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3 Apr 2012

The great diva divide

While many gay men adore and worship their respective pop divas, it's no reason to turn their backs on their gay friends just because they are loyal and are devoted to another, says Otto Fong who witnessed wars breaking out on his Facebook wall of late.

There is a popular story in the modern gay rights movement that is often said to have begun with the Stonewall riot in New York City. It was June 1969. Judy Garland, iconic star of the gay favourite The Wizard of Oz had just passed away. Many gay folks identified with the actress’s real life struggles, and many drag acts imitated her campiness. Some of them gathered on the fateful night of 28th June in a gay pub called Stonewall Inn, unsuspecting of the impending police raid. 

When the police arrived at the Inn and started arresting patrons, they had no idea their action was stirring already volatile emotions. The gay men, lesbians and transvestites were deep in mourning for their diva, and were in no mood for the harassment. An officer shoved a transvestite, who responded by hitting him on the head with his purse. As a lesbian struggled with an arresting officer, she shouted to the bystanders, “Why don’t you guys do something?” 

The crowd went berserk. The Stonewall Riots made history as the often-harassed bar patrons finally turned grief into anger and courage, and fought back against a government-sponsored system that persecuted sexual minorities. 

While the Riot was real, the Judy Garland connection was tougher to verify. The long-standing love affair between gay men and their divas, however, remains easily observable into the 21st century. Barbra Streisand and Kylie Minogue are just two examples of gay icons whose enduring careers are largely supported by legions of their loyal gay fans. 

I shall leave the more solemn task of analysing and documenting gay icons and their fans to scholars. The reason for me writing this article is simpler: friends. 

For the last few weeks, I sensed a lot of turbulence amongst gay friends and myself on Facebook. Cordial adults turned sappy, irrational and downright hostile. My Wall was first assaulted by news of Madonna’s leaked single, then a brief euphoria that she pulled off a huge performance at the Super Bowl halftime show. Hot on the heels was Whitney Houston’s drug-related drowning, and tributes bloomed as friends posted her old videos. Before the familiar tune of “I Will Always Love You” started fading, Madonna’s new album dropped. The hostility between fans of diva-in-training Lady Gaga (whom Madonna labeled “reductive”) and fans of Madonna was renewed. Somewhere in between, Adele won a truck load of Grammys and suddenly Gaga’s blond ambition for the Queen Bee’s hive no longer seemed assured. To some fans, it wasn’t enough that they adore one, but their friends must hate the other. 

By the relentless hair-pulling on every diva strand on Facebook, you would have thought someone just insulted someone else’s mother!

After a few bumpy exchanges, I learnt a few things:

1. It is silly fun to insist that one diva’s song/album is better than another, but don’t expect the other guy to drop his divas and embrace yours. The entire exercise is futile – no one will change their views. Taste is subjective. 

2. I shouldn’t feel guilty for caring about pop idols well into my 40s. I still care for a new Madonna / Gaga / Britney album, just as straight men my age are still cheering their favourite sports stars on the football fields or golf courses. Some like gifted sportsmen, some like strong female performers. 

3. Being commercial artists, pop divas are savvy, clever promoters of their works. Charlie Hides, Youtube’s favorite cross-dresser, learnt a supposed-war between Madonna and Gaga is more interesting than Madonna’s love fest with Britney and Kylie. He is earning hundreds and thousands of Youtube ‘likes’ by impersonating the two ‘feuding’ divas. Madonna herself knows very well that a simple word like “reductive” can trigger a fan war with Gaga’s little Monsters, and it just keeps her name on our lips and ensures her continued relevance.

I also learnt that I do not have to justify my views on any divas. I won’t pretend to miss Whitney Houston. She was richly rewarded for her good work with millions of dollars – including my money – and she was responsible for her choices in life. I won’t pay S$400 (US$320) to go to a Faye Wong concert because I prefer my divas to move a little bit more on stage. Those are my views, call me a bitch, I don’t mind. And my friends are fully entitled to their views as well. 

Finally, I learnt that, important as my divas are to me, they should not come between my friends and I. I can’t have tea with Maddy, and no amount of Adele can substitute a shoulder to cry on if I fall. When I cannot find a single tune from my 100,000 song collection to figure out my next step, the crucial voice will more likely be a phone call away. 

Judy Garland might be the star, but it takes a real handbag-wielding transvestite or a lesbian sister to start our revolution. Before you start a war with gay friends over diva trivia, remember who will be the ones who will truly be there for you. Save your fury and indignation for the people standing outside our hive – for those who are calling us undeserved names, for those who want to see us humiliated, and those who think our kind of love deserves jail-time. 

In short, love your divas, but love your brothers and sisters more.


1. 2012-04-03 22:28  
love your brothers and sisters more :)
thats all that matters
2. 2012-04-03 22:41  
It was either W.C. Handy or W.C. Fields who said, "The arguments are so petty because the stakes are so low."
3. 2012-04-03 22:53  
What is facebook?
4. 2012-04-04 02:47  
Madonna versus Lady GaGa? Oh, God. What about all the gay men and women out there who Don't give a damn about either of them; don't like or care about either Pop or Divas, and don't care to fit into the neatly self-defining and self-policing roles that 'the Gay community' so rigidly enforces?

As for Me, if asked to pick out 'female heroines', I'd much rather pick the likes of Christine Lagarde or Aung San Suu Kyi than a couple of OTT pop singers. Anything for cranky Not Gay Enough gay people like Me to read about? No? Thought not.

While I'm (not) on the topic, what about putting up a news article about the nonsensical new No Nudity/Sexualised contents rules that are coming in here, which Will drive lots of members to quit Fridae? I'm So annoyed about the "No nude photography" rule - not because I randomly have such pics, which I do, But because it's censorship, pure and simple, of an internationally established and valid art form - I find it Deeply hypocritical for Fridae's (rare) stories to report on the silencing and muzzling of gay people here and there, and crackdowns on gay artists/exhibitions - only for Fridae to now be prepared to do Exactly the same thing to its own members!


There! How about That for a story, eh? Madonna. Lady GaGa. Bah.
5. 2012-04-04 05:19  
This is sooo American! (But in France we can fight for or against Barbara, Dalida...)
6. 2012-04-04 06:10  
7. 2012-04-04 06:11  
8. 2012-04-04 06:49  
what load of rubbish ! like the music, yes , but idolising a pop star is over the top.
回应#9於於2012-04-05 13:00被作者删除。
10. 2012-04-04 09:49  
11. 2012-04-04 10:24  
there *does* seem to be a mass exodus away from fridae, so as they start censoring us, and people move elsewhere, it's good to know that in the ruins there will be two or three catty editors feverishly typing away at stories like this for the edification of the 5-6 people left.
12. 2012-04-04 11:59  
Totally agree ... Will not be renewing perks ever again .... It's Fridae not Facebook
13. 2012-04-04 12:10  
Yeah totally! What's Fridae thinking?! Just because we're "gay" we should let it all hang out no matter what others think or feel about it.

Our rights should include:
- showing photos of our private parts on Fridae or any gay website (of course, we will never expect or demand this right on mainstream dating websites such as OKcupid or Yahoo Personals, etc)
- appearing nude in public (cruise ships, beaches, gay pride parades)

Why not start a Facebook page to protest if you believe your rights as a (gay) person has been taken away if you think this is the same thing as anti-gay censorship in the arts, movies or mass media in Singapore or Malaysia, etc.
修改於2012-04-04 12:11:05
14. 2012-04-04 13:01  
Why is everyone hating on this article? I get that this is not hard news but many gay men DO idolize celebrities and can get extremely defensive while they're at it. The writer does make a point.

People like Madonna for an example stood up for Gay people when it was uncool and gay men found a affinity with her thereafter as many celebs in the 80s did not take risks like Madonna did. They started putting her on a pedestal and when people like lady gaga came along and voiced her support for the gay community, a new younger legion of fans came forward and this did create altercation between the two fandoms. It's like 1980s all over again and I think this is the point the writer is trying to make.

Calm down people..
回应#15於於2012-04-05 12:59被作者删除。
16. 2012-04-04 17:52  
Then Who own the thorn ?
回应#17於於2012-04-04 17:53被作者删除。
18. 2012-04-04 18:56  
Totally off-topic regarding the article but I have to say that Fridae seems to have lost the plot. It is nowhere near as good as it used to be under previous management.
19. 2012-04-04 22:34  
@15. Dude, quit yapping. I don't see anything wrong in asking people to chill.

You clearly seem stoked about leaving Fridae. If you're really having a colossal problem with the way things are turning out here, pack your stuff and leave.
20. 2012-04-04 23:55  
2012.. Try to remember George Michael's Praying For Time, folks..
21. 2012-04-05 00:02  
And yes, Adam Lambert's soundtrack of the movie too.. (now you don't see people having to bicker about these two singers).

Live, Love, Laugh my bros & sistas.. there are nations out there with no jobs nor means to make a living. Happy early-Easter..
22. 2012-04-05 00:49  

love this article for being both concise and precise.
I would like too add that many people are taking themselves way too seriously.

that said. I have said my piece regarding Fridae's recent photo policy on my blog post. not gonna repeat myself here but suffice to say that i was very disappointed.


23. 2012-04-05 00:59  
@19. the way you word it is just a bit patronising, that's probably why you've gotten more heat than you bargained for.

this is a part of the site created for reader comments. just like it says on the packet.

the notion that there ought to be calm and silence here is a bit of a nonsense, no?

24. 2012-04-05 07:41  
In the years since the riots occurred, the death of gay icon Judy Garland earlier in the week on June 22, 1969 has been attributed as a significant factor in the riots, but no participants in Saturday morning's demonstrations recall Garland's name being discussed. No print accounts of the riots by reliable sources cite Garland as a reason for the riot, although one sarcastic account by a heterosexual publication suggested it. Although, a witness said, she was saddened and amazed by the turnout at Garland's funeral on Friday, June 27, she said that she did not feel like going out much but changed her mind later. A social worker used to talk to the homeless youth in Sheridan Square, and said, "When people talk about Judy Garland's death having anything much to do with the riot, that makes me crazy. The street kids faced death every day. They had nothing to lose. And they couldn't have cared less about Judy. We're talking about kids who were fourteen, fifteen, sixteen. Judy Garland was the middle-aged darling of the middle-class gays. To link or even to suggest there was a link between Garland's death and the Stonewall riots rather upsetting because it trivializes the whole thing, said another witness at the time of the events.

PICS PROFILE (vault pics are excluded from being removed if I understood the new regulations)

"As a result of a management change the Asian social networking site that is based in Singapore fridae.com has just changed to fridae.asia"

Therefore fridae.asia (fa) is subject to Singapore laws, specifically to the Media Development Authority (MDA) which has issued Internet Industry Guidelines which specifies what Internet Content Providers (ICP) may or may not do/show/write.
The MDA main concern is the ease of access to pornography on the internet.

The question is therefore: is Fridae Management taking these guidelines stricto sensu or going beyond what is required.

Only Fridae Management can answer and therefore is kindly requested to do so for the sake of a continuing friendly and healthy relationship with its subscribers/members/friends
25. 2012-04-05 08:11  
@23. I did not ask for silence.. I asked for serenity. And yes, discussions and comments can be made calmly. It is not a out of the world concept, really..
回应#26於於2012-04-05 12:22被作者删除。
27. 2012-04-05 12:22  
What drivel, articles like this perpetuate the vapid gay stereotype.
28. 2012-04-05 15:06  
The article neglected to include my favorite divas Olivia Newton-John, Sheena Easton, Julie London, Shirley Bassey, Eartha Kitt, Vikki Carr, and Dionne Warwick! Unforgivable! (3 snaps in a Z-formation!)
29. 2012-04-06 01:00  
I don't care you fuck Madonna or he sucks lady Gaga。
It doesn't bother me how many Britney‘s album you bloody have or which pop divas you worship。

But I care about what kind of news articles Fridae provides to us to read, I’d care what things happened in gay community in different countries (not just USA).

I need to know the real reason of fridae's new photo policy.
I‘d care what Fridae will be as a gay website in the future
30. 2012-04-06 15:14  
Well said, Vercoda (#4). I am not renewing my perks subscirption
31. 2012-04-06 18:45  
1)But I care about what kind of news articles Fridae provides to us to read, I’d care what things happened in gay community in different countries (not just USA).

2)I need to know the real reason of fridae's new photo policy.
I‘d care what Fridae will be as a gay website in the future

I wish the top guys at Fridae.Asia will read 'and hear' your concerns, truly, as it seems the original purpose of this site has been a bit lost throughout the years !



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