Skeletor was a homo. Okay, maybe I’m guilty of a little projection here, but from my perspective as a gay Asian kid who was desperate for recognition in the world of ’80s television, which was my life, this was my interpretation.
I mean, how else could you explain this character who clearly went to the gym, who didn’t care much for women, who wore fabulous costumes, who desperately sought after magic crystals, and who was single-mindedly obsessed with having the half-naked, muscle-bound He-Man kneel before him?
In retrospect, almost every cartoon bad guy from that era, from Cobra Commander to Starscream, seems to have shared the same homo-inspired flair.
Looking back, I can understand the mechanics behind all of the homo-sploitation that was rampant in the ’80s. The hero had to appeal to as wide an audience as possible and that meant appealing to the bland, heterosexual, Christian, white sensibilities of the mass audience.
The bad guys, on the other hand, could be much more extreme in their identities. They were given far more dramatic, eccentric qualities.
Unfortunately, this meant that from a very early age, I began to equate all the fun things of being flamboyant, having a cackle, and dressing in purple with being deranged and up to no good.
It didn’t help that most of the gay characters in popular culture were used mainly as the butt of jokes about manhood, sexuality, vanity, and desperate attention-seeking behaviour. Based on the resulting laughter and the grimaces on the faces of the other characters, I came to learn that being gay was also equated with being weak, off-putting and shameful.
As puberty set in, I noticed myself admiring my male classmates more and more and wanting them to admire me. It soon became clear to me that I wanted much more from my male classmates than my female ones. I was becoming that word that everyone hated.
I had something in common with that obnoxious fruit who molested Bruce Lee in The Way of the Dragon, I was the truth of the disguise Jack put on in Three’s Company that made Mr Roper so uncomfortable.
As much as I hated to admit it, I was gay.
As my sexuality grew more undeniable, I turned to religion for guidance and a cure.
Through my Bible studies, I learned that homosexuality is considered a sin but the only reason given is that it breaks God’s laws of nature. While trying to convert homos I preached about God’s love and understanding but couldn’t explain why some animals are gay or how loving a man could harm anyone else.
To reconcile my faith in God with how unfair his judgment seemed to be against something so harmless, I began to believe that being gay is a disease, which blinded me to the harm it was causing.
But God didn’t cure me of being gay. Although leading medical authorities have said for decades that homosexuality is not an illness, not having met any out gay men, I was still plagued with doubt reinforced from what I’d learned through religion and the media. Even after I’d left my religion and ventured into the secular world, I continued looking for evidence of evil or mental instability in every gay person I’d meet.
In the years since, I’ve met several characters and have had some wonderful and some terrible times with them. Sure, I’ve met some self-destructive depressive compulsives, some predators and my fair share of bitches but I’ve also encountered just as many successful, intelligent bon vivants. All of them have been varied, dynamic, and colourful; very few have been boring or bland.
Perhaps it’s the initial breaking off from the heterosexist status quo that encourages gays to test their boundaries and explore different scenes in hopes of creating a new identity for themselves.
Our collective culture is a relatively young one, so some of us might initially get drawn into selfish interests such as materialism, fame and ego. It’s been my experience, however, that this is all in service to creating a personal value system and uncovering one’s purpose to achieve a sense of belonging.
While experimenting, mistakes are often made and temporary pain is inflicted but these necessary evils eventually give birth to the most valuable virtue: compassion.
Living our lives according to a checklist found in a book may be simpler, but it also encourages adherents to believe they have the right to judge those who don’t.
The experiences of those who have tried and failed, who have achieved victory and suffered loss, provide us not only with practical wisdom but also sensitivity, understanding, and forgiveness.
Pain is universal, inevitable and in itself not evil. What is evil is dismissing the experience and life of another and infringing on anyone’s right to explore and reach their full potential.
Intolerance has caused much more suffering than same-sex loving. Yes, there are some gay tragedies, just as there are straight ones.
In spite of my fears, I’ve had the great pleasure of finding examples of joyful, intelligent, sensitive and successful gay people.Because of them, I’m given the strength and courage to keep exploring and to take every opportunity to understand my fellow man, while making the most of the life I’ve been given.
I’ve embraced my inner Skeletor with the knowledge that through my humiliations and defeats, as off-putting and as offensive as my behaviour may sometimes be, I’m charting a new course to serving the greater good. I’m doing it with different colours and a certain flair because that’s what’s in my DNA.
This gay life wasn’t my choice but it is my destiny. As they used to say on GI Joe, “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle!”