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What I mean when I say I'm homophobic

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Jun. 25th, 2010 | 07:25 pm

I told Lauren (hallo thar, Lauren!) recently that I suspect I'm a tad bit homophobic. A long discussion followed about subtle forms of homo/transphobia displayed by otherwise well-meaning, generally tolerant straight/cis folks, along with a celebration/affirmation of the variability and fluid nature of gender and sexuality. It was a good talk.

But there's still the problem: I'm trying to parse what I mean when I say "I'm a tad homophobic." I don't think it's the right way to put it. When pressed, I qualify it further as a sense of discomfort with, distrust of, and a failure to identify with what I guess could be called 'mainstream gay culture.'

You know what I mean. Dance clubs. Flashing lights. Intentional adoption of unnecessary and unflattering mannerisms. Obsession with theater. Showtunes. Promiscuity. General intolerance for women (at least among the gays I know, some of the time). Intense sexualization. Erasure of L, B, T, Q, and A from the acronym.  Apple martinis. Will and Grace. Queer as Folk. Obsession with friviolous pursuits. Frivolity as an end in itself. Guuuurrrlll, shoot. Body worship. Excess of middle class white subjectivities. Anal sex. Reinscription of ultimately harmful binarisms. Political apathy. Homonormativity. An overabundance of Lady Gaga (who I love, sure, but she isn't the messiah). And Brittany Spears. And Madonna.

Some of these things are fine. They're harmless, more or less. People incorportate these things into their lives, enjoy them, and that's great. Some of them aren't harmless at all (especially the exclusion and intolerance that happen). A lot, if not all of it, is stereotyping and gross over-simplification, I grant (though in my limited time dating, not just reading about gay culture, they are all things I have encountered). What I'm saying is this: none of it is how I want my desire structure, my gender configuration, my sexuality, my self, culturally represented. I don't want apple martinis conflated with the part of my psyche that determines who I love/fuck/whatever.

I read a good quote recently from a story about the people who run The New Gay, which voices my discomfort pretty well: "You come out into this culture that you had no hand in creating, and you're expected to conform to it if you want to have friends or sexual partners," Rosen said. "One of the greatest tragedies in gay life is that you spend the first 18 or 20 or however many years of your life feeling as an outsider -- and then you come out, and still . . . you may not want to come into this fabulous world of big, mega dance club music with all these guys in Hollister T-shirts. It's one way people live, but it's not you. One of the tag lines of [the New Gay] is: 'Be gay and be yourself,' and here, it's often very hard to do both."

I've felt this vaguely for a while now. The sense that this culture, this community, no matter how much I might try to align myself with it, is not me and is never going to be me in the way that it is for some people.

I feel too old for it. I'm not a child, and I think of most gay men as locked in a state of perpetual youth.

I didn't make this culture. I don't identify with it. When I walk through gay town I'm struck with an overwhelming sense of its absurdity, its alienness. It doesn't feel like coming home. I don't feel myself finally finding a community that's mine. It feels more like a battleground I need to traverse, or a movie I only enjoy because it's so self consciously terrible (I know, this is like, the definition of camp, which is also associated with gays, but whatever, let's ignore this). But if I want to fall in love, or whatever, it's the culture I'm supposed to embrace, even though it feels like violence to my psyche.

Of course it's not as inescapable as I'm making it. I can work outside that monolithic culture, but it makes something already considerably difficult even harder (since, after all, the monolithic gay culture is decidedly outside the terms of monolithic straight culture, even though that gay culture attempts to incorporate straight culture's various terms and requirements for itself).

So when I say I'm homophobic, what I think I mean is that homosexual culture, in large part, does not appeal to me in any way. I don't want much to do with it. I don't think it's harmful in itself, but I think that it can be alienating for large swaths of people who identify as gay, but not as 'that kind of gay'.

Is this homophobic? I don't know.

I should perhaps start thinking about the kind of gay culture I'd like to see, as opposed to just listing what I don't like. But that's difficult work, and this post is already long. But just for fun: a commitment to common political goals would be a start, as long as those goals contribute to the widening of the definition of queer/gay/whatever else, and not a constriction of it. A move toward greater inclusion of various queer identities -- more mixing. More people of color. More trans folks. Room for various interests. A serious alteration of the body-centeredness in gay male culture. Places to meet other than bars (these places do exist already, of course, but more couldn't hurt). Less ghettoization of queer communities. So on. So forth. Etc.

[The loneliness quotes are coming later. It's just that I've been thinking about recent developments with Wade, along with my apprehension about pride, and the conversation Lauren and I had, and yeah.]

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