Once in a Mexican disco after a pack of Lucky Strikes, several beers, a few tequilas, some weed and two hits of acid—and while my boyfriend, Tony, lay passed out marinating in his own piss—I won a dance contest. It's true that gay people can dance extremely well. But most of us need a little encouragement to find our personal rhythm.
That was 1980. I had been out for a year and had seen the gay scene emerge into an era of full-blown extroversion. The man had kept us down for generations and we were over it. Healthy happy irrepressible faggotry was IN. We were fabulous and we insisted on inviting everyone to our coming-out party.
Fast forward 26 years. What's changed? Clothes? Music? Nope. I just paid more at Old Skool than I paid for the same shirt I bought new at I. Magnin in 1981. And there is no club in town you can escape Bronski Beat and ABBA.
So what is new? Where's our queer identity these days?
Heteros are sort of getting used to us, for one thing. Though most of them still think of us as a pimple on the ass of society, we've been out, loud, and proud long enough that some heteros actually think we're cute. Only the most virulent bible thumpers and their politicians are desperate to lance our pimply presence. The majority live with us in an awkward not-too-sure-if-we're-safe-around-children coexistence.
But is this progress? Personally, I don't think so. We homos have come into existence as an identifiable group in opposition to forces who insist we do not—or should not—exist. I think that defining ourselves in terms of how accepted we are or are not is fucking weak. Whether we're forced to talk to each other in double-secret triple gay code, or whether we live in a world where we have parades and our rights are legally protected clearly affects our group identity—but should not define it.
Instead, we need to define our queer identity ourselves.
First, we have to overcome our insecurities. Centuries of being told that homosexuality is inferior to heterosexuality—an evil, a sickness that makes god puke—and whatever other bullshit heteros have said to us, have had a lasting effect. Self-loathing is rampant, and that shit has to go. We must be comfortable in our own skins and with our gift of queerness before we can truly take a place at the big table.
Second, we need to realize that we are not members of the hetero world. What's the point of attempting to assimilate into the majority, hoping they'll finally like us? They don't want us to be members of their club and we are not bound by their hetero-centric rules of conduct.
We have an obligation to ourselves to use our distinct perspectives and create—just for us gays—our own special reality. Parroting heteros in our love relationships, friendships, and philosophies may be fine for a few of us, but ultimately it's not satisfying for the rest of us.
My partner of 14 years and I are very happy with our queerness, and the gay life we've created. Even though we own and operate a business mostly serving heterosexuals, we never shy from being our queer selves at work. The "hello" kisses on our dining-room floor, and the general gay queerness we naturally exude has cost us a customer or 50—but we don't want them to be our customers anyway if we gross them out. We ARE queer, we like it, and don't mind sharing it. We're married and we're married in our own way.
Finding love is a gift regardless of whom that love is. Though rabid Christians think they can monopolize that gift, they cannot. They can believe we want to steal their children, marginalize them for their homophobic beliefs, inoculate women with the HPV vaccine to promote promiscuity, threaten their dominance, take over Hollywood and their churches, become PTA presidents, destroy their marriages, and give nothing in return except interior panache and really natural-looking highlights. But they're wrong. (Okay, no they're not. But so what?)
Maybe I, as a queer man, do want to destroy the definition of marriage. Maybe my man and I will one day meet another man and marry him too. Why not? Just because two is the magic number for most straight folks, my man and I will decide for ourselves how to define our own marriage. Just like we decide for ourselves who we are as queer individuals.
Conservative heteros are threatened by us not because of our sexuality—that simply grosses them out. They're threatened because we don't fit into what they've decided is the way things should be.
When we realize that we don't have to fit into their boxed-in view to be worthy of our rights as humans and citizens, then we'll finally have confirmed our queer identity. How would they like us THEN? Not much, I bet. That might be something to be proud of.