Gay men in Los Angeles told researchers that they believed a culture that focuses on one-night stands and partying, that emphasizes perfect bodies and good looks, that prizes material possessions, that sees gay men tearing each other down as they compete for attention and that pressures gay men to fit in or conform is bound to create unhappiness, stress and unhealthy behaviors.
The word on the street in gay resort/haven Provincetown? The straights are coming, they are coming thick and fast, young affluent heterosexuals buying property, renting holiday apartments and day tripping. I was reassured by a cool, 31-year-old, straight person yesterday that this was the heterosexual ‘tipping point’. Of course (if true) the reasons are obvious. The older more affluent crowd of gay men and lesbians who bought affordable homes here twenty years ago are simply not that interesting to a less ghettoized younger gay crowd who go to Fire Island or Mykonos where a good gay thumping time is assured, where they can find an affordable share for the summer… anyway, the drag is so much better the closer you get to NYC.
Young straight men and women who used to actively avoid hanging in gay ghettos… or felt uncomfortable no longer have any reservation. This, my dears is one of the more unexpected changes that comes with ‘integration’. Our gay communities, gay clubs and gay bars will dilute as we become more heteronormative.
How do the gays feel about straight people buying into the gay and lesbian ghetto dream? I hear grumblings from some, but what can they say? We can’t restrict straight people from joining the party? Before the great shift, the Obama ‘evolution’, the Blair/Mandleson equality bill I would regularly challenge straight people who came to our clubs and bars, wondering why they were there… if they understood why gays and lesbians created safe spaces for themselves… now apparently we all live in a safe space… together.
If the war is won do we abandon the notion of a safe space, a gay bar, an LGBTQ community? Is that what we were fighting for? As it turns out, gay men are still living shameful and secretive lives… safely hidden from prying eyes. No longer behind the blacked out windows of the gay bar but on the internet where we can fully reinvent ourselves as muscle-bound avatars, 10 years younger than we really are.
The gay bar, meanwhile… becomes a themed experience for enlightened neo-liberal heterosexuals. After all, gay men don’t need to meet one another in real life when we can meet on-line, reducing our interaction before a sexual encounter to the barest possible exchange of relevant facts. Hung? Looking? Party?
The same heterosexual land grab is happening in the Fire Island Pines gay community. Straight people are buying and renting homes at a faster rate than gay people. Of course… the truth is, we never really owned the lions share of Fire Island Pines… it was always owned by straight people. Three heterosexual families who control The Pines real estate market.
In San Francisco‘s iconic gay area The Castro we are facing extinction in our natural habitat, bought out/selling out to silicone valley billions. What are we left with? Our sad LGBT ‘pride’ parade: a blinded corporate-sponsored dinosaur serving only the breweries and distilleries, no longer a political defiance… no longer worth a pilgrimage by those newly out yearning to see gays en masse… the gay parade and all it seeks to celebrate merely adds to our woes, confirming the worst about who we have become.
How long will it take for Provincetown to lose its unique identity and become just another Cape Cod town? The Pines, just another beach community on Fire Island? How long will it take for our history to be lost, forgotten or ignored by apathetic gay white men who have no interest in those who came before? The heroes who fought decades of violent oppression, the ‘gay plague’, who demanded equality… how long will it be until their names are erased?
Do you know who they are? Harvey Milk… and…
The politics of invisibility.
As the quality of our lives collectively ‘improves’, as we ‘integrate’ due to the passing of progressive equality laws why are we still facing a crisis? Why do gay men continue to struggle with life-threatening health problems at alarmingly high rates compared to straight men — alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicide, and sexually transmitted diseases.
Gay and bisexual men are still most impacted by HIV/AIDS and syphilis, they suffer higher rates of substance abuse, they are more likely to drink heavily later into life, and they are more likely to commit suicide and suffer major depression and anxiety and bipolar disorders.
Gay men with mental health problems are more likely to use illegal drugs and commit suicide. Or regularly using drugs and alcohol can lead to risky sexual behavior, which increases the likelihood of getting infected by an STD.
Our health problems, in other words, are feeding into each other, we’re literally killing ourselves through suicide, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS at higher rates than straight men. Let’s say that again: We are killing ourselves at higher rates than straight men through suicide, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS.
Some gays are quick to point to the stresses of living as a gay man in an overwhelmingly straight world — one that passes anti-gay laws and constantly spews homophobic rhetoric — as a reason for mental health and substance abuse problems. With that argument, they are coming very close to saying that we are powerless victims who have little control over our own lives and choices, that homophobes have more power over us.
That’s a ridiculous notion — lethal and self-defeating.
Since homophobia still exists and is not going away any time soon, the victim theory, if embraced, dooms us to a life of external, homophobic stressors that forces us to drink too much, commit suicide too frequently and get depressed too often.