Someone recently asked me whether,
if I could, I would "flip" to straight at some point.
My immediate response was to lament all the straight guys whom
I've wished would "flip" to bent at some point and who,
as yet, haven't.
When I reconsidered the query,
my second response was to think, "Yes, but only if I could still
fancy Jake Gyllenhaal and Keanu Reeves." Certainly, giving up those
desperate little fantasies would leave large holes in my otherwise
well-rounded life. (Unfortunately, as far as I know, neither has
flipped yet, unless required to do so professionally.)
But beyond my flippancy, I realised
there was something insidious about the enquiry, prompted by others'
declarations that they were happy to be gay while young, but at
some point they would like to turn straight, settle down and have
In which year are we living?
What kind of subconscious, conservative, heterosexist paradigm are
we perpetuating? After fighting all these years for equal rights,
does being gay only boil down to the act of sex? Is everything else
reserved for the hallowed realm of heterosexuality?
I've always quipped that I am
a political gay man, meaning that, in the same way as some women
consciously choose to stop considering men as potential partners,
I made a choice to seek intimacy with men over women for a reason
other than my attraction to them. That reason was power. I have
always sensed acutely the inherent power difference between the
sexes. I find it, at best, uncomfortable and, at worst, abhorrent.
Don't get me wrongI neither abhor nor have difficulty with
womento the contrary. But I do cringe at the way in which
women and men tend towards either submission or dominance in their
relationships with each other, particularly when intimate, because
of their particular gender conditioning.
In my more analytical moments
I contemplate the influences in my life that may have contributed
to what some may dismiss as over sensitivity to this gender-based
power struggle. Certainly, growing up, my mother was a dominant
figure in my family. She wore the pants, called the shots and
milked the cows. Well, maybe I made up the part about the cows.
But Mum was the boss and it was to her that we all, including Dad,
looked for direction.
Then there were the endless female
physiotherapists (physio-the-rapists), the bellows of whom I still
hear in my darkest moments, commanding me to walk with my heels
flat on the floor, to keep my head up and not to sit in the wrong
position. I remember developing deceitful habits from a very young
age, learning quickly how to shift surreptitiously from sitting,
butt between my heels (the most stable position ever), to a demure
form of side saddle, in record time; and slowing from a tiptoed
totter to a flat-footed shuffle as I mastered, fairly accurately,
the ability to sense one of them approaching. Still now I pleasantly
surprise myself with my uncanny knack of slowing guiltily to the
speed limit just as a traffic police car rounds the corner. But
nothing has changedevery once in a while I have always been
My teachers were, in the main,
women too, particularly until I reached intermediate school (our
version of junior high here in New Zealand). I had one male teacher
before I turned eleven and I remember having such a crush on him.
He was blond, tall and very handsome, as I remember, and younger
than most male teachers. Best of all he smiled and laughed a lot,
and when he smiled at me, my young, unconscious heart would leap.
My friends were mainly girls,
for the practical reason that I couldn't participate in the primary
pursuit of boyssportthough I imagine, on reflection,
that impairment was less a reason than a damn good excuse to hang
around gossiping in a way that our socialization discouraged boys
So the major adult characters
in my world being strong women, my peers being female, and male
adults not featuring in any significant regard make for a classic
argument in favour of nurture over nature, at least. And I have
often surmised that perhaps my very estrogen-dominant upbringing
left me respecting women too much to sleep with them! But I'll never
forget how my only sexual experience with a woman when I was seventeen
woke me to the subtle dynamic I alluded to earlier. After we'd had
sex she changed somehow, suddenly rendering herself my inferior,
and I remember feeling extremely unnerved and even slightly repulsed
by it. In comparison, I remember rejoicing in the parity of being
I experienced a year or two later when I made love to a man for
the first time, which seemed like real lovemaking at last.
I like the power balance that
same-sex intimacy offers. Sure, there are other influences that
impact on the dynamics of our interpersonal relationships, including
differences in race, social status, age, function, etc. But in my
mind there is something fundamental about gender. Strip us back
and we are united in our deep-seated identity with it, in all its
glorious and increasingly inter-, trans-, and pan-sexual diversity.
To be a man with another man
is the reason that I cherish being gay. Physical attraction is only
one aspect. I also enjoy the emotional and intellectual congruity
I experience with certain men, the similar humour, the reflection
of self and the realisation that we have a spiritual purpose to
challenge the rituals of society by creating lives and families
beyond heterosexual convention.
So, all things considered, would
I flip? No. Not even if you paid me, Keanu.
© 2006 Philip Patson
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