Great dancers, masters of interior design, fashion aficionados, sex fiends, drug addicts, anti-family. Take the good, take the bad, take them both and there you have…the facts of gays? Not quite. Take it from this gay. All the positives are true, and all the negatives are completely false! Okay, that is as much a generalization as saying all heterosexuals are married with kids, live in a beautiful suburban home, and go to church every Sunday. Just like straights confronted with such preconceived expectations, throughout their lifetimes, gays must also decide whether to become ensnared by a laundry list of preconceived notions or break free of them.
Family First…And the First to Go
For starters, there are those segments of society that cling to the belief (hope?) that gays are determined to destroy the tradition of family. The reality? Many gays keep their lives completely secret so as not to rip apart the nucleus of the nuclear. I’ve known gay cohabitating couples who set up separate bedrooms to appease parents who either can’t bear to unconditionally love their adult child, or selfishly fear the truth jeopardizing their own acceptance by society. Despite this lack of respect, these same parents often look to that child, who is free of the added responsibility of offspring, to become their caregiver as they age.
In extreme cases, gays fully ostracized from their biological family nurture relationships, build a support network of friends, and create family. Ironically, the self-proclaimed perfect traditional family thrives on conflict, judging each other’s choice of spouse, religion, politics, child-rearing techniques and more, causing harm that can tear a family apart. On top of that, there’s a predominance of dysfunctional families today that has nothing to do with gays and everything to do with domestic violence, sexual abuse, bad child rearing, adultery, alcoholism, and drug addiction.
As Seen on TV (aka: Don’t Do This at Home!)
Drug addiction? Straights? Isn’t serious drug use gay exclusive? Episodes of Queer as Folk offer images of tweaking gym bunnies partying on the dance floor, but these celluloid visions don’t tell the real story. All orientations turn to drugs to not only dull the pain of life’s trials and tribulations—loneliness, health issues, job loss, financial woes—but also to ‘loosen up’ in social situations, whether it be to gather the nerves to mount a gay club go-go box or step on a straight bar karaoke stage. Most importantly, because there’s so much stigma placed on recreational sex, drugs absorb the blame for hooking up with strangers. If I’ve learned anything from Sex and the City, it’s that ‘strange bedfellows’ are far from reserved for the gay community. And we won’t even discuss what Cops has taught me about the real deal (and the real dealers) when it comes to drugs. But just like a straight person can watch those shows with an acute awareness that what they are witnessing is not representative of all straight people, I can detach my identity from the drug and dick obsessed gay monsters that I’ve seen presented on TV and in movies over the years.
To be fair, gays have ‘cleaned up their act’ in mainstream media for the past decade, with mold-breaking portrayals on television and in film (Will & Grace, In & Out). But did this demystifying spur a movement to bring back the ‘classic’ gay? We are once again being bombarded by bitchy and flamboyant gays, and not just on sitcoms. The dark vampire series True Blood features a limp-wristed queer with an attitude-filled strut I’ve not witnessed since 1993, when fierce sashaying New York City club kids in eight inch platforms would knock me flat on my ass on the dance floor. Reality shows like Blush, Project Runway, Design Star and Shear Genius feature contestants so ‘colorful’ they seem to be gay caricatures. Interesting how the entertainment industry’s return to stereotypical gay comic relief is being supported and justified by real-life flamboyance. Perhaps the community of queens is fighting not to be obliterated by the gay conformity movement? Oh the tangled web we gays and straights weave in this dance of acceptance/intolerance.
Sexual Politics: It’s a Dirty Game, But Everyone’s Gotta Do It
Achieving tolerance, at the very least, has been largely hindered by straight assumptions about gay sex—for starters, that it is effeminate. Straight men who believe that just haven’t been sleeping with the right gay guys! But seriously, sex is only femininely soft when a woman is involved. Gay sex directs twice the testosterone towards the same happy ending, with no fragile emotional ego to stroke, no mandatory talking and cuddling after. Just a good hard wham-bam-thank-you-man. Just because heterosexuals exploit male/female sex roles, it’s delusion to think gays are relegated to the same limitations. Men and women go to different places physically and emotionally during sex. All gay men are created equal—any rough and raunchy thing he does to me, I can do right back to him. A straight friend of mine realized that when a video game marathon ended with his buddy saying, “Dude, if we were gay, we could have spent all this time getting each other off.” Rare is the straight guy who can recognize, appreciate, and envy the potential of dude-on-dude sex.
Instead, envy leads straight men to the ultimate act of sexual self-sabotage. They paint gay intercourse as nasty and dirty while paradoxically fantasizing about doing their women in the bum! The irony is, a straight man is likely to find himself in a messy situation if he slips into that orifice with his woman. Gay men are incredibly…um…anal about cleanliness, something that an inexperienced female backdoor recipient might not consider. The other, much crueler irony (which tickles me, actually) is that a man’s most erogenous, explosive, orgasmic push buttons have been strategically placed in his asshole by the powers that be. As a result, vilifying all things anal hampers a straight man’s chance to experience the pleasures of receiving a rimming, strap-on action, or finger insertion for A-spot stimulation. Good luck trying to get your woman to do any of the above (or to even broach the subject with her) once you’ve vehemently asserted that gay men do anal and anal is dirty. Rule of thumb: if you want to play nasty like the big boys, than you have to get more than your finely manicured metrosexual hands dirty.
And speaking of dirty, anti-gay special interest groups naturally use sex as a weapon in their dirty politics, crowning gays the kings (queens?) of promiscuity because, conveniently, in the monumental heterosexual institution of marriage, a symbolic ring negates any well-hidden indiscretions. Without rights to the legal façades of wedding vows, gays are denied the chance to pronounce themselves faithful before a believing audience. But if gays are uncontrollably hyper-promiscuous, isn’t combating gay monogamy a waste of millions of dollars, or does the contradiction reveal a truth the marriage police want to deny—that promiscuity (more flatteringly known as virility) is an inherently male trait? Wouldn’t all straight men bang every hot chick they could if not for the dratted female Cinderella Complex? Of course not, just like some gay men enjoy numerous sexual conquests while others settle down with that one special someone. But those on the offensive cowardly rely solely on examples that support their case instead of looking at the whole picture. Take for instance a wedding at which my partner and I were treated with disdain by the other male guests. The kicker? These same male guests, most of them married, reminisced in the restroom about the prostitutes they had all ‘sampled’ at the bachelor party, tempting me to assume that no straight man can honor his vows of monogamy. Such assumptions, just like stereotypes, begin when it is concluded that the behavior of few is indicative of all like-people.
If You’re Going to Wear the Label, Why Not Sew It On?
Unfortunately, stereotypes tend to dictate how a particular community treats itself. Most individuals want to belong to a large group. A young gay man might conclude that he has to use gay slang and gay body language, be a dancing queen, and perhaps even do drag now and then in order to be embraced by other gays, in essence, playing up to stereotypes that may not be representative of who he inherently is. Why go through the struggle of finding yourself despite relentless societal damnation if you’re just going to go take on the persona of others? Because fear of isolation and rejection is universal. What becomes of the gay who idolizes Judas Priest’s Rob Halford instead of Madonna? Worships Clive Barker’s horror and finds nothing appealing about John Waters’ camp? Would rather score tickets to the Super Bowl than the revival of A Chorus Line? The Midwestern farm boy who doesn’t feel comforted by the beckoning big city lights that promise to warm gay lost souls?
Like any minority group, the gay community can fall victim to divisive judgments of the majority that pit it against itself and weaken it. To counteract that effect, gays form supportive subcultures for those of common tastes in music, movies, sports, sex acts, and other interests. These subcultures refute the misconception that just to be gay is a lifestyle in itself. There is not one all encompassing same-sex-loving lifestyle, just like there is not one specific straight lifestyle (being straight by no means makes you exactly like your neighbor). You can be gay and: urban, rural, or suburban; married or single; parent or pet owner; a club-goer or a homebody; a prep or a jock; a renter or a home owner. The list could go on, but these diverse lifestyles have one thing in common—they can apply to anyone, gay or straight.
Taking it Personally
Compounded, falsified accusations about gay life—my life—are an exhausting assault on your pride when you know you’re just like everyone else…minus that trait of attacking others based on hearsay spouted by leaders with captive audiences of scared followers who so want to belong. Take for instance the Pope’s recent suggestion that it is as important to save humanity from gays as it is to save the rain forests. Wait. Where does that leave us gays who think it’s extremely important to save the rain forests??? Does that mean we want to save the rain forests so we can save the planet so that we can then take it over?
With all the destructive things society (a predominantly heterosexual society, I might add) does to this planet and each other, do people really believe that it is the homosexual who is going to annihilate life as we know it? Going to obliterate heterosexual desire through the organized recruitment I’ve heard whispers of in church pews? If straights fear that conversion is that easy, then maybe they should put as much faith in their own sexuality as they do in God. Hell, they’ve tried to burn, beat, electrocute, and exorcise the gay out of us for millennia, and we keep coming back. Just like homosexuality, which takes a licking but keeps on dicking, I don’t believe heterosexuality and all its traditions are going anywhere, especially since the gay community is so determined to totally mirror it. We could be just what society needs to regress back to the 1950s happy homemaker ‘lifestyle’ traditionalists miss so much!
As non-traditional and non-conformist as society led me to believe I was simply because I’m gay, damned if my life with my partner isn’t anything more than the heterosexual model, upgraded to two penises. Our life together consists of us both going to work, struggling to keep afloat in a bad economy, taking care of the upkeep on our modest suburban home, doing the housework and chores on weekends, grocery shopping, contemplating what to have for dinner, caring for the sibling pups we adopted from a shelter, entertaining them so they don’t destroy our house, and occasionally getting together for dinner with gay couples who are exactly like us. We run ourselves ragged preparing for the holidays, attend the baptisms, birthdays, communions and graduations of nephews and nieces, celebrate the unions of close friends and family, grieve deeply over the loss of parents.
And when it’s time for the shockingly different act of gay sex? We can’t even get close enough to each other to kiss without our two dogs jumping in between us and covering us in jealous slobbers. Not to mention, after taking care of all the daily obligations listed above, who has the energy to get frisky??? The reality is, we’re a married couple without the marriage license! There’s no living on the fringe for us. We’re not members of some secret gay society with a sinister plot to bring down humanity. If there was such a secret society, we would do everything in our power to keep our simple and satisfying lives safe from its threat, just like our heterosexual counterparts. We’re not the heartless monsters the heartless lynch mobs want everyone to believe. Many are the heterosexuals in our lives who know that because they’ve taken the time to know us. I like to refer to it as taking a step onto the often intimidating but always illuminating ‘know’ ledge.
Can’t We All Just Get Along? Do We Really Want To?
I could conclude these musing by saying something cliché about us all being the same when you look inside, but I don’t know that we’ll ever see an end to minority stereotypes. In actuality, stereotypes offer the security of belonging to one group while distancing one’s self from groups considered less desirable. It’s the perfect marriage of acceptance and superiority. For that very reason, myths of homosexuality persist amongst straights and gays. Justifiable or not, they serve a dual purpose, giving straights ammunition to demonize gays while giving gays a sense of identity, commonality, and belonging.