Monday, May 16, 2005

A Survivor Story

In the summer of 2000, NDT was a starving grad student living in an apartment the size of your average shoebox and with no cable or broadcast TV access -- which, since I was going to class all day and training horses most of the evening (a scheduling necessity in Texas, given our summer climate that makes Palm Springs look temperate), meant I wasn't getting a lot of "new show buzz". However, one night, when I went over to meet a very nice gentleman for a date, he met me at the door and said, "Come on in -- we'll catch the last part of Survivor, then we can leave."

My answer: "Oh, so you like the History Channel?"

Fortunately, the date did not end at that point.

Suffice to say, though, that for the following seasons, as Survivor continued to dominate the ratings and spawned hundreds of imitators in various forms, I was left way, way, WAY behind in the Reality Show Rapture. Indeed, my general heathen tack on them can be best summed up in Brad Paisley's wicked take on it, "Celebrity".

Yesterday, though, the venerable Dallas Morning News ran a front-page article on recent contestant Coby Ancha, which I thought was a wonderful synopsis on Coby and what's gone on in his life pre- and post- Survivor. Coby, if you happen to be reading this, I tip my hat to you....and should you ever need a hand, one is freely offered here.

One of the points that came up in the article, though, was this quote, which I found vaguely disturbing to me.

He (Coby) said he knew he was one of several vying for the "gay role," so he pulled out all his drama-queen stops. In one meeting, he dropped his pants and showed the room – including Survivor host Jeff Probst – that he'd written the casting producer's name on his butt with an indelible marker.

What bothers me in that is the idea of a "gay role". I know it seems to be a feature of most reality shows -- the token queer, if you will -- but is it necessarily something that we want? Quite often, I am reminded of the old stereotypes that were often applied to black Americans, like Jim Crow, Stepin Fetchit, and "Miss Scarlet, I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no babies"! The last thing I want is for someone on the street to know that I'm gay and automatically assume that I act like Jack on Will and Grace, or Brian on Queer as Folk -- and there have been times when I've deliberately suppressed my "queeny instincts" out of fear of being regarded in that fashion.

On the other hand, though, these roles, stereotypical as they are, do present to Americans a different image than some of the right wing wish to portray us as being -- pathological pedophiles and rapists, looking to draw their children into our clutches and "convert" them. Given the choice, I'd prefer the image of mincing Will as opposed to some sicko lurking in the bushes outside an elementary school -- and I will also freely admit that, like Coby, there have been times when I've "played the queer" to get along or to get what I needed.

I suppose the ultimate lesson, as Coby's story shows us, is this....ultimately, the responsibility for creating our own identity lies with us and us alone. If you aren't a flaming queen, don't feel like you need to be one to "fit in".....and if you are, don't feel like you need to suppress yourself for the same reason. This world is a big, beautiful, colorful place....and quite frankly, mindless conformity is an insult to humanity, to the universe, and to God. It sounds like a bad after-school special resolution, yourself.

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