Toronto
2 min

Put the sex back in homosexual

Equality isn't just for the good gays

Until a few months ago my feelings about Cheri DiNovo, minister at Emmanuel Howard Park United Church and now the NDP candidate for the provincial by-election in Parkdale-High Park, had been neutral to vaguely positive.

I didn’t know much about her except her role in performing one of Canada’s first same-sex marriages. Though she is married to a man, she runs a decidedly queer-welcoming congregation.

When I declined to review her book Qu(e)ering Evangelism, which won a Lambda Literary Award this spring, I saw DiNovo in a sharper light.

“CNN is doing a spot on me, so coverage in Xtra is kinda beside the point anyway,” she e-mailed. “I’ll pass your support on to others in the community who should know that Xtra is really only about selling sex addiction to men.”

Which I thought was arrogant, patronizing, vindictive, judgmental and sexphobic — in that order. Prospective constituents, beware. Your lifestyle might not coincide with DiNovo’s specific vision of what it should be.

As mainstream support for our equality increases, a growing number of same-sex supporters don’t like the “sex” part. For them, sex is not an essential ingredient of homosexuality. But that’s like spelling success without “u.”

While covering last month’s International AIDS Conference, CBC’s Metro Morning host Andy Barrie, who I usually consider to be curmudgeonly but open-minded, spent several shows going on and on about bathhouses, suggesting they were hubs for HIV infection and claiming that Xtra is culpable for accepting advertising dollars from them.

Of course we all learned a long time ago that it’s not the venue that spreads HIV — perhaps even Barrie remembers the poster about not getting AIDS from a toilet seat — but rather an individual’s behaviour. To follow Barrie’s logic to its natural conclusion, we should shut down Bill Gate’s Microsoft Messenger because people — a lot more than go to bathhouses — use it to hook up for sex. We should also ban cars because they kill a lot of people, too.

But for Barrie and his ilk, giving up driving two blocks for milk is too high a price to pay for the lives saved. Curtailing the sex lives of gay men who want to have multiple partners is not. This is not the view of an economist or health educator; it’s the view of a moralist and it’s not pretty.

Maybe Barrie and DiNovo think Xtra should take a split personality approach, like New York’s gay media. Two thick, glossy, ad-heavy, full-coloured magazines tell NYC gay men where to party, while two thin tabloids cover politics in the driest way possible. The gay party boys, it is assumed, don’t care about social change, while the gay politicos, it is assumed, never get any tingling feeling in their nether regions.

This split creates a myth of the neutered homo which allows for wider mainstream support, but it’s built on denial.

Though I am sure there are many committed, monogamous queer couples who never stray — please don’t write letters claiming I said all gay men fuck around — there are many who, coupled, single or otherwise, are promiscuous. Sometimes bashfully. Sometimes unapologetically. Sometimes boastfully.

The key to whether this reality is good or bad is not based around the venue or numbers of partners but upon consent, healthy practices (including but not limited to safer sex), ethics, etiquette (there’s nothing grosser than used condoms lying around in parks) and balance. I’ve slept with genuine sex addicts, Cheri, and it’s no fun for anybody.

With the federal government sending explicit and implicit antigay signals, it’s tempting to embrace discretion as a strategy to prevent our legal equality from being snatched back by weak politicians who are nervous about defending us.

Wrong strategy. We need more from politicians and our fellow citizens than to engage in a charade of “we love the good gays but we don’t want to know about their sex lives.” We need them to make room for us as homosexuals and all that follows from it.