stop clutching your pearls and own up
AS MY FREQUENT VISITORS ARE well aware, I like to solve the world’s problems, or at least point them out if there’s no financial incentive and I don’t feel like changing out of my bathrobe, by wielding the almost supernatural influence of this blog.
Did I say “the world’s problems”? Look no further than your own back yard, Dorothy Gale! The U.S., Canada’s back yard strewn with half-dismantled human rights up on concrete blocks and mentally challenged Home Shopping Network addicts, provides a veritable cornucopia of problems on which I can demonstrate my astonishing insights and practise rolling my eyes backwards in my head with disdain.
Once all of America is writhing with shame from my withering analysis, I flick my gay wrist in their general direction, throw over my hapless subjects a handful of the fairy dust Tinkerbell rejected as too faggy, and voilà! The U.S. becomes just a tad more like Canada, the superhero who’s always Clark Kent.
In the U.S., you need Superman in order to live up to your heroic, revolutionary persona. You need victories, barely won. (If you doubt me, please go to your closet and meditate on the past four weeks’ transition of power, then the past four years of burgeoning fascism. Just don’t talk to me about it, OK? I’m still on the medication.) Bad guys beaten by the good guy, evil defeated by right equals might, but only in the last, nail-biting moments of the last act.
Up here, with a few strokes of a pen, we offshoots of Loyalists reiterate our commitment to equal rights—not to create them but to draw attention to their natural existence, should one need a reminder. We do things slowly, roughly at the pace of cold maple sap dripping out of a spigot.
We didn’t have our own Charter of Rights and Freedoms until the 1980s. But our glacial pace yields dividends. We don’t have to pore over the text of a radical, 18th-century screed, trying to divine how Thomas Jefferson would have reacted to the idea of transsexuals, or figure out whether the Second Amendment includes the right to carry a concealed automatic weapon.
You guys have to fight about what’s good first, then filter that through the mindset of some Enlightenment slave-owners; we already have it figured out according to slightly more up-to-date standards. Clark Kent goes to Parliament, Parliament delivers.
It’s not as exciting as a fight to the death against a ready, simplistic foe, it’s not as “Days of Our Lives” as arguing in the living room with the curtains open, but it gets the job done. Canadians love government! And the more boring the better. For drama we have the CBC.
And you can, too! For though you lack my fairy baton, all you need to know is that the key to the U.S. is extremism.
In the U.S. they like to take an acceptable idea then stretch it leftward and pound it rightward and work it like a thin crust pizza onto which they dump far too many toppings, including lashings of high Racism, sentimental cheese and red-hot flakes of stubborn misinformation and distrust. What was once a light snack is now a forced intubation on the body politic, who moan, “all we wanted was non-starving school kids, heart attacks without bankruptcy and strolls in the park without being raped at gunpoint, and you’ve turned it into a Tolkienesque struggle between my god-given American liberty and the forces of evil collectivism!”
Thus on the far left we have Sandernistas, the Bernie bro’s and babes, aiming firing squads at wonky, homespun Elizabeth Warren because she once brushed up against a Republican while buying her laundry detergent (“corporate lackey”) and vying for office space in the Politburo with far-right Trumpers—for though he be but a fading nightmare, Trumpism has escaped its cage and has long legs—who think Liz Warren’s name signifies The War of the Lizard People, yet another H.G. Wells subplot to QAnon’s vampire pedophiles (“liberals”).
The ouroboros of extremism has the front end of the far right forever planting its smoochy lips on the back end of the far left; and whether your ideology be the M.O. of plutocrats from Wall Street, Moscow or Beijing, we the people may be forgiven for not caring about the difference, because there isn’t one.
They call Canadians weird! Nothing but extreme simplicity to ripple those amber waves of grain. Nothing but either-or, win-lose, good-evil; black clouds blotting out the spacious white skies; give me Bernie or give me death (or at least some ear plugs).
I might at this point employ the word “Manichaean” if I had even an inkling that it was appropriate, but I promised my parents I wouldn’t embarrass them any more than was obviously unavoidable.
This extremism is in the very veins of Americans, who come in only two types, fancy and plain: city folk, living precariously by the rising seas on either coast, in liberal enclaves rivaling Sodom and Gomorrah in sinful ubiquity of anything you want; or aw-shucks country bumpkins, raising barns across all the rest and posing for Norman Rockwell paintings so tight-assedly, WASP-ly sinister that they effectively murder Catholics and Jews just by not painting them.
The city folk are the raw silk drawstring bag; the country folk, the lumps of pebbly aggregate that are the bag’s contents.
City folk have a smidgen of nuance. They order their intemperate Liberal delights in various colors and flavors. It’s a great, big inclusive quilt by Versace, dry clean only. The hicks, the country folk, just flat out hate niggers and homos and say so, holding their pitchforks firmly by their side in the style of Grant Woods’s creepy American Gothic, unaware that Grant Wood was fucked up about being gay and painted his sister as the wife in that eerie repurposing of 14th-century German style. He did that because incest with the “right” sex is clearly better than any sex with the “wrong” one.
“The wife appears to be gazing at something outside of the frame of the painting,” say all the usual critiques of Wood’s Meisterstuck. Of course she is! She was gazing at Grant Wood jerking off while whining, “can I touch your secret place again after I finish putting all the detail in your hair?”, then crying.
That’s the hicks for ya, and bless ’em for their honesty. City folks can’t own up to their core of hick, they must spin. White American Liberals once went to school with a Black person, so they’ve been inoculated against racism, and it’s a shame that Black people for some reason don’t want to live in the same gated communities as the white overlords, but what can you do? There’s no accounting for taste!
And anyway, why would they need good schools, which means white schools, when they’re all going to be basketball stars, or, even better because you don’t have to leave your room, rock stars singing and sharing their unique world view through their marvellously colorful ‘rap music’ ?
That seems reasonable to me! Yo, bro, Imma be so ghetto, muthafucka! Did I say that right? My goodness, I feel so… so… naughty, yet woke!
You may be surprised at how fluent I am in Ebonics. That’s because I spend so much of my time listening to the pathetic attempts by certain white boys of my acquaintance to be hip hop stars, which they achieve in their own heads, because there’s nothing else in their heads of importance, like getting jobs or being respectful. Listening to white boys mimic Black rappers while dreaming of fame makes my toes curl, and not with ecstasy.
My white boy hangers-on want to be cool, which they clearly are not, and they mimic what they think is cool, which is the trappings of fame that come from success in an art form born of a specific, desperate experience, without going through the experience. The experience comes from growing up without hope in the toxic milieu of the ghetto white people have forced Black people to inhabit; the real, physical ghetto and the spiritual ghetto.
The division of labour is clear. Black rappers can take their pain of growing up in the ghetto, create a musical genre of searing anger and caustic, foul-mouthed misogyny, then leverage the music into wealth, which they donate to the Blacks still growing up in the ghetto; white people get to say, with the grossest condescension, that “the ghetto is teaming with raw talent,” which they’ve been saying in the U.S. in one form or another since the Union vanquished the Confederacy.
You will note that both acts require that there be a ghetto, making this a win-win situation, just with both wins for white people.
But white boys? What do you have to rap about, except your dad not giving you the keys to the Range Rover on Saturday night? You can’t create the music of searing anger unless life hands you the raw materials. You’re just another bunch of white boys appropriating an “exotic” experience that your racism created.
We’ve tried to steal everything from Black people: hope, dignity, justice. But you can’t steal the pain of their experience. The pain you experience in the bland suburbs that Blacks weren’t allowed to move into is inconsequential, the pain of having only one mohair sweater.
You arranged it that way.
While we’re on the subject of Black oppression,
how ’bout I tell you about some Black-on-gay oppression?
‘Cause one thing that Black hets do that’s just so oppressive to gay dudes is, obviously, not tolerating gay dudes, and in such a sanctimonious way, with such absolute conviction and visceral disgust, I feel like I’ve wandered into a Baptist church just as the old ladies dressed in electric pink suits are cramming their flowered hats back on and getting themselves all gussied up, ready to knock on your door and shove a Jesus Saves! pamphlet in your stupid white face.
I’m reading this critique of “Schitt’s Creek” online and this Black lady intellectual/feminist dude—I call her “dude” because I don’t care how she identifies in real life, she could be five Chinese lesbians in overalls for all I know, but when she wrote this diatribe, she was a straight white man, OK?— she’s on about how it’s not a good show, not funny, not exceptional, no way, and no way of watching it is going to make her get the point.
And she is totally right, because Schitt’s Creek is A GAY SHOW.
Take one look at the handsome, Hot Gay Jew-face of Daniel Levy and tell me it ain’t true. He’s a Hot Gay Jew and Schitt’s Creek is a Hot Gay Jew show, for gays, by a Hot Gay Jew gay.
In this saga of a wealthy family of shallow narcissists getting taken down a peg—how Canadian is that!— we have David Rose, the undeniable focus and star of the show, and a mama’s boy to boot. His ditzy sister Alexis is the totally inane, utterly self-serving disloyal best friend evERRR, Mom is the quintessential wacko Fag Hag and Eugene Levy is just, I dunno, Everydad, wandering around and running the gamut of emotions from bemused to perplexed, which is his shtick.
I personally don’t get the point of Eugene Levy in this show—well, in fact, ever—unless he’s here to disguise the fact that every other character is a gay stock character cliché that we love.
They purport to be a family, but seriously? They are not, they are the old-fashioned constellation of the stock characters in a gay man’s life, and it’s beautiful and comfortable. Fuck it if you don’t get the joke, or the jokes. Fuck it that there’s no tap dancing or blackface so Black feminist academic dude can go off on the show and justify her pearl-clutching, prim distaste by anything except homophobia.
Gay people love love love to see ourselves on TV, recognized as gay, because we spend our lives invisible, and that’s still true, but it was REALLY true when I was growing up. We were the original basket of unmentionables. There was no one to turn to. God knows what drag queens did back then, I imagine they resorted to bales of hay for wigs and tissue paper for their fabulous gowns and the juice from mumbleberries for make up, but somehow they damn well did it.
Drag queens, flamboyant queers, nelly boys. They got reviled and spat on and arrested and beaten up and murdered so the rest of us could one day watch Schitt’s Creek and be proud. That’s why I love and revere every drag queen and every Quentin Crisp in-your-face quasi-drag queen who ever lived, and why I spit on and revile every white bread self-hating “passing” gay who ever said, “I wish THEY (drag queens/leather men) would go away and stop spoiling it for the rest of us.”
That’s not all. Gay people instinctively support BLM. In Toronto, we deferred to them at PRIDE, allowing them to “take over” the parade in a protest against police violence, indifference and systemic racism perpetrated by those charged with serving and protecting.
We support BLM because gay people historically have recognized that you can’t do it alone. The LGBT community (which I say to be inclusive, but it’s really gay men who are the issue, because Queen Victoria) knows about divide and conquer—the strategy instinctive to the ruling class for keeping the rest of us at each other’s throats— and has always recognized intersectionality, those shifting nodes of privilege and disadvantage.
We knew about intersectionality before there was even a word for it, and so did Black people and “women’s libbers” as they were called in those days, the dim distant 60’s and 70’s, by the white male media, but now, perfectly siloed and fed up with stalling progress, every minority waves their own banner.
We, the disadvantaged, the discounted, the hated, suffer from the penis envy of martyrdom: who’s had the biggest, longest, hardest time?
Schitt’s Creek treated being gay as natural—not needing extra explanation or backstory or drama or apologies or consequences; natural like sunshine and rain—though so does South Park, with the Leather Guy turning Paris Hilton into the world’s whiniest sex toy and roiling masses of naked men looking like the balls of victims that the Aztecs rolled down those stairs that you and your mom train to walk up, when you do your all-expenses paid trip to Tsixclkweoiouwejklhfewl, Mexico.
As a sop to god knows what, they had to make the character of David polysexual, had to throw in a little interlude of swinging both ways, in case anyone should feel excluded. “Well of course he’s A MAN, he doesn’t care WHAT he sticks it into.” Never mind that no self-respecting straight woman would take one look at David and not instantly know he’s just waiting until the right dick comes along. And by cracker it does, white and soft and unthreatening as a steamed hot dog bun.
Tell me honestly. Is it all about the sex? Does distaste and disgust around gay men come down to that? How can it be? We learned how to do it from straight people! But everyone “knows” that’s the way it is: Straight people fall in love; gay men have sex. Black and white; either or; good-bad.
That’s just clever propaganda from the right. The psychic wall on our bodies’ metaphorical southern border is built from bricks of gender stereotyping and religion.
Why do we laugh at a man in a dress, but when we see Dietrich or Diane Keaton in a “smoking” we declare them a fashion trend setter? No one’s threatened by a woman in a suit; it’s considered a no-brainer that a woman would want to upgrade and wear the trappings of suave manhood. But frail male psyches can’t assimilate a man in a skirt; it’s ludicrous, even dangerous, that a man would lower himself to a woman’s status. Look how hard it is to walk in high heels! How do they manage? Horror!
Christianity is an easier analysis. The bible tells you so, so there.
As an old, white fag—and how dare you call me old—I can’t speak with any authority about ideas of manhood and womanhood in the Black community. I can only tentatively point out what I think I see: the historical importance of religion and all forms of tradition that unite against a threat, whether it’s sin or injustice; the historical importance of playing by the rules, not rocking the boat more than is required; the central position that struggle—real, physical struggle—has always assumed.
What can I report, first hand, about gay men, from a lifetime of observation? What does a gay man take to the second date? goes the set-up. What second date? comes the punchline. But this is equally true: If every man had been a warrior, culture would be a non-starter, the human race, extinct.
Male identity is a fragile thing, in need of constant renewal and revision. Free from the stabilizing, civilizing influence of women, who throw a much-needed anchor to the roving straight male, gay men move through life like explorers without a map, with the danger always present that we’ll use sex as our compass, that we’ll lurch from one encounter to the next with nothing to show for our trouble except alienation and shallow self-absorption, a constant craving for validation by another notch on the bedpost: collect ’em, keep ’em, trade ’em with your friends! This I freely admit.
But what is that your business, you high-minded hets who, excuse me, brought the world Reverse Cow-Girl when we were still working out how to open the jar of petroleum jelly. Sexual practice is an insultingly limited sampling to serve as anyone’s sole identity, unless you’re the Marquis de Sade, Helen Gurley Brown (look it up, baby feminists) or the inventor of the Fleshlight, in which case, congratulations on lifetimes well spent.
Gay men don’t spend our time obsessing about what you do in bed, and it’s time you stopped obsessing about us. Raise your sights a little, sisters and brothers, and admit the very real gift that gay men possess, of helping the human family survive itself. I guarantee you’ve experienced it, whether you’re aware of it or not.
You may think it’s like trying to describe an orange without using the word “orange”, but think what gay men really bring to the table. Fully clothed and at large, at our best, gay men find creative impulses, and nurture them like newborns. A quote I encountered recently, and how I wish it were mine, has it that “Homosexuality is nature’s way of ensuring that the truly gifted aren’t burdened with children.”
We use our greater stores of empathy, our kindness, our wit, our powers of observation that come from our status as outsiders, our instinct to defuse conflict, our emotional intelligence, to build bridges and heal rifts—when everyone stops hyperventilating about our inability to conform.
(Which reminds me of an experiment I’m designing, in which I accost straight couples on the street and ask, “Which one of you is the man?”)
Gay men are indestructible. You may see fluff, but we’re harder than nails. Gay men are eternal. Beat us, kill us, mock us, we’re never going away. You need us so much that every generation gets its 4.5 percent. We’ve walked through fires that would burn you up and come out the other side with a Broadway musical and ten new color schemes. You gotta admit, it’s a look.
And when our strategy involves a little more mascara, take it from me—it’s waterproof.