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Novus Homo: Responding to Snobbery in Gay Male Culture

What do White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) culture and gay male culture have in common? Why?

Joseph Griffin Cece


Early on in my senior year, I became fascinated by the similarities between gay men and WASPs. I wondered Why wasp culture and gay, white male culture look so similar? Why might a historically marginalized minority like gay men adopt snobbery and suffering as tenets of their own self-governed culture? And, does snobbery speak to larger truths about human nature? Are we all jerks? I found that snobbery was the central device which gay white men and WASPs shared. This project is an exploration of why and how snobbery is used in gay male culture, how we can address it, and ultimately how we can take the power out snobbery.


I researched cultural artifacts like the contrapposto, conducted fly on the wall research at JG Melon, and looked at past precedent in companies like Ralph Lauren and Rowing Blazers, All these resources led me to understand that whether for reasons real or imaginary, both Gays and WASPs use specific stylistic codes to identify each other, and for both cultures identification means survival.
My project went through many phases this semester, usually focusing on how I could invite the sub-minorities within the LGBTQ community to play a subversive role in this antiquated but still widely recognized cultural ethos. Through interviews and research it became clear that this is sort of like pointing out to a person of color that racism exists, and then creating an inclusive brand to fix it. I recognized that I would have to change my audience, and speak to the gay snob directly.


My new goal was to undermine gay snobbery by identifying how and when it is used, and by pointing out the silliness of the phenomenon. I decided to create a tongue-in-cheek handbook called The Gay Agenda. A survival guide on how to exist in the world of gay snobbery grabs the attention of the gay snob and invites him to identify the part he plays in the problem space.
This project takes cues from the Preppy Handbook, but uses the stylistic codes of gay male culture: irony, melodrama, camp, aestheticism, etc., to subvert the institution from which these codes originate. Hopefully the gay snob will follow the five stages of grief when reading The Gay Agenda: denial, anger, bargaining, depression… but most of all acceptance. If the Gay Snob can recognize his own snobbery, then perhaps we all have a chance of occupying a more-inclusive and kinder community.

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