Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Marriage Is So Gay
First of all, Dolly Parton who is the co-owner of Dollywood has been outspoken in the past about gay rights and gay marriage. Dolly has a rather large gay fan base. I for one have always been a big fan of Dolly Parton. In a 2009 interview with Joy Behar, Dolly stated her views on gay rights and gay marriage. See the video below:
Dolly is certainly not the conservative county music star that most of us see and hear about. Dolly seems more socially liberal than conservative. When asked by Bill O’Reilly if she was a conservative she told him “Not really, I’m more patriotic than political.” Dolly’s fan base covers a large range -she has both straight fans and gay fans. She has said, “I think it’s great when people accept themselves for exactly who they are and accept other people. I think that’s the key to happiness and success. It doesn’t matter who you are, as long as you do that really good. We’re all God’s children. He loves us all the same. We have to learn to love each other and ourselves a little better.”
Dolly Parton has responded to the gay marriage T-shirt controversy. Earlier this month, Dollywood front gate attendants asked Olivier Odom to turn her "marriage is so gay" shirt inside out for violating the park's dress code. Parton issued the following statement to ABC on Friday:
"I am truly sorry for the hurt or embarrassment regarding the gay and lesbian t-shirt incident at Dollywood's Splash Country recently. Everyone knows of my personal support of the gay and lesbian community. Dollywood is a family park and all families are welcome," she wrote to ABC. ABC reports that Parton's statement went on to explain that the dress code rules are enforced to protect the person wearing the shirt and keep park disturbances to a minimum. Parton concludes in writing, "I am looking further into the incident and hope and believe it was more policy than insensitivity. I am very sorry it happened at all." As a bit of a side note, Dollywood has gay days similar to those at the Disney Theme Parks (at least they were doing so a few years ago, I'm not sure if they still do or not).
I have been to Dollywood several times when I was younger. We used to go to the mountains (that would be the Great Smokey Mountains for my family) about every other summer. Dollywood is on the East Tennessee side of the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. It was always a fun place to go, but make no mistake, it was a bit of a redneck heaven. It is in East Tennessee, Pigeon Forge to be exact, which is a bit of a country music paradise. Not all of the people there are rednecks but there are quite a number who are, some are just good country folk. The thing is, you know what kind of place you are going. I personally would not have worn a gay rights t-shirt, but then that's me. I am not one to wear something as a political statement or wear something just to be noticed. That being said, the amusement park has stated that they asked the woman to turn her shirt inside-out because of their dress code. I don't think the park was making any sort of statement against gay marriage. The printing on the shirt highlighted the words "so gay" in a way that made it look derogatory. A kid would likely not understand the play on words. Business Week reported that the couple, Jennifer Tipton and Olivier Odom, said they objected to the employee stating that it is a "family park" as a reason for her to have to hide the shirt. Apparently the couple took it personally and felt they were not looked at as a family. I think it's likely the standard line when asking any guest to remove offending apparel.
That being said, I have never been comfortable with people derogatory phrases and turning them into empowering statement. A friend of mine used to use the phrase, "That's so gay" all the time. I was the first gay person he had ever really knew was gay. I explained to him why I disliked the use of the phrase and he realized that it was derogatory and stopped. In fact, he quit allowing other friends of his to use the phrase when around him. I have also never been comfortable with the word faggot. I know that some gay people now use it as an empowering word, but for me it reminds me of all the times that I heard it in the most derogatory fashion and was so often called a faggot or a fag. I don't like the word. I don't like to read it. I don't like to write it. I don't like to hear it. I've gotten better at hearing the word queer, but I doubt I will ever get over flinching when I hear the word faggot.
African-Americans have been doing the same thing with the N-word. I detest that word, and I am white. I heard it far too often in a derogatory way growing up in the South. Yet, black people don't want us to call them nigger, yet they will use it themselves. I received a text message the other day on my phone that read, "Damn you act like you don't no a nigga." The fact is that I did not know the person. It was a wrong number, but I would assume that the person was black. I have no proof of that though.
The lesbian woman wearing the shirt seems to me like cafeteria-style political correctness on the part of the couple, in the same way the person who texted me did. We want people to stop using words in an inflammatory manner, but we still want to be able to poke at something when it's all in good fun. This one has to be all or nothing. Either kids continue to call something or someone "gay" in a derogatory manner or we stop it now. All of us.
How do you feel about inflammatory/derogatory speech when it is used in an empowering way?