Friday, July 25, 2014

Together As One

Terrorizer's Tom Dare posted an editorial discussing homophobia in metal. I didn't find his piece particularly well written or well thought out (in fairness, he does make some good points near the end). But the fact that it's currently causing a stir on their Facebook page makes me glad that he put it out there. His article was also how I found out that Sean Reinert and Paul Masvidal are gay; they actually came out months ago (on my birthday, coincidentally enough) but at the time I was so swept up in being a New Yorker again that such things were a distant concern.

Even before seeing that article, I'd been thinking about homophobia a lot. I'm not sure why; possibly due to the constant gay slurs I hear in Malaysia, usually at my jiu jitsu gym. [Last night one of my regular training partners went on a rant about how American schools are "forcing kids to believe that it's okay to be gay." All I could do was look away and shake my head. If only he'd been wearing a tinfoil hat at the time, his cluelessness would have been funny instead of sad.]

Metalheads are often stereotyped as homophobic - the irony of one form of prejudice being countered with another hasn't escaped me. I remember seeing one trick punk pony Atom and His Package circa 2003; Adam introduced the song "Hats Off to Halford" with the preamble that metalheads "are all really dumb and homophobic" which meant Rob Halford was really brave for coming out of the closet [never mind that Halford came out while promoting his failed industrial rock gimmick Two...that's a different rant]. This, of course, is bullshit: I have yet to hear of a hesher whose opinion about Judas Priest was affected by Halford's sexual orientation. I mean, it's not like there weren't clues. Lots and lots of clues.

[Incidentally, "Hats Off to Halford" makes prominent use of "I Want to Be a Homosexual" by Screeching Weasel - a band whose singer could be seen punching girls at one of their recent shows. Maybe clean up your own closet before you come judging us, you sanctimonious punk rock shitheads.]

I consider myself to be pretty gay friendly. I went to art school. I start every day with the Rachel Maddow Show. Between the ages of 15-18 my best friend was the only other person in my high school who listened to Napalm Death and Godflesh; when he came out some years later, I was admittedly weirded out but did my best to be supportive. Once again, the clues were there - he never expressed interest in sports or girls and liked Gregg Araki's movies an awful lot. Of course, that description is equally true about me, so I never put two and two together.

At times I've played coy with my own proclivities, if only because it amuses me to make homophobes uncomfortable. I genuinely don't care whether people think I'm gay or not. If it forces people who enjoy me to be more tolerant, great; if it makes the people I don't like not want to be around me, even better. In a way, that weirdly reflects the "who cares?" attitude I see popping up in replies to Tom Dare's Terrorizer post. When I was younger, I would denounce that as apathy, or worse, libertarian self-centeredness. These days I'm more inclined to believe that true tolerance is something that doesn't need to keep advertising itself.

Is that a cop out? Is my support of marriage equality cancelled out by not confronting the homophobia in my gym? Can I still call bands I don't like "gay" when that word applies to some of my closest friends? All I know is the greatest thing that I've ever seen at a metal show is a bunch of dudes putting their arms around each other to headbang together. I see a scene so devoted to the idea of brotherhood and togetherness that it essentially made group hugs a recurring event at concerts; it's hard for me to imagine that same scene is intrinsically homophobic or intolerant.