“Toronto’s gay community is nothing but a bunch of boring hypocrites,” read a submission that came across my desk this spring. “Not only is everyone the same, but the sameness isn’t even positive.”
It’s a common bitch that gets louder during Pride season. Automatic responses range from, “You’re right – Oh, did I leave my A&F tank top at the gym again?” to “Get over yourself, bitter queen.”
But these cliché responses miss the point of the complaint: Queer people have high expectations of themselves. We know we can always be more fabulous.
Folks who cloister themselves in suburbs of like-minded people live risk-free and can never feel a sense of failure at creative living because they rarely rub against true originals. But most gay, lesbian and trans people have originality thrust upon them.
Our different desires and identities create twists in our lives that we navigate without a script and sometimes without permission of parents, the law and society. If you’re a queer short on creativity, you might very well grow old without finding a place for yourself in the world. Happy homos roll up their sleeves and make a place for themselves. Creative living is a necessity.
The work is getting easier. Young queers are growing up with more legal rights, more out peers, more supportive straight peers, more supportive institutions, more gay-positive parents, more knowledge of queer history and more mentors to help them find their way. (Turn to page 19 to read about coverboy Marc Hall).
These shortcuts can lead to less originality – and more. Freed up from fighting small minds about whether homos should have rights or not, we can turn to the questions of how we can build on the freedoms we’ve achieved.
For every “boring hypocrite” you encounter, you can find a dozen queers who are living life with passion and innovation. Discovering these folks is not a matter wandering down Church St on a Saturday afternoon and passing judgments on hairstyles. It’s a matter of poking around the margins, and realizing what each person brings to this eccentric thing that’s lazily called “the gay and lesbian community.”
The word “community” has been driving me crazy lately. Yes, there’s a community of queers. But not in the sense that we all live in one place, that we have formal representation or that we’re able to reach a consensus about issues that affect us. We’re a community in the sense that we have something to say to each other – and that we’re often having sex with each other.
Pride is all about sniffing around for that kind of highly connected living – the exuberance produced by the challenges and pleasures that have made us who we are.
Sure, Pride features big parties where people dress according to codes of fashion and drink heavily advertised brands of booze. But, for all the pleasure of dancing with hundreds of sexy people, there’s no reason to stop there. It’s a mere starting point.
This week (and year round, in fact) this city is full of galleries, bars, theatres, kitchens, bathhouses, community centres, side streets, churches, park bushes and patios where queers are making their lives up as they go along.
This year’s Pride theme, “Uncensored,” calls for people to act out, be free and stop worry about what others think of their expression in words, images and actions. But it also calls for pushing ourselves to push buttons, to trigger reactions from others.
Pride parade nudists, much as they are poo-pooed, are a good example of how some harmless weenie display bring out our internal censor for no good reason.
Norm Gardner, chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, told me the other day that people who complain about nudity in the Pride parade should “Take a break, get a life.” Then he said that if people are naked in the parade, he can’t criticize the police for arresting them. That kind of hypocrisy is enough to make you want to march naked in the parade yourself – even if nudity is a turnoff for you.
Sometimes uncensored living is about going beyond what you want to do yourself, and supporting others who dare to go further.