In high school
two friends of mine, I'll call them Ed and Sandra, were the classic
star-crossed lovers, their romance the stuff of feverish interest
to the rest of us. We all knew they were perfect for one another.
We knew that their love was fated to be. Everyone knew it. Everyone
but Sandra's parents, who railed against it, erected roadblocks
in its path, and eventually forbade it, which made it all the
more attractive to the two participantsas well as to all
of us adolescent voyeurs and cheerleaders.
Why such passionate
disapproval? Was Ed a good-for-nothing, a tough, a dummy? Not at
all. He was every bit as smart, talented and attractive (I sure
thought so!) as Sandra. His fatal flaw was something he had no control
over: he was not a Jew. Is assimilation equally repellent in some
circles today? I don't know. I do know that while still in college
Sandra married a Nice Jewish Boy, gave birth to two sons, promptly
divorced said Nice Jewish Boy and never remarried. For years afterward
I wanted to confront the evil parents (in truth, I liked them) with,
"So, you see, being a Jew does not guarantee happiness. What's so
awful about assimilating?"
That question came
to mind as I paged through the latest issue of "The Gay & Lesbian
Review Worldwide." "Gee," I thought, "do we really need one more
review of one more collection of Ned Rorem's confessions? One more
heated exchange about what point in our cultural history the term
'homosexual' can be applied legitimately to a long dead luminary?
I think I'm bored with being gay."
Well, not precisely.
I'm not here to tell you that I'm bored with being a cocksucker.
No, I guess what I mean is that I'm bored with reading about a gay
slant on everything from cooking to politics, bored with analyzing,
dissecting and agonizing over the implications of belonging to a
constantly newsworthy minority, tired of entertaining so much half-baked,
trivial, and inconsequential commentary on what my man-loving-man
experience is supposed to mean with respect to the world at large.
Ironically, I think
my exhaustion results from the fact that we queers are no longer
a despised subculture but a trendy one. Yes, I know that official
Christendom will still sieze every opportunity to beat us to death,
figuratively or literally, but as some wag observed sometime in
the last century, "The love that dares not speak its name is now
the love that won't shut up." From worries about passing, we have
instead passed on to a queer eye for the straight guy. We are fashionable,
chic, a recognizable and immensely profitable market share. In other
words, like it or not, we have becomeassimilated.
No longer rejected,
no longer despised, we have become absorbed into the culture and
mores of the dominant population. Where once our minority status
mandated the kind of creativity and dissent that brought us together
to make art and question the ruling class, we now address issues
no weightier than whether to ape our straight peers by choosing
adoption or the sperm-donor-surrogate-mother option.
For the first time
I think I understand Sandra's parents. Queers, like Jews, held on
to their identity by sticking together through centuries of endlessly
imaginative persecution. Now the threat of being emulated (the metrosexual
syndrome) instead of being burned at the stake means that we have
drifted away from queer culture to find ourselves, instead, floating
in the shallows of cultural commodification.
But what about those
of us who are queer crips, holders of dual citizenship? We do not
enjoy the luxury of fretting over whether the crip half of our minority
identity is growing diffuse, for being disabled in America runs
far behind the visibility or even (dare I say it?) the advantage
of being gay. Crips are not trendy. No one wants to emulate us.
Instead of being off the charts, our per capita incomes can barely
be measured on the charts.
Most of us are born
knowing how to be gay. We can learn later on how to fit into a world
that accommodates queers with increasing ease. But to be disabled
still means being ignored, marginalized or openly persecuted when
it comes to economic priorities and the delivery of health care
and social services, and even basic rights. Thus the two halves
of our queer-crip identity passports remain separate and unequal.
As gay identity dissolves, is there a way for crip gay identity
If you are a queer
crip you participate in your own mixed marriage, a shotgun wedding
of queer self married to crip self without benefit of state or clergy.
The result is internalized strife with the potential to be every
bit as pernicious as the conflict between gay and straight used
to be, as the conflict between disabled and non-disabled remains.
If you are a queer
crip, shared self-interest between the two parts of your minority
self once promised a common joint identity, one that held out the
hope of reconciliation between the crip-gay partners who inhabitat
your single body. But if a common identity was the expectation,
was it a hope grounded in something that ever really existed? Maybe
I've been guilty all along of romanticizing the disappearance of
something that never was, or that vanished in one brief historical
moment almost as quickly as it coalesced.
something worth reading in that issue of "The Gay & Lesbian
Review" after all. Commenting on how the Internet has worked against
the continued development of gay politics and homosociability, Andrew
Holleran wrote, "… the only thing we have in common is a desire
to get laid; there is no gay community."
And if there is no
gay community, how can there be crip gay community?
© 2006 BENT
Photo by Mark McBeth, IDEA | MONGER
has been a bilateral amputee since the age of six as the result
of congenital anomalies. With John
R. Killacky he edited Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and their
Park Press), winner of a 2004 Lambda Literary Award. His writing
has appeared in the James White Review,
Fresh Men: New Voices in Gay Fiction, and other publications.
He lives in San Francisco, where he publishes and edits BENT.