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Of Hysterical Significance

Hi. My name is Matt, and I am a part of a subculture that loves to overdo historical significance… or at least stretch what is true historical significance. Call it “hysterical significance”, if you will. It is a pox that plagues my, and many other subcultures. In my case, it’s the LGBT community, and I’ve no doubt we’re soon to see the “first openly gay man(or woman) to join the military” under the repealed ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ military. No doubt he or she will be sworn in to service with Donna Summer playing in the background, and shirtless generals making out with one another in a dark and dusty backroom somewhere. But I digress…

We’re just getting over our “first black president.” In fact, our great finicky nation could soon name him the first hated black president. Who knows? And perhaps the first black president title is a worthy and historically significant one. Maybe the first openly gay president would be. A good role model for all the minority kiddies, and such. But what happens when it goes overboard?

I’ve seen so many instances of this. I am personally waiting for “First Openly Bisexual Jewish Black Breast Cancer Survivor to Win an Olympic Gold in Curling.” But until that day, I will have to settle for “First Black Mayor of ____” and “First Openly Gay Guido in the North End.” It’s comical to a point that acknowledgment of the “real” accomplishments seem unnecessary. And is it? Are we really in a space where we need to highlight each and every minute accomplishment of someone simply because they might have a characteristic different from a greater percentage of the population? I’m not sure we do. We’re not beyond racism, sexism, or countless other -isms in our society, but I believe we are beyond the point where those “firsts” are effective inspiration. Hell… when you get a black man in the presidency, when a disturbingly large portion of citizens still question his birthplace even years after it’s been proven, where do you go from there? I think that is about the pinnacle of those kinds of accomplishments.

And so, with this essay, I would like to propose an end; an end to hysterical significance. Let there be no more covers of black, gay, Jewish, women’s, or any so-called news magazines touting the newest firsts. Unless of course it’s “the first black president to star in gay porn while in the white house.” ┬áBut then, I won’t have to see that until I’ve opened up the plain brown wrapping anyway.

10 responses to “Of Hysterical Significance”

  1. Sam Sam says:

    Matt, I admit, I'm the most liberal person you'll meet, and I've thought this way too. Doesn't celebrating the achievements of socially marginalized groups just enhance their marginalization? I sometimes think yes…

  2. Avatar sn0tteh says:

    I like it. And totally agree.

  3. Avatar llxt says:

    Spot on, MattyB (<– said in a british accent). Of course, intelligent women have felt like this for decades, right? When the accolade goes something like, "Hey, a smart women! What do you know? and she's a <i>woman</>! wow!" it sort of takes away from the accomplishment.
    However, I will say that politicians, in particular, capitalize on these "minority" qualities, whether women or black, in order to get votes. So, I'm not feeling sympathy for them… The average person? Yes. Obama? No.

  4. Agreed. Sometimes I'm still happy to tout the "first"–say, when Annise Parker won her mayor's race in Houston. She's openly gay, and it felt like no small thing for her to win in that city. But too much of this undercuts her achievements, and often, support. And as you pointed out (in a pretty funny way, I thought) we have to keep looking to increasingly smaller sub-strata of the population to find our "firsts"…

  5. Avatar McKnight says:

    In lieu of a response I'll post Dead Milkmen Lyrics.
    "Now, I understand that some of you don't know Sarah Jane, so I'll tell
    you a little bit about her. She's a lesbian Eskimo midget albino. She
    went to college and she started the Lesbian midget Eskimo Albino
    Student Union, and four hundred people signed up. There they were,
    hundreds of 'em, lesbian midget left-handed Eskimo albinos. Did I
    mention the fact that she's left-handed? She's left-handed, alright.
    Girl's got some strange hobbies. One of her hobbies is lowering children
    into open manholes, which is kinda difficult 'cause a lot of the
    children are taller than her, her being a midget and everything… or
    her being a left-handed midget… or her being a left-handed lesbian
    midget… or her being a left-handed lesbian albino midget… or her
    being a lesbian left-handed albino midget Eskimo… life can be really
    difficult on that young lady.
    She bit me once, you know. Right here, ya see this? Left a mark. She was
    lowerin' a friend of mine's kid into the sewer, I run up, and tried to
    stop her. I said, "Listen there, you lesbian midget left-handed albino!
    And you stop right there!" Then she bit me. I'm afraid I'm gonna… I'm
    gonna turn into a lesbian left-handed midget albino when the moon is
    Oh my God, the moon is full tonight! I can feel myself shrinking! I can
    feel myself getting left-handed! I can feel myself getting the urge to
    build an igloo! I can feel my skin turning white and my eyes getting
    red! I can feel… I can feel the urge… to buy a Suzanne Vega album!!
    Oh, I'm okay; it was just gas."

  6. Kail Kail says:

    I'd wouldn't mind being the first thirty-something non-Yale student with-a-degree-already to be picked to be in Skull & Bones. I heard they have good keggers.

  7. Kail Kail says:

    Ugh. Comment typo: I'd. Seriously, though, great work Matt. Firsts are overrated, have been for decades. Curling, however: totally underrated.

  8. Avatar The Tailor says:

    Matt, excellent work. The real first wil be when we as a society stop feeling the need to marginalize accomplishments by trying to put them in subclasses. There are things I'd like to accomplish in life, but I don't go into them saying "I'll be the first handicapped person to do this." It's a goal, plain and simple.

  9. Avatar @ansu8979 says:

    Matt, I love the perspective you're bringing. So many good points.

  10. Avatar mattatonic says:

    As a side note, I've yet to hear anything about the "First Openly Gay Ex-Menudo Member who Also Starred in General Hospital."

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