Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Saturday, February 14, 2009
as taken from the new FAQ posted at jaybrannan.com:
Q. the big annoying GAY factor: why do you hate being called a "gay" singer-songwriter, or being told you write "gay" songs, or always being asked to participate in gay-themed activities, etc.?
A. it's 2009. i think it's time that everyone, the "gay community" included, allow gay people to take their place in the world as real people, rather than continuing to be defined and separated by their sexual orientation. i want the freedom to be myself, unafraid and uncensored, without having to market myself based on a sexual orientation, or attaching that sexual orientation to my name as a title.
in recent years, an entire industry has developed around "being gay" -- gay magazines, gay tv channels, gay movies, gay pride festivals, gay radio stations, gay record labels. and in my opinion, most of these entities are built around cheesy, outdated and cliché ideas of what it means to be "gay," what gay people want, what is "sexy," or what sells.
i have turned down thousands of dollars that i could have made by exploiting my sexual orientation and building a career in the gay industry and in gay media. because i want to be a musician and an actor and a regular person...on the same playing field as everyone else. i'm not interested in being a professional gay, and i refuse to make my entire life and career about that. i'm not that interested in playing at gay bars or gay pride festivals, or doing "gay singer/songwriter" programs (though i have done these things, and may again if i feel good reason to). i dealt with my sexual orientation when i was a teenager, and frankly i'm sick of talking about it. i don't want my album or the films i'm in to be in the "gay section" of a music or video store. i think having a gay section at the video store is the same as asking black people to drink from a different water fountain, or to sit at the back of the bus. why can't films with gay characters be classified with all the other films...as dramas, or comedies, or horror? "gay" shouldn't BE a genre.
i understand why gay people of a certain generation still have this obsession with their sexual orientation, and maintain this sort of "us against them" mentality. they weren't allowed to be gay for most of their lives, so they are still really excited about it, and feel that they need a community of other gay people for support.
it's like when you're in high school in texas, and you feel like you're the only gay person in the entire world, and all you want is to be around other gay people where you think you can be yourself. but then fast forward 10 years, and you live in L.A. or NYC and you can't ESCAPE gay people and how much being gay makes up their entire identity. everywhere you look there are rainbow flags and gay pride festivals, and waxed, oiled, and muscled bodies staring back at you from shop windows and magazine covers. everyone looks the same and acts the same. they have all the same interests, go to all the same gay vacation spots, and work out at the same gym. all they ever talk about is being gay, and you are expected to like a movie because it's "gay," or like an author because he or she is gay, or listen to music because it's made by a gay person...not because it's GOOD, or because it appeals to you on a more substantial level. all of a sudden, the people who wanted to create a community where they could freely be themselves are forcing this gay identity on everyone and everything they can...telling you who you have to be, what you have to stand for, what you have to make the focus of your life or your career. [much akin to the birth of the United States...people in Europe were being persecuted for their beliefs, so they ran away and built a new nation where people could be "free" to be who they wanted...as long as it fit within certain strict guidelines! (this nation was built on completely fraudulent and hypocritical principles...which hasn't really changed to this day.)]
well, fuck that. people tell me all the time that i represent the "gay community" whether i like it or not. but i'm telling you right now, you represent who you choose to represent. i represent myself and that's it. or maybe i'm willing to stand for other individuals who feel trapped or handicapped by the oppressive world around them, or by the "communities" that are forced upon them simply because of demographics. i don't feel a bond to people because of demographics. i don't see gay people as "family" any more than i feel connected to people because they are white, or because they are tall, or because they have blue eyes. in this world, it's me against everyone, and i hate everyone equally [insert laugh here]. i'll go so far as to say that gay people have fucked me over and treated me like shit more than any other demographic out there, both personally and professionally -- certainly more than any christians or republicans or conservatives ever have. so no, i don't feel a bond to other gay people just because they are gay, i don't identify with them as a "community," and i'm not interested in being their poster boy.
please understand that none of this has anything to do with my view on civil rights. of course all people should be given equal rights...regardless of any demographics. and yes, i think gay people should be able to get married. i would certainly attend a protest supporting those rights, and i HAVE played at events such as gay marriage benefits. but to me this is all very different than the "pride" scene or gay media, or the commercialization of gayness. i deserve equal rights, but i'm not particularly proud or excited to be gay. i don't really think about it much in terms of my identity.
so you ask -- "but, jay, you sing about wanting to be a housewife. you sing about men in your songs. you wrote a song with margaret cho about sucking dick."
this is all very true. but this way of thinking is very limited, and contributes so strongly to the problem.
in my song "Housewife": am i man singing about wanting to be with another man? yes. is that part of the humor and irony of me (a guy) singing the song? i think so. but did i write it as an anthem to gay marriage? not at all...honestly the fact that i'm a gay guy had nothing to do with it...it's not something i think about much in my personal life. when i wrote that song, i was writing about wanting to be in a relationship and not having to have a job. i know plenty of people who would want that, both men and women. i have no doubt there are plenty of straight men out there who would like to have a significant other and not have to be the breadwinner in the relationship, even if they're afraid to admit it. so i don't see why "housewife" can't be a song that appeals to all types of people.
on the question of pronouns: just because i don't disguise male pronouns in some of my songs doesn't make them "gay" songs. when lisa loeb sings, no one says she's singing about "being straight" or about "straight issues." she's singing about LIFE, and LOVE, and RELATIONSHIPS, regardless of the pronouns she uses. just like when seal performs, or beyoncé -- they are singing about human experiences we can all relate to. no one says they are singing about "being black" or about "life as a black person."
regarding the song "Relax Your Necks" that i wrote with Margaret Cho about giving head: when LL Cool J does a song about eating pussy, no one says that is a song about being STRAIGHT or about STRAIGHT sex. it's just a song about SEX. period. i have no problem listening to LL Cool J talk about fucking chicks, and relating it to my own sexual life and desires and impulses.
the bottom line is this: we're all basically the same and go through the same things, and pronouns and gender have nothing to do with that. if you can't see through pronouns in a song, you're....well, kind of stupid. i have never had trouble relating to a man singing about a woman, or a woman sing about a man. people are people. don't be so simple-minded. it's a trap that both gay & straight people fall into, and it strengthens the childish and ridiculous boundaries between all people for whatever minor differences we may have.
obviously i have a lot to say on this topic. i have complex and passionate feelings about it that i find difficult to articulate, and that's why this response is so wordy. it is an obnoxious issue that i face every single day of my professional life, and it is the biggest obstacle i face toward being taken seriously as a musician and as a person. i am sick of being pushed into the gay corner, by gay people just as much or moreso than people who are not gay. it sucks. i want my life and my work to be more than that.
besides, who the hell can get behind a cause that uses a rainbow and a pink triangle as their icons? are you serious? [and yes, i know the history of the pink triangle...all the more reason to abandon it. but that's just me.] if the gay flag were a cool, collected black & grey plaid or something...maybe i could stomach playing a few pride festivals.
Posted by Jay Brannan at 5:24 PM