I must take this opportunity to apologize to Bert Archer. Many years ago he wrote a book called The End of Gay that very much angered me. Now, so many years later, I am ready to eat my words.
Gay is definitely over.
I have only one quibble with Archer’s theory. He used his own burgeoning bisexuality as a symbol for the irrelevance of labels. And like the early gay liberationists, Archer believed that it was possible to transcend prejudice. And he believed essentially that such a world would soon arrive.
I completely agree that gay is dead. But it has not died a natural death because of the decline of homophobia. On the contrary, gay has been murdered. And both gays and straights are left holding the gun.
Does this mean that men will not continue to have sex with men (and women with women)?
No, of course not.
But unfortunately ‘MSM’ is all that’s left of our identity. AIDS statistics are no longer collected using the category ‘gay.’ The CDC has decided that the term gay inclusive enough. So gay men don’t get AIDS anymore -- because gay men don’t exist. All that’s left are the ‘MSMS’ -- men who have sex with men.
And having sex with men, is unfortunately, ALL that’s left for us. Gay was once a swishy walk, a witty remark -- it was camp, it was leather chaps, it was an ‘open’ relationship, it was a late night assignation -- perfume, performance, plush velvet curtains, fierceness, anger, and, well, dicks in a darkroom.
We’ve said goodbye to all that.
Gay culture has gone the way of the dinosaurs. The only gay plays we like these days are ancient clinkers like Rent, The Normal Heart and March of the Falsettos, melodramas that chronicle the lives of gay men when AIDS was not manageable, and gay men were dying like flies. There are almost no gay novels. I dare you to name me a new gay poet who has recently made a mark.
We live in an age where gay men continue to be promiscuous, but mainly online. Gay liberation was about ‘coming out’ being openly gay IN PUBLIC, being loudly seen and deafeningly heard. The web serves men who are still ashamed of their sexuality, because they can make contact in secret.
The trans movement doesn’t seem very interested in gay liberation anymore, viewing gays and lesbians as oppressive for their attachment to gender labels. (I would respectfully argue that if we get rid of the categories male and female, we say goodbye to sex!)
And finally there’s gay and lesbian marriage -- all those sad photos of queers who have somehow figured out what outfits to wear at their weddings, filling up Facebook.
Why do gay weddings sadden me? Because the ‘murder of gay’ does not mean that gay men have sorted out their identities, or have gained new self-esteem, or feel unashamed of cocksucking, or are proud of being effeminate. If anything, gay marriage will serve as an enormous pressure for young gays and lesbians unable to find a life partner.
But we will go on. Just as women, and people of colour struggle go on, despite the lie that racism and sexism are over. Indeed, for some of us, in many ways, things are worse off than before. We have black president in the U.S.A., and yet we have more young black males in U.S. prisons (mostly on drug charges) than at any other time in history. More women are attending university, but an infinitesimal number have high-ranking corporate jobs. Women, like gay men, are reeling under the pressure to ‘have it all’ -- excel at both marriage and at a career. And, with all the pressure to be perfect, healthy, buff, married, middle class, and masculine, and with all the pressure to be perfectly comfortable in a culture that refuses to reflect the details of our lives -- is it any wonder that so many young gays are turning to drugs and unsafe sex?
Who murdered gay?
Our puritanical culture just couldn’t bear the idea that men might act like women, and women might act like men, or the idea that everyone doesn’t ‘mate for life,’ or the idea that queers (god forbid!) have their own language, icons, and ribald humour.
I will continue to be a gay writer. And as I witness my gradual erasure, I shed a tear, less for myself (hey, I’m okay) -- than for the vision of the fierce, effeminate, sexual young man I once was
A young man who grew up in a community that affirmed his worth.