Internet celebrity, Chris Crocker, burst into our lives in late 2007 with a shrill youtube clip, which tearfully admonished people to “Leave Britney Alone!” However, the potentially irritating nature of that clip was not the main cause of the abuse that Crocker subsequently received. A cursory look at the comments under his clips reveals thousands of sexist and homophobic statements, such as “faggot has no life, retard,” “he’s stupid and he looks half like a girl,” “cock slap that little fag,” “if it’s a dude, stop trying to be a girl!” As if that’s not enough, he regularly receives death threats and ill treatment in his hometown (reportedly a small, rural place in the Southern U.S).

As I have argued in many of my previous posts, homophobic abuse is based mostly on perceived gender performance, not sexuality. Thus, the fact that Crocker claims to be gay is not what truly motivates the abuse (although he mentions his sexuality frequently in other videos, there was no explicit indication of it in “Leave Britney Alone”). It is his femme gender performance and “cross-dressing” which really disturbs people. Crocker’s case highlights the need for the transgender and gay/lesbian/bisexual communities to work together, as they are both essentially fighting against the same injustice: gender normativity, and the expectation that being assigned a gender category implies staying firmly within that category and acting in a particular way. Who one has sex with is just another gender issue, another expectation that rigid male-masculinity and female-femininity impose – not a reason to campaign separately.

Activist concerns aside, what is most disappointing about the “Leave Britney Alone” uproar is that it overshadows Chris Crocker’s other clips, in which he provides interesting, funny and sometimes controversial commentaries on gender, sexuality and other social issues. In this post, I will provide an introduction to those clips, as well as a theoretical analysis of his general approach:

For example, in the clip below Crocker takes a perspective on normativity that is similar to that of queer theory:

Although being ‘normal’ is often defined as ‘conforming or adhering to a norm,’ it is also associated with the notion of sanity, and being free from mental illness. Thus, Chris Crocker highlights for us how the persecution of the non-normative is embedded and confirmed in language. In a subsequent clip, he humorously questions the existence of heterosexuality (and by definition, all ‘definitively rigid’ sexuality labels):

He also addresses discrimination within gay communities, severely criticizing people who complain about ‘flamers,’ ‘sissies’ and ‘queens’:

Overall, from watching the above clips, one attains the sense that Chris Crocker takes a generally queer theoretical perspective in his approach to gender and sexuality issues. He highlights for us the existence of strong gender-performance bias within the gay community, questions the actual possibility of definitive sexual labels (such as, ‘heterosexual’), and critiques societal definitions of ‘the normal’. Nevertheless, the story of Chris Crocker’s theoretical leanings is considerably more complex. A look at some of his other videos reveals an unfortunate adherence to a primitive gay essentialism, which has considerable misogynist overtones. He seems to embrace the kind of conception of gay sexuality that defines itself in opposition to women’s bodies. For instance, in the video “Why I’m Gay…” his sexuality is conceptualized as having been “there from birth.” However, he attributes his sexual orientation not to genetic innateness, but to the traumatic experience of having to smell his mother’s vagina during birth:

Although we cannot take what he saying totally seriously, it is not uncommon for gay men to occasionally define their sexualities against a disgust for putatively female body parts, thus exhibiting a kind of ‘gay misogyny’. He continues this trend in the following video:

Then, he takes the disgust with vaginas to its logical conclusion, arguing that gay guys actually have it harder in society than women, that PMS and giving birth are not all that difficult, and that women need to stop complaining that life is so hard on them. Thus, he engages in a ‘competition of oppressions,’ claiming that life is, in general more of a challenge for gay men:

Overall, Chris Crocker is a fascinating theoretical phenomenon. On the one hand, he appears strongly anti-essentialist, blurring the lines between gay and transgender identities, bitching the gay community out for its disrespect towards ‘queens and flamers,’ and questioning the definition of “the normative” in society. On the other hand, his attitude to women is a disappointment. He is prepared to reduce his sexuality to being, essentially, an expression of disgust with vaginas. Thus, he invokes the discourse of ‘gay misogyny,’ which is basically another crudely essentialist way of conceiving gay sexuality. Although it is often brought up in a joking contest, ‘gay misogyny’ (defining one’s sexuality in disgusted opposition to women’s bodies) is widespread enough to be taken seriously as a problem, and may be one of the reasons behind strains in social relationships between gay men and women.

***For More Information***
Check out all of Chris Crocker’s videos here, as well as his MySpace page. The phenomenon of ‘gay misogyny’ is not very well documented in the theoretical literature on gender and sexuality, so if anybody is aware of any articles or books that discuss it, please let us know! There are many good general books on queer theory, but I would particularly recommend Annamarie Jagose’s Queer Theory: An Introduction.

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