While I applaud Savage for responding to the increasing number of gay and lesbian suicides that often follow bullying and violence, the framing of this campaign gives me pause. The campaign was developed in response to a culmination of the heartrending stories of gay and lesbian youth suicides (some of whom were youth of color-many of which have historically been unable to get national or even local media attention) within the media that reached its apex with the tragic death of Tyler Clementi, a white gay male.
Indeed, when we think of victims of homophobia-induced violence, many US citizens can easily recall the names of white gay males Tyler Clementi and Matthew Shepard but not Sakia Gunn, a black working class lesbian or Brandon White, a black gay youth. Why is that? Because many of the news stories prioritized within gay media outlets are framed by folk who seem to have a limited platform that favors particular persons, namely, middle-class white gay males, over some others. Savage and other middle-upper class gay white men benefit from this form of commodification. It is a hard truth that I, too, have to confront.
It is important, then, that we challenge Savage and his politics. He fails to recognize that the popularity of the campaign and its legitimacy depend on the very subtle exclusion of non-white and non-bourgeois bodies. Moreover, the movement has garnered international endorsement by politicians and celebrities because being gay in America, in the West, somehow speaks to the democratization of what was once considered radical, namely, gay identity. So, yeah, it gets better for queer folk in the US context, but which queer folk?
There is no national campaign for the indeterminable number of Black queer and transgender men and women that have been killed or gone missing across the country. This is not because many have not tried to create such, but because the media, and liberal gays who shape it, like Savage, don’t seem to care.