Demagogues have a chilling effect upon public speech, and not just because of their bullying tactics. When United Steelworkers President Chuck Jones criticized President-Elect Trump’s Carrier business deal, Trump insulted Jones in a series of tweets and soon after Jones started receiving death threats from Trump’s followers.
So it’s hardly surprising that gay fashion commentators Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez of the blog Fabulous and Opinionated have recently said pledged to hold their tongues when it comes to criticizing Trump’s wife Melania even though they criticized Michelle Obama’s fashion choices early into her husband’s rise. Fitzgerald said:
“We are not going to be able to [criticize] Melania Trump without risking our business… The hordes that will come down on us. . . . We are two gay men — look at the Comet Ping Pong thing. All of that is coming out because the owner is gay, you can’t tell me that’s not because he’s gay.
It’s not that I fear [Trump] — I fear his followers. They go after the people who are heretics. And they love her. She is their queen right now. So if we said ‘she’s tacky’ or ‘that hem was too short’ or whatever…”
The poor guy was so scared he couldn’t even finish his own block quote.
“I think my response is, I’ll let you know. I think I need to see how it goes. That’s my diplomatic answer. Sadly, it’s really just one of those things that has nothing to do with her, it’s just obviously what she’s representing in what’s happening right now.
“It would be hard for anyone, especially for someone like myself, a young gay fashion designer, I can’t support a campaign where I might not have the same rights. I just got married. There’s lots of deep things that get into it … Hopefully things will be great.”
When artists self-censor, it cedes power to their oppressors. We understand their reasons, but their silence speaks volumes about how unsafe gay artists feel in the new regime.
But while those three remain quiet, gay writer Bryan Moylan has warned gay men against turning Melania into a gay icon like they have done with so many other fashionable First Ladies. In fact, Moylan says we need to criticize Melania for the active or inactive role she’ll take in her husband’s presidency:
If you look at the great pantheon of gay icons, each is a personification of how the gay community sees itself at the time. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were powerful women kept down by a society that feared and hated them. During the AIDS era, Madonna was fighting to push boundaries and to be accepted on her own terms, sexually and otherwise. Lady Gaga has stepped up to give a safe haven to all of the “monsters” not afraid to see just how far our acceptance goes in the marriage equality era.
Melania has nothing to offer us… She doesn’t want to be there, and she has no intention on making any impact or backing any significant cause. She’s willing to rub shoulders with all of the deplorables her husband can pack into the undrained swamp of his reign. That has to stain the sleeves of her gown. So I beg all of you to see this before we start Yaaaassssss-ing all over whatever she wears to the inauguration. The whole family needs to be targets of our contempt, not just the one in charge.