Gay culture is… a mystery. I, of course, say that from the standpoint of a gay man.
Well, lemme back up. Identity as a whole is a complicated topic of discussion. At the center of it are two “basic” identities. I put basic in quotes because when is identity ever a basic thing? But it can be divided into two categories. The first is the visible. This traditionally is associated with race or more physical identifiers of someone’s lifestyle. The other is best described as self-identified. This is where I come in. I would never in a million years encourage someone to remain in the closet, but the fact remains that it is a choice to live one’s life openly, hence the term “self-identified.”
But when presented with these two categories, where does that leave queer identity? I would make an argument that self-identified groups are the ones that face some of the most difficulty in establishing an individual’s identity as well as a solid community. It could just be my personal experience that leads me to believe that, but whatever the reasoning, it seems that there is a bit of a disconnect between the individual and the community when it comes to this topic.
One thing I’ve noticed now more than ever is the outright dismissal of the gay community by gay individuals. Now, maybe I’m not fit to talk about this considering I’ve only been to two Pride parades (and hated both) and I’m not particularly in touch with the gay community, aside from issues of politics. But still, now more than ever you see men describing themselves as “straight-acting” or identifying as “masculine” at every opportunity.
It’s as if the term “gay” emasculates them almost instantaneously. And it does, in a sense. I remember when I first came out, women would ask me to go shopping with them. I hated shopping when I was in the closet, and I still hate it now. So on one level, I understand, because there’s a pre-conceived notion of what it means to be gay and what it means to be masculine.
Maybe it’s just the naive part of me, but I’d like to believe that those expectations live in the small lives of the ignorant and uneducated (no matter how well intentioned) but the way that this issue seems to keep re-surfacing, it’s a little troubling.
Furthermore, there’s always been that hidden allure of the gay guy bagging the straight guy, but what the hell is that about? Are we seriously so marginalized by populist society that we don’t even want to be involved with “one of our kind?”
Now, I’m not saying that the gay community is perfect. In fact, I’ve kept out of it for the most part because I do take issues with a lot of it and with the limitations placed upon it, but I’m equally disgusted by the opposite camp. Sure, I’ve used identifiers such as “butch” and “femme”, but honestly, what else am I supposed to say?
More than anything else, more than a total overhaul of our idea of a gay ‘community”, more than the frivolous aspects of gay culture, we still have needs. We need people to realize the damage they’re doing by saying “Oh, I’m straight-acting” as if the rest of gay men aren’t. It forces us to define ourselves in terms of We need to quit letting heterosexual expectations of what it means to be gay inform men and women who identify as gay how to behave.
But what we really need is a vocabulary. We have the visibility. Well, not entirely, but the nation (even though many continue to try to marginalize us) is finally beginning to take notice of the struggle for equality. What we don’t have is a way to talk about this struggle, this identity, or even this community. When people are reduced to defining homosexuality from a heterosexual standpoint, it’s time to question how we talk about the issues that are central to our very existence.