At first, I noticed it happening in small ways. I was jabbering about “gayness” when a young woman hurled a rather nasty remark at me, without fury but with unveiled irritation: “Some people are straight you know!” she said.
Well pardon me, I thought.
Then I was chatting with a theatre-type about Jennifer Tarver’s take on Ibsen at Canadian Stage. I mentioned that it was undeniably a gay interpretation. The woman turned on me. “That’s not a gay interpretation; you’re reading that into the play, Sky,” she said, with mounting anger. The obvious implication was: “Gay gay gay! Can’t you just shut up about gay for one minute, Sky?”
Is it time I shut up about “gay?”
These mundane personal incidents are, in my mind, part of a much larger trend. These women were both part of the “liberal” and “artsy” community, and something has happened inside that particular constituency that really pisses me off.
Open minded people no longer consider gay men a persecuted minority.
Gay men are now considered more male than gay. This means they have privilege. Gay couples, as we all know, are all rich, because members of a gay couple are by definition men, and men are the top earners in the business world. So all gay men do is spend their time buying condos and expensive furniture and going on exotic vacations with the money they earn from their high-end jobs. In fact, gay men have too much undeserved privilege. It’s time they stopped yelling about gay rights and gave back to other — less privileged — communities.
Respectfully, I disagree.
First of all, not all gay men are rich.
Second, I’m looking at gay men from inside the culture and I see a community where collective and individual self-esteem has been pounded into the dirt by a devastating disease called AIDS. I see men turning to drugs like crystal meth — and other forms of self-destructive behaviour (including unsafe sex) — because they have been told for years that their very natural desires are evil and dangerous to their health. I see young, idealistic, young gay men getting married at 20 to other young gay men. Unfortunately, they are in for a lifetime of deception and disillusion because marriage doesn’t work for anyone, not even straight people. I see a promiscuous, online culture that doesn’t allow fats or femmes.
Gays do not have all the privilege straight men do. Anderson Cooper is not every gay man. And though he dares to “come out” and to giggle like a girl on the Ridiculist, you’ll never hear him talk publicly about his boyfriend who owns several gay bars in New York City.
I don’t know how to tell you this, but the term cocksucker is still a form of abuse — and that includes both men and women, because misogyny is not dead. Misogyny and homophobia are connected, and gay men are still considered effete because they take it up the ass. I live for the day when a father will celebrate his son’s coming out by taking him out to dinner and a movie, and congratulating him on not being straight.
When all those things change, then I will admit that gay men have the same privilege as straight men.
But not before.
Until then — as far as I’m concerned — the love that dare not speak its name must continue to be the love that won’t shut up.