Gays Are Like Snowflakes
It’s all about the gays these days. Never before in America have the gays been so front and center in public consciousness, especially now that President Obama has revealed that he supports gay marriage (in principle–he’s still hedging his bets by declaring that it should remain a states’ rights issue), and Newsweek has boldly declared him “the first gay president.” (Bill Clinton was known as the first black president, which begs the question: If Hillary is elected to the country’s highest office in 2016, will she be the first black lesbian president?) Now that gay marriage is poised to be a wedge issue in the presidential election (following hot on the heels of the anti-gay bullying campaign, more of a wedgie issue), you could say that it’s almost fashionable to be gay these days–fashionable, that is, as long as you’re the right kind of gay. If you’re a flag-waving, military-supporting, monogamy-advocating, family values type of gay. A gay who looks and behaves like most other average American citizens except for the fact that he or she likes to schtup a human of his or her own gender. I doubt very much if America is quite ready for the first transgendered president (which, following the current logic, could easily be, oh, say Reverend Al Sharpton, for example), or to have a Commander in Chief who furnishes the Oval Office with a sling and a St. Andrew’s Cross. More’s the pity.
But let’s not deal in stereotypes. Gays are like snowflakes. No, I don’t mean they melt on your tongue (well, some do). I mean no two are exactly alike, particularly in terms of their sexual identity and behavior. Back in the 70s and early 80s, many of the gays actually went out of their way to look and act exactly alike, adopting a style and attitude so similar that they became known colloquially as “clones”: the bushy moustache and sideburns, the single earring in the right ear lobe, the leather vest, the form-fitting white t-shirt tucked into snug, hi-rise jeans showcasing an ample basket, white tube socks, sneakers or boots. It was an image designed specifically to identify oneself adamantly as homosexual, to express solidarity with one another, to project a highly masculinized (at least in theory) and sexualized posture, and to suggest a stance of visible militancy–an army of (gay) lovers, as it were. At the time I loathed this conformist look, and did everything I could to avoid it, including wearing multiple piercings, make-up, a mohawk, and the occasional skirt. But now I look back almost nostalgically at the extreme statement these gays were making (in the same way that I also similarly wax nostalgic at times about lesbian separatists), adamantly asserting their difference by all being the same. Today’s conformity, sadly, is much more sinister.
The problem with the new “born-this-way,” absolutist gay mentality--partly adopted, it would seem, out of a kind of political expediency--is that it fixes sexual identity and behavior in very limited terms. It’s as if Freud’s theory of constitutional bisexuality (that everyone is born with bisexual potential, and is more or less socialized into a sexual preference during infancy and early childhood) never existed. (I personally tend to subscribe to this theory, with the addendum that certain hormonal and environmental variables during pregnancy can create a predilection in the child to be oriented in one direction or the other.)
Sexologist Alfred Kinsey developed his famous Kinsey scale, situating sexuality on a continuum between 1 and 6, 1 indicating absolute heterosexuality, and 6 indicating absolute homosexuality. That left a sizable percentage of the population floating somewhere in the middle, having had a certain amount of homosexual and heterosexual desires or experiences. I happen to be a Kinsey Six, or maybe even a Seven, but I’m not particularly proud of it: to me it just means that I’m a repressed heterosexual! (Just as a Kinsey One–or Zero--could be regarded as someone who has repressed his homosexual potential.) Insisting that gays are born that way tends to imply that “straights” are also born that way, when common sense and countless examples of human sexual behaviour suggest that human sexuality is far more fluid than that. I’ve known many gay men who have had a particular fetish for bagging straight males (even tea-bagging them), and they’ve had a wildly successful track record. (And I’m not talking about gay for pay, either.) My movies are often about “straight-identified” males who nonetheless willingly and enthusiastically have homosexual sex (hustlers, neo-Nazis, what have you) without really registering the contradiction. And what about “institutional homosexuality” (an unfortunate term): men in prison or in the military who shag each other when there are no women available, or vice versa? (The same formula applies to religions that segregate the sexes.) The sexual urge is evidently reasonably adaptable, witnessed by men in prison who turn their towels into turbans (i.e., adopting a sexually passive homosexual role), and by what we used to call “political lesbians”–women who turn to other women for sex because they (understandably) can’t stand men.
The problem with the new gay agenda is that it wants everyone to choose a side (you’re either born this way or that way), and then acquiesces to the idea of both sides conforming to the social and sexual configurations and traditional gender roles of the dominant culture–a kind of heteronormativity for homos, or what might now be called “homonormativity.” It’s not exactly what you might call a sexual revolution.
Previously - Unpublished Polaroids: Hostage Redux