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Respectability is the New Closet

By Mark Simpson (shorter version originally appeared on Guardian CIF, June 2009)

‘The more things a man is ashamed of’, wrote George Bernard Shaw, ‘the more respectable he is.’ Gays must now be terribly respectable since, forty years on from the Stonewall riots started by drag queens, hustlers and homeless youths high on drugs – outsiders with nothing to lose – gays have moved up in the world, become middle-aged and promptly found plenty of things to be ashamed of.

Like all arrivistes, and like Shaw’s most famous creation Eliza Doolittle, they’re particularly ashamed of their past.

Stonewall itself was recently ‘upgraded’ to ‘Stonewall 2.0′ – the name given the current wave of gay marriage activism. Which is a bit like updating ‘Querelle’ into ‘Little House on the Prairie’. Meanwhile, gays are now so ashamed of their dead heroes they dig them up and assassinate them all over again. The gay-adored, gay scripted, gay directed film ‘Milk’ was so popular precisely because it bumped off the actual historical Harvey Milk and his shamefully shameless sex-life, unloading a revolver of revisionism into his chicken-hawk head, replacing him with a serially-monogamous imposter who used to be cute and married to Madonna.

‘Milk’ also replaced the promiscuous, bathhouse-happy 1970s San Francisco that Milk eagerly embraced – and shagged silly – with something much more real-estate agent. Scripted by a gay Mormon, San Francisco looks less like 70s answer to Sodom and Gomorrah than a gayted community for Gap wearing gay couples. No wonder Lance Black mentioned marriage and God more than once in an Oscar acceptance speech that had more uplift than even his decorous hairdo.

In the Twenty First century, respectability is fast shaping up to be the New Closet. Or The Closet 2.0, if you like annoying software references. And the custodians of the New Closet are not paddy-wagons and queer-bashers, but gays themselves, itching to conform to standards of hypocrisy more and more straight people are abandoning. As a result, we can look forwards to many more outings such as that of Sam Adams, mayor of Portland, Oregon, once dubbed ‘The New Harvey Milk’, who repeatedly denied rumours of an affair with a teenager, denouncing them as scurrilous lies playing to base stereotypes of predatory homosexuals, but was recently forced to admit that, erm, they weren’t scurrilous after all. Or in fact, lies.

In their headlong pursuit of respectability – and let’s not pretend that marriage privileges are not at least as much about respectability as about equality – most gays that aren’t ‘cult’ writers like Bruce Benderson or Michael Warner seem to have forgotten that gay sex isn’t terribly respectable, and that it never will be no matter how much you talk up gay domesticity. Unless you plan on making medical history with a successful womb transplant, gay male sex is always going to be improper, inappropriate, non-procreative sex-for-sex’s sake rather than the Pope’s, Uncle Sam’s or Mothercare’s. And that is, if you’re honest, probably part of the reason why you enjoy it.

Even the word ‘gay’, now invested with so much golf-club decorum by social-climbing sodomites, doesn’t have a very decorous history. Despite the complaints of retired colonels about homos hijacking their favourite word, gay’s original meaning of ‘joyful’ and ‘carefree’ was pretty much an antonym for respectable. Which may be why in the 17th Century a ‘gay woman’ was a prostitute, a ‘gay man’ a womanizer, and a ‘gay house’ a brothel. In the early 20th Century, even before it commonly became associated with homosexuality, ‘gay’ meant ‘single’ and ‘unattached’ – ‘straight’ meant ‘married’ and ‘respectable’. In the Twenty First Century those meanings have of course been reversed.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising that gays turned out to be like everyone else – given the chance, they’ve grabbed any propriety they can lay their hands on and with it their chance to look down on others (‘Miss California those topless photos are a scandal and an outrage! Hand your crown back immediately, you hussy!‘). After all, like the sandal-wearing Shaw, I’m looking down loftily on those who want to be respectable. But really, as a Stonewall drag queen might have put it looking around the gay world today, smell her!

Ironically – or e-ronically – it’s the unlimited, anonymous sluttiness of the net that helps sustain the New Closet. Now gay men can move to the suburbs with their partner, present a front of monogamous chastity to the world, but also have discreet sex outside their relationship without having to access the urban gay scene, or even cruise draughty parks and rest stops. For quite a few gay men Manhunt and Gaydar take on the role prostitution played with the Victorian gentlemen of Shaw’s era: a disreputable institution they strongly disapprove of that makes their own respectability possible. (I know I’m not supposed to talk about this in public, but oops, I just have.)

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the nice middle-aged lady on the Clapham Omnibus needs to know what I got up to last night – but on the other hand, I don’t want to have to pretend to be the nice middle-aged lady on the Clapham Omnibus.

Respectability is not to be sneered at, though. It can change history. It’s probably just a matter of time before the date of Stonewall is itself revised to 1968 or 1970. After all, 1969 plays far too easily into straight prejudices about gays being obsessed with perverse sex….

35 thoughts on “Respectability is the New Closet”

  1. The misfortune about the marriage situation is that very few people have the curiousity or courage to step outside the status quo, or even find out what is outside the box before they set up critical boundaries.
    Most people grow up in more or less streotypic families, where, regardless of real feelings, everyone acts a if the romantic, love generated prototype is pounded into their little heads before they can think; the same programing happens in the media.
    The truth, if you are in a position to talk in dead earnest with straight men, is that , apart from the demands of nesting security minded females, heterosexual men would be out fucking different women left and right and every other way. Trust me , I relate to straight men well and have done my research. Marriage vows and the myth of love are all assurances for women and society and are not part of the male makeup at all. Gay or straight! Indeed gay men, who often attempt to relate more to females are buying into a program which will not, except in the least well realized most insecure individuals, (especially when they fail to have babies)not stand up to experience. As far as GLBT people only lesbians wil find it comfortable. on an ongoing basis.

    All of this can be said external to all the religious insanity and need for social assimilation. I believe that there are a lot of young and older, wiser gay people who don’t give a hoot for conformity, and , like me, avoid it like the plaque, in it’s various dangerous self destructive forms.

    As long as voices like yours and Marks’ get heard people will rally. That is the tricky part, unfortunately, being heard.

  2. Both Marks! I think I’ll refer to you guys by your last names from now on – it’s interesting reading the comments on the original posting. There’s a strong divide, but it looks like a lot of non straight folk have been waiting for a statement like that. In fact, i’d say it’s a spot on manifesto for those who oppose conformity – a rallying call.

  3. I don’t know which Mark you were beconing, Marcello, but nonetheless this is a very amazing! It’s very seldom that truth creeps into American media like that . It ‘s really a very thorough, thoughtfull examination; amazingly so. Something,if it gets around which should resonate witha lot of people; indeed a majority who are really sick of this marriage routine mascarading as the major gay agenda.

    Thanks from me for sending that.

  4. Bisexuality is too confusing a concept for the extant midset. Indeed it might be a break from the bleak tedium that American gays are pushing down everyones’ throats. They need something with a spin to stick up the nether regions!

  5. If being bisexual ever becomes totally mainstream and conformist, full of consumerism, and respectability that being a gay man has nowadays or God forbid being queer/GLBT becomes as ubiquitously acceptable and respectable as heterosexuality is, I think I’ll puke.

  6. Great comments here by Mark and Sisu.
    Love to have a coffee with you guys : ) if your ever in Australia.

    Wapote, buddy… you need to learn how to breathe again. Stop being soooo emotional and pause, breathe, think – repeat.

  7. Wapote: There is really very little else to say after Sisu’s estimable and lucid explaination; it appears that you are not reading at all! There are many authors who have addressed the matter of who is conservative, and who not ; it is certainly not one of us. Here are some American authors you might benefit from although if you slow down and try to understand what is being said, you might find a fresh way of understanding that not everyone buys the popular package that so may lawyers, groups and pundant profit from.

    “The Trouble with Normal; Sex Ethics and Politics of Queer Life ” by Michael Warner (Rutgers Univ.)

    Queer Wars:The New Gay Right and Its Critics: Paul A Robinson; about Sullivan, Bauwer,Signorelli, and Rotello. U of Chicago
    (this is a really great assessment of the Right wWing movement)

    Virtual Equality; the Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Libreration: (play on Sullivan’s” Virtually Normal”) Ursashi Vaid.

  8. Do you need a step stool to get off your high horse? I think you are reading what YOU want to read out of my comments. For the last time, for those of you who cannot comprehend written English, I celebrate my diversity. I am happy I’m a big homo, and there is nothing I would rather be than a gay male. But yes, being able to marry and adopt children like anyone else is a right. Who says I shouldn’t be able to adopt a child with my HUSBAND if I could be a good parent. Why should some drug-addicted trailer trash, or some god awful chav be able to reproduce when they already have 4 kids in their single-wide or caravan. And yes, you should be supportive of the movement even if you think the institution of marriage isn’t for you. You seem to be as bad as the bigots during the civil rights movement who ‘had every right to think’ that whites and blacks shouldn’t mix. I’m sorry, but I don’t respect that opinion, and if you do in 2009, you are a sad and horrible person. Throughout time, the general intelligence of a society grows. Our society in 2009 knows more about social equality, science, etc than the society of the 1950s. By the way, the idea that marriage as an institution and as a religious sacrament/entity is supposedly already decided due to my country’s separation of church and state. I personally think that the equality movement is actually trying to make that a real issue, by showing that even though some religions think of marriage as a religious institution, not everyone is married. I think marriage is more of a cultural institution that religious one, because regardless of religion, there is always marriage, even for atheists. And my last note, when did I say the only respectable kind of relationship is marriage? I never did. I’ve never been married and I’ve had relationships that were respectable. Thanks for twisting my comment around, but I don’t think everyone should get married or less value should be put onto them. I’m saying that I personally want to get married, and I don’t think that you, a conservative, or anyone else has the right to tell me that I can’t get married because I’m a second class citizen and don’t deserve to be part of an institution that recognizes my monogamous and profound love for someone.

  9. Wapote, no one is saying that all gay men are promiscuous and do not deserve the right to marry. I think you may be reading into the replies what you THINK is being said, and not taking the time to understand what is being said. And without wanting to get confrontational, I find insulting the remark, “Like seeing a black or poor republican, it just doesn’t make sense.” There is no mandate on how an individual should express themselves; do you to want some form of gay “Group Think” that is followed by all members of the GLBT communities?

    Here are some ideas to ponder.

    1) There should be no politics of sexual shame. Every person should have a right to express themselves sexually provided that the sex is consensual. A problem with the Gay and Lesbian Community (not so common with the bisexual community) is that only monogamous relationships are valued – hence the current push for gay marriage. My earlier comment was “queers and transgenders and prostitutes and the slutty singles just after their next shag and the bisexuals and those that just don’t (or won’t) fit in”. You took exception to the linkage between gay men and prostitutes. The point is not that gay men are like prostitutes, but that we share a level of sexual shame. The current Gay and Lesbian Movement sees the best way of dealing with sexual shame is to redefine it. Thus, the idea (as in Mark Simpson’s original post) of respectability being the new closet. To be respectable, gay men have to be monogamous and assimilationist, at least publicly. Or in your words, to “not stand out like a sore thumb that needs to be gawked at”.

    But what then happens if you redefine this respectability? What happens to those gays who do not want monogamy or who are in committed but open relationships? Where does it leave the bisexuals who are in open relationships? Guys that do t-rooms and parks on the way home to the wife? Men and women who sell their bodies for money? Transgenders and intersex people? Polygamists?

    So instead of the GLBT communities setting one restrictive agenda, why not deal openly with the politics of sexual shame? Why not go for true equality which protects any consensual relationships, not just promoting the one model of sexual monogamy / marriage?

    2) You seem to have a problem with the idea that any gay person who is against marriage is somehow a “traitor” to the gay and lesbian movement. Wow. Here is what you wrote:

    “Those of you who are against these equalization are selfish. Even if you are one of those homos that doesn’t care about marriage, you should still be supportive of the movement. If not for you, for your friends, and for the progression of the equality movement.”

    So what you are saying is that we should all promote same sex marriage for the good of the movement? That equality can only be reached through gay marriage? That is akin to saying that all minorities should shut up in the face of the majority. What would you say if you were told by the larger society that your viewpoint was wrong and harmful to the goals of the larger society? Oh, you were – in California, by the Federal government. Let me rephrase your comment:

    “Those of you who are for equalization are selfish. Even if you are one of those homos that does care about marriage, you should still be supportive of society’s interest to keep marriage between a man and a woman. If not for you, for your friends, and for the stability of society.”

    How does it feel to be marginalised for your minority view? Not to have it discussed, or accepted as valid, or to be welcomed as different, but to be told that because you are a minority your view should be hidden and you take up the view of the majority for the greater good?

    3) Marriage as a right. I hate to burst your bubble, but marriage (and children) is not a basic right. Food, water, shelter, education, basic safety – they are rights. Yes, the right to enter into a relationship (or relationships) is there too. But not the right to marriage. Marriage is a social contract that is valued in our society; and as a thing of value I agree that it should be examined. But instead of promoting marriage as equality, how much better would it be to separate marriage (as a religious institution) from law; and to recognise in law the different ways we can form relationships?

    As for your comment that having children is a right, I would suggest that the opposite is true. Having children is a responsibility. That is why the state reserves for itself the ability to take children away from unfit parents.

    I noticed in my country’s gay glossy an article – written with no sense of irony – that one of the benefits of having children is that you can plan glamourous parties for them. Dress them up, cater, hire some ponies – this is the ultimate in gay narcissism. Children should not be a fashion accessory…and although most gays and lesbians make fantastic parents, the idea that having children is some expression of self is abhorent.

    4) Lastly, I suggest you follow up on Mark Walsh’s comment about gay history. Rather than the likes of traitorous, slutty, non-monogamous me putting back gay and lesbian rights 25 years, it is the likes of you that are putting the rights back – to the 1950’s where assimilation was seen to be the key. No celebration of difference, the observence of heterosexual type behaviour, the idea that if we don’t frighten the horses then we will win our freedomes. Ironically, the same message that African-Americans were told prior to the civil rights movement – especially ironic because of the passion the current gay movement has in quoting the black civil rights movement in their struggle. Equality in America started when a black woman said she wasn’t going to be a good ol’ girl any more and sat up the front of the bus. And now here we are in (almost) 2010 and we are being told that to win our freedoms, we have to be good gay girls and boys and sit demurely in that same bus with all the straight girls and boys. In our alloted spaces, with no discourse, no challenge to the status quo.

    And, in the end, the bus goes around in one big circle.

  10. First thing first. Who says I’m not proud to be gay? I am a gay rights advocate, and a researcher of the psychology of GLBT persons. I do not thing being gay is immoral by any means; however, you can’t ignore the fact that there are some out there who are. So, are you saying all gay men are promiscuous and do not deserve the right to marry? Are you basically saying, “Tough shit, we’re not meant to be monogamous!” Thank you for setting back gay rights 25 years. I do not live my life with shame, but rather with pride of who I am. Its unfortunate that America doesn’t feel the same as a collective nation. I am not trying to be antagonistic, but obviously there are some people out there, homos like myself nonetheless, that feel as if the gay rights movement and GLBT equality are a joke. It’s a sad day to wake up and see your own people against each other, and their own best interests. Like seeing a black or poor republican, it just doesn’t make sense. If anything, the remarks that homos are meant to be promiscuous is an internalized heterosexist comment in and of itself. When you see yourself as LESS valuable, and undeserving of any kind of equality, it’s a sign of low self-esteem and self-value.

  11. sorry for errors(above); didn’t proofread: other than first paragraph :

    “it is hurtful and bizarre to see naive people who have not accepted their unique and dynamic place in life and society as something to be proud of”

  12. Wapote, “progression” is the most regretable and deceptive of misnomers to be assigned to the assimilation. when does reaction turn into progression. Interestingly your postscript is pitifully guilt ladden, asit seems your mentality is.

    Sisu was polite, and I admire his forbearance. I personally find the current marriage movement offensive and, in fact, immoral. Because I live in the heart of the marriage epidemic, it is hurtful and bizarre to see naive people who have not accepted their unique and dynamic place in life and society as something to be ashamed of. As someone who came out before the AIDS epidemic and had the opportunity to experience gay life as our communities were created without the spector of Gay sexual shame, I can assure you that lifetime relationships were the last thing in most people’s minds(they were an oddity in fact). Gay men had a rich variety of relationships,friendships and community nonexistent in straight society. That is 20 years ago! The Gay Right wing took advantage of this sense of homophobic reactionary shame to push gay people back into a new closet to compensate for our “bad behavior”. “Bad nasty queers!”

    These people have opportunistically taken the”separate but equal” clause of the 14th Amendment. ( black / white men and woman can be married) which while it is used to apply to many Bill of Rights matters, is a questionable argument for same sex marriage as it overlooks the common law definition of “marriage”. There is nothing unique about that approach but it is stretching the current meaning of the Constitution.

    Some scholars do believe that it is immoral to be moved by shame in defining who you are. I tend to agree.

    In a line with what Sisu says, I am getting really tired of trying just to be friends with people who’s wife/ husband is jealous. I never want to be mistaken for a suburban housewife, a member of PTA and the neighborhood sewing circle. It is not in my nature to be commonplace, as there are just too many commonplace people as it is.

  13. I think you guys are completely missing the point I am trying to make. I am not saying that I want to completely assimilate! I quote, “But I am optimistic. I want to be celebrated for my diversity, and respected for it as well, but not stand out like a sore thumb that needs to be gawked at.” I love the fact that I’m a homo… and I want to celebrate my diversity; however, I wish that I didn’t have to face the hatred and disgust by many in our society because of who I am. Yes, I do want to get married, move to the suburbs and have the 2.2 kids. That is simply who I am as a person. That is where my ambitions and dreams lie. And when fighting for personal right, what is a person actually saying? They are saying that I deserve these unalienable rights as a living, breathing human being. When the right wing conservatives say that in reality we are asking for those “special rights” how do we respond? No, we want the rights that any other person deserves. The right of liberty, safety, and I say, in addition, the right to marry and have children. Those of you who are against these equalization are selfish. Even if you are one of those homos that doesn’t care about marriage, you should still be supportive of the movement. If not for you, for your friends, and for the progression of the equality movement. That is what it is people.

    P.S. what kind of fool will get prostitute from talking about gay marriage? You are just as bad as the right wing conservatives that say that the next thing to come after gay marriage will be pedophiles and animal-fuckers. Where in your mind can you get that kind of association? Its offensive.

  14. Actually, yes, when I walk down the street and I see people of certain racial characteristics, I think certain things. If it is a person from South Asia, I think, “Damn sexy!” for the most part; I also have a thing for Spaniards, Italians, Greeks, Turks. But then, also a thing for Scandinavians (blonds and redheads are hot, hot hot).

    Have cultural archetypes assimilated? In many second, third, fourth generations of immigrants, yes. But go to any country and you will be confronted with many cultural aspects that you do not see in wider America (which, I presume, is where you reside, Wapote). So to say that there is some “global melting pot” of assimilation and its corresponding idea of “normality” is disingeneous unless we are talking about a specifically American scenario.

    As for the American (and increasingly Australian and probably UK) Gay and Lesbian Movement / Industry, who is really serviced by the Assimilationist model? Who gets to benefit from the idea that “We are just like you!” and that hence we deserve the same rights as heterosexuals?

    Who benefits? Those that are most like the dominant culture – those in committed relationships (regardless of whether they observe the expected monogamy; as long as it is hidden any sluttiness can be excused). Add also those of certain backgrounds (read: white and middle class), or those of certain cultural expectations.

    What about people who are outside these “norms”? What about the queers and transgenders and prostitutes and the slutty singles just after their next shag and the bisexuals and those that just don’t (or won’t) fit in?

    How much more equitable is a true Movement that promotes rights and justice for all, one that does not focus just on a group that is able to assimilate and is thus deserving of the rights accorded in the process of that assimilation? But then, the Gay and arguably the Lesbian Movements of the last two decades have been more about supporting a certain type of person, not about the greater idea of equality. An equality based on the innate rights of the person, not on how well they can assimilate.

    So, Wapote, keep your assimilationist ideas – and I wish you well in your mission to “just fit in”, as is your right to pursue. But don’t think that in fitting in you help those who are different by circumstance or choice – all you are doing is making a world where you won’t be standing out like a sore thumb that needs to be gawked at.

    But there will be others that you will condemn to that fate.

  15. Ok, so when you walk down the street and you see an Irishman, do you think, damn Irishman? What about if you see an Italian? Do you instantly think guido? How about when you see a German? Do you think Hessian Nazi? Not really. Why? Because over time, cultures do assimilate. Sometimes, when it comes to certain things, such as homosexuality, of course there will be differences, just like that of the olive skin of Italians. But over generations, people will forget the discriminant ideology of their ancestors. It is a matter of fact. Yes, it is true that certain types of prejudice do thrive in a small amount of the population, however the vast majority of the population doesn’t feel as if they need to fight back against it. Interracial dating as an example. Some people still feel strange about it, but in the last fifty years, the acceptance that has came around is promising. Give it time, and a second thought or glance won’t even permeate into the wider culture. But no matter what, there will always be a small amount of people who hold on to the hate passed on to them by their previous generation. But I am optimistic. I want to be celebrated for my diversity, and respected for it as well, but not stand out like a sore thumb that needs to be gawked at. It will eventually happen, hopefully in my lifetime.

  16. I don’t want to reiterate things which Mark has already explicated. so well.
    People will always have filters through which they apprehend whatever or whomever is before their consciousness’, one of them being a “fag filter”. The “closet” that Mark speaks of I think implies a pseudo lack of that discrimination. Personally I’ve worked too hard at being proud of who I am, to not want to be recognized as that. We will always be subversive to heterosexuality outside a closet.
    Assimilationist ethics are just a new thing; a product of Andrew Sullivan and Bruce Bawer primarily. Contrary to what makes any sense, they and current popular American gay politics want to create this kind of “blindness “by making the neglect to apprehend any difference illegal; which in itself sets the distinction in stone, by reversing people’spredilictions. If the filter did not exist it would just not exist it’s absence wouldn’t need political creation. The really sad fact of the matter is that the struggle for marriage has set off a religious war for which gay people will suffer much more than they could hope to gain. I think it has been said that this is not entirely unlike the Jews situation in pre-Nazi Europe.

  17. I can see where you are saying that, but I respectfully disagree. It is the same thing as interracial marriage earlier in the 20th century. They, as couples, wanted to be considered equal. The fact that they are diverse is true, but is put on the back burner. Its not something that the vast majority of Americans even think about when they see a couple. Its not like a large police siren and lights set screaming look at us, we’re different. Its subtle, and not a big deal. What I mean is, sure, we will always be different by definition, however I want to see the day when people will not run everything they notice about me through a fag filter first. Well, he does this because he’s gay, or acts like that because he’s gay.

  18. Wapote: there is an inconsistency in your picture: the neorespectable gays define’ Equality” as “Marriage”, and military service, which as by your account preclude the part about “diversity” unanimously and by your own definition. I’m more inclined to kick ‘marriage ‘ out of the bed and settle for diversity albeit subversive. As far as the military part we would just be party torture and ‘shock and awe’ and imperalist grandure. And I think we will have more than enough of a problem getting equal employment opportunity and freedom for kids from harrassment and miseducation.

  19. Ok so here’s the deal. In our current society, in order to be conceptualized as equal to breeders in our society, we have to be better than them. In order to be considered and labeled good parents, we must be amazing parents. No matter what kind od positive adjective we want to be associated with us, we have to be the “adjective” even more than heterosexuals. However, if we are considered something negative, like promiscuous, all we have to do is have one single one night stand, and then we are living the stereotype of a slutty gay man. Its ridiculous. Because of this, alot of gay men have identity problems, gender role conflicts, and the most harmful of all the psychological distresses that a gay man can have is internalized heterosexism. This is the idea that anything considered heterosexual is valued, and anything else is considered less valuable. This, in addition to the fact that the mainstream public in the US sees us differently depending on how we behave, creates an animosity in the gay community. Some gay men hate and devalue those gay men who are effeminate and flamboyant, labeling them as the fags and faeries, and themselves the “straight acting jocks”. Well honestly, if you suck dick, we’re in the same boat no matter what you want to believe. I just hope that I see the day when I can act just anonymously fuck like a straight man and not be considered any different, or be a parent of a child and not be considered a perv or be envisioned as half of a couple that can’t raise a child better than a dirt poor alcoholic man and his beaten, black eyed, uneducated wife on methamphetamine. Equality is what I want under the law, and my diversity is what I want to be respected by the average Joe.

  20. I have just been in a charming argument that Pride – as tiresome as these events are these days – should be about wholesome, family entertainment. No nudity, no in-your-face-drag (presumably, just the misogynistic but non-confronting version thanks), no whips, no chains, no frightening the major sponsors, but most of all no more sex.

    Nearly 40 years post-Stonewall, and we have closeted ourselves in order to be tolerated.

  21. Actually, I don’t doubt at all that straight men at least are purple with envy that gay men have so much sexual abandon (or at least did) when they are stuck with screwing the same old thing for life which she gets rapidly rolly polly and neuriotic. Moreover, simultaineously more neurotic. Most straight men who have addressed the matter honestly with me are perfectly willing to admit that they would go out and get laid more than occasionally if they could get away with it.

    Now, because they are so naive and insecure (in need of a closet) that they are screeching for the same thing.

  22. No discussion of respectability would be complete without:

    Well now we’re respected in society
    We don’t worry about the things that we used to be
    We’re talking heroin with the president
    Well it’s a problem, sir, but it can’t be bent
    Uh yes!

    Well now you’re a pillar of society
    You don’t worry about the things that you used to be
    You’re a rag-trade girl, you’re the queen of porn
    You’re the easiest lay on the White House lawn
    Get out of my life, don’t come back

    And lest we ever forget:

    Yeah, mama and papa told me
    I was crazy to stay
    I was gay in New York
    and just a fag in L.A.
    So I saved my money
    and I took a plane
    Wherever I go
    they treat me the same

    When the whip comes down

    I’m going down fifty-third street
    And they’re spitting in my face
    I’m learning the ropes
    Yeah I’m learning a trade
    The east river truckers
    Are churning with trash
    I make so much money
    That I’m spending so fast

    When the whip comes down

    Yeah, some called me garbage
    When I was sleeping on the street
    Out on the road
    I’m on the cheap
    I’m filling a need
    I’m plugging a hole
    My mama’s so glad
    I ain’t on the dole

    When the whip comes down

    When the shit hits the fan
    I’ll be sittin on the can

    When the whip comes down

  23. Mark, I believe ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and ‘Querelle’ were contemporaneous, so it would be more accurate to say that it is like updating “The Fox and his Friends” into . . . “Friends”. Or perhaps “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” into “Designing Women”.

    Random observations:

    Like Eliza’s father, dustman-moralist Alfred Doolittle, gays get a little money and are suddenly burdened with the curse MIDDLE CLASS MORALITY! Or in terms of show tunes going from “With a little bit o’ luck” to “I’m getting married in the morning . . .”

    The Gay Divorcee (1935): “He gave her class and she gave him sex” as the sempiternally spot-on Mrs. Parker said.

    The middle aged lady on the Clapham omnibus: are you saying that gays have succeeded in becoming Edna Wellthorpe, Mrs? What would Joe think?

  24. wonderful explication Mark! I’m hoping that some Americans see it. Altough, as you know, the whole country may have to suffer first.

    Just to clarify several points above: Sullivan is the well published right wing wretch who wrote the article ‘The Death of Gay Liberation”. he gets space from the right wing Media (all of America virtually).
    Bruce Bawer: is the bimbo who wrote ‘A Place at the Table”.(sweet , huh!)

  25. It’s dizzying how they managed to take the sex out of being gay, then replaced it with the innocuous public image pairing of sets of married Home and Garden eunuchs?

    Personally, I worked too diligently and courageously at accepting and expressing my sexuality to turn into a capone for anybodys marriage ceremony . I don’t care whatsoever what that “nice middle-aged lady on the Clapham Omnibus knows what I was up to last night.” It’s really none of her business. I came out because my rampant id which would just not settle for a single anything else. My self-respect and authenticity are a byproduct of sexual empowerment.

    The confounded and discombobulating aspect of of the current mainstreaming and marriage insanity is not so much just the fact that it is so alien to everything of which we are constituted. In fact, the current whacked transformation occurred in only a twenty some years. Any of us who were around urban gay communities like San Francisco know well that erotic knowledge empowered us to amplify all of the other aspects of our lives because we felt whole. The sense of community and the liberation movement, spirituality, health, and creativity prevailed everywhere. Restraint of desire leads to self betrayal and social bad faith.

    We were duped. That happened, by a process not unlike the Neocon method of political takeover. The Shock of AIDS threw many people off enough for political conservatives the likes of Andrew Sullivan and Bruce Bawer to lambaste these disabled people with a hurricane of Catholic guilt, implicating their sexual behavior as the cause of HIV and demanding that they shut down gay liberation and assimilate to the most conservative of sexual mode:marriage. This was not true or rational, but people in their insecurity and guilt neglected to realize that they could not throw the baby out with the bathwater: In the best of cases, marriage would undermine out sense of sexual fulfillment and our respect for the unique and authentic mine we had discovered of gay fulfillment.

    The sinister fact that is occuring with many people who are inattentive is that they have, as Mark scribes, climbed back into the closet, like frightened roaches. This will have a disasterous affect on people who have failed to learn safe sex habits and who live in bad faith with the reality of their sexual appetites. It is all breaking appart already despite the cries for marriage, the occurance of AIDS has increased, because people neglect to admit their appetites until it is too late to learn to have sex safely..
    Moreover the “Gay liberation” movement is in the hands of a lot of shysters
    ; it has become the civil rights movement, the assimilation drives.

  26. The new LGBT respectibility is the reason why I love the fact that the word gay now means lame.

    God bless the (eternally untameable) teenage boys who hijacked OUR word!

  27. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the nice middle-aged lady on the Clapham Omnibus needs to know what I got up to last night – but on the other hand, I don’t want to have to pretend to be the nice middle-aged lady on the Clapham Omnibus.”

    Sometimes Mark, you can totally read my mind.

    I’ve been with three guys over the last two weeks -all of them in serious relationships (one man, in a 7 year marriage)- this never used to be the case. When I mentioned threesomes to two of these men – they scoffed and looked at me with the kind of disgust I get from middle class straight people who haven’t fucked their wives in weeks.

    Can we also begin to make connections between the fear based campaigns of the modern world (war of terror/ financial meltdown etc)how ever real or not and the huge to desire to find safety within a usually sanctioned by ‘God’ comfort zone? (I mean it’s sanctioned by an imaginary God – you couldn’t get a more fear based comfort zone than that).

    The modern western Gay man now all remind me of my mother, with her constant “why don’t you find a nice man get amrried and settle down!” line – I hear it so often that I almost feel like it’s something I should do – until reality kicks me in the butt.

    I would like to find a nice man though, a constant companion that I can fuck – I just don’t want to settle down and get married. Settling down means giving up on the adventure of life – which is wild -not complacent at all. Just look around.

    Can we also make note as to the heavy U.S. conservative media influence has on the rest of the world. And the typical fear based assimilitaion response of most humans to follow suite.

    It’s usually safer to have other people think for us – and follow orders then put ourselves out on a limb and be made outcasts, banished from large groups etc

  28. These days, you have to tailor your gayness so that it’ll look attractive and acceptable in corporate diversity training contexts. You’ve got to be careful not to be so different that you don’t knock other minorities off the stage like single mothers, people who can’t eat nuts, lactose intolerants, Seventh Day Adventists or dyslexics. After all, they can be different without being dirty or sluttish, why can’t you? You’ve also got to look like the clip-art that will represent you, like happy people at Mardi Gras, Graham Norton, or people in gay marriages.

  29. I continue to adore (and occasionally lust) your mind, Mr. Simpson, for challenging, questioning, and creating Otherspaces. Cheers indeed.

  30. I read this on-line in The Guardian, Mark. I found it ironic that many of the replies were of the, “I don’t want to be part of the sluttiness / campness / sexually charged / non-monogamous gay world, why can’t you sluts / whores / perpetual children / sex-crazed faggots-who-give-me-a-bad-name let me be?” variety.

    The irony being that the push for respectability will always come at a price – to those of us who are sluts or queers or simply don’t believe in the hetero-model of monogamy and committment. Sure, I will gladly allow those that want the mongamy/marriage/heteronormative deal to have their way… but not at the expense of being marginalised.

    The good old days when the gay scene was about being yourself, without the good gay / bad queer divide…did it even exist? Or have the judgemental good gays always been reinventing their normality at the expense of whore-ish sluts like me?

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