Whenever a new gay-themed film, TV show, play or novel emerges, especially if it focuses on gay men, the creators involved, when interviewed, will almost always say the following things:
“It’s not a gay (book, play, movie), it’s about people.”
“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a realistic depiction of gay lives.”
“It doesn’t portray gay men as clowns or as minstrels.”
“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen gay characters whom I could relate to.”
“I wanted to show gay characters who are just like me and my friends.”
“Why do all gay characters have to have great bodies and wild sex lives? Why can’t they just be as normal and boring as everybody else?”
“This new generation of gay people doesn’t like labels.”
While many of these statements may be true, they’ve turned into a well-worn playbook.
Whenever there’s a new lesbian-themed movie, many straight guys will immediately ask this incisive question, regarding the cast: “Are they hot?”
It’s been interesting to watch the actress Laverne Cox and the author and activist Janet Mock, who are both trans people, negotiating TV interviews with Piers Morgan and Katie Couric. The interviewers almost always focus on surgical details, instead of the larger issues of trans lives, including the discrimination and violence which many trans people encounter all the time.
The best LGBT spokespeople turn the conversation around. Like Kate Clinton, Dan Savage and Rachel Maddow, Laverne Cox and Janet Mock are smart, experienced and funny. They know that they’re going to be asked stupid and offensive questions, and they know when to be patient and when to erupt.