This thought first hit me the day after the "fat naked fag" Richard Hatch won the Survivor TV game show.

The final episode was the only episode of the show I watched, as TV's not really my bag, baby. I watched it only at the behest of my houseguest, who convinced me to watch because Richard was a "hot bear".

As I watched the show, and got some of the background to how the last 3 contestants got to that point, I grudgingly admitted a fascination for these people. I was pleased that Richard had made it so far by truly playing the game using a strategy of survival that included manipulation of his fellow game players.

Somehow, though, this was interpreted as a bad trait, and some press accounts I've read seem to imply that Richard shouldn't have won, because he manipulated people. There were even allusions to the fact that manipulation is often a tactic of homosexual activists (shocker!!). Media accounts seem to be disappointed that Richard didn't do the "right" thing in winning the game.

EXCUSE ME?!? Richard won the game, using survivalist tactics. When there can be only one winner, you can trust no one else. This game was no more than Monopoly on a grander scale. When you play Monopoly, you have to gain the trust of your fellow players, either to form an alliance against someone else, or to manipulate them into being convinced that the property trade you're offering is of more advantage to them than to you. If they swallow that line, it's as much due to their own greed as to your skill at manipulation.

Richard played Survivor no differently than I would play Monopoly. There's no room for two people at the top, therefore, he had to do whatever it took to survive. And yet, in a poll conducted after the show concluded, about two-thirds of viewers thought the wrong person won! Did people really expect him to nobly bow out and let a "better" person win? Some of my roommates, religious watchers of the show (and gay) expected exactly that. Why? For no other reason than he was a gay man, and they expected him to do it, to send some kind of "message" about gay people to the 51 million people watching the show. I'm sorry, but I'm as greedy as the the next guy, gay or straight. I'll pocket the million, and THEN send a message, thank you very much. FUCK being a nice guy trying to get that cash.

Then the thought hit me ... my roomies have been conditioned into thinking that gays should hold to a higher standard of conduct than straights. They seem to think that a sense of "nobility" or of "self-sacrifice" is what earns them acceptance in the straight world ... and they didn't even realize they thought that way until they were forced (by my close questioning) to examine their feelings.

One of my roommates has a superior work ethic. He's never late (often early), never calls in sick, and covers shifts for people who do call in sick. He feels that having a good work ethic is lacking in a lot of people, and I agree, but he also feels he gains acceptance as a gay man by having a good work ethic ... as if having a good work ethic was a trait all gay men possessed, or somehow makes up for the "distaste" he thinks people feel knowing he's gay.

What piffle! Why is it that we are a culture of extremes? Homosexuals used to be portrayed as nothing but pure eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil. Now, portrayals of gays seem to have swung the other way: the "stalwart best friend", the "caring neighbor who dispenses witty advice", the "heartland couple who adopted". When a gay is portrayed in something less than angelic light, it's usually as someone who's bitter and/or a drag queen...the last refuge of insensitivity for gays, it seems.

This is ridiculous. Straights seem to accept all of these "sweet" portrayals, and gays try to emulate them. Both groups of people are doing themselves a disservice. The best way for a person to gain acceptance amongst their family, their peers, and their social circle is to be who they are. Warts and all. A gay doesn't have to believe they must be nice all the time to gain acceptance any more than a straight has to believe homosexuality equates with sterility. However, we've all been trained (to some success, it seems) in recent years to think that gays are "super, thanks for asking" and that any less of a response makes them a "bad" person ... not a gay, but one of those fags. Straights don't have to be nice all the time to gain acceptance, so why do gays think they have to?

Oh, sure, there's those radical queers who believe that the only way to gain acceptance is by shoving their existence down other people's throats, but really, what has that accomplished other than to contribute to the rise of irrational conservatism to balance out their own irrational liberalism? Gays are people. They love, they hate, they do things for people, and they're mean to people. Why is it so hard for gays themselves to accept this, or at the very least, show this to straights?

Richard was definitely not a "typical" media portrayal of a gay man. He was overweight. Hairy. You didn't seem him wearing the latest fashions, nor saying all the correct slang phrases and buzzwords. He appears to have been the only person to have understood what it means to be a "survivor" and that is a trait that I could apply to a lot of gays. We've survived hatred, AIDS, evolution, and radicals on both sides of the fence. It appears now that we'll have to survive godliness, too. The fact that Richard's being scorned for being manipulative is stupid. You'll note that Rudy, his "friend to the end" (until they left the island, anyway), lost by being stalwart and true and noble. And yet people expected that behavior from Richard. Would they have felt the "right" person won had Rudy? I wonder.

So bully for Mr. Hatch, I say. He played the game the best, and thus deserved to win. He did it by manipulating his fellow players into losing, which wasn't against the rules of the game. All other considerations, including the fact that he's gay, or "good", or "bad", are moot. He has the check. You don't. End of story.

I will admit a certain sick fascination for Survivor. I like being able to feel smug and morally superior from the comfort of my couch. I realize, however, that if I were on that show, with one million dollars at stake, (this works better if there's a Dr. Evil voiceover) by day 13 I would be offering sexual favors to members of both sexes from pagong and tagi to ensure that I didn't get voted off the island. By day 20, I would have painted my face, sharpened a rattan stick and impaled Jeff Probst while declaring myself Lord and Master of Pulau Tiga, all to the tune of Gluck's Dance of the Furies from Orfeo ed Euridice. So I can't really fault Richard for using a bit o' the ol' duplicity in attemping to win the prize money.

However, having faithfully (almost slavishly) watched each episode, I understand why Richard Hatch is so widely disliked. I think it has less to do with him being gay than it does with creative editing. 39 days worth of activities were edited down to around 13 hours of footage. And while each of the contestants may have been fully-rounded complex individuals, fully-rounded complex individuals don't make good TV (why do you think The Real World always goes for shallow and obnoxious?).
Each of these participents was made into a character by the magic of television editing. Colleen was turned magically into the adorable moppet. Dirk was the bible-banging religious fanatic. Young, handsome doctor Sean became the village idiot, (in this case, I fervently hope that this is solely through the magic of editing, otherwise I fear for the entire AMA). Our dear friend Richard became the villain. With all the shots of Richard plotting, lying, scheming, boasting and running around naked, the producers of the show couldn't make him appear more malicious if they used Mephistopheles' theme from the Guonod version of Faust as his theme music.

And it's terribly easy to sit back on your plump, comfortable ... couch and pontificate about how noble, honest and hardworking you'd be if you were stuck on the island (I think I'd be taking a page from Gervase on inspired laziness, myself). I was actually glad that Richard won, but then again, in those cheesy aquatic horror movies, I always cheered for Jaws.

The double standard I'm about to describe is not nearly as common as the sort described by WolfDaddy, but I found it pretty irksome all the same.

Years ago we had a regular customer at the bookstore where I worked who was an absolute terror. I first encountered him when I had the brilliant idea of moving the books in the gay fiction section into regular fiction, on the grounds that these authors shouldn't be ghettoized based on their sexual preference. The next day this man was charging around the store, livid with rage and bellowing that we were homophobes because Gay Fiction was no longer in one easily-found and browsed place.

I will admit that, putting myself in this man's shoes, I can see how it may have been a real blow to suddenly find the entire section mysteriously removed. Having a section devoted to gay fiction obviously makes it easier for gay customers to find books written for them. In my youthful zeal I hadn't realized that I was deliberately making it harder for one particular customer base to shop at our store.

Our then-manager took the man aside and calmed him down, explaining our reasons for the change and promising to put things right. He had the advantage in this case of not only being gay himself, but of having started one of the first--perhaps the first--gay bookstore in Los Angeles, which gave him much in the way of credibility. After the man left I sheepishly retrieved all the books I'd shelved and rebuilt the gay fiction section, figuring that would be the last of it. Knowing our true position and that we'd simply made an honest mistake, any further complaints from the man would doubtless be offered in a spirit of reason and mutual cooperation.

But no. A couple of weeks later he was back again, angry and quite literally in my face. He had gone to the fiction section searching for novels by Peter Lefcourt and had found none on the shelf. "Why don't you have books by Peter Lefcourt?" he shouted. "Is it because he's gay??" I grokked immediately what was going on. Deep down this was just another one of those loudmouths who expects the retail slaveys who serve him to massage his feelings any time reality doesn't conform to his expectations. On firmer ground now I politely answered that I was not aware that Lefcourt was gay, and that the reason his books were not on the shelf is because we sell a lot of them and just now we happened to be sold out. Would sir like to special order one or more of the titles available? Deprived of rant fodder, the man left in a huff.

That night I vented about this jerk to my then-girlfriend, in terms no different than I would with any other customer I felt had treated me rudely. Instead of sympathizing though, she became hostile.

I had no right to criticize him, she said. As a gay man, my customer had faced oppression of a type I couldn't even fathom, and lived as part of a community that suffered terribly from the AIDS epidemic. In truth, he had every right to be angry at the entire world--and that included me.

I shut the hell up. Not because I believed she was right, but because it had never occurred to me that anyone would seriously propose that someone's sexual orientation exempted them from having to treat other people courteously, especially people obviously lower than you on the economic food chain. What made this especially bizarre was that my then-girlfriend extended no such understanding to members of any other oppressed minority. In fact she held them to a higher standard of behavior.

Anything someone gay did, in short, was justified by their status as victims. To say otherwise was to contribute to their oppression.

The way that we treat our fellow humans--either by stepping around their differences on quiet feet or by being openly suspicious of their motives--is often molded and encouraged equally by both sides of the fence. After being bodily ejected from a gay club for kissing my girl friend, I realized that certain gay people enjoy their hard earned status as estranged sexual outlaws. I personally know many (not all) gay people that wouldn't know what to do with themselves if they were no longer concidered shocking and outrageous. The world would simply end if they couldn't walk into Macy's in drag and drop a few jaws and that seems to be fine by them; it's fine by me. I just don't see how people who view life from this point of view can still continue to complain; I guess some people enjoy bitching as much as they enjoy shocking people.
I am not saying that I think that we should oppress gay people, women, people of races different than our own or anyone--for that matter--I am saying that there are entire sub-cultures built around oppression that actually seem to encourage it (which I find bizarre). In a world where older and less socially active gay couples are called "sell outs" by the rest of the gay community for owning a business that isn't specifically related to being gay or simply trying to live a normal life without much giving concern to whom they do and do not fuck; I think that it is safe to say that a good portion of "oppressed" are not working toward a unified sexual front.

What if your black friends saw you walking around with your new white friend? What if your classmates from your Feminists in Liturature class saw you out on a date with a man? What if your beer chugging buddies caught you watching Oprah?
Just imagine the day when the ghetto is clean and monitarily secure, there are drag clubs on every corner and all those ass-pinching bosses quit. When the commie threat is dead and when all the heathens are converted; when the sun shines down and all of humanity is one big happy family--what will you bitch about? Who is the bad guy then?

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