Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gay Dictator

Sorry Kids... I had a bit of acute writer's block... but I'm back!

One night recently while out at Fly (Toronto's venerable gay nightclub) I stood in the centre of the dance floor surrounded by a couple hundred sweaty men wearing extra small Abercrombie t-shirts, all of whom were shaking their fist at the new Madonna song. Things gay men love: Madonna. Things gay men dream about loving: Justin Timberlake. In fact there's a veritable gossip industry of gay men secretly hoping that JT is a fudge packer, "my boyfriend knows someone who knows some dude who sucked JT off in Cincinnati…" Put Madonna and JT together and their "4 Minutes to Save the World" is basically a gay man's four best minutes next to an orgasm.

On the first go-round the rather homogenous scene was a quaint although enjoyable re-enactment of your average episode from Queer as Folk; don't think I didn't sing-a-long and potentially think about the time I saw JT walking down Cumberland, because I did. But by the time the DJ played the SAME song a little over two hours later, and I'd seen enough sweaty pits to question if Secret really was "strong enough for a man…" a part of me looked around at my fellow gays and thought, really? Is this the best we can do? Gyrating in too tight t-shirts, mildly evocative of a homoerotic advertising campaign, to the world's most infamous geriatric fag-hag? A friend told me I was being a Bitter Betty, afterall my A+F 1892 t-shirt was being dry-cleaned. Speaking of: is there a reason I didn't get the memo outlining Fly’s dress code? It's like there is some sort of gay newsletter that I conveniently forgot to sign up for when I came out of the closet.

By the time I had run into an old friend I knew it was time to leave. A couple of people asked me if I knew how to score (that would be drugs, mom, not sink a punk into a net), some man errantly grabbed my ass on the dance floor; listen, I'm more of "high - how are you?" type of guy and less of grab n' go… and I wanted to pick my friends brain on the federal fiscal imbalance, which over the din of Kelly Clarkson's "Since you been gone," apparently sounded like, "fucking in an ambulance." But... I did angrily think of past boyfriends while doing the one armed fist pump which is the only dance move most gay men can muster.

Although I'm merely a fly on the wall at Fly (I've been waiting three paragraphs to whip that line out), the whole event was a little bit too done for me; to use a Karl Lagerfield-ism, isn't Fly a little bit démodé? Gays are here and we're queer and lord knows that we're pretty fabulous - something we spent the nineties proving that with Queer Eye, Nate Berkus, Tyler Brule and current gay god of fabulousness - Tom Ford - but is a room full of gay men in dubious fashion choices the best foot forward our community wants to take?

The oddity of Fly is that today's homosexual community is, (and sorry about the cheesy euphemism), a veritable rainbow of people and cultures… Queer West, gay marriage and the like have revolutionized the community's focus away from its circuit party imagery while broadening its scope and make-up. Fuck, even the New York Times Magazine devoted a recent issue to gay marriage… so the time’s - they are a changing. Yet sometimes I get the lingering feeling that some of my fellow 'mo's are still clinging to the past like a forty-year old former twink grappling with botox… Sister's we ain't fooling anyone.

The trend in some homo circles is to disdainfully trumpet the death of Church and Wellesley. “I wouldn’t be caught dead in the Village," can be heard ad nauseum from most line ups at most Queer West venue's. For myself the traditional iconography of the Village has never really resonated with my own life; see previous article about Village Mentalities... for a long-winded rant about why Je Deteste Le Village.

But a part of me wonders if the death of the Gay Village really matters?

To betray an earlier thought, it seems as if a physical Village is still an important place for any community, especially a minority group. A village begets social services (for the gays: the 519, ACT, et al) and more importantly a village stands as a physical beacon, the face of a community. For better or for worse, the Gay Village in Toronto has acted like any other ghetto in North America – it’s given us a sense of permanency to our people; a home when no one else would let us be queer and fabulous.

But having accepted that - we're left with my and others rather disdainful view of the current status of our Queer Village. While the popular argument has become that the gays, and I include myself, don’t need the Village anymore, perhaps we shouldn't throw out the adopted Malawian baby with the bathwater. Without a physical beacon of rainbow coloured flags - do we, as a community, risk losing our place in the sun?

Every fall - there's talk in the States about how gays are becoming less and less visible as characters on scripted American TV shows. GLAAD statistics often become an opportunity for the community to rally around "continued unacceptance" in middle America of the homosexual lifestyle. While this may be the case - what if it's also, in some way tied, to the death of the Village? As the traditional Village motif "dies" and becomes no longer relevant for the majority of the gay community - then what becomes our defining image? How can we sell ourselves if we ourselves don't even believe or practice what we're selling? Unless the gay community can redefine its Village and offer up something that isn't stuck in 1999, and can be seen on reruns on Showcase, we may continue to lose the ever present PR war.

So let's call a spade a spade - gays - as is we're no longer cool. And boys - it's time for a re-brand.

Why not take a page from popular American retailer J.Crew, which successfully re-branded itself as your go-to shop for preppy yet stylish apparel. What about a GayCrew catalogue? Think realms of gay men in nice, tailored, age and size apPREPriate clothes? At the back of the J. Crew catalogue there's usually a wedding spread - why not a gay wedding spread? Gays already own most of Provincetown, what about a nice civil union in khaki’s, tailored blazers and monogrammed polo’s, at Hyannis or Martha's Vineyard?

Why stop there? What about coordinating matching madras shorts and dildos? See – in the twenty first century – gays can still be saucy, sassy and sexual, only now with a little bit more class and coordination.

So how do we go about achieving this much needed re-brand?

Generally a re-brand requires visionary leadership, an authoritarian
figure with enough chutzpah to take a broken vision and realign it with the contemporary mood. Will some manicured nails be broken along the way? Perhaps. Will there be an effigy of Abercrombie apparel at the corner of Church of Wellesley. Most definitely. But, the future, our future, is not built through niceties. Tough times require harsh measures. What the gays need is a gay dictator, who will set us, if not just a little bit more straight, a little bit Gay Crew.

Seig heil

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice blog.

You'd be an interesting subject to interview for a project I'm working on... Let me know if you'd be interested.

E-mail me: writer_mysterious@hotmail.com