Friday, February 18, 2011

Musings from a Burlesque boy

In 1993 during her speech on at the gay rights March on Washington lesbian activist Urvashi Vaid stated "With hearts full of love and the abiding faith in justice, we have come to Washington to speak to America. We have come to speak the truth of our lives and silence the liars. We have come to challenge the cowardly Congress to end its paralysis and exercise moral leadership."

What is moral leadership? Well in the battle for equality and human rights for all it is simply doing that which does not harm another. What's morally right its humanly fair in my opinion. Yesterday,I posted a video on my facebook account which featured a little boy recreating Christina Aguilera's Burlesque routine from the movie of the same name. It sparked discussion as many posts do on facebook. Some viewing it as simply an expression of inner desires and youthful exuberance. Some like myself,viewing it as a violation of the rights of the child. Something of note, came out of that discussion- the question of gender?
In a phallic world the penis is often lauded and its honour protected at all costs. However the following comment challenged that ideology
"I think because its a boy and it may be seen as gay or quirky, its easy for people to dismiss as flamboyant and funny. But this just isnt funny. Pedophilia is real, and children should be children. I feel like honestly if this was a girl NO ONE would be disputing that this is dirct kiddie porn. Why should we not protect our boys the same way?"

I have been thinking about it and it has left me with a few questions-
In the fight for human rights and equality are we in danger of sacrificing one right for another?
Is freedom of expression clouding morality and moral responsibility?
In accepting that some boys are effeminate are we in danger of sexualising them?

If we are to use the traditional model of 'becoming a man' then it is within reason and agreeable fact that man are raised to come to terms with their 'excitable' bodies earlier than women. Women are raised to ignore, quell or control the 'desires of the body' ideally until they can turn their own key. A woman's sexuality is protected, her body is a temple and she must treat is a such. Men...not so much.

In applying this model to the youtube video in question; becoming an effeminate man is being treated in a similar manor as becoming a masculine man. I firmly agree that be this the video of a young girl- their would have been outrage rather than support for his 'fierceness'. His right to be 'sexually free' is being given precedence over his right to be a child. I do not believe that is a reflection of moral leadership and is regressive to say the least.

Article 34 in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child speaks against the exploitation of a child as a sexual object.

Article 34

States Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. For these purposes, States Parties shall in particular take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent:

(a) The inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity;

(b) The exploitative use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices;

(c) The exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials.

I admit that children can be bad, most boys and girls become aware of their sexuality very early in life and thus the role of the parent is to shape the development of this child properly. What seems quirky and cute and fierce at four may turn out to be something completely different at the age of fourteen. It is not the place of the parent to punish his son for wearing a dress and dancing like a girl. It is the ROLE of the parent that wearing a dress and dancing like a girl does not become a burlesque show on youtube. LOVE THE CHILD, DON'T EXPLOIT THE CHILD.

As I openly lobby for the next generations right to freedom of ALL sexual expressions I cannot do so if it sacrifices the right of the child. And I implore all homosexuals and lesbians to be distinct and clear in doing the same. At a time where gay marriage, gay adoption and gay families are being seen as a danger to the moral fabric of the world we must be careful. Here is some food for thought- the Jamaican society in the last two years has become outraged at the high number of incidences of carnal abuse, child molestation, statutory rape and sexual assault. Working in a newsroom you get countless letters from Churches, Non-profit organisations, Activists groups such as Children First or Jamaicans for Justice speaking out against these ills. I can't recall a single letter speaking out against the sexual abuse of our country's children coming from the Jamaican Forum for lesbians, all sexuals and gays (JFLAG). I anxiously await being corrected on this statistic; that would make me proud.

This disgust with a youtube video grew into something far greater for me, my role in the society as a gay person. Am I only fighting for the right to be sexually free or am I fighting for the right to live in a better world. So yes, I do think its great, amazing and beautiful that little boy can have the support of his parents because he wants to wear lipstick. He could be wearing face paint and helmets in a few months. He can be anything he wants. But the thought that the possibility to exists that the video bares even the slightest resemblance to child pornography negates any adoration I may have felt.

Urvashi Vaid called for moral leadership. We are citizens of the world and we are charged to contribute more than just rainbow flags, pride festivals and men in heels; we are charged to be exemplary citizens. So exemplary must we be that the 'right faction' forgets we are even gay. After all, isn't that what the fight is about- the right to be simply...HUMAN


  1. excellent point
    i'm gonna do a little copy and paste of my comments from fb here because i think this is really important
    here is my take on the matter
    just because something is gay looking does not mean it is automatically fabulous
    in the same way we should not assume he didn't want to do it
    neither should we assume he did
    but either way or straight there is still such a thing as age appropriateness
    and in much the same way you would not parade your young daughter around dressed as a sex symbol neither should you do it to your son
    whether he /she wants to or not
    he is being exposed to things he does not know how to deal with because of the particular type of expression he's engaged in
    he is providing fodder for the many people out there who troll the internet looking for cheap kiddie porn
    some people seem to think that being gay is deviant so once you deviate you may as well go whole hog and lose respect for all morals and scruples
    i don't subscribe to that
    it's just another way of loving and you still have to subscribe to the same rules of child rearing as a gay parent and/or as a parent raising a gay child.
    whether this child is gay straight or transgendered
    he's still a child
    and needs to be protected as such