To the editors:
Achy Obejas’s latest review, “Reading: Little Wimmin” [November 6], allows Achy, and not Armistead Maupin, to increase misunderstandings between the gay male and lesbian community. Achy continues to drop her proverbial “gauntlet” on the gay male community whenever she has the chance.
Achy’s view of the world is limited by her desperately inflexible, politically correct blinders. In this “review” of Significant Others, we find the same, old but convincing rhetoric Achy is famous for: “If Maupin had chosen a pair of black persons . . . ,” “For Maupin (a male) to present his writings as an authentic view of lesbian culture,” “Gay literature. . . . a long history of negative portrayals.” These arguments are hollow and misapplied for anyone who has read Maupin’s novels with an open mind. Achy has tried, and failed, to use Maupin’s book as a vehicle for slamming out her narrow perspective of the world of minorities.
What then is the central purpose of Achy’s “review”? To lay down the ground rules for political and interpersonal dialogue and action. The messages are clear: (1) lesbians are more oppressed and ever-more complicated than gay males, (2) gay men, being men, are abusers of lesbians, (3) relationships between gays and lesbians have improved because lesbians are now taking political and emotional care of their “brothers,” despite the “morbid,” “outrageous” aspects of the gay male culture, and finally, (4) gay men had better learn to keep to their place in this relationship and exhibit the appropriate amount of respect, gratitude, and reverence. Achy has never been one to limit her condescension towards her “brothers.”
What does all this have to do with Significant Others? Well, Armistead Maupin had the audacity to apply sarcasm and irony, traditional gay male survival techniques, to lesbians! Achy, as a gay male I too could approach Maupin’s humorous portrayals of Michael and his friends as being one-dimensional, stereotypical, and offensive. Get real. My social and political life resembles any of Maupin’s characters as much as your politically correct life of “community,” “bars, bookstores, potlucks, or even bad poetry readings” is reflected by the characters that Maupin chose to draw (and Maupin’s books are really cartoons for the community). Even Maupin’s description of his work as a lesbian novel reflects his tongue-in-cheek approach towards communicating.
The real problem with Maupin’s latest book is not that Maupin must turn his parody towards the lesbian community because of the effect of AIDS in the men’s community. The problem is that our world has changed. The gay men’s community is losing its ability to cope primarily through self-parody, self-deprecation, and irony. We are becoming serious and angry, and Maupin’s sparkling use of humor doesn’t meet our expanding need. What this means is that people like Achy are going to have to realize that they are going to have to show acceptance of us, and they are going to have to exhibit a deeper understanding of us. I would hope that despite our change, however, we don’t, like Achy Obejas, lose complete touch with the humor of survival, nor end up misapplying our rage towards the creators, like Armistead Maupin, of the world.