Universally Gay

Earlier this week, a group of contemporary classical music types put out a zine called How to be a Good Ally and Create Safer Spaces in New Music [PDF]. For those of you who are already well versed in issues of social justice, there won’t be anything groundbreaking in it, but it’s still a decent introductory primer, and I highly recommend it to those who are newer to thinking about these issues, especially the sections on affirmative action and cultural appropriation. (Quick! How many concert series can you think of that even approach gender parity or proportional racial representation? I’ll wait.) Given the limited space available in the zine, the authors don’t have room to really go in depth on all of the ground they cover, and today I want to expand on one area that they touch on briefly, specifically how to balance focus on an artist’s marginalized identity against focus on the art they make.

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There's Nothing Noble . . .

A few episodes into the third episode of Queer as Folk, hotshot violin prodigy Ethan Gold is approached by an agent who offers him everything he's ever wanted: Solo concerts, regional and national tours, even a record deal with a major label. There's just one catch: Ethan can't openly acknowledge his boyfriend for fear of alienating (homophobic) audience members. At first, he refuses to consider it, but then Brian Kinney finds him playing on a street corner and tries to talk him into signing. As he walks away, he tells the violinist "You know, there's nothing noble about being poor.".

You can tell from his smug smile that he thinks it's a terribly clever line, and, infuriatingly, no one offers much by way of a counterargument over the rest of the episode. Not wanting to pass up his life-long dream, and seeing the logic in Brian's position, Ethan signs the contract.

Now, he's a free agent (insofar as we're pretending he's a real person and not a fictional character . . . ) and can do as he likes, but still. "There's nothing noble about being poor." Well no, there isn't. But there isn't anything noble about being rich, either.

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