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“You’re not going to the bar tonight, are you?”


“Yeah, why not?”


“There’s a serial killer loose. You don’t want to be the next victim.”


“That guy in Florida?”


“Yeah. But he’s on the run.”


“So, you think that this nutjob in Florida picked Louisville out of the entire US to come to, and out of all the gay bars here, he’s going to be in the one I’m going to, and out of the hundred guys there, he’s going to choose me to pick up and kill, even though I’m married and would say ‘no’ to going with him.”


“It could happen.”


The killer in question was Andrew Cunanan, best known as the murderer of Gianni Versace, and my friend refused to go out until Cunanan killed himself a week later. Although Cunanan had already killed four people and was on the FBI’s top ten list, it was the shooting of Versace on the streets of Miami that made Cunanan feared nationwide. Gay clubs reported a drop in attendance, as men stayed away, wary of being Cunanan’s next victim.


Interestingly, the same response didn’t occur with the arrests of gay serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer, Aileen Wournos, John Wayne Gacy, and Dean Corll. It’s assumed that gay men and women reasoned that the bad person had been caught, so there was nothing to fear, even if, unaware of the killer’s presence, they hadn’t been fearful before. There couldn’t be another one out there, another psychotic queer with issues to act out. (In fairness, though, lesbian Wournos killed men, so there wasn’t a reason for women to worry.)


These deranged killers haven’t done anything to further the LGBT cause. It’s not a news flash to say that, gay or straight, there are some rotten people out there, making all of humanity look bad. Of course, serial killers would be at the top of the list, but others, supposedly upstanding citizens, can do even more damage to a cause than the madmen and criminals.


Undoubtedly, there is a difference between bad queers and queers who are bad. Lindsay Lohan, although nowhere near the level of Wournos or Dahmer, is the top queer (or is it bisexual?) who is bad at the moment. Lohan, whose relationship with Samantha Ronson has been the subject of considerable tabloid fodder, has bounced in and out of jail and rehab with more frequency than Wendy Williams changes wigs. George Michael has been arrested for soliciting a cop in the men’s room and for DUI, while Boy George was sentenced to 15 months for “imprisoning” a male prostitute by handcuffing him to the wall. My favorite drag queen of years ago, Brandi West, was convicted of murdering her roommate.


Still, the distinction between bad queer and one who is just bad is one of intent. Lindsey Lohan has problems, undoubtedly, but they are those of her own making, a manifestation of the demons that she has been fighting for years. One could argue that Michael and Boy George are just idiotic, musical accomplishments notwithstanding. A bad queer, however, is one who hurts the LGBT cause, whose actions either stem the tide of gay rights movements, perpetuate unflattering stereotypes, or make us look insincere. 


Take the case of Ken Mehlman, who came out of the closet in August. Mehlman served as President Bush’s Campaign Manager in 2004 and as Chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2005 - 2006. The 2004 campaign, if you recall, was when the President called for a Constitutional amendment allowing marriage only between a man and a woman, because “marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society.” Of course, he forgot to mention that marriage’s cultural and religious roots involved dowries, arranged marriages, and no hope of divorce if dad picked you a loser, but why be picky when you’re trying to scare religious conservatives into getting to the voting booth?


The polls in early 2004 showed that people cared most about the war/homeland security, health care and the economy, followed by the usual list of concerns—education, tax reform, Social Security, and the environment.  Gay marriage didn’t make the list until the President’s party put it there, by adding planks to their party platform calling on the president to defend marriage and by Bush telling Congress in his 2004 State of the Union address that “our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.”


However, the concern isn’t Bush’s abuse of the LGBT community to illicit votes; it is the participation of a gay man in selling us out to get some personal power. And make no mistake, Mehlman’s actions were about getting power: winning the election insured that Mehlman would become the Republican’s poster boy for awhile. While Mehlman has said in recent interviews that he struggled with this direction of the campaign, he obviously didn’t mind it enough to walk away. Nor did he mind enough to say to his boss, “Hey, I’m gay and this is my future that you’re screwing.” Mehlman says now he was confused about his sexuality. Yet, there were big bucks to be made and elections to win by trampling his now-embraced family, so why bother taking time to get un-confused?


Perez Hilton, in my opinion America’s most embarrassing queen, has no such excuse for his behavior. Hilton has been in court so frequently that you would think he was one of Michael Jackson’s doctors. He sued the operations manager for the Black Eyed Peas following an alleged attack, prompted by Hilton calling will.i.am “faggot”. (Hilton has since apologized for his use of the derogatory slur). Further, he’s been sued by Colin Farrell, Samantha Ronson, Zomba Label Group (a part of Sony BMG), Universal City Studios, and photo agency X17Online, most often for copyright infringement.
This all just shows he is a queer who is bad, though.


Two traits prove that he is also a bad queer. First, he’s irritating. Certainly, lots of queens are irritating, but Hilton irritates by perpetuating the stereotype of the self-righteous, superficial, and laughable flamer. This isn’t an indictment of flamers, just self-righteous and superficial ones. At no time did these traits become more evident than in his treatment of Carrie Prejean, a Miss USA hopeful, when Hilton “judged” the pageant. Prejean responded to Hilton’s question about gay marriage that she believes marriage should be between a man and woman.

Michael has been writing for PopMatters since 2000. His primary focus, aside from queer culture, is television reviews and commentary, and his article Male Bashing on TV has been reprinted in two college textbooks. He currently lives in Louisville, KY, and is a Lecturer of Communication Studies at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, IN. As a teacher, he has an interest in the study of contemporary political rhetoric and argumentation. He and his partner Jim have been living in un-wedded bliss since 1995.


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