After a particularly satisfying session at a local sex establishment, Bill suggests lunch. Indian food on Gerrard East. Yummy.
Bill’s a jock, but not of the gay variety. When gay men describe themselves as jocks, they are generally professing an aptitude for the great vanity sports of weightlifting, tanning and extreme grooming. Bill plays baseball and his sweat pants aren’t shiny.
As we drive across town, we pass by two gay pedestrians – clearly extreme grooming champions – and Bill makes a “faggot” crack about them, apparently dissociating himself from his own bravura faggot performance at the tubs. “Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle beige?” I retort, wryly evoking a famous line from The Boys In The Band. Bill corrects me: “Don’t you mean black? The pot calling the kettle black?”
I begin to formulate a response, relishing the opportunity to expose a newbie to the rich world of gay humour, perhaps to be followed up with a video rental homework assignment. But I quickly realize the futility of my Pygmalion fantasy. There will be no educating Bill.
Where the gay sport of wit is concerned, Bill is a klutz. I’ve tried out any number of gay witticisms and jokes on him – ones that, I assure you, have left other homos in stitches. Even when I’m convinced of the perfection of my delivery, he just looks at me like a confused dog.
There are lots of things that gay people are supposed to share. Taste, style, wit. A love of art, dancing and strong but tragic women. We speak of gay camp, gay sensibilities and gay aesthetics. For some gay people, these are qualities which have screamed from within them since birth. For others, like Bill, such qualities simply don’t resonate.
In the context of so many shared interests, a gay community makes sense. But when I meet guys like Bill, I wonder what brings us together. And so, over our samosas, we have a chat. I’m curious to know how he sees himself in relation to other gay people, given his faggot remark and his demonstrated proficiency in the sport of baton twirling.
I’m usually intrigued by the personal lives of people I have sex with. Where do you live? What do you do? Do you have a boyfriend? A girlfriend? What do you think about being gay? How do you live your life? Do you like my hair this way, or should I grow it out?
Most men agree that my hair looks great no matter what I do with it. But they agree on little else.
To some, sexuality is a flimsy, perhaps superficial reason for community. They wonder why it is we have gay film festivals and bowling leagues. They think we limit ourselves if we spend too much time with other gay people. They think we’re well adjusted if our gay partner is the only other gay person we know.
Historically, many gay people fled to gay communities because there was no where else to go. But as the world becomes more accepting of us, we continue to form communities by choice. It’s a notable shift from traditional communities, where people were lumped together because of classifications largely beyond their control: People associated because they lived in the same place, or were raised in the same biological family, or religion, or social class.
But those who no longer flock to gay communities out of necessity when they come out often miss out on learning the very particular life skills necessary to master a life of homosexuality, and all of the collected wisdom that comes from cavorting with other homos.
The folks at Supporting Our Youth (SOY) deserve top marks for their youth mentoring program, designed to address such issues. SOY recently held their first bowlathon, raising $12,000 to fund the program. The event itself revealed an interesting cross-section of the community. Bar boys, club kids, yuppie fags and dykes, earthy social workers – all moved to spend part of their weekend raising money for gay youth, all with their own personal motivations for doing so.
I walk through Toronto’s gay village every day, and I continue to be struck by the simple fact that so many truly all shapes and sizes are drawn here because they’re gay. Hordes of people who could be doing just about anything else, anywhere else. But here they are. And the only thing particularly enticing about this neighbourhood is the people. Gay people. Hungry for sex, love, camaraderie, communion. We’re all here for a reason: each other.
David Walberg is Editor-in-chief for Xtra.