3 min

Queer shopping at 40,000 feet

Notes from a writer on the road

If you’ve flown on a plane in the United States, you’ve probably seen SkyMall, a glossy shopping catalogue tucked conveniently in the seat pocket in front of you, behind the emergency instructions card and the barf bag.

For years, I’ve dismissed SkyMall as a magazine of ridiculous, useless gadgets for bored passengers. But when flying home after a recent book tour, I leafed through a copy and changed my mind — it was full of intelligently designed items I desperately could’ve used on the tour. SkyMall, where have you been all my life? 

No Blind Spot Rear-View Mirror, $59.95

I participated in some spirited conversations about the It Gets Better Project, the YouTube channel started by columnist Dan Savage to deliver messages of hope to gay and trans youth. Not everybody feels the same way about it. Yes, It Gets Better. Well… It May Get Better, but that’s not enough, you have to Make It Better. Actually, no, It Doesn’t Always Get Better, It Sometimes Gets Worse. Sheesh. I really could’ve used the No Blind Spot Rear-View Mirror when navigating the infinite lane-changing in these discussions. I could buy it now, I suppose. Sixteen inches of hindsight is worth any price. 

The Remote-Controlled Tarantula, $29.95

In San Francisco, I had the pleasure of reading with the charming author of a forthcoming legal thriller. In her opening remarks she said, “Can you believe it’s been 15 years since OJ? That makes me as old as dirt. And now you are, too.” Intrigued, I read the program once more to suss out her identity. Yep, it was
Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor in the OJ Simpson murder trial! I wanted to get her autograph to commemorate the night I became one degree of separation from OJ, but she left too soon. The Remote-Controlled Tarantula could’ve done my bidding, speeding down the sidewalk with the aid of motorized wheels hidden under moving legs. However, its urticating hairs would’ve left too much evidence of my being star-struck…

E-Z Chord, $41.98

In keeping with my MO of making ridiculous promises to capture an audience, I agreed to perform two songs on acoustic guitar at a Chicago reading. It was my first musical performance in more than 15 years — a comeback special. To those who attended the show, I’m so sorry. It was gracious of you to cringe silently through that massacre of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” I know, you Wish You Weren’t There. I thought playing guitar was like riding a bike, or sucking a tapioca ball through a straw — something you couldn’t forget. Apparently not. So, next time you see me with a guitar and I don’t have E-Z Chord, a device you clip onto the frets to play any chord with a single finger, do us both a favour and cut the strings.

Military Zoom Binoculars, $199.95

One of the tour’s most rewarding events was at the LGBTQ Office of Culture & Community at Columbia College Chicago. It was National Coming Out Day. Trans, gay, bi and pansexual students — and an impressive contingent of their allies — shared stories that were heart-breaking and heart-warming, and that still blow me away. Someone had come out to a family member the day before, others told of coming out with almost no support, and we heard important words never spoken to a loved one recently deceased. All had found new family. How did we have time to munch through 20 Chicago-style deep-dish pizzas with all those happy tears flowing?

A memorable story was from a male student who was shopping in a department store with his 90-year-old great-grandmother when they both turned their heads to check out the same hunk. Hottest coming-out story ever. I could’ve expressed my thanks by gifting the storyteller a set of Military Zoom Binoculars, so he and great-grandma could hunt their men’s department prey from the safety of the perfume counter.

Let’s throw the brakes on my shopping cart. It’s gone too far. This sort of talk is exactly what has turned queer communities into mere advertising demographics. Our values are nothing without price tags and shelving space.

Sadly, this may be true, but there’s always a way for the anti-capitalist in you to queer the purchase. I recommend SkyMall’s Money Maze Game. Players have to manipulate a metal ball successfully through a labyrinth to unlock the cash. Hopefully, the next issue of SkyMall will feature a Disappearing Ink Pen so you can write blank cheques…

I’m curious: what would you do with the Muhammad Ali Signed Everlast Boxing Glove, the Wonder Woman Cuff Bracelet or the Personalized Man Cave Doormat? The Anti-Gravity Globe with Continuous Rotation?

Fingerprinted appears in every issue of