Last night, I was in the audience for The Decemberists Pittsburgh concert at The Benedum. The crowd numbered about 2,800 and the house was sold-out (per the usher.) Our seats were pretty good (Orchestra, Row T) and while we did have one screamer near us, for the most part it was a congenial little cluster of fans in our section.
As you might expect, it was a good show musically and you, Colin, were very playful as you bantered with the crowd. Your team did a nice job filling in for the MIA opening act – that felt very special, like we were witnessing a jam session that would otherwise be off-limits to us. Kelly Hogan is something special.
It was cool how you worked in the word “funicular” referencing our inclines. Admittedly, I had to tell several people around me what a funicular is, but the jokes about french fry sandwiches were smashing successes. You acknowledged something unique about our City and – bonus points – something not sports related.
Unfortunately, you made a gaffe toward the end of the encore that undid a lot of the charm and relationship building. You were talking about Chris Funk being from Indiana and while obviously you wanted to rile us up with that reference, you quickly said he was a “good Indianan” because he is bi-curious.
What you didn’t know about Pittsburgh, Colin, is that last week the body of a local black bisexual man was found in the Ohio River. He had been missing since October and his funeral is planned for this weekend. While we don’t know how or if his identity or sexual orientation is a factor, we do know that his family is using fundraisers to pay for his burial costs. In fact, I received an update during the concert that we need $2,000 more to bury Andre. You are an affluent man so perhaps you’ll never have to ask stranger to donate to bury a loved one. It isn’t fun. People with little to spare donated $10 here and $20 there, often for someone they’ve never met. But a lot of people turn away. Is it because Andre was black? gay? bisexual? in the ball culture? We don’t know. A lot of people laughed at your joke so maybe there’s part of the answer?
How could you know any of this? I’m sure you don’t have time to read local blogs and most local newspaper coverage hasn’t reference Andre’s identity. And for the most part, the bisexual community in Pittsburgh is regularly erased and ignored by the mainstream gay and lesbian community.
The time I’m spending on this blog post is time I should be fundraising. I now wish I had donated the price of these concert tickets to the fund because I don’t want to be a fan of yours. I don’t want to sit with a tight smile as everyone laughs at your snarky insult. I don’t want to give you a pass because you are cool, progressive and really smart. After all, you were attempting to diss Indiana when you dissed bisexual people, right? It was a joke, man. Today is April Fools Day after all. Maybe I need to get a sense of humor? You are Colin Meloy. You are an ally, a white hat, a warrior, a poet. Maybe you get to make jokes.
Let me be clear – there is nothing wrong with anyone identifying as bicurious, of course. What’s wrong is implying that identity is something to be mocked or an identity to be assumed or that bisexuality is a teasing way to connect with the LGBTQ community. Your off-hand comment was a message to nearly 3,000 of my neighbors that it is okay to mock bisexual people. And that is definitely not cool.
So thank you for making my attempts to help raise money to bury Andre a little more difficult. Thank you for feeding a climate that erases bisexual identity. Thank you for reinforcing the worst stereotypes about educated white cis gender hipsters.
I realize that you will most likely never read this and I’m unsure you would care that I am calling you out for a thoughtless, unkind joke. I wish that you would – that you would acknowledge that words have power and that you would apologize for the comment. You know the power of words – your whole career is built on the power of language. I wish that you would do something to make it right, that you had words to show how apologies matter.
But maybe you could just stop making jokes about my bisexual sisters, brothers, friends and neighbors. Please.
I’m going to get back to fundraising to bury a man who was proud of his bisexual identity and who claimed that word with power.
For more information on bisexuality, please visit BiNet USA.
To contribute to the funeral expenses of Andre Gray, visit this link.
To contribute to the memorial and reward funds for Andre Gray, visit this link.