Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Trouble with Hechebians

Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson have been stirring up quite a few headlines lately. While not many media outlets are using the L-word to describe the pair just yet, many of these news agencies seem to relish the titillation of suggesting that the two are romantically involved. Hmm... why would an actress whose reputation is in the toilet and a relatively unknown DJ put up with such invasive and provocative storylines?

WB can't help but recall a similar relationship about a decade ago between Ellen DeGeneres and Ann Heche. DeGeneres was moving quickly up the celebrity status ladder when suddenly Heche suddenly joined her on the third or fourth rung. Of course, the lesbian ladder was never very sturdy; a strong backlash from the public quickly sent DeGeneres crashing to the ground. And of course, Heche quickly stepped off the ladder and settled down with a guy, had a baby and enjoyed a brief surge in her career. And thus the term "hechebian" came to be. (Actually, Cassie Pappas at beat us to the punch in publishing the word in her blog.)

Now hechebians everywhere have a new hero and a new theme song: Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" has become this summer's faux-lesbian anthem. Hooray! Katy Perry breaks into the mainstream by writing a big alleged F-you to her religious and conservative parents. She sure is showing that religious right a thing or two about tolerance, isn't she? Especially if you just ignore a few lines in the song (e.g., "I kissed a girl/And I liked it/I hope my boyfriend don't mind it" and "It felt so wrong/It felt so right"), ignore the statement Perry made in an interview regarding her sexuality ("I’m not up there for a free-for-all, there is no Tila Tequila in me, thank the Lord"), and also ignore the fact that Perry's parents actually support her and she loves them dearly? All of this must be a big help to lesbians everywhere, right?

Uh, no.

Here's the problem: Perry's song is a subtle but still problematic reminder that lesbians don't really matter. They are experiments, something to be toyed with briefly in an effort to retool one's own image and then casually tossed aside when playtime is over. Lesbians thus become disposable commodities and as such, they can't have actual human value or status. Obviously, a little pop ditty by Katy Perry is not the root cause of this, but rather another acceptable mechanism to keep the status quo. Whether Perry did this intentionally or not is irrelevant, since the ideology of the invisible and/or disposable lesbian has been firmly implanted into our culture's subconscious. Even the lesbian magazine Curve praised the song in a recent issue!

Still not seeing the big deal? Perhaps a recent article in Newsweek can clarify the problem. The article examines the tragic death of 15 year old Larry King, a California gay teen. King was shot by a male classmate who was allegedly the object of King's desire. The article tries hard to make neither victim nor killer appear at fault, by painting a complex and complicated picture of King as someone who pushed boundaries. Several times, the article even states that this was no excuse for his murder (although it does start to sound that way) but is just as quick to point out that the case was not as clear-cut as it may first appear. Can you guess where all the blame is starting to drift? If you guessed the LESBIAN vice principal whom King confided in, you are correct! Apparently, the family of both boys are demonizing Joy Epstein for pushing her "gay agenda" onto King instead of punishing him for his antics in class and the hallways.

It's an extreme example of lesbian bashing, but certainly not unthinkable in a culture that wants all men and women to adhere to strict gender norms. And while great strides have been made in advancing the rights of the LGBT community, any backlash always stings. So good for you, Katy Perry, for kissing a woman just one time and enjoying it — if you even did it. For those who do it every day, though, the world isn't always sunshine and roses; and your song isn't doing anything to help.

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