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John Cameron Mitchell directed, starred in and co-wrote, with Stephen Trask, the musical film Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001), for which he received the Best Director Award at the[…]

“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.”

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

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

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

But I do appreciate their understanding that, you rnknow, being different isn’t a privilege, you know, it’s not, I don’t rnnecessarily feel a pride in being different in that way, but there’s a rnpride in what you do with it, you know?  And certainly shame can be, canrn rub off from culture and self-hatred can rub off from culture and fear rnof, you know, misogyny and femininity in men and, you know, all these, rnthese things that make you not like yourself when you’re young can’t, rnoddly that separateness can be a great mine of material when you’re rnseeking to create yourself as an individual.  Unfortunately, the more rnacceptance there is, yes, there are fewer kids killing themselves rnbecause of the Internet and acceptance of gays in the world as a naturalrn variation, but there’s also a real embarrassing kind of conformism thatrn comes with acceptance.  You know, acceptance and assimilation, you rnknow, breeds mediocrity and perhaps an even more sheep-like, conformism rnin terms of what kind of music you’re supposed to listen to if you’re rngay, what are you supposed to look like?  What’s your body supposed to rnlook like?  How are you supposed to have sex?  How are you supposed to rnvote—can get very boring and very, you get a lot of unexamined lives. rnAnd that’s unfortunately the result of assimilation and acceptance, but rnit’s one that has to happen if there’s to be more happiness, I think. 
rnBeing queer is not enough. Certainly it’s not interesting enough.  And rnthere’s probably, there’s a lot of great beautiful people in the world rnand good people.  But there’s fewer people that, that’s... maybe .001 rnpercent that is actually interesting, whether they’re straight or gay orrn whatever, because they’ve chosen to forge their own way, examine their rnlife a bit more, and not settle.

Recorded on May 3, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen