By D’Anne Witkowski
Asked by a group of high schoolers to share his thoughts about the LGBTQ community, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) said something stupid.
“I know a guy who wears a tutu and goes to bars on Friday night,” Enzi said, “and is always surprised that he gets in fights. Well, he kind of asks for it.”
So many problems with his statement. First, does he really “know a guy” who wears a tutu to bars every Friday? That seems oddly specific. And why did Enzi’s brain immediately go to “guy in tutu” when reaching for an example of a gay man? Also, does a guy wearing a tutu ask to get punched just a like a woman wearing [fill in the blank with literally any item of clothing you can think of] deserve to get raped?
Enzi has since apologized to anyone who was offended, but conservative commentator Erick Erickson was quick to come to Enzi’s defense.
Erickson wrote on his blog The Repugnant*, “If a guy walks into a bar in Wyoming wearing a tutu, he’s probably going to get punched […] and yes, the dude wearing the tutu shoulders some of the responsibility. He should have known better.”
Erickson, who refers to the LGBTQ community as the BLT&GQ community (get it? It’s a sandwich and a magazine. It is a very hilarious joke), writes that he’s “not condoning violence or even endorsing it. It’s just the reality of our world.”
But condoning violence is exactly what he’s doing. He’s saying men in tutus (a.k.a. homos) will get punched because men who don’t wear tutus (a.k.a. heteros) are driven to uncontrollable rage by such a sight and there’s nothing anyone can do so we must accept it.
“I’m really damn tired of all the people running around making other people extremely uncomfortable then screaming about their rights and privileges when called out,” Erickson writes. “If you want to go around making people uncomfortable, you’ve got the problem, not the rest of us.”
Actually, if you respond to being “uncomfortable” by balling your fist and smashing it into someone’s face, you definitely have a problem. That’s not normal. It’s demeaning to claim that men inherently lack self control or the ability to choose any response to discomfort other than violence.
Erickson has a message for “liberals in their coastal bubbles.”
“We are a culturally heterogeneous nation with diverse cultural norms,” he writes. “If a guy walks into a bar in Wyoming wearing make up and a tutu, he’s probably going to be asked to leave, if not picked on or punched. If you don’t like that, don’t go to a bar in Wyoming wearing a tutu.”
This is, of course, easier said than done. Because gay men don’t really run around in tutus, but men who are perceived as gay have a much greater chance of being beaten or killed. Women who are perceived as transgender even more so. LGBTQ people have gained much visibility and that visibility has translated into some important legal and civil rights victories. But it also comes at a price. A price that Enzi and Erickson cheapen when they dismissively talk of “tutus.”
Erickson may believe that staying safe is as simple as never leaving your house or living openly about who you are. But I doubt that’s a restriction he would stand for in his own life.
*Editor’s Note: Right after going to press we learned that Erickson’s blog is actually called The Resurgent, not The Repugnant. We do not regret the error.
D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.