Canada
3 min

Dawn of a new gay?

In 2011, complacence, not silence, equals death

Matt Jackson is one of the founders of Cocksucker Blues. Credit: Ryan McGinley
On June 9, Toronto magazine The Grid published a cover story entitled “Dawn of a New Gay.” It’s been a hot topic of discussion. On June 10 The Grid published a follow-up piece entitled “Why We Published ‘Dawn of a New Gay.'” Cocksucker Blues is one of the parties mentioned in the original Grid piece. Matt Jackson is one of the founders of that event.
 
BY MATT JACKSON – It is infuriating that Aguirre-Livingston purports to take the luxury of being a white, middle-class gay man living in Toronto today so lightly. While the way in which gays choose to live their lives and express their sexuality has evolved, it has been doing so since men have loved men, since humans have been humans.
 
We may have moved beyond the culture of the bathhouse and the gay bar and the Pride parade (although I attend every year), but we need to acknowledge the role that those institutions (and yes, they are institutions) have played in getting us to where we are now.
 
Edmund White, who I am humbled to call a friend, describes in his 1981 non-fiction book States of Desire the sort of integrated gay utopia that had been achieved by the gay liberation movement of the 1970s that sounds not dissimilar to what Aguirre-Livingston describes far less eloquently in his article. Of course, we all know (or do we?) what happened in 1982. The AIDS pandemic, which was coincidentally first called GRID, for Gay Related Immune Deficiency, not only decimated the gay population, but also led to the negation of many of the gains made in the 1970s and put our rights on hold for nearly two decades.
 
This article was written weeks after Canada elected a homophobic prime minister and ruling party, and months after Toronto itself elected a mayor who doesn’t even bother to disguise his ignorance and bigotry. Suicide rates among LGBT youth are astronomically higher than among “straight” teens. The rate of violent assaults on gays has seen the highest increase among any minority group.
 
The article does not even address the experience of gay men and women and trans-persons in cities smaller than Toronto. Progress has been made, but the fight is not over yet. North America is split almost exactly in half between the right and the left, politically, and the divide between the two is deepening if not widening. There is nothing to say that the rights that we take for granted (those rights that have been won for us by others) could not be taken away if we become complacent.
 
I was not bullied in high school, either, but I consider myself lucky for that. I came out at 12 and immediately became “bad”: skipping school, doing drugs, getting into fights, in part so that people wouldn’t, or couldn’t, fuck with me for being gay. A close friend was gaybashed last year in Parkdale (I am not even getting into the murder of Chris Skinner).  
 
Making out in Trinity Bellwoods with a lover last year, a group of 12-year-olds called us faggots. Holding hands in Paris (the “City of Love”), we were aware of looks of contempt and confusion as we walked down the Rue Saint-Honoré. We may “look and act straight” (what a ridiculous concept) and people may be comfortable with that, but when faced with the expression of our sexuality, it is a different matter altogether. While, in the words of Dan Savage, “it gets better,” and my life is beyond my wildest fantasies, there still is a long way to go, and we are all responsible for taking up the banner and fighting the good fight.
 
I started Cocksucker Blues not to shit on Church St gay culture, but because I happen to like to dance to rock and punk music, and that was not what I was hearing at gay parties I went to. It was also an homage to Will Munro, whose death last year left a void in the landscape of gay Toronto.  
 
If as gay men we are free to choose the way in which to be gay, why do Aguirre-Livingston and his subjects need to poke fun at these “lame, effeminate caricature[s] of homosexuality?” They are doing it their way, as I am doing it mine, and all the power to them.
 
I also balk at the idea that the internet has changed everything. I personally have never dated online and have never used Grindr, and what are these things if not the contemporary version of the gay bar and the bathhouse?  
 
It would be amusing that the irony of this is lost on Aguirre-Livingston if the implications of his article were not so dire. Not to gloat, but I do have to say that I am asked out on the street and in coffee shops, and I don’t mean on Church St.
 
Need I mention that I happen to love rainbows?
 
Recommended reading for Aguirre-Livingston: Secret Historian, by Spring; Gay Life and Culture, by Aldrich; A Queer History of the US, by Bronski; States of Desire, My Lives and City Boy, all by Edmund White; Christopher and His Kind, by Isherwood… just to scratch the surface.