274. draconian

Standard

https://twitter.com/noahmichelson/status/813177921875677184


black_forest_gateauA few months ago, I experienced something that hadn’t happened in a while.

Now, I’m not reticent about my sexuality.

True, I don’t talk about it non-stop, and (contrary to how much I write about the subject) it isn’t the sole thing that defines me. But if asked or if I am in company where gender and sexuality are discussed, I am not shy about opening up about my experiences.

So it takes me aback when I have to come out to someone.

This episode happened following a gathering of friends in November as we were discussing a post-Thanksgiving get-together at my house. One of our newer attendees asked whether the decor would be Thanksgiving-themed.

“Decorating really isn’t my thing,” I said, and then joked, “I tend towards more of a sparse Scandinavian style, myself.”

She gave a look of mock surprise. “What kind of gay man are you?” she exclaimed. She was mostly joking (I think), but there was a hint of true incredulity in her tone.

I got this a lot in the first few years after coming out. Women would assume that I wanted to check out hot guys with them and provide brilliant, witty insights on the male psyche in between shopping breaks or redecorating their living room.

Sorry, heterosexuals. Your token queer I am not.

However, the episode got me contemplating the assumptions people might make about me as a gay man (specifically, what I’m interested in and who I have sex with), the various tropes and trappings of gay culture, and whether or not it was helpful to continue identifying that way.


Since the end of this past semester, I haven’t had much to occupy/distract my mind, so I’ve been mulling over what it means to be demisexual.

The common usage is to treat it as an adjective: you might only fuck people you have a close emotional bond with, but you’re still gay.

“You’re still one of us,” seems to be the subtext.

However, the fact that I experience sexual attraction but rarely, and then only with men with whom there is a strong emotional connection, indicates that I seem to fall more on the asexual spectrum rather than the homosexual.

It’s not that I’m seeking a label to define myself by, or a tribe to identify with, but rather to better understand myself (short-term goal) and hopefully develop strategies for managing friendships and finding a partner (long-term goal).

The challenge of dating is summed up in an article by Emma Lord:

… while you can generally tell on a first date whether or not you’d want to be friends with someone, it’s nearly impossible for a demisexual person to decide whether or not [they’d] be sexually attracted to [you] without the element of friendship and trust already in place… And you can’t exactly explain your feelings to someone you just met, particularly in an age when not engaging in romantic or affectionate activity on dates is considered a rejection.


While I have expressed frustration with the hypersexuality of large parts of the gay community, I am still cognizant of the history and significance that underlies its various communities and institutions.

Pride parades, for example, emerged shortly after the Stonewall Riots in 1969, and was a radical and political act of defiance in an age when being out was illegal. Although derided by many now as commercial and mainstream, they encouraged unity and solidarity in the face of oppression and later as friends and lovers were dying during the AIDS epidemic.

Gay clubs, too, served as safe spaces for self-expression, identity building, and community networking. Same for institutions such as white parties, drag shows, and leather bars.

Writers and activists encouraged LGBT people to reject the heteronormativity they had been raised with, to throw off the shackles of “traditional” models of sexuality and relationships, and express their liberation via total sexual freedom.

Kiyoshi Kuromiya wrote in the Philadelphia Free Press in 1970,

“Homosexuals have burst their chains and abandoned their closets… We come to challenge the incredible hypocrisy of your sexual monogamy, your oppressive sexual role-playing, your nuclear family, your Protestant ethic, apple pie and Mother.”

So, I get that all that silently informs, shapes, modern gay life.

Yet it doesn’t feel like my history, my institutions, ones that feel true to who I am.

Thus, when someone assumes I am mad for decorating, dress shopping, strapping on a leather harness, or running upstairs for a quick romp in the sheets, it feels like a denigration of my needs, values, and identity.

That the only way to be is to be a gay clone.


There’s another variable at play, however.

Yesterday, I learned that a friend of mine is randomly connected to Seth. (Yes, that Seth, of the 2011 birthday.) I noticed my friend had commented on a post of Seth’s, and asked how they knew each other. Turns out they’re in a gayming group.

My friend wrote: “There’s an inkling at the back of my head that I should be wary of him, though.”

Even though it’s been nearly six years, the shockwave of that night still ripples, supernova-like, through my life today.

Seeing that name again, catching a glimpse of his thumbnail profile picture, brought a sea of unwanted emotions and memories back.

That incident, and a handful of others (where I’ve experienced attraction, decided to open myself to the possibility, and been rejected), left me distrustful of my taste in men and ability to make healthy romantic decisions for myself.

I seem only to find myself attracted to impossible guys, or to guys who will end up using me for sex or to stroke their fragile male egos until they got what they came for.


I don’t know if other guys, the George Michaels etc, are simply satisfied with surface-level intimacy, if that’s all they want, or if they simply experience it in different ways.

Can any of us know?

Am I this way because of genes… Seth… my parents?

Who knows.

It is what it is.

265. stultify

Standard

Demisexual_FlagEarlier this year I touched on realizing that, in addition to being gay, I’m also a demisexual.

After a great deal of reflection over recent experiences, I’ve made the decision to no longer identify as gay. For reasons I’ll get to in a few hundred words, I identify chiefly as a homoromantic (or androphilic) demisexual.

To explain, I’m going to respond to questions from an online “Are you a demisexual” test. It’s not scientific at all, but does hit on some of the key aspects of the demisexual identity.

Here we go. This will probably go over my 1,000-word limit, but to hell with it.


1. I fall in love with the inner character of a person after becoming close to them. Their outer qualities are unimportant to me.

This is a mixed bag. While there are physical characteristics about guys that I do and don’t find attractive, and am more likely to find attractive, there are things that become non-issues if I’ve fallen for a guy’s inner beauty.

2. When experiencing sexual pleasure with another person I haven’t bonded closely with, I focus more on the feelings in my body than on my attraction to the person.

This was definitely true during my slutty hookup years. Sex was something I pursued because I thought that’s what gay men were primarily interested in, so it was something I thought I should pursue. While the sex was sometimes good and there were things I enjoyed doing, it wasn’t much different from masturbating. It was only with guys who I felt a strong connection to, like Seth, where physical pleasure became more transcendent, where I could get out of my head and focus on my partner. That happened only a handful of times.

3. I’m aesthetically attracted to certain people’s faces and bodies, but I’m rarely interested in them sexually.

Case in point, Tom Daley. We’ve been watching a lot of the Olympics around the house, men’s diving in particular… for reasons. I recognize the attractiveness of the faces and bodies of certain guys, but don’t want to fuck them.

4. It’s extremely rare for me to take any sexual interest in the body of a stranger.

See previous.

5. I find relationships very daunting and difficult. Sometimes I’ve gone into them without having any true feelings of attraction.

While there were aspects of my previous boyfriend, Jay, that I liked and was attracted to, I wasn’t attracted to or in love with him. Fear of being single at age 30 overrode my better judgement.

6. I’ve never experienced “love at first sight”.

I experienced what may have been a version of this with Seth the first time we met, but it wasn’t love. It was the idea of him I found attractive.

7. I’ve been single a lot longer than most people I know.

Type “single” into the search box above and see how many entries return.

8. I’d much prefer to masturbate than be sexually involved with a person I have no feelings for.

See answer to question 3.

9. I have a libido, but I rarely sleep around. The thought of having a “one night stand” makes me feel a bit sick.

This is what complicates everything. I do miss sex. Namely, the good parts of it, fleeting moments where I felt a connection, where I got the faintest taste of what I’ve been looking for.

10. Sometimes I find myself developing sexual attraction in close platonic friendships.

This has been one of the biggest benefits of realizing I’m demisexual—understanding why I tend to fall for guys I get close to. It doesn’t necessarily help me not fall for anyone, but it does help contextualize what’s going on.

11. Watching lustful scenes in movies rarely makes me horny. I find them either boring or amusing.

I’ve definitely experienced this while watching movies with gay guys, especially scenes depicting sex between men. I only find myself getting turned on if there’s a suggestion of emotional connection and intimacy between the characters. Otherwise it’s just weird.

12. I notice that the culture I live in is very sexually-charged, so I tend to feel a bit alienated.

Definitely true of me when I’m around gay men. Everything is about sex in some way, whether it’s innuendo, an overt comment about the speculative size of a guy’s cock, or discussion about some fetish someone’s into.

13. I rarely cheat in relationships.

See question 15, below.

14. I’ve never understood the attraction to porn. I’m not at all aroused by it.

This is and isn’t true for me. As with question 11, the only porn I find at all arousing is depictions of actual couples in which there’s real affection and intimacy.

15. When I’m in a relationship with someone who I’ve bonded closely with, it’s almost impossible for me to feel sexual attraction to anyone else but them.

Jay and I had several three-ways when we were together. For me, it was a kind of dissociative experience where it was difficult to stay aroused with the other guy. The only good time for me was when I bottomed for him and a friend of ours, and <rant> I was reminded of what it was like to be with a partner who didn’t just lie there and expect me to do all the work.</rant>

16. Sometimes in close friendships or relationships I spontaneously develop sexual feelings of attraction. It confuses me.

See answer to question 10.

17. I often feel asexual. I’m just not that attracted to people.

See answers to questions 3 and 9.

18. I’ve been called “cold” or “frigid” before in relationships.

This is unfortunately true, and in hindsight it was a consequence of not actually being emotionally attracted. It was confusing for everyone.

19. I’ve only been attracted to a very small number of people in my life. I rarely have crushes.

Genuinely attracted, yes. There have been brief crushes and flings, but they never lasted. Seth was the closest thing I’ve had to a long-term attraction.

20. I’m extremely uncomfortable with sexual advances from other people.

Huge YES to this concerning gay guys. It’s not just that I’m not emotionally attracted to them. A major part of the discomfort is that I realize they, as gay males, think I’m similarly wired to them, and want the same things—fun, flirty, frivolous, no-strings-attached sexy times. This ends up making me feel even more broken, hopeless, and out of place than ever, and combined with the sense of missing what moments of physical and emotional intimacy I’ve had (along with the existential worry that I’m never going to find a guy with whom to build that sense of home I’ve been writing about) becomes intensely, emotionally upsetting.


So those were the questions. It wasn’t scientific by any means, but it really helps paint the picture of how I’ve been mislabeled all these years. Just because I’m attracted to other men doesn’t automatically make me gay. There was another prefix that was always a better fit.

118. filiopietistic

Standard

filiopietisticadjective: Pertaining to reverence of forebears or tradition, especially if carried to excess.


So much for my 2012 pseudo-resolution of trying to disengage from the whole religion debate and foster more positive, constructive dialogues with Christians and other people of faith. (That lasted all of a couple of days.)

What this really more likely indicates is my growing need for serious psychological counseling to get over all of the various issues related to my religious upbringing.

And Seth, of course.

(Note to self: need to get over that…)

The other day I ended up embroiled in a rather tense verbal scuffle with a fundamentalist Christian on Facebook. A friend of mine posted that he felt it was odd that his Christian university “has portraits of Martin Luther King Jr. posted up on campus, celebrates black history month, considers itself a “Reconciliation” school [whatever the hell that means], and yet, still considers homosexuality a sin.”

One of his friends posted in reply:

I think the Bible is pretty clear that pursuing a homosexual lifestyle is a sin. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable for a Christian school to take that stance. “Why is God calling me to a life of celibacy?” is a very, very difficult question to answer. That’s probably why people don’t have good answers for things like that. But as God says, “My Grace is sufficient for you,” and Paul responds, “I will boast in my weaknesses, for in my weaknesses God is strong.”

Perhaps the reason why people “don’t have good answers for things like that” is because there aren’t any good reasons why a gay person should even have to choose a life of celibacy, or endure abuse for being gay in the first place.

The incredible thing is that these people don’t see themselves as hateful. In fact, they seem genuinely dismayed when accused of being such for saying things like this. Even when you attempt to explain how their speech may be perceived as disparaging, they still appear unable to grasp why gays might resent them for saying to a gay man or a lesbian that they can either turn straight or be alone for the rest of their lives. Yet millions of gay Christians have swallowed that toxic sludge and have obediently attempted just that.

I’m not calling them sinners,” fundamentalists exclaim. “The bible calls them sinners!” My parents used a line like this when they found out I was gay. And I have to believe that they really believe that they think they’re loving gays by “proclaiming the Truth.”

However, the case for homosexuality being a “choice” is now rapidly falling to pieces—something even the other side is having to admit. Alan Chambers, the president of the floundering ex-gay group Exodus International (the group whose two founders left the organization, apologized for starting it in the first place, and got married to each other), said this at a meeting of Christian homosexuals:

“The majority of people I have met, and the majority meaning 99.9% of them, have not experienced a change in their sexual orientation or have gotten to a place where they can say they have never been tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction.”

Now, I highly doubt that 99.9% is a scientifically based estimate, but his statement is staggering. Chambers just admitted that “conversion therapy” doesn’t work!

So, if it apparently isn’t possible to successfully “cure” homosexuality, we’re left with two logical possibilities:

  1. Jesus isn’t powerful enough to cure it.
  2. There’s nothing there to cure.

Later on in the message thread, the guy on Facebook actually had the nerve to say this:

Our own sin distorts our perceptions of right and wrong. Our hearts are full of selfishness, lies, anger, and lust. We twist and abuse all the good things God gives us. God didn’t create alcoholics. He created the ability for us to make alcohol and we distorted its purpose.

Yes, he pulled out the old “Homosexuality is an addiction—just like alcoholism!” argument. However, many of us grew up in predominately heterosexual environments, with nothing to become addicted to. Most of us weren’t abused by an older male relative who twisted our perceptions of ourselves and our sexuality. The evidence is mounting in the scientific community that homosexuality is a natural variant of human sexuality.

But let’s be honest: Even if you present him/her with the evidence, a die-hard Evangelical Christian is still going to cling to the party line and insist that homosexuality is a sin.

For those of you lucky to not have been brought up in the fundamentalist church, you’re taught right away that you live in world hostile to Christians and the Christian message. “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake,” says Mark 13:13. “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” You’re going to suffer for doing good (see 1 Peter 3—this is textbook paradoxical thinking).

And that’s why they don’t see their speech as hateful. They’re just doing their god-given duty in speaking the Truth as it’s been revealed to them. Our anger, therefore, is evidence of the testimony of the Holy Spirit convicting us of our sin, and that’s why we get so upset at them—because we know deep down that what they’re saying is true. And that’s why they say, “Hey, don’t shoot the messenger!”

Here’s the other part of it: “Men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed” (John 3:19-20).

So evidence be damned—even though every reputable psychologist, neuroscientist, and even biologist is saying there’s nothing wrong with the GLBT community, gays are still living in sin. And need Jesus to “take away the gay.”

You cannot understand religious conservative rhetoric without understanding this. They know people are going to hate them for “speaking the Truth.”

Ahhh, but their reward lies in Heaven…

114. ignorance

Standard

‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it.’ cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.’
— Dickens, A Christmas Carol, Stave 3: The Second of the Three Spirits

Full disclosure: I am angry right now.

If you follow GLBT news at all, one of the big items in Minnesota is the announcement on Tuesday[1] that the Anoka-Hennepin school board is considering an alternative to the Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy[2] that’s in place right now. This is the home district of Michele Bachmann, the anti-gay congresswoman whose husband Marcus(ss) runs the [Pray-Away-the-Gay] counselling clinic[3].

In case you aren’t familiar, the current policy prohibits teachers and administrators from talking about or interfering in matters concerning a student’s sexual orientation—including a student being bullied—the purpose being (and I’m speculating here) to protect school officials from being sued over insinuating that a teen is gay. What it’s created, however, is a culture in which GLBT teens have little recourse from bullies, and a culture in which nine students have committed suicide in the past two years, some of whom were gay or merely perceived to be gay.

Again, this is the home district of Michele Bachmann. And, not surprisingly, the Parent’s Action League, an ultra-conservative group, is protesting the new policy[4], stating that it is “being used as a pretext to advance a much broader agenda: the legitimization of homosexuality and related conduct to impressionable schoolchildren [and] will undermine the academic focus of this district and open the door to pro-homosexual and related conduct materials in the school curriculum thereby exposing students to concepts hostile to their religious faith and or moral convictions.”

So, “school safety” = “pro-homosexual.” Simply astounding.

MinnPost reported in an article on Thursday[5] that these parents also requested that, should this new policy be instituted, students also have access to information about conversion (i.e., “ex-gay”) therapy, a form of psychological terrorism that has been denounced and derided by every reputable therapist. They also demand that (and I’m not making this up) officials “provide the history of gay-related immune deficiency (GRID), AIDS, and the medical consequences of homosexual acts” and “provide pro-family, ex-homosexual and ex-transgender videos to secondary media centers.”

GRID, in case you don’t know, was the name initially proposed for the disease that became AIDS. In 1982.[6] It was promptly discarded for its inaccuracy[7]. Yet here it is again, in 2012, being referred to in a proposal by a bunch of right-wing, religious, anti-gay parents.

In Michele Bachmann territory.

This comes in the same month that the Tennessee General Assembly is meeting about the HB229 (a.k.a., “Don’t Say Gay”) bill[8] that’d make it illegal to even mention homosexuality in a public school, even though another 14-year-old committed suicide[9] this past week after he was relentlessly bullied at his school for being openly gay.

And we need to prohibit teachers from talking about homosexuality, as if that will stop kids from turning queer.

Just like we need to keep telling teens not to have sex before marriage, which is obviously going to stop teen girls from getting pregnant—just like it’s stopping them in Texas, which has the third highest teen birth rate[10], and the highest repeat teen birth rate[11], in the country. That’s one race you don’t want to come first in.

I am angry that there are still anti-sodomy laws[12] in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Montana, which means the police can technically arrest you in your own home for having “gay sex.”

I am angry that Oklahoma State Rep. Mike Reynolds is attempting to push new DADT legislation[13] that would ban GLBT citizens from openly serving in the National Guard (even though a similar measure was attempted in Virginia last year, and the federal government responded by threatening to cut their entire budget)[14], a measure that Rick Perry lent his support to by encouraging Christian Oklahomans to mobilize.

I am angry that a 16-year-old atheist student [15] in Rhode Island received violence and death threats after she sued her school to have an overtly Christian banner taken down. (This is supremely ironic, considering that Rhode Island was founded by Roger Williams in 1636 as a haven for religious freedom.)[16]

I am angry that an Oklahoma Republican, State Sen. Ralph Shortey, is actually pushing a bill that would (according to the website Talking Points Memo):

outlaw the use of human fetuses in food, because, as he says, “there is a potential that there are companies that are using aborted human babies in their research and development of basically enhancing flavor for artificial flavors.”[17]

Yes. Soylent Green is a tasty food additive made from dead babies.

I am angry that Rick Santorum (among other things) is publicly saying that he thinks that women who become pregnant after being raped should “make the best of a bad situation” and carry the fetus to term as a “broken gift from god.”[18] (This coming from a privileged white guy who will never have to face that scenario himself.)

I am furious that Tennessee Sen. Stacey Campfield (R) said that it’s “virtually impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex.”[19] Tell that to the 12 million women living with AIDS in 2009 in Sub-Saharan Africa, compared with 8.2 million men. (More on women living with AIDS globally at http://www.avert.org/women-hiv-aids.htm.) Tell that to the children—born of heterosexual parents, mind you—who were infected at birth.

I am furious that the Catholic Church still advises against condom use[20], in places like Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas where it could save millions of lives, under the notion that condom use will encourage fornication and prevent procreation.

I’m fucking angry.

That is all.


References:

  1. Baca, Maria. “4 of 6 on Anoka school board back new policy on sexual orientation.” StarTribune. 24 Jan 2012.
  2. Anoka-Hennepin School District. “Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy.” 9 Feb 2009.
  3. Benjamin, Mark. “The Truth Behind Marcus Bachmann’s Controversial Christian Therapy Clinic.” Time Magazine, 15 Jul 2011.
  4. Lindquist, Bryan, and Michael Skaalerud. “Concerns & Demands.” Parents Action League, 09 Jan 2012.
  5. Hawkins, Beth. “Learning Curve.” MinnPost, 26 Jan 2012.
  6. Altman, Lawrence. “New Homosexual Disorder Worries Health Officials.The New York Times, 11 May 1982.
  7. Altman, Lawrence. “Outlook on AIDS is Termed Bleak.The New York Times, 13 Jun 1988.
  8. Towle, Andy. “Tennessee’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill is Back for Another Try.” http://www.towleroad.com, 17 Jan 2012.
  9. Huffington Gay Voices. “Phillip Parker, Gay Tennessee Teen, Commits Suicide After Enduring Bullying.” Huffington Post, 23 Jan 2012.
  10. 50-State and National Comparisons.” The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Nov 2011.
  11. Lowering the Teen Birth Rate in Texas.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 Jun 2011.
  12.  Murphy, Kevin. “Gay groups angry Kansas anti-sodomy law remains on books.” Reuters, 24 Jan 2012.
  13. Wright, John. “Oklahoma lawmaker seeks to ban gays from serving openly in state’s National Guard.” DallasVoice, 10 Jan 2012.
  14. Nolan, Jim. “Cuccinelli: Va. could exclude gays from National Guard.” Inside NoVa, 31 Jan 2011.
  15. Goodnough, Abby. “Student Faces Town’s Wrath in Protest Against a Prayer.” The New York Times, 26 Jan 2012.
  16. Rhode Island.” Worldmark Encyclopedia of the States. 2007. Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jan 2012.
  17. Rayfield, Jillian. “Oklahoma GOPer Proposes Bill To Outlaw ‘Aborted Human Fetuses’ In Food.” TPM. TPM Media LLC, 25 Jan 2012.
  18. Graff, Amy. “Rick Santorum: Rape babies are gifts from God.” San Francisco Chronicle. Hearst Communications Inc., 24 Jan 2012.
  19. Gittleson, Wendy. “Tennessee Rep. Says It’s ‘Virtually Impossible’ To Contract AIDS Through Heterosexual Sex.” Addicting Info. 26 Jan 2012.
  20. Bowcott, Owen. “Catholic church tries to clear confusion over condom use.” The Guardian. 23 Nov 2010.

107. defriend

Standard

Okay. I didn’t actually see it, but after seeing the commercials I had no intention to see it either. And after reading the reviews—most, if not all, of which were unanimously negative—I’m not sorry I missed the pilot of ABC’s Work It. This only crossed my mind because I came down to cook dinner while the roomies were watching TV and a spot came on for it, which sparked a conversation.

Even as a non-transgendered person, I find the very idea of the show offensive on several levels (and most of the reviews confirmed my suspicions). It makes a few ugly insinuations:

  • Puerto Ricans are drug smugglers.
  • All a man needs to do to pass for a woman is don a dress, bra, wig and high heels, and talk in a higher voice (think Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot, which Work It wishes it could but has no chance of ever being).
  • The only reason women have sales jobs is because men want to sleep with them.
  • Men are insensitive Neanderthals.
  • Even when pretending to be women, men are still more successful than those dumb, tampon-sharing women they’re impersonating (who, by the way, can’t tell the difference between another woman and a man obviously in drag).

This is the station that just had a news anchor, Dan Kloeffler, come out publicly as a gay man in October of 2011. ABC Family was voted the most gay inclusive network during 2010-2011. Shows like “Ugly Betty,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Modern Family” have prominently featured gay characters. One of my favorite shows (up until the 5th season, when it all sort of fell apart) was “Brothers & Sisters,” a show my parents deplored due to the inclusion of three openly gay main characters—two of whom were married in the show.

So now for it to come out with trash like Work It?

Counterpoint this with an incident a few weeks ago on Facebook where I ended up deleting a friend after he said that Hulu was “acting up” and was “gay.” When I called him out on this, he came back with, “Oh, c’mon dude, you know what I mean.” *winkwink-nudgenudge* To which I responded, “No. I don’t know what you mean. Enlighten me.” The eye-rolling came loudly through the screen when he came back with, “Gay as in stupid. Not gay as in homo.” (“Homo”?) Then several of his friends rushed to his defense, saying that I was overreacting. One guy even chimed in, “Hey, guy, I’m bi and I’m not offended.”

Right, because… oh, nevermind, I’m not going to get into bisexuality in males, which is pretty rare and often a way of cowardly eschewing the label of homosexual—as if to say, “hey, I like pussy too!” Because real men like vaginas. Even the ones who also like la bite.

The moral of the story is that I ended up de-friending him over the incident. That may be a bit reactive, but it would’ve been one thing if he’d thought it over and realized that using that particular word as pejorative might be hurtful and offensive to gays and lesbians. It was how little he and those who commented seemed to care, and the fact that nobody noticed the insidious logic. Because it’s not like anyone has been maligned, mistreated or murdered for being gay…

“Gay” came into use as a pejorative in the 1970s: “That’s so gay.” It was a way of putting down effeminate (and therefore “gay”) behavior in men, and quickly became an easy insult amongst young people who adopted it as slang. Gay = stupid (read: “those dumb faggots!”). Because, as we know, all gays are stupid. Just like the women of Work It who’re too dumb to realize that their new co-workers are a couple of dudes in really bad drag.

What bothers me is not so much that drag is being used for a cheap laugh. It’s one of the oldest stand-bys in theatre. They say that laughter fills uncomfortable silences (I’m not 100% who said that though), and what makes people more uncomfortable than seeing a male pretending to be a female, temporarily emasculating himself in front of an audience? Of course, when we’re all in on the joke it’s funny.

It’s not so funny when you’re the joke though.

It speaks to these deep-seated fears we have as a society about masculinity and the fragile thing that it is. It can be undone in an instant, which is why a woman can have a lesbian “phase” and go on to be a “normal” wife and mother, but a man is gay for life if he has just one sexual encounter with another man. It’s why the gay character (male or female) is such a staple: think Nathan Lane in Frankie & Johnny; Harvey Fierstein in Mrs. Doubtfire; Rupert Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding. With few exceptions, their sole function is to provide a clever foil to the protagonist and sage advice via witty banter. They are rarely given external lives beyond this, and aside from a few cliched bits (which are almost always played for a laugh, such as in Internal Affairs, when the characters played by Andy Garcia and Laurie Metcalf realize they are checking out the same woman) are essentially treated as non-sexual.

It makes the gay character a stereotype, someone so impossibly larger-than-life that he or she could never really exist in real life. And therefore an entity to not be concerned about.

Yes, using “gay” may be a trope for most people. I doubt images of homosexuals being burned alive in the Middle Ages, “corrective” rape, teens hung in Iran, or of Matthew Shepherd tied to a fence post and beaten to death spring to mind for them. Nor were the creators of Work It intentionally making light of issues that transgender people face everywhere—and not just in the workplace.

Yet they’re unwittingly reinforcing the notion that to be anything less than heterosexual is to be less than human.

52. the locus of language in sexuality

Standard

I was just asked about this tonight, and thought I’d write a quick post about it:

“Are you a top or a bottom?”

This is probably the most frequent question that comes up amongst gay men when entering into a sexual relationship. It helps to define sexual roles and lay out expectations about who will be, for lack of a better word, fucking who; who will be “dominant” and “submissive.”

For me though, this type of language and labelling isn’t very helpful, and is more indicative of the hetero-proxy sexuality that has permeated the gay community since it came into the mainstream back in the 1960s. Without going into a lengthy discussion of Eva Sedgwick or Judith Butler, I posit that this sort of boxing of gay sexuality into “top” and “bottom” is a mere co-opting of existing and established heterosexual roles rather than the fostering of a true and authentic expression of the Mars/Mars interaction that takes place between men in a sexual relationship. It assumes that one partner will play the part of the “man,” and the other, by extension, the part of the “woman”, which by inference presumes that “gay sex” = “anal sex”, when there are far more expressions of eros than the few we make do with. Many gay men have no interest in that at all.

Furthermore, such language limits and suppresses exploration between partners, and locks them into predefined roles such as “dominant” or “submissive,” bolstering the idea that a “bottom” is naturally the passive partner in the relationship, and that such a pairing is one of domination and  subjugation rather than an egalitarian one built on mutual love and respect.

This is not to say that we can’t or shouldn’t have preferences for one thing or another, sexually speaking. There are some guys who truly enjoy being “tops” or “bottoms.” What I’m saying is that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be defined and labelled by those preferences, just as I personally don’t think that I should automatically be labelled “gay” for having a preference for men, and more than mixed gender persons should be labelled “straight.”

Language like this has only served to divide us and promote stereotypes and misunderstanding. As Martin Luther King, Jr said, “Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.”