Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert.  Is there anyone in North America, or the world, for that matter, who doesn't know what he did during his performance at the "American Music Awards" on Sunday, November 22?

For those of you who don't know, Lambert closed out the show with a rendition of "For Your Entertainment," the first single from his new CD by the same name, by flipping off the audience, laying a wet one on the mouth of a male band member, and simulating fellatio, among other things. According to many, his performance was shocking, offensive, vulgar and lewd.

Here's what's commonly known about Adam Lambert:  He was second runner-up during the most recent season of "American Idol" (many believe he should have won); he is arguably one of the most talented and original singers and performers ever featured on the popular talent show; and he's gay, having publicly come out in a "Rolling Stone" interview shortly after the winner of "American Idol" was announced (although he admitted during a recent, year-end Barbara Walters interview that he's been out since he was an adult).

I have mixed feelings about Lambert.

On the one hand, I support him completely.  I'm one of many who thought he should have won the whole she-bang on "American Idol," although I understand why he didn't want to.  I'm proud of him, as I'm sure many gay men are:  He's out; he's attracted a lot of positive attention for his talent and showmanship; and he's very much his own person.  Despite his unmistakable flamboyance, including wild hairstyles, make-up, and attire, I think, as an individual, he's a good representative of gay men in general.  He's brash, outspoken, and clever, yet he's also gracious, polite, and respectful.  And, as if that isn't enough, his spot-on voice and ease on stage make him someone to watch in the months and years ahead.

But, having said that, I don't see how I can ignore his over-the-top performance at the "AMA," leaving him tainted, in my eyes and in the eyes of many.  In interviews subsequent to that performance, he admitted he got carried away in the moment while on stage, and that he pushed the envelope by conducting himself in a manner that some could find offensive, but he stopped short of apologizing.  I applaud him for that.  I don't think he needs to go so far as to apologize for what he did, but I certainly think he needs to be more aware of his audience the next time he performs on national TV.

I think he also needs to be aware of the example he sets of gay men in particular.  As one of the most visible gay men in the world, garnering plenty of attention, good and bad, Lambert needs to be concerned not only about his career, and anything he might do to damage it just as it's taking off, but also about how he makes the rest of us look vis-a-vis his impulsive antics on the stage.

Where I'm conflicted about Adam Lambert is wanting to support his right to be himself and to perform however the hell he wants to, using his voice and talent fully and how he sees fit--because, after all, he is an artist--but wondering what effect his "AMA" performance will have on the reputation of gay men overall.  In the perfect world, perhaps Lambert will hurt no one but himself, but, I think more likely, he helped to perpetuate some of the negative feelings and attitudes many people have toward gay men already.

I think Lambert's sexually charged performance played into what many people already believe to be true about gay men--that we're all about sex, that we have only have one thing on our minds, and that, for that reason, we can't be taken seriously.  And that's where it hits me as a gay man because one of the most important points I've tried to get across in my writing is that I'm not just about sex.  That, in fact, I'm a full and complete, well-rounded human being, who also happens to be gay, and, as such, there are certain things I want (which I wrote about in the post "Why We Must Be About More Than Just Sex to Get What We Want"), which we won't achieve if people think we're all like Adam Lambert.

I think Adam Lambert had such a great opportunity, as an out gay man with so much talent and ability, to show the world, in so many ways that most of us can't, that gay men are not what people think they are.  I don't mean to put this burden on him, because I understand he still needs to be true to himself and perform in a way that is authentic for him.

But I think there's so much more going on here.  That gay men need every positive role model to help change people's minds about us, to put the stereotypes to bed once and for all, and to help earn some of the respect we all want.  For me, the ultimate goal is to make being gay less and less of an issue, and to make being a human being more and more of the issue.

As one of the most visible members of our community, I hope Lambert thinks seriously about the example he sets for all gay men on a national and international stage.  And I hope that, while he fulfills what will likely be a long and rewarding singing career, staying true to himself, that he sees himself in the greater context of the gay male community, and plays his part in helping us to gain the respect that we so rightly deserve.

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