Pieter Tolsma, Karen Scarpella, George K. Gramer, Jr. and Tom Rockman weigh in on this week’s question.
Stuffy art theorists have been splitting logs open for centuries looking for what makes art ‘good’ or valid. I am a bit of an art fiend and enjoy few things more than taking in a performance, a painting, a song or some sort of artistic expression and sleuthing out its ‘meaning’ or message. I’m not going to solve it all here today but I will say that art requires an artist and a vision and therein is the answer to the question. I don’t think LGBT folk have any sort of monopoly on a biological artistic predisposition.
Forgive my arrogance at using my experience to explain art, but when I paint I do so because I feel things and want to express them but can’t find the words or choose to use a richer medium. I have a burning to need express something but sometimes I can’t find the words and in my case a paintbrush helps me get them out.
LGBT folk (and all minorities) experience the world differently and the art we create to voice ourselves speaks that difference. Society may not have the words necessary to speak our experience at times so we find other ways like art and perhaps this familiarity with the different avenues of expression sets us apart. If anything, the community should embrace this idea.
Pieter Tolsma is program coordinator of Denver PIQUE, a sexual health and social support program for gay/bi men in Denver.
George K. Gramer, Jr.
There are so many famous (and not so famous) LGBT artists, actors, composers, writers, and musicians for it to be a coincidence. There is likely a high incidence of LGBT in the arts as opposed to, say the National Football League Players Association or the Academy of Nuclear Scientists.
Look back at your high school years. Per capita, the glee club and the Thespians had a lot more people out (or out later in their life) than the football team or the wrestling squad.
The arts require a certain sensitivity to color, feeling, sound, form, and style. I believe that the people in the arts in general are more open and accepting of LGBT people.
In The Rocky Horror Picture Show there is a song entitled “Don’t Dream It Be It.” Actors, singers, comedians, and musicians need to be confident in public as they provide their performance. Many artistic LGBT people have done just that – and they are blessing the world with art, music, movies and theater, and in a host of other ways.
Iowa native George Gramer, Jr. is the president of the Colorado Log Cabin Republicans.
Are LGBT people genetically programmed to be more artistic? I’ll leave that for the scientists and geneticists to settle. In my opinion, good art comes from a combination of talent, practice to refine skills, and a personal need to express the human experience. LGBT people often experience a depth of self-reflection and authenticity of life experience based on a sometimes un-accepting society. Therefore, it follows that many LGBT people might choose to express their feelings and experiences through artistic means.
If this question refers to the stereotype of the artistic gay man, I wonder sometimes if that is part of gender norming. No one seems to be too shocked to hear about a gay figure skater, but our world is rocked by a football player who comes out as gay. Skating – woman’s sport. Football – man’s sport. Those in power who dictate the social rules have strict perceptions of what is acceptable for gender roles. Figure skating, being artistic, and making love to a man are all things that “society” has decided are activities for women. Men who do not follow these prescribed roles and rules are seen as deviant and have attention drawn to the fact that they might be gay. If these social rules weren’t in place, would more straight men engage in artistic pursuits and expressions? Hmmm…
Karen Scarpella, PhD, LCSW, is a licensed social worker and the Executive Director at The Gender Identity Center of Colorado.
Are GLBT people really more artistic than the general population? Depends on who you ask, but the proof is in the creative pudding.
Look around you. Haven’t you noticed how many GLBT creative types move to major metropolitan areas to be actors, agents, artists, comics, dancers, directors, entrepreneurs, fashion designers, female impersonators, musicians, photographers, producers, and writers here and abroad?
According to “The Secret of Creativity: An Oblique Perspective” by Dr. Nigel Barber, androgynous individuals (masculine women and feminine men) and immigrants have a higher propensity to indulge in “divergent thinking.” If a person naturally sees any given situation through different perspectives then he/she is adept at conjuring up a large number of unusual mental associations, which increases artistic productivity and complexity, he said. On the other hand, if a person belongs to the conventional mainstream then he/she thinks more simply (and convergently) by using straightforward logic and their associations are predictable and circumscribed, he said.
In “The Role of Brain Dominance in Sexual Orientation,” James Olson proposes that gay men and straight women tend to be right-brained dominated whereas lesbians and straight men tend to be left-brained dominated. The left hemisphere is dualistic; it sees reality in terms of a continuum and responds to problems by separating and deconstructing their component parts and analyzing the details, he said. In contrast, the right hemisphere is holistic; it sees reality in its state of oneness and interrelationship, and solves problems through synthesis, he said. Does that mean that gay men and straight women are more creative than lesbians and straight men?
“Openness to experience is consistently the strongest predictor of creative achievement,” says Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at New York University, interviewed by Carolyn Gregoire of The Huffington Post. “This consists of lots of different facets, but they’re all related to each other: intellectual curiosity, thrill seeking, openness to your emotions, and openness to fantasy. The thing that brings them all together is a drive for cognitive and behavioral exploration of the world, your inner world and your outer world.”
Tom Rockman Jr. is a card-carrying Yooper, former flyboy, queer journalist, DragNation fanatic, comedy/horror/sci-fi addict, aspiring policy wiz and online provocateur.