Don’t Answer Me

Why is youthful romance so difficult to portray in an interesting way? I know people who absolutely hate Romeo & Juliet, although the whole point of that one is that the main characters are just nitwits who think they’re in love, so if you read it as a satire, it’s pretty good. The Tempest is a great play, but easily the most boring aspect of it is Miranda’s romance with whatshisname, whom she falls in love with, literally, at first sight and marries after knowing for about one afternoon. Jesus. Not surprisingly, my favorite Shakespeare play is Antony & Cleopatra, which is about two flawed, complicated people who realize that they share something and decide to have a go at it anyway. I see a lot of plays, movies, and books about meeting that special someone. I would like to see more about what you do once you’ve met that special someone. According to The Winter’s Tale, you immediately become paranoid that they’re cheating on you and fuck everything up royally. It’s ironic that even though Shakespeare’s men are terrified of being cuckolded, the only example I know of a woman actually cheating is in King Lear. Draw your own conclusions.

I saw a play not too long ago. It was an erotic gay comedy about coming out and finding love. I’m not going to name the play or where I saw it because this is not a review, and I don’t want people to think I’m bashing it when all things considered, I had a pretty good time. It was really funny. An old theater friend of mine was in it, and she was great, too. But with that out of the way, I have to ask: Why is so much gay fiction about coming out? Coming out, as Harvey Milk said, is the most important thing any LGBT person can do, but it’s hardly the most interesting. The play started, we were introduced to the nice couple, then it flashed back to how they met, and I realized that that flashback would be the whole play. I would have rather seen what life was like for them after 20 years.

Adolescence is difficult for anyone, so dealing with a sexual awakening on top of the realization that you are part of a persecuted minority is a lot to take. That’s why it can take so long to get over it, if “get over” is the right term, which I don’t quite think it is. So much of the world is still hung up on this shocking fact that yes, some men like other men, and some women like other women. There’s nothing anyone can do about it. The evidence that a child’s sexuality is determined when they’re still in the womb is piling up, and to top it off, the factors that control for it are so numerous and variegated that we couldn’t engineer a child’s sexuality even if we wanted to. (Well, some do, but I don’t.) Clearly, God (or nature, if you prefer) saw homosexuality as part of the divine plan, and did not want anybody to tamper with it. It’s here to stay, is what I’m trying to say, and so deeply wired into people that it’s there long before they even know it. It can take a long time to get used to that, which is why, again, coming out can be so damned difficult. Even if everyone already knows and is just waiting for you to say something (and you know they know), it’s scary. And some experiences stick with you no matter what.

At the same time, there is a sense of entitlement that can come with being accepted by everyone around you. Part of the reason that I never got seriously involved with any of the LGBT organizations in college (well, there was one, but I was only semi-involved) is because they are all primarily geared towards helping people accept their own sexuality/gender identity, then helping others accept that fact about them. That’s important, but there’s more to it than that. It’s about building up a cultural and political identity as much as it is about accepting that you like cock (if you’re a guy, which I am). That does not have to mean watching Mean Girls over and over again (funny movie, but seriously!). It’s subtler than that.

brokebackThe message, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” is relevant and somehow a bit trite at the same time. I want to know what happens once people have gotten used to it. Paradoxically, that might help some of us get used to it. We have to walk a fine line between recognizing that it was not so long ago that homosexuality was still classified as a mental disorder and the thought of gays getting married was, at best, a distant dream, and understanding that even then, it wasn’t just about which team you play for. Brokeback Mountain is one of my favorite modern-day love stories, but depending on how you look at it, it’s not really a gay movie, is it? There’s nothing overtly political about it, and it wouldn’t be too hard to imagine a film that has the same basic plot points but features, say, a ranch hand who falls in love with the rancher’s daughter but can’t have her because of classism or something, Okay, so it wouldn’t be quite the same movie, but it’s easier to picture than a straight version of Weekend.

I don’t want to sound like a crank here. The Daily Show had a great segment about this a few years ago that I’ve probably linked to before, but will link to again just to make a point. If I had to boil this down, I would say that while it is important not to be defined by one’s sexuality or gender, it is important to not completely not be defined by it either. Think about it.


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