some words on tim cook’s coming out (and the internet’s reaction)

apple ceo tim cook came out last week, in a brilliantly-written and unprecedentedly personal column in businessweek.

compare, if you will, the following threads on reddit–the first on /r/technology, the second on /r/gaybros.

/r/technology: http://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/2krtf0/apple_ceo_cook_comes_out_im_proud_to_be_gay/

/r/gaybros: http://www.reddit.com/r/gaybros/comments/2krs48/tim_cook_comes_out_as_gay_im_proud_to_be_gay/

i’m not sure if the difference between the two communities’ responses is very obvious, but it seemed clear to me that the mainstream on /r/technology (which all redditors are automatically subscribed to) seemed mostly preoccupied with cracking jokes or emphasizing how little they care. /r/gaybros, meanwhile, looks instead to starting a conversation about why it’s still important for prominent figures to come out.

i will admit–it makes me a little uncomfortable to hear (presumably straight) people make jokes about gay people, however lighthearted. the presumption is that someone is obviously not homophobic, and therefore can make queer-related jokes because it’s ironically funny, in some sort of (i hate to say it) post-homophobic mentality. as is true with post-anything content, usually it’s more the case that the discrimination has simply moved from the conscious to the subconscious, from blatant prejudice to unconscious discomfort and/or microaggressions towards the other. and the message of “i don’t care” is itself willfully ignorant of the real struggles faced by queer people, as described by michael schnier:

From what I can understand, ’I don’t care’ is an act of hostility. ‘This isn’t news’ is an act of erasure. ‘I don’t care’ means ‘don’t talk about this.’ ‘I don’t care’ en masse says ‘nobody should talk about this.’

this is a mentality in large part propagated by media portrayals of gay men (unfortunately, lesbians still seem underrepresented or invisible) as affluent, white, well-off, fashionable unicorns who are just like straight men, if a little more metrosexual. the mainstream is happy to believe that gay men have it great, and that we’re mostly past homophobia and discrimination based on sexual orientation, which conveniently allows everyone to forget about real discrimination and real obstacles still faced by queer people and queer children today, ranging from homelessness to HIV/AIDS to the gay wage gap. “i don’t care” embeds the message of “nobody should care, because gay people don’t have problems anymore.”

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