It's My Culture

I do remember the headlines. The headlines were screaming, George Michael, he is in trouble again. It's not the details I remember. I don't really remember, for example, that it was a pot bellied unemployed truck driver he'd been caught in the bushes and  I don't remember that he'd left the keys in his car. I only remember what he was quoted as saying to the paparazzi who caught him that day,

Are you gay? No? Then fuck off! This is my culture! I'm not doing anything illegal. The police don't even come here any more.

This is my culture, that's what he said, and that I remember. I remember it very well, as it struck me hard and I couldn't forget it.  This is my culture, he said, and if it was his culture, I knew I was thinking, if it was his culture it must be my culture.  Gays in the bushes: cottaging they call it over there, cruising, anonymous sex.  And George Michael, caught by the paparazzi, doesn't deny it all, he doesn't apologize, and he doesn't even look shamed.  No, he shouts back at the rest of the world, this is how we live, this is how we live, you don't get it, but that doesn't matter because this isn't your world and this isn't your culture.

His remark that day, this is my culture!, captured for me the struggle I see taking place within the gay community, between the gays and the queers, between assimilation and separation, between domesticity and promiscuity.  A struggle between those who shudder at the drag queens in the pride parade (we're not all like that, they say, we live regular lives just like you do, we are normal) and those who sneer at marriage (we don't need the trappings of the heteros, we are different, we are queer).  I feel this struggle, I sense it all around me, and when George Michael said fuck off, this is my culture, I knew he had touched something, something explosive and unresolved. And I was filled with some amount of admiration for his cheekiness and perhaps even his bravery.

I think of myself as rather normal. I have a job, I pay my taxes, I am in bed at a reasonable hour, I mean for God's sake I even have kids.  I'm rarely in bushes with unemployed potbellied truckdrivers.  I support gay marriage, I really do, and I would work to support it, but still, sometimes, I do wonder if marriage, respectability, recognition, fitting in, is really the goal of the struggle we find ourselves in.  I think about it sometimes when I see the hookup ads that begin "I am a straight acting, masculine...,"  I think about it and I wonder if it isn't the femboy who can't possibly pretend to be straight, the inevitable target of the bullies, who shouldn't be celebrated.  And I think about it when I see the men in leather, stocky, hirsute, doing unmentionable things in small groups, and in their own way turning our culture's ideas of masculinity upside down and all around.  And I think about it when I meet a single gay man, in his fifties, riding a bicycle instead of a car, in an open relationship with a much younger man, living outside of conventional morality in the most respectable manner imaginable.

Defending George Michael? Well, really, he doesn't need me to defend him and he wouldn't want my defense anyway.  Defending a grown man who smokes too much dope and spends too much time in the reeds, well, it's a little strange, but there's something worth defending about him, nevertheless.  It's my culture, he declares.  Maybe not, maybe not exactly so, but he got some part of it right and he made damn well sure we all knew it.

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Anonymous said...

He should be left alone. They should just let him and all the other guys alone.

Anonymous said...

Interesting situation. Interesting commentary. And I think I agree with you. While I, too, am quite respectable - father of 2, in bed most nights at a reasonable hour, never even consider a hook-up in the bushes - there is something about George Michael that deserves defending.

But, what strikes me is how really un-different most of us are. Some of us are "respectable," others do weird things while wearing leather, others are into tawdry 15-minute hook-ups in the mens room. Straight people do all these sorts of things and more.Do they need to defend "their culture?"

So, what does queer really mean? Same-gender-oriented and otherwise just like everybody else? Or something more, something different. Having been out only 2 years, and in my 50s, I'm working on answering that for myself. Though I wonder if there is an answer.

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