The not-so Dawn of a New Gay

The Grid, a free ‘newspaper’ put out by The Toronto Star published an article called “The Dawn of a New Gay” recently.

I think it’s important for people to read it.  I don’t believe it’s representative of a good portion of twenty-something gay men, and it is not a new attitude that’s forming.  I am well aware of individuals who do not associate with gay culture, can’t relate to Pride, and can’t relate to the Gay Village in Toronto.  Honestly, I have no issue with this either because most have intelligently thought this through and have a respect for these institutions and our history.

This is my response to the article.

Privilege and Politics
Let me start off by saying that I am acutely aware of how privileged of a life I actually lead – growing up relatively middle class in horse country in Halton Region, going to a private school for three years, holding a university degree, attending a university overseas and having held good jobs with some amazing companies, who fully accepted me as a gay man.  That said, I worked my ass off for these and nothing was handed to me with a silver spoon.

Despite working my ass off, I consider what I have in live as gifts.  Despite all of the gifts that have been given to me in the world, I have never lost the fact that all of that could be taken away in a minute.

With the shift to the right in Canadian Politics, gay men and women, not just Leathermen and Leatherwomen, now have a reason to worry.  Our rights – the right to marry, the right to be who we are, the protections we have in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are very much threatened.  Canada has traditionally had some of the most advanced in the Americas.  All of that could go away.

To an American reader, to translate, we’re essentially in our “Bush Junior” era.

The impression I am left with and that many people are left with is that the men in this article grew up in a bubble, and quite the bubble it is – check out that second paragraph!  Such entitlement and most definitely not the experience of most Canadians!  I can guarantee you the experience in places such as downtown Toronto, or anywhere outside of a major centre is vastly different.  From a provincial perspective, we have a bible belt in Southern Ontario.  Northern Ontario is pretty rough and tumble.  What is the experience in those places?

The question about is there a gay struggle to be had?  Hell yes, especially in the political arena.  And when we’re done here, there’s a gay struggle outside the borders of our cities, provinces and countries.  How about putting yourself in the middle east and helping those killed for being gay?  Are these guys blind about what’s outside Toronto and their own bubble?

How will these men deal with the potential political climate in Canada?

Coming out
For the most part I felt that being gay was fine and the negative attitudes didn’t phase me, much like the author.  I was actually quite self accepting and it was never a big deal – despite going to Roman Catholic schools at the time.  Mind you, none of my friends even suspected that I was gay based on their reaction to my coming out – maybe because I wasn’t stereotypical and no one asked.

The difference is that I did specifically come out to my friends one by one and it was in university.

When I came out in the UK, the role models that gay men had on campus was a gaggle of quite flamboyant British men.  I could not relate to them, and despite that, I respected them for their ability to be out.  I had more in common with a dyke I befriended who wore nothing but denim.  It’s fair to say I was looking for masculine men.   Despite that, all of you helped my coming out and I thank you.  It was important for me to come out as a masculine rugby-playing gay man.

I identify as gay, I am proud of that identity, I have a respect for our past history in Toronto, Canada, North America and in so-called western culture.

I cannot sit there deluded by my own experience.  Not as many people have it as easy as I did, and some people may have had it easier.  I feel it’s my duty as a gay man, to honour those who did make it easier for me to live my life as I do – to be out at work, to have a picture of my partner on my desk, to introduce; by helping other gay men, and even lesbians.

As for the village, it is what we had at the time.  Queen West aka Queer West?  Is it not just another village?  Another ghetto for gay people? Straight people also go to Church St, so… what’s the big deal?
Masculinity, Imagery  and Identity
Stereotypical gay imagery doesn’t appeal to me and it doesn’t represent me.

I knew I was interested in more masculine men (a theme in the article) and I found what I was looking for in the Bear community and then later in the Leather community.  In fact, a number of points that are brought up by Aguirre-Livingston, I heard in the early 90s and 2000s including resenting the stereotypes and even the discussion about how masculine is masculine.   Nothing new is here in the article.

have always done my best to reject imagery and advertising that doesn’t represent me.  The thin twinky advertising for Botox seen in gay publications doesn’t mean anything to me – why would someone use that stuff?  Even publications like “A Bears Life” doesn’t appeal to me – I don’t have to live to anyone else’s ideal other than my own – and I do.

Bear, for me years ago when I was first coming out, was my safe space to learn and grow – it’s not something that I tried to fit into, I just fit in because it represented me.  It was a utopia of sorts for me, as a masculine man.  As time went on, the community represented me less and less and I grew away from the parties, the magazines, etc…  Don’t get me wrong – I love Bearish men and typically that is what I search out – note that I’m using the term Bearish because fewer “Bear” men identify that way.

Gay is a part of my identity, it is not my identity.  I don’t come out specifically anymore, I just mention my partner who happens to be Scott and male.  I will say, I think it’s great that a certain segment of our population can come out fully, with confidence and not have to deal with negativity during that period.  Others do not have that luxury

I am masculine.  I don’t need something to solidify my status, to validate me.  I am what I am.  That is the ultimate in self-acceptance.

Pride for me is about seeing old friends, connecting with people from out of town, and celebrating my ability to live my life as I do.  It’s a great chance to see what services and clubs are out there for people who are like minded.

I’ve marched in 13 out of 15 Toronto Prides since 1996 and I will be in this year’s parade.  I’ve marched with Bars (my first was The Black Eagle in 1996), Bears, Leather, and the AIDS Committee of Toronto.  I love seeing groups such as Metropolitan Community Church Toronto, various Unions and other organizations  march. The bar and community floats are just pure fun.

See it for what it is – yes it’s a big party these days – a celebration of what we have won.  A recognition of our history.

What about those ‘deviants’ such as the Leathermen?  Well, we are part of the community too, an important part of the community and those people who are interested in exploring aspects of their sexuality need to know it’s okay just as I have learned.  We are a valid part of the community.

How many of us ‘older’ folks have said, Pride doesn’t represent us anymore, Pride isn’t the same, etc…  Just as I grew on from the Bear community, people grow on from Pride.   Does that make them any less proud?  It does not because they respect the history.  I would hope that over time, these men would be interested in learning our history.

I actually chose to march in those 14 prides because I don’t like standing around in the heat, in massive crowds.  It’s more fun to be in the parade.

Digital Natives?
The Post-Mos in the article say they grew up as digital natives raised in the internet era. Know what?  I am part of what I would then call, “Original Digital Natives”.  I grew up in the BBS-era and dialling in Toronto’s Gay News Service at the age of 16 turning on 17 to find more information about myself in my basement office on a 1200 baud modem.  The first guy I could have hooked up with, I did courtesy of BBSes.

I’ve been on the net since 1992, when I was 18.  My first two relationships were courtesy of the internet in 1995 – I met my first ex, Steve, on the newsgroup, I met by second ex, Matt on IRC, and hooked up with many men on the #bearcave channel.  Event Scott and I met courtesy of the Internet.

And countless men that I have met since that time were facilitated by the Internet.

Forget Grindr – I discuss the guys I’m interested in hooking up with on, Recon and Scruff.

So what have we learned?
Not much.

There’s nothing new here, honesty.  I’m not shocked that there are people out there who can’t relate to stereotypical gay culture and I can empathize with that.  Please don’t just dismiss it, but understand your history and honour those who came before you – and that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to attend Pride.

It’s a win that younger gay men can come out smoother in certain places, but don’t delude yourself – there is still a fight out there.

Their Gay Village is Queen West rather than the Church St. Village. Whoppee!  Another Gay Village – it was old news a few years ago!  I might even check it out.

I have noticed there’s a strong desire to be masculine, and to fit in to masculine imagery.  So the shift in advertising to these young men is going to shift from the stereotypical thin twinky hairless image to something scruffier wearing Lacoste?  Welcome to the new marketing for gay men?

They’re connected – which many gay men have always been connected since the mid 90s and even before.

As far as I am concerned, other than the contempt, the priviliege, and the fact they had a very smooth coming out, these men are not that different from many of the men I interact with in my generation!

Calling yourself Post-Mo is like me using Post-Bear as a label – and i did at one point consider that but realized how pathetic it sounded.  Post-Mo becomes a new term for gay, privileged whilte-boy.  It comes across very elitist and holier than thou.

Just be yourself and be open to learning a bit about our community history because whether you like it or not, the rights and freedoms you enjoy today, which I believe you take for granted, could be gone just as fast, if not faster than they were given.

Where will the gay community be in 50 years time?  Who knows.  Discussing this article with some younger men who are in their 20s we agreed on the following:

  • Who knows where we are politically.
  • If we are accepted fully, there will still be a need for gay male spaces because we want that male on male primary connection.
  • It’s still important to understand our history.
  • It’s possible that Pride may not be that important and it definitely won’t be what it is today, but there will always be pride in who we are.

Happy Pride!

One thought on “The not-so Dawn of a New Gay

  1. While surfing the Net, I stumbled across your blog and I think what you wrote is very insightful, intelligent and thought-provoking. You bring up a lot of valid points in response to “Dawn of a New Gay” from the perspective of someone who is older than the 20-somethings mentioned in the article, and I totally agree with you.

    Sadly, one thing that the original news article fails to deal with or mention is racial diversity within the gay community. You’ll notice that all of the gay men interviewed were of Caucasian descent.

    It is still a reality that many LGBT people from non-Caucasian cultures tend to remain in the closet for fear of being disowned by family members or ostracized by others in their ethnic communities. That’s because many of those cultures often hold steadfast to traditional values from their countries of origin, and being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered is often seen as a “white person” thing.

    Unfortunately those brave enough to be open about their sexual orientation also sometimes experience racism within the LGBT community too, whether it’s being viewed in terms of negative, exaggerated racial stereotypes (e.g. all Black guys are well-endowed and sexually aggressive, all Chinese guys are effeminate and passive and have small penises, etc.) or being fetishized by Caucasian men as exotic objects of lust rather than as human beings.

    From my own experiences as a person of East Asian descent, and those of other non-Caucasian LGBT people I’ve known, sometimes the gay world seems to be very white-dominated, whether you go to clubs and bars downtown in the village, or from what you see in magazine ads or TV commercials geared towards gay men.

    Some Caucasians may argue that not being attracted to a certain ethnicity is simply a matter of preference, and that’s certainly their right. However, one shouldn’t view writing “No Asians” or “No Blacks” on a dating profile as simply being harmless and acceptable. Imagine the outrage from straight women if a man wrote that in his profile on a heterosexual dating site?

    The truth is, language like that can be very hurtful to non-whites. It’s hard enough that you’re looked down upon by your own culture for being gay, but being rejected by other gay people as well is a double whammy.

    People shouldn’t dismiss all Black, East Asian, South Asian, etc. people together as one homogenous group, much like one can’t lump all gay men together. People come in all shapes and sizes and there should be no tolerance for bigotry or racism within the LGBT community.

    I guess my point is that one major change I and many others would also like to see within the gay community is more racial diversity. It’s essential that LGBT people of color continue to create a stronger presence, not only by themselves, but also with the support of the Caucasians who make up the major percentage of the community at large.

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