[EDITOR'S NOTE:] This guest post comes to us from Ray Jencar. Ray is a former teacher and current grad student at the University of Louisville. He hopes someday, like Socrates, to corrupt the minds of youth. Ray has guest posted before on the Project.
In a recent post Bil Browning asked: “Would you change your sexuality if it were possible?” Having read some of the responses I concluded that (according to the contributors and readers of the Bilerico Project) the best things about being gay are:
- We have more fun and we’re less uptight (and apparently straight people being concerned about other people’s lives is a bad thing).
- It gives us a different perspective.
- Boys are cute.
- It makes us “cool.”
- You don’t have to explain your equipment to you partner.
- It’s safer? (Since when? Did I miss something?)
- You can identify with a person of the same gender more so than the opposite gender.
- And we throw great parties and have a great night life…
- And then there's Lance Bass...
On the downside there’s bigotry and persecution and the threat of violence to deal with…
In a seemingly unrelated post by Steve Ralls, I agreed with a commenter that as far as transgression for the sake of transgression: “That's not adult, that's perpetual adolescence,” which upset Bilerico’s Managing Editor to the point that he called me all the way from France to discuss it (we have very interesting discussions, Alex and I). He was upset because he felt I reduced all gay men as shallow and superficial and assured me that such is not the case.
First, I don’t think all gay men are shallow and superficial; but I think gay men and gay culture are particularly prone to shallowness and narcissism and that it’s something we need to both acknowledge and be watchful of (see some of the things on the list above, which—let’s face it—are a bit trivial).
There are things about ourselves and our community that we need to admit to without shame no matter how embarrassing or uncomfortable. Let’s face it, kids - we haven’t come as far as we’d like to think and if we don’t admit that we won’t ever get any farther.
It kind of reminds me of the old Bette Midler joke (how gay a reference is that): “I have my standards. They’re low but I have them.”
So, anyway… all this has got me thinking: What exactly is the Queer Perspective and what makes it so goddamned special? What have I learned as a gay man I would not have learned had I been straight? And (playing devil’s advocate) what is it about heterosexuality that hinders straight people from a fuller development of their sexual and gender consciousness (as the claim to queer higher consciousness would imply)?
Well, for one thing: something that has always baffled me about straight people is their blind faith in their lifestyle. They’re handed this script from the day they’re born: Boys do this girls do that, boys look this way, girls look that way. They know, because they’re told so and reassured time and again, that this is the path they should take (college, career, marriage, kids, and retirement) and they rush off down that path, no questions asked. Having no such script prepared for them, and rejecting the heteronormative script that we’ve been handed as well, queer folk are left to write their own way out.
What I’ve discovered in my own journey out, however, is that queer folk in their own way have their own script and we tend to follow that script just as tenaciously and blindly as our hetero counterparts. We, as they do, assume our roles and then simply play them to a large part rather than re-writing the script, as we like to flatter ourselves that we do.
As I mentioned in one of my responses, gay men tend to accept certain roles early on – “prep,” “jock,” “geek” even “queen”—as if they were a character in The Breakfast Club and never get beyond that point mostly because such labels, like a lot of things in gay life, are quick and easy and don’t ask for much beyond what’s on the surface. The same holds true for promiscuity, thinly disguised as “transgressive” or merely “glamorous” behavior. On the other hand, another baffling assumption made by heterosexuals is that there is only one correct form of sexual behavior—try to educate a crowd of heterosexuals on safer sex practices, mention the word “dental dam” and watch the sea of blank faces. Tell them they can use Saran Wrap instead, when engaging in oral sex, and watch them squirm. And I’ve never quite understood the hetero concept that sex doesn’t “count” unless you have intercourse. That must be why they are forever asking Lesbians: “Don’t you feel like there’s something missing?” Or when they ask a gay male couple: “Which one of you is the girl?”—failing to understand that if one of them was a girl it would completely defeat the purpose.
So…What do I think is special about the Queer Perspective?
I don’t agree that we’re more fun. Most of my friends are straight and they’re a lot of fun to hang out with and hanging out with them offers a lot more choices than going to the bars and watching a drag show (not that going to a drag show is a bad thing).
I don’t agree that we’re less uptight—I know far too many gay men with “body image” issues to think that’s true.
Being queer does, upon reflection, give us a different perspective on gender and sexuality. However, I think there are limitations just as there are blind spots in the heteronormative model.
Boys are cute!
Cool? I’m too old to think of myself as “cool.”
You might not have to explain your equipment to your partner but you do have to have the “Top or Bottom?” “What are you into?” “No, I will not bareback,” conversation which, in it’s way, is not much different.
You can identify with a person of the same gender more so than the opposite gender. Perhaps, but doesn’t that hinder you as well? I know far too many misogynistic gay men (they’re not all enlightened feminists) who sneer at “breeders” and contort their faces in mock disgust at any mention of female anatomy; I think many of these men could learn a great deal from their hetero brothers (some of whom are enlightened feminist) and their dyke sisters.
We throw great parties and have a great night life. Personally, I’ve never been one for the night life or the party circuit so I can’t judge and won’t, but it seems sort of trivial.
And Lance Bass? I won’t even bother.