I’ve found it more difficult than usual lately to quantify just what exactly a mature masculinity within the context of gay culture is supposed to look like. After reading “A Place At The Table: The Gay Individual in American Society” by Bruce Bawer, I began to identify with some of the irksome idiosyncrasies that had been all-too-apparent to me in my early days of coming-out and attempting to integrate into the overarching culture of what I had perceived (at the time) to be the de-facto culture of gay identity. A culture of flamboyancy, seemingly indefatigable (often venomous) sarcasm, and a propensity for the oft-referenced “Good Times” that just never seemed to end.
Instead of becoming integrated, I found myself becoming further disillusioned with it each time that I surfaced for proverbial air or spent the next day recovering from a hangover. The lurid affairs, the failure of many in the community to mature and grow up—it seemed of utter importance to me, yet it was trivial to people with whom the subject was broached. Attempting to place under consideration the notion of “maturity” within the community merely complicated the process for me. Leaving aside the notion of maturity for a moment and attempting merely to consider gay “community” in its wholeness, it seemed as though the community was missing the fucking point. The fact that individuals on both sides of the equation believe that the gay community embodies more than its vices is challenging enough without the weight of a few (dozen) centuries of persecution to go along with it.
The more frustrating portions of the community aren’t even the varying gender expressions or the attitudes that are brought about as a direct result of it, it’s the myriad problems that the community upholds as somehow “virtuous”—even in the face of mounting evidence that those supposed virtues are the source of many of its worst ills. It’s difficult for me to conceive of what the gay community would look like without the intense influence of substance abuse, the utter dependence on gender-specific sex-appeal (clothing models, drag queens, etc.), and the ever-present pressure to conform to the aforementioned criteria (which has more-or-less been the norm for 50+ years).
It’s been strange for me, feeling like I’ve been living on the mostly-overlooked edges of a minority group. I’m too “normal” for most gay events, and my lack of chemical vices does not help me establish any kind of rapport based on shared experience. That’s not to say that I haven’t experimented or that I haven’t come home more drunk than a sailor whose shore-leave has just ended—quite the contrary. It’s just that I don’t go seeking those experiences, and I find them more damaging and detrimental to the kind of person I want to be… which I guess is the entire point.
Whinging at my own outsider status within a group that is already considered “other” by most of society is not just futile, it feels like shouting in the midst a maelstrom. The hardest part of all of it is my inability to convince others that they are damaging themselves and others by not recognizing the problems that lie right in front of them. The rampant alcoholism, the carelessness with which their words are chosen (and often the targets of their angst), the sheer inanity of it all. There is nothing more inane (closer to insane) than spending a dozen years drinking and smoking your way to oblivion and “looking fabulous” while standing one stiletto-heeled foot in the grave. The notion that such a culture has any redeeming qualities beyond reinforcing a well-worn pattern of exclusionary behavior, pointless angst, and self-destructive vices seems idiotic.
And yet, it persists more than 50 years thus.
I hope that my life is an example to others feeling trapped within the innards of the broken machine. That there is more to see, do, and experience than to layer-on one or more chemical salves and fornicate one’s way back to blissful ignorance. This world has more to offer than seedy bars, pride parades, and one-night stands. There is adventure, excitement—even love. A love that does not begin or end with the words “but”, “if”, or “and”. Instead, a love that transcends time, borders, and the superficial differences.
Any hope of even cursory inquiry, whether at the behest of another or of their own volition often seems remote. Yet, I cling fastidiously to the hope that there are others who are also seekers. Ones whose dissimilarity compliments and enhances my own. I hope to find them someday. I hope that they, like myself, are dissatisfied. Dissatisfaction breeds change, and I think that’s likely what the gay “community” needs the most right now: change.