Hedwig. This pictures is not from a stand-up show. I just like it!
I’ve been hitting up the open mic comedy scene in NYC the last couple of weeks. In New York, there are dozens of places all over the city where people can come and in exchange for 5 dollars they get a 5 minutes of time at the microphone. These typically take place in bar basements, comedy clubs before the pro shows, occasionally coffee shops or restaurants.
What does this have to do with genderfluidity?
A lot. The thing is, a lot of people show up at these mics because they want a chance to express their rage. They may think they are comedians, but they are really just angry people, usually white males, who feel entitled to vomit their hate and anger into a room full of strangers under the guise that, hey, it’s a comedy show, so I can say anything I want.
What they want to say a lot of the times is that they hate gay people, and anyone who isn’t hetero-normative. Recently I was at a mic where a comedian identified herself a bi-sexual and did her set about the trials and tribulations of being bi in a mono world. Some of the material was funny, but I was the only one that laughed. The room was cold, unwelcoming. She and her friends left after her performance, and I felt bad for her, but also proud that she had the courage to get up on stage and do her material knowing full well how the room might react.
Shortly after she left, another “comedian” came on stag, grabbed the mic and began screaming, “I am sick of people who feel they have to get here and tell me their sexuality. Choose a side, bitch! That’s what I’m saying and choose a side or just start eating ass!”
The crowd cheered, laughed and applauded.
Earlier in the show, a gay comedian had gotten up and talked about how frustrating it was for him that white males would get up at these mics and gay bash, and people would laugh. He was still there, and was among those who wasn’t clapping for the blatant gay bashing.
Not surprisingly, the list of people subjected to open hate speech included African Americans, Jews, gays, bi-racial people and, of course, liberals– ie, whites who are not hate mongers. “I’m sick of these liberal pussies and their political correctness!” Cheers and applause.
The book on millennials is that they are supposedly more open to genderfluidity and racial tolerance than previous generations. Folks, I was sitting in a room full of millennials, and I can tell you the notion this generation is tolerant is bullshit. They just know what to say when they take a survey, but give them a stage and a spotlight, and the hate just pours out of them. Not all of them, but just as many as in my generation.
How to respond? I don’t believe in answering hate with hate.
I am tempted to answer hate with hate, but I don’t. I think that just fuels the cycle.
Instead, I do bits about male insecurity, and how much of the behavior that guys do to seem “macho” comes from fear. I talk about how in a group of most men, I can’t praise woman for anything other than her sexual desirability without being mocked and ridiculed, and I suggest that any man who reacts with fear and annoyance to hearing a phrase like, “I am in awe of Tina Fey’s intelligence” should accept and embrace the fact that he is still afraid of girls. “Accept it. Embrace it. And then work on it.”
I get mixed reactions. Some rooms freeze me out. Sometimes people thank me. All reactions are fine. I do not own other people’s reactions. I can only do what I do, and let them feel the way they feel about it.
I do feel like I need to keep going to these mics, and hopefully eventually clubs, and I need to bring my message to people because it is important to me that we keep moving forward, keep connecting. There has been progress, but the forces of intolerance and hate are still out there, and they are always looking for targets, and from what I have seen, there are a whole lot of young people out there just dying for a chance to cheer and laugh at some plain old fashioned gay bashing.