A Few Incidentals

Well, in my last posting I talked and talked and went on and on about minority characters in the movies. And yet with all I wrote and with all the talking that I did with God before writing it, there was a big point that I wanted to say and never got around to.

One aspect of the minority experience is “passing.” Blacks and other “ethnic” minorities can sometimes pass for white. Obviously this notion assumes that there is a reason for them wanting to pass, that there is something better about not being what they are, and of course that’s true. It’s not that there is anything inherently deficient about them, but rather that there is something wrong with society, something wrong with our culture in that we have allowed ourselves to treat other human beings as if they were worse than the majority at things that are not borne upon whatever traits put them into the minority. God says I should provide an example here because my phrasing is getting dangerously opaque. So an example of what I’m talking about is that being of a different skin color does not make one better or worse at math, so skin color should have no bearing on hiring an accountant. Of course, being pushed into a subculture that is defined by the color of one’s skin may have an effect on your interests and skills, not because of the color of your skin, but because of the norms and foci of that subculture. So some things may appear to be related to race that are in fact cultural rather than genetic, and other things may be attributed to race while actually not being any different if actually measured.

Anyway, returning back to the notion of “passing” before I end up with another thousand word article that doesn’t get to the point that I started off heading for… A lot of gays pass for straight. As a matter of fact, that’s often been a point of contention between other minority communities and the gay community when it comes to the struggle for equal rights, equal respect, and equal treatment. Some minorities complain about any comparison between their struggles and ours, saying that we can’t understand what it has really been like for them because we can always play straight to get out of the spotlight, that we can pass through uncomfortable zones without being confronted, without being spotted by those that would do us wrong.

So let’s get back to movies, because that’s where I started this discussion. In movies there are many characters that may be gay, and we just don’t know it. Except for the few main characters in a movie, you often don’t know what the sexuality of any given person is. Sure there’s an assumption that they are straight but there’s no guarantee. For those of us queers desperate to find role models that represent our group, we can dream. We can look at the crowd of incidental characters and tell ourselves that ten percent of them, or even just three percent of them, are like us, are whole and complete human beings, flaws notwithstanding, who just happen to be queer.

And that’s where the ethnic minorities are right. Some of them just can’t pass for white no matter how good an actor they may be. But whether you’re black, latino, or gay, changing yourself to pass for what you aren’t is still killing a little of what you are. God pointed out to me the flip side of passing is what it can’t do. An actor that is black, is always going to be playing a black character, a character that can be seen to be black, even when they’re just part of the crowd. The fact that they are black may be incidental, but it will still be there. But gay characters are intentional. They have to tell you in some way that they are gay, in words or in actions. They aren’t really gay unless they tell you. Characters aren’t just incidentally gay. Well, except for Timon and Pumba.

So the next time you wonder why someone you encounter doesn’t just act like the majority, take some time to think about it. Do you want them to act the way the majority does because there’s something truly lesser about how they behave, or is it just that you’re uncomfortable around anything different than you’re used to. Take some time to think about what they might have to give up, what about themselves they might have to crush or kill to act the way that you expect.

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