I recommended Brokeback Mountain to a friend who declined to watch it on the grounds that it has “too much gay sex”. See, I just call it sex. That film has exactly one gay sex scene, and it’s not even that graphic. There’s as much straight sex as gay sex in it, yet I don’t know more than a tiny handful of straight guys who have suffered themselves to watch it. What do they think gay male sex looks like? It’s just bodies mashing together. Rainbows do not fly out of the asses of the participants and blind any heterosexuals who might be watching. What seems to many like a threat to their masculinity is actually pretty mundane.
Not that I can blame them for feeling insecure. We live in an age in which it is impossible for a man to do literally anything without someone reading too far into it. Take a picture of two male friends with their arms around each other, post it on Facebook, and within the hour you’ll have friends commenting that they didn’t realize that the two of them had this kind of a relationship. Do you know what I do when I see someone whom I haven’t seen in a while? I give them a hug and, occasionally, a peck on the cheek. I’ve done it to men and women. I’m growing very tired of this culture’s need to marginalize masculinity, to forbid men to act like themselves, and contrary to what a million fan fiction writers will tell you, Frodo and Sam are not gay. Merry and Pippin? Maybe. Frodo and Sam just went through a lot together.
I hate to break it to break it to the straight women of the world, but not every expression of anger or frustration on a man’s part is evidence that he’s living a lie. Sometimes men just…get angry. I thought of this while watching George Takei’s hilarious response to Clint McCance, an Arkansas school board member who wrote on his Facebook page that he likes it when gay children commit suicide. The first half contains a one-liner so perfectly delivered that it almost had me in tears. The second half, while funny, contains an implication that I simply do not believe. Does George Takei really believe that it’s impossible for a bigot to hate gay people simply because they’re a bigot? I think that dignifies them in a way they don’t deserve. Clint McCance hates gay people because he needs someone to hate. If elderly Jewish pandas were a substantial minority group, he’d tell them to off themselves. He doesn’t have a reason for existing except to hate people who are different.
There’s a shortage of gay men who are just men in our media. Most of what we see in movies and on TV is either blatantly stereotypical or overtly political. On the rare occasion that something comes along that feels vibrant and real like, say, the U.K. version of Queer as Folk, it is repackaged and watered down into something more commercial like, say, the U.S. version of Queer as Folk. People seem to forget that while the purpose of art is, first and foremost, to entertain, it doesn’t have to pander to the lowest common denominator. When a married closet case tries to party with his fellow queers in the U.K. version, the leading cad tells him that he needs to be part of one community or the other; they don’t like tourists. When a similar character shows up in the U.S. version, he declines to visit his daughter in the hospital so he can suck off the cad. The first scenario is realistic, the second soapy. Perhaps it’s just because I live in America, but I don’t think I know anyone who’s watched the British version. But I know a lot of people who have watched the American version, not one of whom is a straight male.
The most condescending thing I’ve ever heard said about a queer film is that “you don’t have to be gay to enjoy it”. Yeah, no shit. I liked Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Once, yet I’ve never heard anyone say that you don’t have to be straight to enjoy them. But there I go again, ranting about our society’s pervasive heteronormativity. I’m really not one of those types who see discrimination everywhere. Until recently, I hadn’t gotten involved with any of the queer groups at my school. Then one day, a straight male friend of mine who, to put it gently, does not fit our typical concept of how a straight man should look and act, invited me to join him at a meeting. Hey, why not? The meeting turned out to be a party. As I stood by the side of the dance floor stiffly moving my shoulders and hoping no one would think that I was shy rather than just a person who hates dancing, my friend shook his little booty from one end of the room to the other. For no particular reason, I’d like to add that Jane Austen is one of his favorite writers.
After the party, a couple of regulars from the group were trying to get us interested in upcoming events. “Are you queer?” one of them asked me.
“Yes,” I said.
“Is he your ally?” he asked, indicating my friend.
“Yes,” I said, although I prefer the term “friend”. “It’s funny,” I said, thinking I was making a harmless joke. “You see the two of us, you’d never guess he’s the one who likes women!”
Dead silence. “I don’t think that’s true,” one of them said. My friend promptly went home and related the story to his gay friends (of which he has more than I do.) Half scoffed, the other half thought it was funny. I don’t think I quite fit in with this group. I keep going to meetings because the people there are very friendly and I like hearing people’s stories. It’s the same reason I keep watching It Gets Better videos.
Someone has to speak for the straight men of the world. Dan Savage is doing that already, but he’s just a fag with a podcast, an internationally syndicated column, and an upcoming TV show. I have a blog. So if you know any straight men, take a minute to tell them how much you love them. Tell them there’s nothing wrong with watching sports, eating beef, and looking at bosoms. I’ve enjoyed two of those and it doesn’t make me any less of a cocksucker. Being straight may put you in the majority, but it can leave you without a sense of identity. I am reminded of Mark Ruffalo’s character in The Kids Are All Right, who starts off the film with everything a straight man could want: a successful business, a motorcycle, and a hot chick in his bed every night. But when he tries to form more lasting connections, he loses everything. The children he fathered years ago through a sperm bank turn their backs on him, along with the lesbian couple who raised them. In order to preserve their family unit, they must leave a straight man out in the cold. He’ll manage, right? But no matter who you are, it’s hard to survive without a community.