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Celebrating Canada's 2SLGBTQI+ Communities

In Defense of Queer Mediocrity

It’s okay to suck dick – and it’s okay to suck in general…

By Jesse Boland

When we use the word “queer,” what do we really mean? If we are using it as an umbrella term for non-cishet people, that’s one thing, but when we’re using it to zhuzh up a lacklustre work of art or glamorize a subpar athlete or performer, are we not simply putting rainbow sprinkles on a piece of shit and trying to pass it off as a cupcake?

Queerness means so much more than simply a gender or sexual identity – it’s an ideology that challenges the patriarchal and colonialist systems of violence used to enforce oppressive fascism. So forgive me if I roll my eyes when I see headlines about “queer” banks or military fighter jets with rainbows painted on their sides. Beyond that, how necessary is it to commend below-average-quality films and television shows, or talentless entertainers and athletes, simply because they belong to one of the numerous letters of the LGBTQ+ community? If a muscular white guy comes out as gay in a forest but Out magazine isn’t around to give him a profile piece, is he still brave and inspiring?

Now, just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with being mediocre. In fact, the world would be a much happier place if more people would embrace their own mediocrity. While social media may often attempt to destroy our self-esteem by barraging us with visuals of flawlessly hot people pretending to read books in Palm Springs, or videos of soon-to-be Scooter Braun protégés immaculately covering Whitney Houston ballads at their middle school assemblies, it also creates a safe space for dumb people to just vibe. Every week, TikTok pumps out a new trend of an awkward dance or lowbrow humour meme inviting its millions of users to participate in hopes of amusing their friends and followers, if only for a loving pity like. What social media helps us remember (when used properly) is that talent and beauty are not prerequisites for us to be deserving of joy and affirmation.

What becomes tricky, however, is when these creators of mediocre content begin amassing a massive following that catapults them into the territory of microcelebrity, granting them access to resources and opportunities not afforded to more deserving if less recognized peers with – you know – actual talent. From doing this, we glorify quantitative marketability over qualitative substance that gets Addison Rae invited to the Met Gala while Julliard-trained theatre actors get server jobs to support themselves.

How does queerness tie into all this? Well, you tell me why former Bachelor/part-time stalker Colton Underwood got his own Netflix documentary simply for not being sexually attracted to any of the women whose time he wasted for money on a network TV show, or why Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy was given a recurring acting role in American Horror Story: 1984 despite his only prior acting experience being feigning sincerity in his apology for his racist Native American Halloween costume. Due to a deranged obsession with “visibility” and “representation,” we as a community too often elect to aggrandize any glimpse of queerness depicted in media – regardless of how prosaic it may be – then are forced to suffer the consequence of being tormented every week by Che Diaz on our screens. When we lump all artifacts of queer culture together, we diminish the triumphs of genuine excellence that the trailblazers of our community have carved out for us, and reduce the Pride flag to merely a rainbow-coloured participation ribbon.

Is that to say we should create space in the pantheon of queer art and entertainment only for the most elite of culture creators? Absolutely fucking not! If anything, we need more mediocre homos making lowbrow network sitcoms and mindless pop music! If we as queer people are going to demand social equality to our cishet peers, then we should be able to be just as terrible at our jobs as they are! After all, before I am a gay man, I am a proud dumb bitch.

Trigger warning: this next paragraph contains mention of Love, Simon and may rehash 2018 film Twitter discourse.

In our culture of pretentious elitism, we often conflate accessibility with unintelligence. What upper-class culture deems worthy of being highbrow is its exclusivity as to who possesses the sophistication to properly appreciate its complex nuances. While Moonlight and Carol show queer identity and same-sex romance in a visionary extension of cinematic adroitness, they are hardly easy viewings for a relaxed Netflix night with your friends. Therein lies the beauty of 2018’s Love, Simon; a silly, dumb teen rom-com about a silly, dumb teenager trying to find silly, dumb young love…but while being a faggot. While this meh-smerizing teen flick had grown gay men in their 30s bemoaning online about its lack of artistic substance (instead of building houses like grown men should be doing), what Love, Simon did succeed in doing was giving young LGBTQ+ viewers around the world an opportunity to feel themselves represented on screen in the same way their straight peers do. What mediocrity can often allow for, and prestigious cinema cannot, is accessibility to reach wider audiences. When queer youth are told that they don’t have to be extraordinary to succeed, it invites them to take up space that up to now has been occupied by their entitled cishet peers.

Queer people are magical – we have always known this. We are some of the most talented, brightest and innovative visionaries who have shaped history since the dawn of time. We are also some of the worst drivers since the invention of the wheel, with the most reprehensible television taste and the soul force keeping Charli XCX employed. Either way, we are deserving of respect and dignity. While there is exponentially more work needed to be done to advance our footing in the world of social equity, we do not need to pretend that every gay photographer’s portfolio consisting entirely of naked fit guys is somehow accomplishing that. Not all of us are going to be the next Larry Kramer or Audre Lorde, and we don’t have to be.

Much of the success of our queer forerunners was the freedom for us to exist authentically in freedom of our truths without a consistent demand for validation. There is room for the Arca’s of the world, whose melodic artistry challenges the very idea of what music can be, and there is also room for the Kim Petras’s of the world, who sounds like what expired poppers feel like. We don’t owe the world greatness, but we owe ourselves the honesty that we’re not always great.

Sincerely, a published gay writer who doesn’t fully understand what an adverb is.

JESSE BOLAND is that gay kid in class who your English teacher always believed in. He’s a graduate of English at Ryerson University with a passion for giving a voice to people who don’t have data on their phones and who chases his dreams by foot because he never got his driver’s licence.

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