Aaron Cody, a white gay man who performs in drag as Sharon Needles and who is a past winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, has caused controversy because of his defiant use of the “N” word. He has used the word in his act and referred to an African-American fan, Catarina Reyes, as a n----- when he signed an autograph.
Obviously this caused controversy and protests. When meeting with activists Cody/Needles refused to apologize for using the word. Cody/Needles doesn’t understand why there is this controversy about a white man using the word n-----.
In a Youtube video he starts to make a personal apology to Ms. Reyes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lu41bthQWuM">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lu41bthQWuM) but is told that isn’t the point. He starts crying about being attacked and declares “I won’t be barked at to apologize.” As far as Cody can tell he is the victim in this situation.
Shirley Q. Liquor is a white man who does blackface drag and portrays a Black woman with 19 children who doesn’t know their “baby daddies.” His portrayals are blatantly racist and he makes a living performing for primarily gay white male audiences.
RuPaul supports Needles and Liquor. He also thinks he can speak for the trans community. Gay men such as fashion designer Christian Siriano and singer Lance Bass have referred to transgender people as “trannies” which is considered demeaning. RuPaul said in a Huffington Post regarding trans people being offended by the word tranny, “And listen, if you're offended by a name that somebody calls you, or something, whatever, you gotta take that up with your therapist, kiddo, cause you know what, you're not going to be able -- now you got me riled up!” According to RuPaul if someone insults you that is your problem. But RuPaul isn’t transgender. He is a man who dresses as a woman on stage and on screen to make money. If he said anything challenging he would lose income. He is as relevant to transgender rights as Al Jolson in blackface singing “Mammy” is to Black civil rights. So when he defends Sharon Needles and Shirley Q. Liquor, consider the source.
Almost everywhere else in America we are decades removed from it being acceptable for white people to use the “N” word and wearing blackface. In certain sectors of the gay community racist portrayals are applauded.
Many gay male white people who support Cody/Needles using ni__er accuse critics of censorship and being PC. If a straight male comedian used the f_g word it would be different.
The “N” word represents white brutality and segregation in the recent memory of many Black people. There are still many white supremacists and ordinary bigots who use the word. Some Black people use the word in a form of gallows humor with each other.
The problem with white gay men comparing gay oppression to Black oppression is very often they neither comprehend racism nor respect Black people. Being LGBT does not make a person automatically cognizant and understanding of all oppressed groups.
In the original 1978 film “La Cage aux Folles,” Jacob, the black maid played by Benny Luke, was used to comment on French gay racism. The elegant maid does not want to be a maid and desires to be in the drag show. He doesn’t understand why he cannot be in the show. At one point he states that he has been called many things but never French. When Harvey Fierstein wrote the book for the Broadway musical version he created a buffoonish Black man that wants to be a maid and it becomes a triumphant moment in the show when he is called a maid. With the well known history in movies and theater of African-Americans having to struggle to portray characters other than stereotypical depictions of domestics why did Fierstein write the maid character this way? How could this not be conscious or unconscious racism?
What I don’t understand is why with the well known hideous history of the word so many white people who don’t wish to be regarded as racist won’t let the word die? Why is it the first time some of these people have any interest in civil liberties is when they can’t say n-----?
If you are a white person in this country and you do not understand why you cannot call black people ni__ers, then you are more than racist. You are uncouth and stupid. But these uncouth and stupid white people should embrace and reclaim their stupidity. They could join the LGBTQI community by adding B for backwards and S for stupid. Our long list of letters would be finally complete with LGBTQI-BS. The BS people can finally have their own designated place in our communities. They would have their own workshops, PACs, film festivals, bars and neighborhoods filled with BS. They could celebrate Stupid Pride with BS.
Cei Bell is a local writer and artist who has written about the gay liberation movement.