issues, there's no reason they can't step their game up on other fronts.
Pride is about celebrating queer experiences. Most queers I know, though, don't get up every day, slap at their gay alarm, brush their gay teeth, drink gay orange juice, and ride to their gay-ass workplace on a unicorn named Ke$ha RuPaul. There are facets to queerness that go beyond whom you fuck (or what pants you like), and to ignore that in favor of fancy floats shaped like the Castro is to ignore a hugely important part of the LGBTQ lifestyle. Queer consumers and voters are more than the single issue of their queerness, no matter what exit poll analysis would have you believe.
So Anthony Weiner should continue to feel free to wear clothes that make him look two lattes away from having a lot of Feelings on Infinite Jest, and Wells Fargo should keep making it really easy for their queer employees to make a decent living. They should know, though, that that's not enough to guarantee my (or anyone else's) unconditional support.
Kate is being a queermudgeon on Twitter: @katchatters.