Monday, December 13, 2010

Rudolph The Gay Reindeer - On Bullies, Forgiveness, and the Holidays

So Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer is a staple of the Christmas season here in the U.S.A. Written by Johnny Marks in 1949, the lyrics go:

Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
and if you ever saw it
you would even say it glows.

All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names
they never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.

I've been thinking a lot about how Rudolph's red nose is really a stand-in for being gay, or being fat, or being Jewish, or being short, or Asian, or Black, or Latino... for being different.

So you have Rudolph, the Gay Reindeer, who was teased and bullied by all the other reindeer. Why? He was different. His difference was seen by the other reindeer as bad, and as a way to bond themselves - hold themselves up as better, "normal," reindeer.

They didn't let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.

Rudolph, exiled from the community of his peers, for being different. Alone with just the light from his nose. His Gay red nose.

But then, Christmas Eve is foggy, and Santa won't be able to fly to deliver toys to the children of the World. It's a problem for everyone, until...

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say,
"Rudolph with your nose so bright
Won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"

Suddenly, Rudolph's very difference - that nose so shiny you would even say it glows - saves the day, and with the light of Rudolph's difference, Santa can see through the fog and the whole celebration of Christmas is saved.

Rudolph embraces the special gift of his difference and no longer sees it as a burden, but as a gift - and a gift not just for himself, but for the world.

That's the moment I want Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning teens to get to - that same moment that changed MY life forever - when I realized my being Gay, my being ME, wasn't a curse or a punishment or a burden, but a GIFT, and that I have so much to share with the world - not in spite of my difference, my being Gay, but BECAUSE of my being Gay, because of my shiny red nose!

What I struggle with are next lines,

Then how the reindeer loved him
and they shouted out in glee,
"Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer,
you'll go down in history!"

I'm still pissed off at those other reindeer. They only liked Rudolph once they saw how he could help them. If his light burned low, or changed color, and couldn't cut through fog anymore, and he couldn't save Christmas again, they'd probably tease him again. Or would they? Can reindeer really learn how to accept and celebrate differences? Can we?

Can we forgive bullies? Perhaps. But I can't forget they didn't like Rudolph until he proved useful.

Is that reindeer nature or human nature?

My wish for this holiday season, going into 2011, is that we all work to get to the place where we go beyond tolerance. Beyond acceptance. That we create a world where we celebrate our differences and as we go there, we GLBTQ Red Nosed reindeer will keep saving the world, one gift of ourselves at a time.

So sing along to the Gayest, most diversity-celebrating Christmas Song of All..

And celebrate YOUR own difference!

Here's the song from the closing credits of the awesome animated special - the song starts about 1:28 seconds in...

What do YOU think? Should Rudolph forgive his former reindeer tormentors? Did those other reindeer really change and learn something?

Namaste, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!

1 comment:

ivanova said...

I think since the 1940s when the song was written, there has been a big cultural shift away from instant, automatic forgiveness. I think about this a lot when I read "classic" children's books, because it's incredibly hard for me to understand what the characters are thinking. Take "The Secret Garden." Colin's dad locked him alone in a room for years for no real reason, and only decides to love Colin when he discovers that Colin is not disabled. And Colin is totally fine with this, he forgives his dad in two seconds! "Emily of New Moon" by LM Montgomery, same thing, and I can think of lots more examples. Is it possible that people really forgave that easily? Or were they just as bitter as the people of today, only more repressed? How can you trust fiction to tell you what people were like, but then what else do we have to go on?

Personally, I think the trend towards delaying or withholding forgiveness is a good one, but then maybe I'm just a product of my time period. If I were Rudolph, I would definitely wait and see if the other reindeer had really changed their ways before I got all excited about playing Monopoly and other reindeer games with them. The best predictor of future reindeer/human behavior is how they've been acting so far. : ) I am also hoping that in 2011 the world can learn not only tolerance but also respect for diversity!