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John Waters Urges Community to Embrace the “Gayly Incorrect”

May 1, 2008

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Infamous director honored in NYC for leadership in the LGBT community.

In the sublimely twisted way that only the mind behind films like Pink Flamingos and A Dirty Shame can, director John Waters exhorted the LGBT community to pursue a new, sex-positive stance that boldly offends adversaries and celebrates its home-grown freakiness. The 62-year-old underground legend turned mainstream provocateur spoke on April 7 in New York City, where the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force honored him with a New York Leadership Award.

Addressing the audience at the new headquarters of The New York Times in Midtown, Waters urged, “We have to make room for people who are gayly incorrect in this movement.” He suggested that many gay and lesbian activists could learn from the example of their more outrageous allies on the fringe, and unleash what traditionally makes them distinctive as a group. “Gay people should use their wit and their humor as terrorism to win,” he said.

One particular goal Waters had in mind was the White House.

“I’m really tired of liberals and Democrats who say, ’Oh, they stole the election last time,’” he said. “Let’s steal it this time.”

Other points on his political agenda included the need to continue the fight against censorship, the campaign to end capital punishment and efforts to mingle straight and gay crowds more often and more naturally in society.

“Separatism is defeat,” he warned.

Waters also took aim at elements that he sees as threatening the gay agenda, such as “trendsexual people, they’re the ones who do cunnilingus for politics.” He added, “Worse than them are the straight girls that get together to turn on straight guys. They should be punished.”

Of course, Waters was equally game to turn the scrutiny toward himself. He described his childhood and adolescence in Baltimore, telling the The New York Times, “When I was a child I wanted my skin to be that color, like the Wicked Witch of the West. Now, as I get older, it’s getting close. It’ll match the apartment.”

Pop icon Debbie Harry, who performed during the New York Leadership Awards, introduced Waters, mentioning her role in one of his earliest films, Hairspray. Other honorees recognized with Leadership Awards throughout the evening were New York Governor David A. Paterson and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

The biggest star of the night, however, appeared to be Matt Foreman, who stepped down as executive director of the Task Force in April after five years of service. He will move on to lead the Gay & Lesbian Program at the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund in San Francisco.

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