Everyone and their dealer has something to say about Lady Gaga and her recent metamorphosis from basic cured meat-wearing pop star to self-proclaimed equality rights messiah with her accelerated involvement in the LGBT community. Since the release of Born This Way however – a song that couldn’t scream GAY any louder if it were performed by Liberace in glitter-encrusted leather chaps at a San Francisco Pride parade – a growing number of critics, gay and otherwise, have since taken the opportunity to lash out at her every move.
Initially captured in the Daily Beast article, “Gays Turn on Lady Gaga”, the article highlighted growing resentment among urban gay men with Born This Way’s use of cliche lyrics and stereotypically gay melodies. Since then, the conversation has shifted to a much larger issue, in which she’s perceived not to be queer enough to sing about equality rights, let alone represent them.
With a penchant to hype herself in epic, Kanye West proportions, I can understand if her new music has been slightly underwhelming. But criticism regarding her bisexuality and her initial involvement with Target, most notably from Gays Against Gaga – one of the more prominent members of the growing anti-Gaga movement – now verge on bullying.
Once word spread of Target’s history of donating to the campaigns of certain anti-gay candidates, she was accused of being a hypocrite and phony for working with them. Not only did she immediately break ties with the megastore, but her actions also prompted them to reform policies within the corporation as well as renew their support for the LGBT community. I don’t see the recently out Ricky Martin washing his hands of the megastore, and yet I don’t see anyone with pitchforks and ‘Gays Against Ricky’ signs anywhere, and I certainly don’t see much acknowledgement from her critics about how significant it is for the world’s biggest pop star to refuse to work with one of the fastest growing chains in the world. Double standard much?
As an out bisexual woman, Gaga is arguably the biggest pop star on the planet today, is speaking out, and is successfully bringing focus to issues to incredibly important issues like DADT, marriage equality, and teen bullying. But for some reason, her bisexuality is being viewed as one of two things: a well timed marketing ploy or that bisexuality is not “gay enough” to earn her status as a gay icon. Not only has Gaga been up front about her relationships with and interest in women from the start, but that any questions regarding her sexuality insinuates, explicitly or implicitly, that a bisexual individual is perceived to only be half-gay at the most.
Heterosexual Billboard Hot 100 regulars like Katy Perry, Britney, or Kesha are all treated like gay icons cause of their shiny hair, pre-drink appropriate music, and fancy dance moves (ok, maybe not Britney), and often heralded for their support of our community. But filming an ‘It Gets Better’ video, tweeting about gay marriage or throwing a random quote about loving their gay fans does a not a gay icon make. On the other hand, Gaga’s work on repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ played a significant role in helping it get overturned, which is unprecedented and exciting. And if every time that Born This Way, is played on the radio, another sexist, derogatory, or homophobic song isn’t, then I definitely don’t see what the problem is (I’m talking to you, Tyler the Creator).
Having grown up in the Middle East, surrounded by people who would’ve thrown stones – not support – if I had come out, all I had was an exceptionally effeminate Jack McFarland on Will & Grace reruns to look up to. Trust me when I say that Gaga appropriating gay culture for her own benefit is a small price to pay when you’re an isolated twelve year old on the verge of suicide.
Unfortunately, I fear that a certain near sightedness is at play here. Our generation has become slightly too comfortable knowing that the necessary help lines, support groups, and clubs are available in most North American cities, that they overlook the fact that gay marriage is still just an idea for our brothers and sisters south of the border or that there are millions around the world who still only have cultural figures to guide them through the often traumatic experience of coming out.
One can argue that it isn’t ethical to be making millions off of the broken self-esteem of gay youth or any other individual dealing with similar issues and I can see their point. Capitalizing on any kind of struggle is bad. But can we all please be a tad more realistic here? Name one entertainment industry do-gooder, from Oprah to Bono, who hasn’t profited from their supposedly benevolent work.
They may be small gestures, but having the support of someone with the largest spotlight and the loudest microphone is not insignificant.