Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Have We Created a Monster?

Last night, Britain's BBC2 aired a documentary called "Sad to Be Gay," the story of a Black gay man in Britain who explores sexual orientation re-programming, talks about his sad childhood, and his loneliness as an adult gay man. Although he identifies as gay, he believes he's really bisexual, and spends time in the U.S. at Love in Action, a now-notorious ex-gay "camp" to look at his desires for men, and how he can refocus them, including classes for men on learning to like auto repair and football.

Exploring David Akinsanya's life, we learn that his White mother placed her child, sired by a Nigerian father, in care (what we'd call foster care), and he has some understandably jacked-up family issues. Essentially, he's raised fatherless. Actually, he's kind of non-parented. Mostly, he sounds really lonely.

I haven't seen the program. I've only read a couple of online stories about the documentary, but he sounds like most (not all) of the ex-gays you hear from. They're lonely. They had lousy childhoods. They've tried to fit in to the narrow definitions of "gay life;" i.e. parties, bars, drag, lots of acquaintances, lots of anonymous sex, unfaithful boyfriends (if there is, or was, one), emphasis on a beautiful face and body, camp. David wants to love and be loved, like everyone else. But is his search for love based solely on being gay?

My partner has a dear friend, someone she calles her sister, whose story is remarkably similar to David Akinsanya's. After experiencing horrible self-esteem issues, emotional, sexual and physical abuse, an abysmal family system, abusive partners, both male and female, "Little Sister" found our merry band of friends, consisting of my partner and I, and another lesbian couple. We adopted her, held her while she cried, helped her move and welcomed her on our couches until she acted out her pain on us, forcing us to ask her to leave. She was there when our friends announced their pregnancy. She was one of my partner's bridesmaids. She was there to celebrate my 35th birthday. We were there when her last female lover had her arrested on trumped-up charges of menacing and theft. Little Sister, previously living near the four of us in Brooklyn, moved herself to a far end of the Bronx, stopped attending the gay-affirming church we all went to, and submitted herself to a church so intent upon removing the stain of homosexual desire that they orchestrated a sexual encounter with an older male deacon of the church, a married man. We rarely see her, and rarely hear from her. Every now and then she surfaces, convinced that it was her desire for women that put her in the predicament she's in now; lonely, isolated, depressed.

Putting aside non-gay or lesbian or SGL Judeo-Christian fundamentalist rhetoric, are gays, lesbians, SGL, queer people responsible for people like David Akinsanya and Little Sister? Have we made "the life" seem so glamorous that they can't keep up? By glamorous, I mean shiny and bright, extremely social, convivial, hedonistic, even. Have we bottled and sold a brand of hubris that drives some straight into the pseudo-rescue of ex-gay programming? Are we expecting baby dykes and newborn twinks to drink the kool-aid of fabulousness, only to have the artificial colors and flavors in the glass bring on a case of emotional anaphylactic shock to the allergic?

There are some in the queer community (I'm getting tired of the initials -- if you don't identify as queer, just exchange it for your own definition) who think that we are so different, that we are shiny happy people, that anything resembling what straights are thought to have, who've created their own brand of hubris, is assimilationist. Perhaps it isn't that those of us who do prefer a quiet life of monogamy, a kid or two, a nice place to live, and even a ceremony ritualizing the commitment we've already emotionally made, are trying to be like everyone else, but that we're the odd ones. Lesbians are stereotypically accused of being ugly, mannish, humorless man-haters who bring a U-Haul on the third date. Yet, we see younger lesbians throwing their own circuit parties, dropping E and having as much sex as possible -- who are they imitating? The white gay men often cited as representatives of gayness. But why? Black queers, reacting to what they perceive as racism or exclusion from traditional Pride celebrations, have formed Black Pride events that look oddly similar to, yep, you guessed it, traditional Pride celebrations. Some sort of arts program (fashion shows, poetry slams, balls, art exhibit) is thrown in, the requisite picnic (probably the only thing you don't see in a traditional Pride celebration) and beach party, complete with a beautiful body contest. There are parties on each night of the weekend, with a dance music diva performing. I don't see a substantive, this is what we've been missing kind of thing difference at all. Is this not, again, imitating what White queers have done for years and years?

Maybe we've created the monster we love to hate. Maybe it isn't all so shiny and bright.


Anonymous PK said...

I agree that was a terrible loss to our extended family when our little sister fell into the "post" gay church and a stamp of "Christian" virtually branded into her rather large ass.

As far as the "active" gay lifestyle, or most of what we call a "gay" lifestyle, in the last century and seemingly in this one, gay lifestyle is a masked version of excesses, addictions, notions of racial or class superiority (i.e. well-educated, pretty, white) and it's marketed to us for our mass consumption and our buying power. We are a spot of the social scale, because we have expendable income. What a joy it is to purchase my identity as a cookie cut marketable object of mass consumerism. As an example of this unrealistic ideal of gay life, take the L-word, and LOGO (solely gay cable channels) which sell us a gay face, a gay body type and all the fashionable paraphenalia that goes with that fabricated identity. If one begins to measure the costs, aside from the dollars, of this less than realistic selfworth (via Prada or the prepackaged cable network) glbt pre-packaged "fabulousness" has produced statistically one-in-three alcoholic gays and various compromises for the sake of conforming to a notion of queer identity that is unrealistic for most people and propagates unsafe sexual practices, crystal meth abuse that is rampant, and the continuation of social injustices (say -- oh -- the LUTHERAN CHURCH) towards real gay people like you and me. Let's just admit that it is as unrealistic for a young and gay man to think that his life will be "Queer as folk" as it is for a young and straight woman to think life will be "sex and the city." [Have you met my neighbor?!]

One such activist who is talking very eloquently about the gay identity subject is Larry Kramer, though he seems almost desperate to get this message of the social justifications for the upperclasses to allow AIDS to kill millions of people including gay men and millions of africans. Kramer has a new book on the subject of young gays in the 21st century, and I'd be interested to see what you might think of it.

-- PK (a.k.a. sista blanca)

9:57 PM  
Blogger Moxie said...

This is deep! Very thought-provoking!

8:08 AM  

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