Acceptance and Assimilation Breed Mediocrity

“An embarrassing kind of conformism” comes with full LGBT assimilation into the mainstream, says the actor and filmmaker. "Being queer is not enough," he says "Certainly it’s not interesting enough."
  • Transcript


Question: Should gay identity be fully integrated into mainstream culture?

John Cameron Mitchell:  Well, I don’t know if the Radical Faerie thing is a, I’ve been to some gatherings, a lot of my friends have been to gatherings, you know, friends live in this commune-like environment, I’m not so much hardcore into that, but I really appreciated that input in my life of people who think that your, you know, queerness, which I define as not necessarily having to do with sexuality, you can certainly be straight and be queer.  To me, it’s like an understanding of the world that isn’t limited by received notions of genders.  Like looking at the world through a prism of understanding the fluidity of gender and sexuality, which can manifest itself in humor and art, you know, sort of a queer sensibility, or it can also affect how you look at, you know, the way you interact with the earth, you know, with the world.  When you understand there’s a fluidity, perhaps you integrate your life more with how, you know, perhaps interact in a more sustainable way with the earth or, I’m not sure how that necessarily transmits itself, but it does in the Radical Faerie movement or "community."

And so I learned a lot from people who lived in these communes, you know, in the gatherings, they had kind a queer Burning Man feeling.  And it’s much less ageist and though it tends to be more men, I could do with a more, with a more diverse, you know, diversity in gender.  The more mixed a crowd, the better the party, you know, in terms of... because when there’s too many men in one space, you get too much of that energy, of sexual energy, or kind of competitive energy.  Just as too many, perhaps too many women in a room, there’s a different, too much sameness doesn’t always make a good, you know, it’s not a good recipe for balance.

But I do appreciate their understanding that, you know, being different isn’t a privilege, you know, it’s not, I don’t necessarily feel a pride in being different in that way, but there’s a pride in what you do with it, you know?  And certainly shame can be, can rub off from culture and self-hatred can rub off from culture and fear of, you know, misogyny and femininity in men and, you know, all these, these things that make you not like yourself when you’re young can’t, oddly that separateness can be a great mine of material when you’re seeking to create yourself as an individual.  Unfortunately, the more acceptance there is, yes, there are fewer kids killing themselves because of the Internet and acceptance of gays in the world as a natural variation, but there’s also a real embarrassing kind of conformism that comes with acceptance.  You know, acceptance and assimilation, you know, breeds mediocrity and perhaps an even more sheep-like, conformism in terms of what kind of music you’re supposed to listen to if you’re gay, what are you supposed to look like?  What’s your body supposed to look like?  How are you supposed to have sex?  How are you supposed to vote—can get very boring and very, you get a lot of unexamined lives. And that’s unfortunately the result of assimilation and acceptance, but it’s one that has to happen if there’s to be more happiness, I think. 

Being queer is not enough. Certainly it’s not interesting enough.  And there’s probably, there’s a lot of great beautiful people in the world and good people.  But there’s fewer people that, that’s... maybe .001 percent that is actually interesting, whether they’re straight or gay or whatever, because they’ve chosen to forge their own way, examine their life a bit more, and not settle.

Recorded on May 3, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen