I’ve spent my time in Atlanta traipsing between the worlds of queer nightlife, daytime academia, and the sterile corporate Southeast. In that time, I’ve never forgone opportunities to define my own place in each of these worlds. One way to gauge one’s position in society (outside of the obligatory Women’s studies lecture) is to constantly consume information. The American media may be fucked up and biased on too many levels for anyone to be comfortable, but most people have—at the very least—a latent ability to synthesize information. Idiotic headlines aside, consumers should be able to form a story that is relevant to their own lives with the information provided. The inability (rather, the lack of initiative) to do this is often a starting point for those critical of social media’s penchant for reducing news to bite-sized pieces, tiny edibles that only give consumers the option to regard information at face value.
While it’s nothing new, the news cycle yields a blitz of information that, after being cut to size by the social media grinder, becomes readily consumable, touch-and-go news. In short, information is now full of calories but doesn’t quite fill you up. Combine this with diets most Queers already practice in preparation for swimsuit season, and you’ll end up with a skinny-fat population of know-it-nots. You know these people, those who produce MS Paint–quality graphic design so you’ll come to their next soiree while posting emotionally embellished reactions to satirical news headlines. Honestly, it’s amazing how many times someone can read The Onion before they reach their own bullshit threshold and realize, HEY, THIS IS FAKE NEWS. I digress; The Onion is a national treasure, but lazy consumers of news and socially important events—they are just awful people.
Of course, I love social media. I won’t pretend to be that asshole who reduces the complexities of present-age interaction to people spending too much time on the internet. No. Bring on the “likes” because they make me feel popular. That being said, while I want to feel like I have friends, I would also like to know that they aren’t all idiots. The (amazing) time-consuming website Literally Unbelievable archives those poor souls who mistake satirical news as fact, but why don’t we catalogue people who post articles accompanied by paragraphs that stink of a knee-jerk reaction?
Still, the question of why anyone should give a fuck about people who don’t read and pay attention remains.
For Queers, critical thinking was one of many things that inspired movements against lethargic government policies for AIDS and oppressive tools of the institution such as the “gay-panic” legal defense. Essentially, there existed a time when Queers had to rely on their frontal lobes as opposed to their pretty dicks and pierced clits to survive the politics of various eras. Not to discourage sex-positive thinking, but why can’t aesthetic practices exist alongside the responsible consumption of information?
Perhaps this isn’t surprising at all, but the divide between those who like to think and those who prefer to react has become incredibly apparent during the era of “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” Currently, unrest in the American political climate has been fueled by a shitty conversation we are all trying to have about race, the right to assemble, and police brutality. So, how does this relate to Southern Queers? For starters, let’s consider that though we may have unfettered access to gloryholes and piss troughs here in the big gay south, a certain form of exclusion permeates the culture of queers in the Southeast (another article, another time). To add, some white Queers really, really hate it when you “bring race into it.” However, there’s just no responsible way to have a conversation about social unrest in the present without “bringing race into it.” You’d be surprised by how many people I mistake for neoliberals when they share videos of the unrest and issue snide (not to mention racially charged) remarks calling protesters and rioters “animals.” If it weren’t so awful, one could find entertainment in watching a gay southern barfly turn into David Koch’s ball holder.
Who gives a fuck about politics when you can go to a gay redneck party in Pensacola or trip on shrooms in some rich asshole’s private bathhouse?
While this is only one example of the brain drain experienced in our communities, that transformation does make any sane and critically inclined person think: how does this happen? The answer lies in a new cultural shift among queers to ignore the politics of what’s going on around them in hopes of living by their own. Hardly an example of radicalism, new southern Queers have set on an ill-fated journey to separate their identities from the constraints of reality. Who gives a fuck about politics when you can go to a gay redneck party in Pensacola or trip on shrooms in some rich asshole’s private bathhouse? That all sounds fun for a holiday weekend, but it’s devastating in reality. Heroes of the early gay rights movement and of the particularly active 70s were very much aware that: A) a system existed and B) you couldn’t beat the bitch unless you understood it. So naturally, since all the hard stuff has been done already,it's a totally feasible idea to resurrect the free love movement and forgotten about everyone’s problems. Especially our own.
To end, is the ride a southern Queer takes really all that great when your main concerns are getting wasted and pegged while people are getting pepper sprayed in your newsfeed? Is anything actually that great when you—the fairy—find yourself internalizing the rhetoric of rich white dudes that kind of wish you weren’t a thing? The answer is probably a resounding no, but I’m sure no one’s particularly bothered by that. Time for another drink by the pool.