Wyatt Buchanan, writing on ScrippsNews, offers this short article that touches on “what it means” to be gay, and how that very phrase has a different meaning for each and every one of us. The title alone caught my eye: “A debate among gay men over values and goals.” It’s not often publicized–and when it is, it’s either ridiculed or completely disavowed–that we gay men do not subscribe to one mindset or agenda. But the plain truth is that just as there is no guidebook for straight life, there is no guidebook to gay life, either, and while straight men and women have practically an entire society on which to model their behavior, gays do not. We have snippets of what we are shown, and that depends entirely on what we have access to at the time–books, TV, the internet–each one has allowed us to expand our visions of what “being a gay man” can be, but none are all-encompassing, and rarely is a book or TV show an ideal fit for how we feel about ourselves. In short, while there are plenty of voices telling us what we shouldn’t be–including others who are homosexual themselves–there are few positive voices telling us what we should be, or even what we can be. Certainly very few gay-positive voices have any compelling ideas, and the entire concept of “values and goals” has never been one lauded by –and I use this phrase hesitantly–“the gay community.”
As these men discuss modern gay life, they confront what a New York City writer sees as the dominant message gay men have received about themselves after coming out.
Author Christopher Lee Nutter said the message was: “You need to be young, you need to be sexually powerful, and you need to be fabulous.”
Painfully true. One of my most vocal complaints about “the gay community” is that while we complain about how we “want society to accept us,” we often don’t accept each other. Oftentimes gays in their late twenties are still behaving as if they are teenagers: stick to your clique, badmouth the others, make sure you’re superficially pretty. Don’t hang out with the fatties, make sure you sow your share of oats while you’re still young enough to, honey . . .
Honestly, sometimes it makes me physically ill. I mean, there’s a reason I don’t link to certain blogs, where superficiality is all the rage. And they seem to be very popular. That’s what I don’t understand. Why do we reward effette bitchiness–just for the sake of it–with more attention? These are the role models of tomorrows young queers, and it scares the hell out of me, because they exemplify this attitude: if you’re going to be gay, do it RIGHT, or you’re nothing. NOTHING.
When Nutter began questioning the sexual and social freedom of contemporary gay culture, people he knew discouraged him.
“My questioning was really diagnosed as a desire to go back in the closet,” he said.
See that? There’s the “self-hatred” meme I’ve seen so many times when trying to converse with other queers about gay conservatives, or religious gays, etc. Interestingly enough, the ones who are first to portray any sign of anything “not completely liberal” as “fascism” are the ones who practice what I deem “gay facism” themselves. They will ostracize you until it hurts. Don’t believe me? Try having a conversation about religion in a gay bar, or even on the internet in a gay forum. Good luck to you. Some moderate sites do exist, but they’re few and far between, and very hard to find.
And in a world where more and more teens are feeling more comfortable with the prospect of Coming Out, what do those teens have to look to for guidance? Nutter makes the point succinctly:
“Gay men are standing in the middle of a tornado, with the pope and the president on one side telling them one thing and ‘Will & Grace’ and ‘Queer Eye’ telling them another thing and the gay culture telling them another set of issues,” Nutter said. “I think that very tornado is what has directed a lot of men to say, ‘OK, who … am I going to believe? Am I believing Massachusetts, where I can get married? Or Cairo, where they’re going to put me in jail? Which one do I believe?’ Maybe neither.”
That’s it in a nutshell: Maybe neither. The message the gay community needs to spread among queers young and old is that it’s okay to be yourself. Not just that it’s okay to “be gay,” but it’s okay to be gay your way, to be differently gay. You don’t have to lisp or swish, but it’s okay if you do. You don’t have to be a sex addict, a drug addict, know Prada from Versace (I don’t), or any of the other stereotypes. You can believe in God. You can dress and act exactly as you always have (without the tension in your shoulders from holding that secret every day). As one young man quoted in the article says, “that’s not what being gay is about. Being gay is about loving men, and love is not the most pervasive thing on those publications or Web sites.” Mostly those are about sex.
“Being Gay” doesn’t have to be your whole identity.
You can be differently gay and still be ok.
And there’s the bumper sticker.
UPDATE: I like Cooper’s take on the topic (although he’s only half my age. Egads.)