Is there a way to be Gay?
Hey all! Sorry for the late posting! I am working on some larger projects (both for GaylyShow and otherwise). Hopefully this shorty will satisfy your needs until I get a chance to do a more extensive write up on the topic. Think of this as a preview:
What does it mean to be gay? Is there a specific style of dress? Am I defined by show tunes and pop divas? Must I lisp and wiggle my hips? Does my voice have to be higher than the average male? How exactly does one be gay? This loaded question was taken on by David M. Halperin in a course he offered at the University of Michigan beginning in 2000. In 2000, when the course was first introduced, it developed into a controversy about whether or not Halperin was “recruiting” young men to homosexual life-styles. Even worse, according to some, he was making the false statement that there was a “gay” culture and a “way to be gay.” The controversies caused quite a stir and raised issues about academic integrity, censorship, and other issues within the higher education community. Additionally, the course “How to be Gay,” attracted much attention from those within the LGBT community arguing that there was no one way to be gay. These arguments aside, Halperin continued to teach the course for several years and has more recently written the class into a book (Check it out here: How to be Gay 2012).
While I cannot yet claim to have read all of Halperin’s text (I am merely 100 pages into the 500+ page book), I think he brings about some excellent points about how we define ourselves as homosexuals and how those definitions have evolved in the last few decades. Halperin sets out to demonstrate that there is a gay culture that goes beyond our sexual and romantic desires. He argues that gay men have a culture built upon shared practices and experiences. While I can offer little more than that at this point, I can say that Halperin draws the reader in with personal accounts and observations of gay life. I hope to offer a more complete review once I finish the book.
In the meantime, I think it’s important to at least consider his point. Take for example, one of my own personal experiences. Recently, I began dating someone. During our second date we discussed our “coming out” stories. We talked about our family member’s and friend’s reacting to our disclosure, the comforts we sought, the fear we felt. He then went on to say something akin to, “Coming out stories are just one of those things you have to share when dating.” Thinking back to my various relationships, I found this to be true. Typically within the first or second date, I or my date would bring up the issue and we’d share our stories. We were united by our shared experience. Looking beyond my romantic connections, I found that when I make new friends (gay or straight) the same story must be told. Coming out, for better or for worse, is a part of gay culture and a major part of forming social bonds with others. It is central to the experience of being gay.
Of course, this single experience cannot be all there is to gay culture, right? Certainly there must be more? Look to the many gay men who idolize our pop divas. Consider how many gay men enter the fashion world or interior decorating. Think about the numbers who watch musicals, particularly those performed on Broadway. Examine the number of gay men who are on grindr, looking for love or otherwise. There is a gay culture. Whether gay men want to acknowledge it or not, it is there. This culture fits into the larger culture of the LGBT community, a culture that supports equality, tolerance, and acceptance. There is no doubt that there are many ways to be gay. We are not all rainbow colored blobs. But to suggest that we do not share values, experiences, and stories in a way that creates and molds its own culture is to be oblivious to the experiences we share.
Gay men have a shared history. Lesbians have one too. In fact, nearly any group you can make or have heard of will have one. These histories inform our present selves and influence contemporary culture. Through acknowledging our differences, connecting our similarities, and fully understanding the multiple cultures that impact our lives, we can create a more holistic version of ourselves. To say that there is not a way to be gay, is to ignore all those struggles gay men and women have experienced over the years and to take for granted the many achievements the LGBTQ community has made over the years.