The Blog

Why I Never Want to Be Just Like Straight People (And Why You Shouldn't Either)

What's got me so despondent (and dramatic)? A couple of recent blog posts that appeared on HuffPost Gay Voices, lamenting, worrying about or lashing out at queers (like me) who don't want to live a heteronormative life.
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Have you ever come across something that made you so furiously depressed that you wanted to punch your computer screen, scoop up the shards of glass, grind them into a fine powder, mix the powder into a bowl of chocolate pudding, eat the chocolate pudding and then wait impatiently for your insides to be shredded to pieces so that death will find you and you'll no longer have to live on the same planet as the thing that triggered your meltdown?

I have. It's actually happened a few times in the past two weeks.

What's got me so despondent (and dramatic)? A couple of recent blog posts that appeared on HuffPost Gay Voices (which I edit), lamenting, worrying about or lashing out at queers (like me) who don't want to live a heteronormative life.

One of these blog posts, by Mark Brennan Rosenberg, asks whether gay men are scared of monogamy. In it Rosenberg argues against gay men pursuing open relationships and then goes one step further to imply that those unorthodox (read: queer) relationships could be hampering our ability to achieve full equality:

Don't we want straight people to understand that we want what they want? Whether or not they partake in open relationships or threesomes as their gay counterparts do, they certainly don't talk about it as openly as we do. So to me, the gay community is essentially saying, "We are fighting to have the same rights that you have, but we are going to continue to sleep with people outside our relationship and partake in threeways, because we can, and it's our right to do whatever we want." You're trying to make a case for equality, but it doesn't seem that you want to adapt; you'd rather rewrite the rules, even though marriage usually involves only two people in the boudoir.

Actually, no, I don't "want what they want." From where I'm standing, it seems that straight people haven't done so hot when it comes to love, sex, marriage, the family or gender roles, among other things. So why would I want to buy into that dysfunctional system? (And before we go any further, I'm talking about straight people and culture -- the collective, the institutional -- not necessarily individual straight persons, many of whom are allies and friends and who would like to see a queer revolution as much as I would.)

I also am floored by the idea that in order for us to "make a case for equality," we need to "adapt" to the dominant (straight) culture instead of "rewrit[ing] the rules." I can't be the only one who thinks rewriting the rules is exactly what we should be doing instead of trying to prove that we are somehow normal. (And what does "normal" even mean? Not being dirty deviants who do scary things in dimly lit makeshift dungeons with double-jointed power-bottom bears?)

However, Rosenberg doesn't appear to agree:

[I]t seems to me that if we want our relationships and marriages to be accepted by our straight counterparts, then maybe it's time to keep a lid on what exactly it is that we do behind closed doors. Maybe it's just no one's business.

Queer liberation, for me at least, has always been about exploding broken, dangerous, harmful systems that have kept us oppressed and ashamed of who we are -- and I'm not just talking about queer people. Ideally, if and when we are truly equal, it will mean we will no longer judge those -- queer or not -- who are in "traditional" or "nontraditional" relationships, who do or don't align with or conform to long-held idea(l)s about what a man or woman should look or act like, who are open and honest about their desires and longings and needs.

Let me be clear: I'm not saying that I think everyone should be in an open relationship. I've never been in one. And I don't know if I will ever be in one. But who is one gay man to shame another gay man by telling him that his relationship -- however he chooses to define it for himself and his partner(s) -- is less valid than anyone else's (let alone endangering the queer movement)? Haven't we had enough shame thrust upon us by straight society? I've said this before, and I promise I'll say it again, but the lofty goal of queer liberation, for me at least, is that everyone gets to do whatever they want as long as they're not hurting anyone else (unless that other person is specifically requesting to be hurt).

And the worst thing we could do is "keep a lid" on anything. Again, I'm not saying I want to hear about how many appendages and/or inanimate objects you had in however many of your orifices last night (OK, OK, maybe I do want to hear about it), but silencing ourselves and going along with the Victorian anti-sex stance that's the status quo in America today isn't going to do any of us any favors.

But wait, it gets better (or worse?). Just a few days after Rosenberg's blog post was published, Brian Stone wrote a blog post claiming that there's a divide between older gay men and younger gay men, "between those who are gay and the gays who simply are." He states:

To say that [gays] are inherently different from heterosexuals repeals the social and political progress gays have made over the last 20 years. Most millennials believe that being gay or straight is incidental to our existence. We don't use it to define us, even though sexual orientation shapes and controls our lives in a variety of ways. We envision an ideal world where being gay is the least special thing about us, not a world where being gay is our totality.

To say that the reason that the queens and dykes and genderfuckers at Stonewall rioted decades ago (along with many, many others since then) was so that some young queer could now say that being gay is "the least special thing about us" makes me sick. And sad. What a luxury to even type those words! And I sincerely hope that when he claims that millennial gays "see the structure of [their] relationships, wants and needs through a traditional lens" -- in other words, "[k]ids, careers, a house, military service... the American dream" -- it's some kind of cruel, agonizingly unfunny joke (or that he's just plain wrong).

If you're queer and want kids, a career and a house and to serve in the military, have at it. But don't forget those who helped you achieve all of that, and don't think for a moment that we're living in some kind of post-queer Shangri-La where your queerness is no longer important, or that you're really equal. Whether you like it or not (or acknowledge it or not), there are too many people around the world -- from Russia to Uganda to Mississippi -- who will testify otherwise (if they're not too afraid to open their mouths for fear of being attacked or killed, that is).

What's more, our queerness is what makes us special. You, by your very existence as a queer person, exist in opposition to what governments and religions and cultures have told us is necessary and desirable and true. Even if you choose not to believe it or behold it, being queer is a calling to lead each other and everyone else toward a better future -- not one where our sexualities and our gender presentations and our sex lives evaporate or are erased or don't matter, but one where all of it matters, all of it is celebrated exactly as we discover it or dream it or make it so.

I'm getting old -- I'm 35, which means I'm practically the Crypt-keeper in gay years -- and I know that things are changing. People are coming out at younger and younger ages. There are more and more images of queer people on our television screens. We can get married in more and more states and countries. And that's all incredible. But I say this without a trace of hysteria (OK, maybe just a trace): If everything we've been fighting for, if all the death and shame and resilience and rebirth, if all our stories and goodbyes and secrets have only been so that now, at this point in our movement, in history, we can fit into straight society as it exists today, I would rather be dead.

Do not let me down, queers young and old (and all you straights who also reject the unacceptable, oppressive status quo). Stand up with me. Read a book. Write a book. Start a conversation. Ask a question. Say something uncomfortable. Anything. If you're already content, remember how many of us aren't. If you just want what everyone else has, don't forget about those who sacrificed their lives -- figuratively and literally -- so that you could have it, and then pay it forward. And if you don't want to fight with us, then at the very least get out of our way and stop policing the parts of our lives that you don't like or that frighten you.

And if you can't do any of that, then someone bring me my chocolate pudding.