Sam Smith’s Oscars Speech Sparks Tom Daley Drama, Highlights Tension Within LGBTQ Community

I apologize for my header as being a sorry excuse of clickbait. 

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In the biggest upset of the night, Sam Smith beat out Lady Gaga for Best Original Song with the Bond theme, “Writings On The Wall” at the 2016 Academy Awards. If that didn’t piss off the gays enough, Sam inaccurately accepted the award as the first openly gay male to receive an Oscar. Well… Sort of. His speech was vague, unsure, and over all uneducated on the cultural significance of his win. The dedication of his win to the LGBT community, while touching, was based on a misquotation of Sir Ian McKellen who, in an interview with The Guardian, spoke about how no openly gay man has ever won the award for Best Actor. That’s about when shots were fired…

Amidst the little monsters coming for Sam for beating Gaga in what everyone thought was a shoe-in, Milk screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black, had a few choice words for the crooner. Black tweeted:

Black later clarified with a subsequent tweet:

 

Just give me a second… 

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Ok. So. Where to begin. Congrats to Sam on the win. It’s a major moment in his career that will ultimately be overshadowed by questions about whether he deserved it or not, and this messy drama. However, the cultural significance of his win is not the Oscar itself, but the conversation… or should I say conversations… that it’s seeming to start. First of all, it highlights the lack of knowledge that the youth of the LGBTQ community has for their own history. Who bears that responsibility is up for debate. Second, the backlash (and Black’s tweet) shows the lack of mutual respect we as gay men have for one another, both individually and for respecting the boundaries of one’s relationship.

Smith’s uninformed speech was as innocent as it was lazy. It doesn’t take much to google “Gay Oscar Winners” to know that his win stands alongside not only Black’s win for Milk, but Elton John and Stephen Sondheim’s past wins for Best Original Song (and as The Verge points out, Smith also failed to acknowledge the nomination in his category for transgender performer ANOHNI, who sang  “Manta Ray” from Racing Extinction). That being said, Sam is human. A human that misinterpreted information from an openly gay man of an older generation. There is a clear lack of education on LGBTQ history, not only within society as a whole, but within our own communities. As a young, out and proud, gay man, I take some accountability in my lack of knowledge for the one’s that came before me. I also hold those that came before accountable for not educating my generation of LGBTQs on more than just the fight for marriage equality. We as a community spend more time on our floats made of rainbows, glitter, and jockstraps for pride events than acknowledging LGBT History Month (here’s a link for you educational purposes). There are also the politics of gay history versus lesbian history versus trans history versus queer history etc, etc, etc… However, it is important to note that the politics of being gay around the world and the stigmas that still exist play a large part in our community’s focus on pride over history. The ignorance is alive and well within society, forcing individuals to focus on making themselves safe that they don’t have much opportunity to study and appreciate the rich history of our community. And no, Caitlyn Jenner is not qualified professor in spreading knowledge on the trans community, let alone the LGBTQ community at large. 

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So, the gays came for Sam. For stealing Mother Monster’s Oscar, and for his cis-gendered-gay-white-privileged ignorance. And now for trying to steal Tom Daley from Dustin Lance Black. The controversial second part of Dustin Lance Black’s shady tweet is interesting as it reveals the two parts of the modern gay male experience that stifle us. For one, he “slut shames” Smith for texting his fiancé, perpetuating how, we as gay men, appear to always be in competition with each other. One could argue that we come by that naturally as men. We often find ourselves in a proverbial pissing contest, diminishing each other’s character, behavior, and accomplishments to shallow reads and shady insults.. Secondly, it shows the blatant disregard for relationships within our community, categorizing them as fleeting and temporary. As someone in a longterm relationship, I can relate to Black’s tweet, having had various men text myself and/or bae at inappropriate times of night, all while knowing our relationship status. 12:34 a.m. is not a “let’s catch up” time. Nor is it appropriate to walk that “I don’t know you, but I think you’re handsome” line. You’ve stalked my photos where my boyfriend is very present. Nope. We pass the same judgements on each other that society does. Gay men can’t be in monogamous relationships, they must be in an open relationship. Even in defending my relationship, I often get snarky, writing off a person as a “thot” or being “thirsty.” We, arguably, get jealous of what other’s have (i.e. That guy is more muscular than me; He’s more successful; He’s in love), trying to find cracks in the glass to throw stones at rather than lifting each other up. Conversely, we get defensive of what we do have, in fear that others are going to try and take it away. It’s a problem that seems to appear within all minority groups. Those that “pass” and fit a societal mold get outcasted by those in the community who feel slighted. We see this tension with the Black Lives Matter movement having successful and privileged blacks being criticized for not using their resources to make a difference. And when they do, it’s for financial and reputable gain. *cough*Beyoncé*cough*

This piece only scratches the surface of these related issues. The lack of education perpetuates the stereotypes in which we use to criticize each other, which ultimately leads to a lack of respect for one’s self and the community. How do we educate ourselves by encouraging the growth and prosperity of each other within our own communities? Talking about these issues might be a good start…

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