Call me whatever you choose, just don’t call me late for dinner. This is the attitude that I wish I had whenever the debate begins around the semantics of labels in our community. How do you identify: gay, lesbian, the alphabet soup of LGBTQ or the more current inclusive term queer?
The debate began well before I sucked my first dick and no doubt it will rage well after the last shovel of dirt covers my well-used mortal remains. I wish I had the ability to just shrug it off, along with the liberal attitude that if we all fit under the umbrella the bigger the party, the greater the impact.
Something deep within me stirs, indeed rankles when I am called anything but a gay man. When folks start with the LGBTQ name, I count the letters and inevitably, at the end of the alphabetic diatribe, they look at me with doubt as if they had missed a letter or wondered if this year another letter or two had been thrown in and they had not been advised. I do appreciate that LGBTQ is an outreach of inclusion that is very important, but how many more letters will be added in the future?
It is my belief it sort of lost its panache after four letters and is beginning to die a Rapunzelian end. We now appear to be plunk in the middle of the usage of the word queer. The word solves so much of our “what the fuck do we call ourselves” debate: it is inclusive, is great for wordsmiths who are concerned about branding and letterhead and has kind an edgy quality to it that is almost flattering. But I am finding it more and more a total misnomer. I may be queer but so is half the world.
It has been well over 30 years since I began the painful process of coming out, since I realized that the overpowering urge to have sex with other men could no longer be denied or sublimated. Those many years ago I came out as a gay man with all of the life-changing consequences, including losing many of my close friends, alienating most of my family to the point of disinheritance and ending my professional career — all to be able to realize my sexual desires involving other men. I wanted to touch them, taste them, fuck them and love them, and no other part of my comfortable life was worth keeping without satisfying my need to be with other men. This enormous drive, this at times overpowering sexual attraction, defines who I am as a person to this very day. I am a gay man and want to be identified as such.
And queer just does not cut it for many reasons. Let me explain.
Our store has a section that that I have come to appreciate and enjoy more each year: our adult toys and accessories department. The adult section of Little Sister’s not only contributes a major portion of the rent but also provides an important resource for individuals and couples who want to explore their sexual fantasies. The ability to tap into our deepest sexual fantasies and harness them into great consensual sex should be the goal of all people interested in keeping their sex life exciting. Talking with customers about where they are sexually and where they would like to go has become one of the more enlightening aspects of my job.
We have been blessed in the last while with a big increase in heterosexual individuals and couples shopping in our adult department. Discussions with them have proved both interesting and enlightening. I have found some of them to be far queerer in their sexual pursuits than most from my own community.
The hot news-flash is that straight folks are exploring the kinky nether regions of sexuality in greater numbers each year. Anal sex is almost de rigueur; many women and, indeed, couples come to the store wanting to access the equipment and the knowledge of our experienced gay staff about anal penetration. It is many a straight couple’s realized fantasy to have the woman throw on a strap-on and thoroughly fuck her man. Fetish has also become a heterosexual mainstay as sexual fantasies are mined and fulfilled.
I suspect the great sexual awakening of the hetero world has been informed by the easy access of porn and information on the ever-present internet. With the click of a mouse all is revealed. The great news is that they have become far queerer than most gay men and lesbians. They are going more places and enjoying themselves in greater numbers in the kinky pursuit of sex than most of us have ever dreamed of. They have out-queered the so-called queer community in leaps and bounds. If we considered ourselves queer 20 years ago, we must take a second look and realize that we have been left in the dust in the pursuit of queer. Some may say that queer is not just about sex, and to them I say that I insist on being defined by my sexual desires and not by some gender identity paradigm.
I am constantly annoyed by people who identify problems but refuse to provide solutions. And yet I suspect there is at present no solution to the debate about “Who the hell are we and what do we call ourselves?” The sometimes conflicting desires to grow and embrace the fringes of our community on the one hand and the need to retain our own identity in this pursuit on the other hand, will probably go on forever. I will hang on to my gay male identity and continue to cringe at the labels that are thrown on my community. Perhaps the debate is more important than the resolution. What do you think?
Jim Deva is the co-owner of Little Sister’s bookstore, best known for fighting censorship by Canada Customs.