Wednesday, October 30, 2013

HOW TO BE GAY, OR NOT

This morning I was lying in bed and listening to NPR (as I'm want to do) when they interviewed David M. Halprin, professor of "sexuality" from the University of Michigan. Although admittedly, slightly hungover, and I'll also admit, I could have taken his opinions the wrong way, it launched me out of bed to write this...

From what I understood, Mr. Halprin was wistfully reminiscing about the "good" old gays of gay culture, when expressing one's sexuality (and thus humanity) was confined to the closet, or defined by secrets/deviance/shitty techno music.

But first, a little history about myself. I didn't come out until the ripe age of 25. I grew up in a affluent, white, male dominated culture, and didn't have any gay friends, or even friends who had gay friends. Thus, I didn't have a reference point to adhere to, or a way to express my sexuality (except in my own private way). 

I understand the reason to cling to gay cultural "signposts", be it speaking a certain way, dressing a certain way or acting a certain way. But what has always been represented gay culture to me growing up, never appealed to me, nor could I identify with it.

After I came out, and moved back to Chicago proper, I tried my best to assimilate to the urban gay mindset. I went to the Boystown hot spots, hooked up with people I regret and endured horrible music too numerous to list here.  

What I'm getting at, is that I didn't or couldn't really identify with my straight friends, nor could I successfully integrate to the gay culture I was exposed to. You know what's more difficult than coming out? Being rejected outright by the very people that preach acceptance. 

In the past these phrases have been said to me, and etched into my mind:

-"You know this is a gay bar, right?"
-"Honey, you aren't gay, you just want to be."
-"You drink PBR?"

Don't get me wrong. I'm not nailing myself to a cross, and I fully realize that many other gay men have traversed roads FAR rougher then mine. But it still irritates me that gay culture is now too mainstream, or too integrated within the larger world. Wasn't that always the point?

And what's worse, for a lot of people, IT'S NOT THE MAINSTREAM. There are still people afraid of coming out, who are shamed when they do, seeking nothing but a modicum of tolerance. Of comfort. Maybe even love.  

But I can only speak for myself. I'm proud of the man I am. My family, friends and co-workers know I am gay. Perhaps, I, as a white man, have it easier. But that doesn't diminish my own struggle. And I certainly don't need anyone tell me where I do or don't belong, what to listen to or how to appear. 

Homosexuals have made so much progress, that I am infuriated by certain people's reminiscing about "the good old days" when LGBTQ individuals were marginalized, or felt false pride for being "different". ALL people are different. What makes us human is what we have in common. 

At the risk of being redundant, I think we can all agree that what binds us together is the simple, honest and human need to be loved, spiritually, mentally and yes, physically. This doesn't need to be over thought, discussed or written about, or worse...taught


7 comments:

Detroit Bob said...

Hi Jason...
I have followed your blog for years and I suggest for some interesting comments on Dr. Halperin's book and comments I suggest going to the following url:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2012/10/04/162162931/is-there-a-right-way-to-be-gay

As a gay man who is approximately the same age as the Professor I agree with Ted Gideonse who agrees with Halperin on the following:

"There's a big difference between what we call homosexuality and what we call gay. The former is an attraction to people of the same sex and the latter is the American and European [and, increasingly, non-Western] cultural interpretation of that attraction and all that it entails in the social world."

In addition, "gayness is a kind of subjectivity: not just a political and social identity, but also a way of being, seeing, and doing."

We may be loosing that unique sense of being, seeing, and doing. But I would not trade today for a return to the past. We need to remember the past but will never have to relive it.

JUSTIN said...

That was my point, but I don't know if I didn't articulate it, or perhaps I misunderstood his point.But I still think we as gay men have it "lucky" in this day and age...I doubt we have ever been more accepted. And I think that trumps all else.

Mind Of Mine said...

I think we can all agree that what binds us together is the simple, honest and human need to be loved, spiritually, mentally and yes, physically. This doesn't need to be over thought, discussed or written about, or worse...taught.


Sew that shit on a pillow.

Tony Iwasko said...

Unbelievably well said...I can completely relate to your 1st post. I'm proud of who I am but I can't relate to the gay "community" at all. God forbid you're into cars or even :gasp: sports....you're shunned...at least here in Philly you are.

Alan said...

I, too, disagree with Halperin's thesis that pre-Stonewall urban, white gay male culture (or gay subjectivity) somehow has an undying claim on future generations of gay men unto eternity.

Now that I'm pushing 60, and having been out since I was 26, I know there's no Broadway queen deep in the core of my being waiting for me to wake up from my heteronormative nightmare and embrace the campy queer I was always meant to be.

I'm attracted to men, always have been. But that does not mean I'm obligated to conform to Halperin's notions of gay ways "of seeing, being and doing." The emotional worlds Halperin describes are as alien to me as straight men's feelings about their heterosexuality.

I do sense that I am different from many other gay men I've encountered in my life. I think it's because my coming out just meant acting on my attraction to men, not restructuring my ways of seeing, being and doing in order to fit into any one or more of the gay subcultures where I live.

From Halperin's point of view, I'm an assimilationist with a case of arrested development who's still perfectly happy with the identity politics of the gay-rights movement. Don't need to be Queer.

Fast forward, and I've been with my husband now for 32 years. We acknowledge we are not like some other gay men, but we're happy.


Anonymous said...

Three months without an update? Where have you gone?

Mike said...

I am 52, came out at 26 in the 1980's. I don't think there's any right or wrong about these opposing viewpoints. Rather they are the two edges of the same sword. I think Halperin looks backward with nostalgia and with a sense of value for history, much like our straight immigrant parents look back on their entirely Italian or Irish neighborhoods. We should value the history of gay culture, and we should to some degree mourn the passing of the distinct nature of having been a member of those communities. The other edge of that sword are the feelings of those who felt forced into, or penned into, those communities by religious, racial, economic, or sexual politics; or the feelings of those who were om essence minorities within the minority. It's valid to say that being gay today is easier, more accepted and more "free" than in decades past, but it's also valid to say that some of the value of being "different", and the wealth of character building experiences which come from being part of a distinct community, are being lost at the same time. It is, in many ways, the price of assimilation.
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