(Photo by Bruce LaBruce)
Although I’m happy--if a tiny bit hurt at not being consulted--that VICE recently published The VICE Guide to Being Gay, I feel it’s my duty as a homosexual, at the risk of biting the hand that partially feeds me, to take issue with a few of the pronouncements made in this albeit politically incorrect (what else?) and partly tongue-in-cheek mini-manifesto. Of course, I realize that articles of this ilk tend to deal in generalizations and stereotypes in order to make broader observational (and comedic) points. But owing to the recent tendency within the gay “movement” itself (I hesitate to call it a movement anymore, considering how deeply entrenched it now seems to be in its assimilationist agenda) to characterize homosexuality as a biological imperative (thankfully, I’ve always considered myself maladaptive)—as an innate, preordained, and fixed characteristic—I bristle at any description that might be analogous to the false assertion that, for example, blacks have natural rhythm. Do gays have a natural predilection toward fastidiousness and the aesthetic dimension, an “interior decorator gene,” as it were? VICE has even published photos that directly refute this argument, and I can back it up with personal anecdotal proof.
"Sexuality isn't a preference so much as an innate characteristic," proclaims this Gawker scribe, writing about the redundant coming out of Anderson Cooper, with the typical ultracrepidarianism familiar to the subject. How I wish people would stop making this claim! As I recently argued on social media, there's absolutely no definitive scientific proof that it's true, and it discourages people who may be identified as heterosexual from exploring their homosexual potential, and vice-versa. When exactly did all this essentialist nonsense become the popular narrative? It may be more politically expedient, but it really amounts to a failure of the imagination, and only serves to play into the new dire homonormativity. I’ve already argued my position on this in VICE so I won’t go into it again, but it’s this same false reasoning that creeps into The Guide to Being Gay. It’s a convenient way for the straight-identified to dismiss or deny their own bisexual potential (“I wasn’t born with gay characteristics or tendencies, so therefore I can’t possibly be that way”). But it also kind of takes all the fun out of such entertaining concepts as sexual ambiguity, homosexual panic, and good old-fashioned queer recruiting. As the LAH, the League Against Homosexuals, used to say on their pamphlets distributed on my old university campus, “Queers don’t produce, they seduce!” To me, it always seemed like a ringing endorsement.
The first irritating pronouncement that stood out to me in the Guide was the old saw “everybody already knows” when you come out. In my experience, this is demonstrably not true. I’ve known many effeminate males, myself included, who’ve spent a long spell in the closet before mincing out, and it’s true it wasn’t much of a surprise. But I’ve also seen guys come out who no one could have guessed were gay, and I’m not just talking about homophobes that feel they have to speak out loudly and regularly against homosexuals and/or brag about how many females they’ve bagged, either. (That’s rather obvious, too.) Almost anyone can turn out to be gay, or be turned out, if they’re lucky.
The second exasperating misconception in the Guide, which is usually a syndrome of the citified fag, is that gay men and lesbians have nothing in common. This is absurd, considering that they obviously have something very fundamental in common: They both like to fornicate with a member of their own gender. This has led to quite a lot of solidarity between the two camps over the years. For a heartbreaking example, you might want to check out David Weissman’s moving documentary We Were Here about the history of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, in which he chronicles how the lesbian community in that city came together to become caretakers for the many thousands of gay men who fatally contracted the disease. As the film points out, gay men have not always been very welcoming of lesbians, and shamefully there has been a strong strain of misogyny in the gay male community, but in general, most of the smart, sophisticated, and enlightened gay men I’ve known have always had close lesbian friends. It’s true, as the Guide indicates, that gay men and lesbians are often more likely to congregate in small towns, where there may only be a single homosexual watering hole, but that only serves to demonstrate that they can and do famously co-exist. If city gays hang out only with other gays, it usually means they’re boring, unadventurous, and parochial queens who think vaginas smell like fish. I have an announcement for these bitches: You’re basic.
Moving swiftly along, the idea in the Guide that “straight men are not seducible” is patently ridiculous. I’ve never been successful at it myself—in fact, whenever I’ve tried it in the past, the heterosexual in question usually says something to the effect of, “I’ve often thought about having sex with a dude, but then I meet someone like you”—but I’ve had many gay friends who are expert at it, and as proud as big-game hunters at their prowess in that department. Even more preposterously, the Guide advises, “It’s probably best not to even get drunk in situations where you are likely to have to interact with a straight person.” Oh, do you mean, like, everywhere, all the time? Gays don’t exclusively hang out with one another as much as they used to, except in Chelsea, so chances are you are going to be drunk in the company of a straight person sometime soon. And it will probably be fun. And you may even end up in bed with him the next morning. I mean, haven’t you ever heard of the “Christ, was I drunk last night” syndrome, as popularized in the original gay guide, The Boys in the Band?
I can only hope the Guide was being ironic in the latter instance, or when it declared, “The majority of gays have incredibly bad taste.” This may be truer today than it was in the past, owing to the fact that homosexual tastes, which were once more avant-garde and unconventional, have become misguidedly mainstream, in line with the heterofascist majority. But in general, I think it’s probably more to the point that everyone has bad taste these days, with a few notable exceptions.
Finally, I’m afraid that the Guide has a rather distastefully condescending attitude toward two of the most maligned members of the homosexual world, the aged and the transgendered. (And goddess help you if you’re both.) It entreats gays to “be nice” to the poor transsexuals, which sounds beyond patronizing. Darling, they’re not some pathetic underclass worthy of your pity, and they’ll probably kick your ass if you treat them as such. Regarding “old dudes”—a category for which I increasingly have a provisional membership—it states that, “I don't need to be having polite, get-the-fuck-away-from-me conversation with people in their sixties every time I enter a gay bar.” It’s a typically ageist, sophomoric attitude that suggests gays are only interested in sex with a simulacrum of themselves, that their gay elders couldn’t possibly have anything to offer in the way of experience, wisdom, or perspective, and that intergenerational sex is something akin to certain styles of torture. Hopefully my upcoming film Gerontophilia will help to dispel this tiresome partisanship.
Previously - An Interview with Nina Arsenault Continues
Bruce LaBruce Shorts screen this Friday, July 13, as part of Outfest:
Redcat, 631 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
The Bad Breast (Canada, 2010, 20 min); Give Piece of Ass a Chance (Canada, 2007, 13 min); Offing Jack (Canada, 2011, 14 min); Weekend in Alphaville (Canada, 2010, 21 min)