We are entering a “post-gay” era in which we can finally shed that very restrictive and inaccurate label “gay.” It never fit any of us correctly. It served cultural and political purposes that have now faded, and I am glad finally to come out as post-gay. You should too.
Some of you will remember the days when “the love that dare not speak its name” meant that folks had a problem with talking about sex acts they found shocking and improper. They did not have the words to deal with the prickly subject of those who had same-gender sex. By the time the word “gay” finally managed to become useful in media and in conversation, it had already devolved into a pejorative. It had also become synonymous with homosexual males, to the exclusion of lesbians. Hence the more inclusive – and perpetually growing – descriptive LGBT.
Concurrently, the worldwide battles for equality for gay or queer or LGBT people had startling results in countries like Italy where most men shun the descriptive “gay” even though they will have sex with each other at various times throughout their lives. Most Italians do not really want gay rights. Same-sex attraction seems to them to be a natural and occasional choice, but not a career or a legality. They see heterosexual marriage also as a natural event that would never stop them from sometimes having sex with their boyfriends. They wonder why Americans in particular make such hoopla over gay rights. (There is certainly a gay movement in Italy but it has never been as strong as in neighboring European countries.) Put simply, for many Italian males, sex acts do not equal sexual identity.
I believe the Italians may be on to something. By comparison, if I walk into a Baskin-Robbins, survey the 31 flavors offered, and chose pistachio, am I to be labeled forever a “pistachio-lover” by the person next in line who likes vanilla? Baskin-Robbins offers 31 flavors to allow for a different choice every day of the month, should you be so adventurous. The having of sex is no different. Some people like it one way and some another. The adventurous among us will allow ourselves a sexual variety. We learn what we prefer by experience. Never had chocolate? Try it.
Let’s drill down into this concept of sexual fluidity to apply it to the word “gay.” At Island House Key West where I am often a guest, I see a wide variety of sexual appetites all huddled incorrectly under the large umbrella of gay. I have watched the having of almost every kind of male-on-male sex imaginable, thinking that I would never want to have a certain percentage of the sexual buffet available to me.
I have occasionally tried some type of sex for the sole purpose of seeing if it might stir something within me that had previously been self-designated as unappealing or repulsive. Sometimes I surprise myself, and I am glad for having had the exploration. Often, my reaction to having tried some previously un-tasted flavor is that I am filled with pity for those who go through life allowing themselves only one type of sex. Their self-imposed restriction seems pointless, ridiculous and unnatural.
Because I have come to see firsthand the wide variety of sex acts that men will perform under the label gay (Need I list them?) and because I enjoy only a small percentage of them, I do not like being called gay. It implies so much about me that is simply not true. I would actually prefer to be called a “slut” which is the currently popular insult for the sexually adventurous.
I first realized how lame the word gay is 30 years ago when I came out to my mother. She received the disclosure with all the usual tearful histrionics leading to acceptance. However, a few months later, she said, “I’m OK with you and Chris being gay until I get in my mind the image of what you actually do with each other.” I responded by saying, “I don’t know what you are imagining and I’m not even going to ask you, but do not be making assumptions. What you think we do may not be anything like what we really do!”
Her understandable myopia about what it means to be gay is shared by almost everyone. The farthest most people go in differentiating between gay men is to know that there are tops and bottoms, but they do not allow for the possibility of versatility, let alone for the endless other types of sexual behavior pegged gay. This is tiresome and I would like to see it end by retiring the word gay.
I am not gay. You are not gay. We are not gay. We are, at any given moment, those who enjoy freely choosing sex in a variety of ways with a variety of partners. If they were honest, straight men in prison would tell you that. If they were honest, straight men in the locker room would tell you that. If they were honest, straight men who are soldiers far from home would tell you that.
Call us all horny, but don’t call us gay.
I am heartened to observe that the youngest among us are embracing sexual fluidity with ease. These kids are simply not afflicted with the sexual nonsense that warped the upbringings of their parents. Perhaps this is why the number of gay bars continues to plummet. They served a purpose that is expiring.
In conclusion, you and I are not gay because the sex we want on Monday may be different from the sex we want on Tuesday. The sex we want as newlyweds may be very different from the sex we want with our spouse or with others decades later. I’d rather you called me enlightened. I’d rather you called me adventurous. I’d really rather you just called me frisky. Let’s leave it at that. And should we ever have sex, I hope to be surprised by what you do.
Boring is the worst label of all.