Lady Gaga Doesn’t Get It

Yes, that’s right. At the risk of being black balled from the queer scene entirely, I have something critical to say about Lady Gaga. Now, I like Lady Gaga’s music; I listen to it on a regular basis, I like her queery genderfucking costuming, and I plot multiple drag numbers to her songs. Upon first discovering her, I figured she was queer and was taking her identity to fuck with society, good for her. But now its become apparent that this ‘Lady Gaga’ experience is more complicated that just her being one of us.

In an interview by Times Online this past weekend, Gaga is described as having “legendary” devotion and promotion of “gay culture.” First of all, I think you gotta be around longer than a few years to be legendary. Second, I definitely was not aware that Lady Gaga had been appointed our PR rep. Gaga is described AND describes herself like she is the mother AND savior of queers everywhere, but when it comes to her listing “all the freaks” that she parents she names gay and lesbian men and women, but not even her own community of bisexuals!  And as usual us trans kids aren’t included, or maybe we are absorbed into the greater “gay.” Surprise, surprise.

Third, and most importantly, what exactly is “gay culture?” I didn’t know there was one big “gay culture” that all of us fit into. Last time I checked all “gay” people aren’t homogeneously living in one bubble of fads, fashion, and fabulousness. (The word does has homo in it, so maybe that’s where they made the mistake.) The author, who has a crush on Gaga so obvious that I didn’t know if I was reading a legit article or a 15 year old’s diary, talks about Gaga like she is a superhero or a ghost – hence describing her as legendary. The article records a trip to a Berlin bar/sex-club, describing the people there by listing the most culturally ‘shocking’ elements, just to make sure the reader knows this is a place where GAY PEOPLE hang out and have chain and leather studded SEX. Gaga is described as follows:

“Bisexual herself, while her musical education might have been classical, her cultural education was homosexual.. .”

Her “cultural education was homosexual”? Can someone please tell me what the fuck that means?  What, so she grew up around homos? She was born in a gay bar? Please tell me, cause I can’t even begin to rant about what the fuck this is about. So I’ll just move on to the next topic. Gaga discusses feminism, stating that feminism is about “protecting who [women] are, down to the core.” Which she then connected to her interest in a transman who played a role in her video Telephone. I assume that here she is trying to support trans identities through all this- saying that based on her feminist principles, a woman has a right to be herself, even if herself is actually himself. If she were talking about me I wouldn’t consider that to be an ideal thought process, but others may not have a problem with it.  It could be worse. But then she describes the guy as such:

“…the girl I kiss…  lives as a man. And as someone who does like women, something about a more masculine woman makes me feel more… feminine.”

But hey Gaga, new flash he isn’t a masculine woman, he’s a man. [5.25.10 Correction: the person in question here is not a transguy, but I stand by my assertion about her apparent concept of female masculinity. And since the person she is describing is indeed not male identified, then what does she mean by ‘lives as a man?’ Gender role stereotype anyone? If  she isn’t a man, then how can she live as one? Or does she, or in Gag’s view,  just live like one and its an issue of semantics?] Clearly she doesn’t know shit about trans identities. So much for being the mother of all the freaks. She can’t even tell us apart. You may argue “Nobody’s perfect or always says the right thing,” but like as not you say that because your identity is probably not the one being fucked up here. If she’s gonna claim to be some awesome freak-icon, she should know her shit. If she likes us so much, fucking educate yourself. Gaga says that her new video for the song ‘Alejandro’ is “a celebration and an admiration of gay love”  but then she says that it is also about:

“the purity of my friendships with my gay friends… And how I’ve been unable to find that with a straight man in my life… I’m pining for the love of my gay friends – but they just don’t want me.”

Ok, so Gaga can’t get a boyfriend (guess she isn’t looking for a gf) and so she swoons over her gay guy friends who aren’t interested. Honestly, this sounds more like an anthem for straight people than for queers. So thanks for the attention Gaga, but really this is about you not us and our “gay love” – which is apparently different than straight love. But that isn’t the worst of it. Gaga says that the song

“…confesses my [Gaga’s] envy of the courage and bravery they require to be together.”

Let me get this, so Gaga is JEALOUS that we, queer people, have to fight against society to be together. She is jealous of our OPPRESSION. She thinks its cool to be gay; our struggles are fascinating and romantic to her. She is dreaming of being tortured by some Romeo and Juliet-like love, jealous of our pain like some angsty teenager who is trying to find some purpose in life. She dramatizes our fight to live our lives as a fantastical melodrama that she admittedly wants to be apart of. How the hell is that not a mother fuckin’ problem? Why don’t we just set up some cages on the side of the road so Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Kathy Griffin, and all the other lookie-loos can stop by and pretend to be a part of the ‘gay’ struggle. We can sell “gay? fine by me” t-shirts and host how-to sessions on how to be a pop-culture friend to the gays, hosted by Lady Gaga, PhD in Homosexual Cultural Education. People entertain themselves as being “devoted” to us and “promoting” us (whatever that means) but really, they just thinks we’re neat and wants to eat lunch with us. They call themselves allies but like Kate says, we don’t need allies we need members. I know plenty heterosexual people who are bigger and better queers than some folks who wear a supposed ‘gay identity’ or claim ‘ally’ but don’t know their ass from their elbow about us or our communities. Like straight people who want to be friends with queers because it gives them brownie points. I really think I should just start asking for cash. And as society gets more “liberal” and the demand for ‘token gays’ increases we can expand the trade; Token work, trading  social relationships for money. Its the next generation of queer prostitution, brought to you by capitalist liberalism.

I am certain that Gaga is dedicated to queer people in whatever way she feels is best, but I am more certain that she is obsessed with gays like a fashion trend. It isn’t bad to want to be in a community were she feels she belongs, or to identify with the struggles of others. But that empathy isn’t her her method here, its her fucked up envy. She is mistaking romanticizing our experiences as an oppressed people with solidarity, and that is dangerous. You may say, “Well she does a better job than Katy Perry.”  Yeah that’s true, because anyone would do better than that homophobic, bad-hair-color-havin’ poser. I’m sick of people thinking they are so fabulously savy about queer stuff just because they have a queer sexual orientation stapled to their heterosexual privilege. It is obvious that Gaga is only thinking about gay, non-trans men in her scope of ‘gay culture,’ though she mentions lesbians, anyone with half a brain would know that gay men and lesbians have a very different cultures, albeit we are all in the same greater queer community. Lets call this like it is, she’s a god damned musician who is working through her shit through her music, and she just happens to be bisexual. Big whoop.  She isn’t doing anything that Madonna or Marylin Manson didn’t do before her as far as advocacy, genderfucking, raising up out-casts, or political-sexual visibility. I’m still gonna do a number to one of her songs, and maybe more than one, cause its not like she’s a monster like Katy Perry. But Lady Gaga doesn’t fucking get it. If she did she wouldn’t be a dumbass and  think being in a violently oppressed community was equal to a star-crossed love-story. She needs to check herselfon what our reality really is. And if queer people want an icon for a media  revolution we have to make it ourselves, not leave it to the gay-fans who treat us like side show acts or  museum pieces.

16 comments

  • Heather Cassils isn’t a trans man, though. Or not exactly. She uses female pronouns on her website, and she says, “I don’t necessarily identify as trans — though I kind of do” in her Out interview. And this (also from the interview) is probably what Gaga was referring to:

    The thing that was kind of interesting was that in between takes I was getting kind of annoyed because the camera guys were really kind of drooling and talking about “girl-on-girl action” and I said, “What about boy-on-girl action?” And she turned to me and said “Oh. Do you identify as male?” [Laughs] And I said, “Well, probably more than you do.” And she said “I’ll be sure to tell people that.”

    I totally agree that Lady Gaga can be really thoughtless about trans people, but it sounds like she’s just respecting Cassils’ identity, as Cassil has expressed it.

    Also…

    a queer sexual orientation stapled to their heterosexual privilege

    That’s what you think of bisexuals? :/

    • thanks for the additional info about Heather, I didn’t know who she was or anything.

      “a queer sexual orientation stapled to their heterosexual privilege
      That’s what you think of bisexuals? :/”

      Absolutely not! I am sorry if it came off that way. What I was mainly referring to was the incorrect assumption that having a queer identity automatically means you understand everything queer or that queer identity makes it impossible have hetero-privileges. The result is queer people, often unintentionally, oppress others cause they think they aren’t capable of it or that get a free pass to be idiots. What I think people like Katy Perry or to a much lesser degree Lady Gaga need to recognize is that they aren’t immune to being shitty just cause they have a queer identity. And not knowing stuff like trans issues or intersectional queer communities-for example, speaks to the privilege they have had, either hetero, or white, or non-trans privilege.

  • Hey,
    Found this post on Daf’s wall, and think it’s really interesting. Thought you might be interested in a review I wrote of Telephone which is making some broadly similar points about Gaga’s supposed championing of LGBT ‘issues’ : http://www.counterfire.org/index.php/features/111-music/4323-lady-gaga-thats-not-what-a-feminist-looks-like

  • Thanks for this, it’s a fun read.

    “What I think people like Katy Perry or to a much lesser degree Lady Gaga need to recognize is that they aren’t immune to being shitty just cause they have a queer identity. And not knowing stuff like trans issues or intersectional queer communities-for example, speaks to the privilege they have had, either hetero, or white, or non-trans privilege.”

    I agree with this 100%. Nearly everyone has some sort of privilege. The task at hand is to acknowledge our privilege and strive for the negation and destruction of the systems that spawn these in[s]ane constructed dichotomies (POC/non-POC, trans/cis, etc.) that under close examination fall apart entirely, and are useful only for dividing and conquering the lot of us that aren’t the most privileged members of society.

    This is not to say that identity isn’t important or relevant – just that the fact that I’m genderqueer doesn’t mean that I don’t have white privilege, male-bodied privilege, etc. Also, in saying that these dichotomies are constructed does not mean that the identities they exploit aren’t ‘real’, as far as lives are concerned – e.g., race is a social construct, a nebulous one at that, but I still have white privilege, and I’m not trying to argue that because race is a social construct there’s no such thing as race.

    Every form of oppression is the same as any other form of oppression, in that they all rely on the concept that any one arbitrarily-delineated group of people is somehow better than any other arbitrarily-delineated group.

    I wish that more people would realize this, because it seems head-slappingly obvious to me.

    In short, through the lens of gender:
    Gender is a social construct, but people still have a legitimate right to their identities as male, genderqueer, female, non-gendered, transwhatever, genderfabulous, etc. The destruction of the binary will come with the rise of the plurality.

    I seek not the negation of identity, but the destruction of the concept that any individual human is somehow -more human- than any other.

  • You know, I think you hit a home run with this article. I like GaGa’s music a lot yeah, however I think her take on what she calls “gay culture” is very skewed. Her focus seems to lie in a very specific demographic, i.e. flamboyant but not genderqueer males. You’d be hard pressed to hear her mention bisexuality or lesbianism at all, and as a lesbian myself I can’t help but feel as though she is not the icon that she’s made out to be. I don’t doubt that her intentions are good, but I don’t think she or a good portion of her fan base realizes how small her scope on LGBT is. Honestly I thought it was just me that felt this way, but thanks for letting me know I’m not alone. Write on, JAC. Write on. =)

  • I totally see this. After her last video, I really questioned her pledge to the gay community when the video only featured same-sex love between cisgender males. My literal reaction to that video: “Where the fuck were the queer females?”

    I’m a little troubled by how you originally worded “queer sexual orientation stapled to their heterosexual privilege” (though I understand what you mean after the earlier question and response) but would like to talk a little on that here – I think it is important to avoid getting caught in binary concepts of privilege, because that’s when border groups like bisexuals or light-skinned multiracial folks get lumped into the “Us or Them” categories. I’m fairly certain this isn’t a new idea in this space, but I just want to make that point very clear for the purposes of Lady Gaga’s queer identity. I’m not defending her actions or her need to speak for the queer community at large, but she’s still queer, and she’s still part of our community.

    In addition, there needs to be a big distinction between heterosexual privilege and cisgender privilege in queer spaces in general. Short vent: I am FUCKING SICK of cisgender folks with queer orientations speaking for me as a transgender person and lumping my oppression in with theirs. As a queer person both in gender and in orientation, I know the difference between the two and I’m tired of my gender oppression getting disregarded or trivialized in the name of “gay rights.”

    Lady Gaga has unknowingly fucked up her shit with this flag waving on behalf of a community too diverse for one person to speak for. Her work to benefit the gay community sure as hell looks like an aesthetic appeal or an embrace of a gay-leather lifestyle, like you pointed out. Fuck, when mainstream people talk about the Telephone video I constantly hear references to the “tranny” or “shemale” that Lady Gaga makes out with…fuck that, that feels like trans folks have only been trotted out at the freak show, again! It’s not nearly as bad as Katy Perry outright mocking trans bodies…she’s an ignorant child and a terrible person. But I’m a little concerned about Gaga’s inclusion of a gender non-conforming person in Telephone. Yeah, there’s visibility, but there’s also this feeling of tokenization and the “look, we’re so radical with our cigarettes and our trans people.” like shock value. The shock value of a trans body.

  • *ack, I meant to say “cigarette sunglasses.” Cigarettes by themselves aren’t that radical.

  • Would it really be that great if this stupid asshole somehow created music and images that did encompass the entirety of lgbtq identities? Should we want to see a reflection of ourselves in the spectacle–which is inevitably fractured… which we inevitably reproduce, en masse–or should we shatter the fucking spectacle?

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  • It’s easy enough to criticise her but Gaga isn’t the one who put her up on that pedestal. I think it’s a bit ridiculous to be so heavily criticising a woman who is pro-gay, you’d think her maybe misunderstanding certain things in “lgbt-culture” would be fair enough, that’s something it’s easy to do considering how insanely complicated it all is. Now, when the woman is getting a shit load of fanmail saying “your songs helped me come out” or “i can accept myself now, thanks to you” she’s going to get the idea that she was involved. That doesn’t mean she’s the champion of all of us but the backlash from a lot of the community seems absolutely unfair. The media and her fans have put her into that spot, it’s not like the moment she became famous she rocked up like “Oh and by the way, I’m the king of the queers, deal with it”. Do we honestly not have bigger enemies than one of the people on our side? Ridiculous.

    • there are more people in LGBT than gay people, and some “pro-gay” politics can actually be harmful to others of us in that acronym by being neglected, misrepresented, or just plain stepped over.

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  • Hey JAC,
    just happened to come upon this older blog of yours when i googled Lady Gaga. You are SOOO on it! I have been questioning entertainers as far as their devotion to the LGBTQ Community goes, and recently have come to the conclusion that Lady Gaga does not only NOT get it, she HATES our community. Yes, I said it, HATES us. Envy I equate to a form of hate, and if you look at the video for “Born this Way,” flanked at the beginning and end of the video are pink triangles, but not the empowered pink triangle used in reference to queer pride, but the down facing pink triangle, a symbol of oppression. Although the words to the song evoke feelings of all-encompassing acceptance, the images in the video form the opposite; i.e. faux lesbianism, a man dressed as death, and unicorns in oppressive pink triangles just to name a few. I like her music too, but I question her motives to “speak” for our community. I’m all for a celebrity taking on a leadership role and being an activist, but can we honestly say Lady Gaga isn’t just another David Bowie, proclaiming bisexuality to sell records or to be “edgy?” I think that is probably the case.

    • Exploitation for entertainment, as is commonly known, is a particular peeve of mine. I honestly think that in her own mind, Lady Gaga is trying her best. Unlike other folks like Katy Perry, she isn’t outwardly being oppressive. I see Lady Gaga as more of a stumbling teenager who wants to be with the cool kids, but doesn’t quite know what the fuck is up. She has her good efforts, and definitely promotes a high level of visibility (including with gender fucking), I wish that visibility was more educated. If she had an educated voice, I can’t imagine the impact it would have. But perhaps that is part of it, she does just enough to shock, but not enough to awe anyone into disliking her for being too political.

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