Thursday, March 6, 2008

American Idol Thoughts #2: Why Danny Noriega Makes Me So Swishily Uncomfortable: How I Need to Embrace My Inner (and outer) Sissy

Okay, so putting aside David Archuleta being a Superstar in the making, and Michael Johns being so incredibly good at making everything he sings and does sexy, I have to confess that the contestant who makes me the most uncomfortable is:

Danny Noriega

He grins, tilting his head to one side like he hears tinkling bells

He swishes on the stage

His wrists bend... a lot

Why does Danny make me cringe?

I think it's that he embodies the stereotype of "gay = effeminate" that I spent most of my adolescence struggling with inside, and then most of my 20s trying to act out against on the outside.

Once I got myself gayed out (think "straightened out") I thought I was able to embrace the drag queens at Gay Pride, and I thought I had accepted that there were different flavors of each letter in our particular alphabet soup (GLBTQ).

So WHY this cringing HOMOPHOBIC reaction on my part to watching this cocky teenager swish and preen and toss his hair like a girl on American Idol? He gets up to sing, and what goes through my mind?

His willingness to buck the system of conventional male roles and "acting" straight should be appealing.

His being here and being queer should make him a role model, right?

His sureness in who he is should make me stand up and cheer.

Instead, like a coward, I hit the tivo remote.

Bloop. Bloop. Bloop.

Randy: Dog, what can I say?*

Paula: I love, you are so original*

Simon: You are who you are, you just need to find the right song*

Wow. Not even Simon is as mean to him as I am. None of them will criticize him for being too girly.

And he can sing, too.

I am such an asshole. And I'm GAY! What's going on?

Then there's

David Hernandez

David Hernandez, who with his past as a stripper at a gay club makes me like him even more. This is a gay guy I can identify with.

He's a guy's guy - sexy, talented, and refreshing that he's not hiding who he is. (Though he'd need more than luck to succeed with that, what with all the news coverage of his past being billed as "Idol Scandal!") Puhhhlease. Like they didn't know beforehand. And frankly, shouldn't that help his chances?

Knowing that guys would pay to watch him on stage should certainly boost his confidence.

And he has a great voice.

But he's so easy for me to watch. And cheer. And think, "Thank God, there's finally someone gay on American Idol!"

Is he a role model?

Well, no one's perfect. I have to admit, I like him and I'm so proud of him for representing our community.

WHAT? What about Danny? Why the HELL am I not proud of him, too?

So here's what I think is going on. David is easy for me to like because he's the same flavor of "gay" that I like.

Growing up with 'friends' testing to see if I was gay in elementary school by asking me to look at my nails, and then seeing when I looked if I kept my hand straight (like a girl) or balled my hand into a fist (like a man) set the stage for my being hyper-alert and hyper-sensitive to signs of effiminancy. (Let me tell you, you only get that wrong once...)

An adolescence spent HIDING who I was, paranoid that a limp wrist would give away something that could destroy my future life and survival made sure that I held my hands very carefully.

My reaction to Danny's girly flair was crafted and forged in the fires of suburban Philadelphia homophobia.

It's an INTERNALIZED homophobia, a learned discomfort and suppression of my OWN girly flair that Danny brings out.

so what am I saying?
I can't watch Danny swish because I was teased too many times for walking swishy? Am I jealous of him?

No. I don't particularly WANT to swish. But here's a true life story:

A couple of years ago I was listening to music while I walked on the beach. Some great song came on in my headset (I think it was 'lady marmlade' from the movie "Moulin Rouge") and I was kinda dancing, kinda walking, kinda singing along. Having a great time.

These three teenage girls I passed burst into laughter, and cat-called after me, "You always walk so swishy like that, mister?"

I smiled and kept going, because I really didn't give a damn what they thought. But it took me 35 years to get there.

God bless Danny, He's there at 18.

So, I promise to not tivo past him this time. But you'll have to forgive me if I root just as loudly for David Hernandez.

But they're both "my boys."

It just took me a bit to realize it.

Thanks, and have fun watching!



*Uh, these are not quotes. Think of them as an historical fiction re-enactment, okay?


Rita said...

Fascinating post! Now I can't stop looking at my nails to see how I would do that. (The answer: I switch back and forth every second, unsure what I'm looking for. But probably do hold the hand flat to start.)

The first time I saw a guy who, with every single posture and gesture, kept his wrists super limp, I was stunned to the point of confusion and disbelief. None of my gay friends did that, but I could imagine a straight guy adopting those stances even less. I was like, Am I truly meant to interpret, from this sole signifier, that this guy is gay? And not just gay but so out he's utterly unselfconscious about this stereotype (the wrists), in particular?

Apparently, yes; in his case.

It was pretty cool. The fact we were in a corporate workplace, where we had to dress up, made me notice even more.

I like picturing you walking on the beach, rocking out to music! Not everybody does it, but everybody should.

Anonymous said...

We met briefly at Rita and Damon's summer camp at the Getty Villa (the girl with the umbrella). Like Rita, I switch back and forth then I place one the hand on the palm of the other when looking at my nails. No idea what that means.

Well I just wanted to comment that I liked reading your blog. It's honest. I don't watch American Idol but it's great that they have someone who breaks sterotype and someone who is being himself even if it's not mainstream America.

Keep on Rocking!