Monday, December 8, 2008

Milk


I saw Milk this weekend. It was good, although it didn't contain much information I hadn't heard before. (I guess that's proof of how good The Times of Harvey Milk was.) But I enjoyed it, and it made me proud to consider Milk one of my heroes. It really reinforced how politically savvy and strategic he was, even though his political career only lasted a few years. A large part of the film centered around Proposition 6, which would have made it legal to fire gay teachers and teachers that supported them. Although 6 failed, it started out looking like it would pass by a large margin. Milk made the point that if people knew just one gay person, they would probably vote no, and encouraged everyone around him to come out.

Of course, I compared this to asexuals...although no one is trying to fire us simply because we're ace, I think coming out is just as important for us. At only 1% of the population (perhaps), it's less likely that someone will know at least one asexual. But if someone does, are they going to say that asexuals aren't human? Or are they going to think before saying something like that? Being gay and coming out in the '70s, you risked everything, perhaps even your life. So we can at least endure some rude comments and incredulity, can't we? That's not necessarily an easy question for me to answer. I don't want to see the world as it is, as an ignorant place, and I don't want to assume that people are going to be stupid and mean. When you come out, you see the best and worst in other people. It can be a lot to handle, and it's not something any of us asked for. But without coming out, where can we get as a movement?

Milk also got me thinking about movements in the pre-internet and internet-centric worlds. No matter where asexuality goes, it will always be a movement that started on the internet. And that will make it easier to (unfairly) discount. People will say things on the internet ("you're the only asexual in the world") that they probably wouldn't say to your face, and that they definitely wouldn't say to a group of people. What's more powerful: A group of 10 people hanging out in the Castro or a group of 1,000 on AVEN? And if gay rights hadn't been a matter of life and death at the time, would anyone, including the gay folks themselves, have cared? I guess you could call asexuality a matter of life and death, if you look at our elevated levels of depression, an illness that can be fatal. Maybe we should spin it that way, instead of being the happy asexuals who are fine with everything. To give people hope (one of Milk's big themes), you first have to aknowledge that some are hopeless, don't you?

7 comments:

Lanafactrix said...

I don't know that it's a good idea to base a movement on a scare tactic. Maybe a better route would be emphasizing how the pressure to conform to certain sexual standards hurts everyone. Aces would certainly be in the vanguard there.

Ily said...

I agree, the pressure to conform to certain standards is something most of us, asexual and otherwise, could get behind. But there's just SO much going on in the world that it seems really difficult to get people interested in something unless it seems vital. I guess what I'm trying to say is that "asexual rights" aren't the same as gay rights, but they're still worth going after. It's really hard to fight against all the pressure to just "fit in". Well, this response is getting disproportionately long, but I want to say I appreciate your comments!

The Impossible K said...

When you come out, you see the best and worst in other people.

I agree. Although I haven't seen the worst, I've heard stories from gay friends who have. It's enough to give me pause before shouting "I'm Ace!" on the rooftops, even if being asexual doesn't carry as high a threat of violence.

Oh, and I'm sooo glad you posted on this movie! I was really hoping you would. :)

Queers United said...

"ace" ah a new word of the gay! so would an "ace" just be another word for asexual or is there something more to it I need to know before using it?

Ily said...

Yep, "ace" just means asexual.

willendork said...

I'm all for recognizing and combatting hopelessness where it does exist, but I'm initially resistant to the idea of focusing on it. I think that would complicate the fact that, in the larger queer community, there's such a need for positive representation. (At the same time we're trying to lower the rate of suicides, et cetera, don't we need to do something to remind ourselves that being queer doesn't automatically translate to depression/ death/ etc?) In my own limited experience in the ace community, I've noticed that there's a real comfort to people when they connect with other asexual folks and realize that they CAN live happy lives. So, while I see the need to come up with a way that raising awareness is vital, I'd resist the depression angle as the main or only one. You know?

p.s. I saw Milk last weekend and thought it was great, too. What an incredible leader.

Ily said...

Yep yep. What I want, which we'll hopefully get at some point, is a balanced portrayal. I don't want "Asexuals are going to die aloooooone!" and I don't want "You have to show that you're happy!" either. I think there can be quite a bit of "forced optimism" in the asexual community, as there also is in disabled communities. I want to make sure we can speak freely, whether our experiences are happy or sad. But, I wouldn't go so far as to say that we should put sad things right up front on purpose (even though from my post, it might have looked like that).